HAL Labs’ HAL Egg series of self-published titles made a splash two years ago with Part-Time UFO, a quirky little claw action game that had a UFO come to Earth and help its residents with daily life tasks. With the second game, Housuu de Shoubu! Kame Sanpo, I expected a fun game where we would work together and become friends with the many turtles that you can meet in the game.
I was wrong.
I should have expected nothing less from the company that created Kirby, a pink ball of destruction who will mercilessly slaughter Waddle Dees, cute beings that don’t usually even have means of fighting back, and gets rewarded for it. Kame Sanpo is friendly and inviting on the surface, but instead, it’s a lesson in how this is a turtle eat turtle world.
In this game, you play as a human who has been given special permission to participate in race-walking against a group of turtles who love racing. You’ll need to work through a lenient gacha in order to meet the turtle of your dreams, but HAL Labs twists the knife by making you have to shellack them in a race in order get them to join your army.
Kame Sanpo keeps track of the number of footsteps you take, and can link to Google Fit if you allow it. This allows the app to track your footstep count even if the app is off, which is handy and means you only need to check back once in a while. How well you do against the turtle tribe depends on how much you walk in a day, although there is an average step counter on the bottom right that tells you around how much you need to walk to win.
That said, even HAL Labs themselves recommend not exercising for the sake of winning against the turtles. Instead, they position the game as a casual thing that just uses the footsteps you take in regular daily life to have some fun. However, their claims ring hollow when you look at the tools they have given the human to win, tempting players to show the true evil that lies in the depth of man.
For example, did you know you can pull back the turtles’ progress using a fishing rod, letting them slowly watch as all their progress goes up in dust? (It’s even a rechargable ability.) You can even wear a rocket helmet to gain more steps per real life step you take, although this will cost you a gem. You can even increase your step count by x1.5 if you watch an ad. Truly evil.
What’s more, there are random items that even impede the turtles’ ability to move forward, such as traffic cones. These can be used against any turtle, even Urashima, your closest friend who lets you race him for free. There are no consequences, and the turtles will even stoop to admit that it’s your right to use these tricks against them “to even the playing field”. It truly made me feel like a monster, even more than the bundle of rage and cunning that is the goose from Untitled Goose Game.
The game’s art is cutesy, and disarming. These turtles are kind of lovable in the harebrained sort of way, featuring snails with turtle shells, tor-toasters, and more. It’s a calculated assault at your moral code – at the pent-up guilt at using such unforgiving methods in order to dish out your wins, all in pursuit of collecting all the turtles and forcing them to join your turtle-arian empire.
And yet, it’s still addicting to check in every day and see what you’ve unlocked, and perhaps you might also take a few extra steps in real life in order to win, like I did. The game’s fun factor is helped by the game’s UI, which is minimalistic and responsive, and makes it fun to just swipe around the app. The game as a whole is great, and I love it to the point that it’s a shame there aren’t currently any plans to release the game overseas.
Too bad the race-walking encourages you to become a monster.
Housuu de Shoubu! Kame Sanpo is available on iOS and Android.