R?MJ : The Mystery Hospital is one of the many games to come out of Japan – or rather, stay in Japan – during the rise of the PS1 and 3D graphics that tried to be a “cinematic experience”, blurring the lines between movies and games. While games these days still try to do that for some reason, it was rampant in the PS1 area with lots of hallway walking simulators with ridiculously bad CGI cutscenes and minimalist gameplay (Vampire Detective, Maria, many glorified visual novels, etc, are some derp examples). What resulted were a bunch of games nobody remembers, despite their efforts to be amazing. In reality, I think these were popular because they were easy and cheap to make – no real gameplay engine necessary! Get your brother-in-law Ricky to do the cutscenes, he likes computers right?
R?MJ (what a catchy acronym, but pronounced just “MJ”) is one of the kings of derp in this genre. There may be “worse” games technically speaking, but this one is so absolutely silly and stupid it has become one of my most beloved of the “kusoge” niche. It has been some time since I played it, but hopefully the memories burned into my psyche will help guide me along.
CUTE. FEAR OF DEATH. FRIEND. EXPLOSION.
The opening video. Go to about the 2:00 where the real fun begins.
The silly-ass 3D modelling is constant throughout the entire game and turns everything into a joke real quick. The gist of the story is that three bros get trapped in a hospital after it goes into lockdown due to an explosion. They meet other people stuck in there as well, and try to find a way out, discovering a sinister plan going on in the labs underneath involving funky drugs, an evil bearded man, a mysterious American and the Nemesis Pepsi-type. The American speaks English, but is clearly voiced by a Japanese person, with such classic fluent lines as “WHERE IS DRUG? I GOT IT.”
The game is essentially a point and click walking game. It is played in a first person perspective and you traverse the halls and rooms on rails, stopping at points to observe items or turn at sharp angles, similar to some dungeon crawlers. However, taking steps can be painfully slow, and is further bogged down by the characters in your party saying some shit every number of steps, like Mr. Shades constantly repeating “WE CAN’T BE LINGERIN ROUND HERE” while you’re robotically looking for a way out and reading newspapers at the start of the game. They will alert you to things to check out. Also sometimes NO FEAR just flashes on the bottom of your screen because this game is art.
You use the items you find on certain objects, figure out a couple things and move along. If you do not have an idea of where to go this game can be sluggish due to the party moving like a fuckin’ phalanx through the dark hospital corridors, but it is not overly complicated as the minimal gameplay is just meant to keep the experience going. There are a couple do-or-die scenarios where you need to do something in a time limit, but besides that there aren’t any enemies roaming the halls to combat and threaten your life. The game rides on the same rails your posse does. The only real “enemy” I can remember is the last boss, the Tyrant Pepsi series, but even that lug is just fought with point and clicking. Eventually he is destroyed and everyone goes home while a couple characters bizarrely giggle from heaven.
In the end you have a game that has little substance when it comes to actual gameplay, but a treasure trove of weird little design choices and crappy cutscenes to make life worth living for an hour and a half. R?MJ clearly wanted to be some legit experience but just ends up being tedious and slow, saved only by the absolute strangeness of it. If a game wants to be something like this, you’d think that to balance the light gameplay they’d go all out on the cinematic stuff, like Heavy Rain, or “pick a choice” storytelling games, or indie walking simulators that at least bleed moods and artistic direction. This was just like…huh??? Who you trying to impress with these goofy lookin dudes? Is flashing NO FEAR in my face every 10 steps supposed to ignite some sort of reaction from me? It was totally worth my time just to have a giggle and have a taste of the experimental side of the PS1 era, but sadly R?MJ is lost to obscurity now.
At the end of the game, as the souls of the damned go by in the credits, a final screen shows up with the inputted player name,
…..and many dreamers.
truly the cherry on top.