We suck young blood
I probably would have been all over PlayStation 2’s Mister Mosquito if I knew it existed in 2002. I always loved it when games centered around mundane concepts, such as Crazy Taxi or Animal Crossing. I’ve also long had a fascination with games where you’re a small character in a large environment, such as my unhealthy fascination with the Army Men series.
However, I was a Nintendo fangirl at the time. I don’t necessarily regret that. Simply having access to more consoles wouldn’t net me more games, and the GameCube gave me some of my favorite titles. On the other hand, I missed out on the weird experimentation that seemed to start on the Dreamcast before transitioning to the PS2. Games like Robot Alchemic Drive, Disaster Report, and, well, Crazy Taxi.
Instead, I plucked Mister Mosquito out of a bargain bin after I’d gotten out of my fangirl stage. Do you know that $5.00 sticker I put on some of my Kusoge articles? That’s actually affixed to the front of my copy of Mister Mosquito.
Mosquitos are awful creatures. Not only do they make an annoying sound, their bite makes you itchy and they’re a vector for disease. We could apparently eradicate them all with minimal issues for the ecosystem. Growing up in rural Ontario, they were just a reality in the summer. I hate them, but I’d be suspicious of anyone who actually enjoyed their company. I’d be looking for where they hid their proboscis.
Mister Mosquito casts you as one of these awful creatures, and while the intro moans about the preciousness of its life, the character is clearly a jerk. Your goal is to harass the Yamada family to the point of insanity. Your goal is to stock up on blood to survive the winter, but no, Mister Mosquito, you’re thinking of chipmunks. Female mosquitos go dormant in the winter if they live that long.
Whatever, though, a mosquito has to eat, and these walking blood sacks look tasty.
Each level places you in a room with a single person. Your goal is to suck a certain amount of blood from a changing variety of… suck points. Tasty spots? I can’t remember what Mister Mosquito calls them.
The tricky part is doing it without getting killed. If you suck on a suck point for too long, the meatbag will react and swat you. This is an instant kill, but you’re given a warning through a little heart-beat monitor that tells you how aware they are of your presence. If they see you when you aren’t draining their life, a battle will ensue where you need to poke them in their pressure points to get them to relax. A neat facet of the battles is that intentionally triggering one and winning within a time limit nets you a new color palette for your mosquito.
For extra credit, you can fly around levels and collect heart rings, extra blood tanks, and food. 50 heart rings raise your maximum health. Finding and filling all the extra blood tanks unlocks a special, harder mode. As far as I can tell, the food items are just totally arbitrary collectible objects.
When the game starts out, the Yamada family is unaware of you. They’re going about their lives, doing family stuff like stepping on each other’s feelings. As the game progresses, they start taking measures to keep you away from them, which is kind of where things start to break down a bit.
If you told me the premise of Mister Mosquito and asked me to guess how it was designed, I’d expect that you would need to change things in the environment to get the people to expose their suck spots. There’s an indication that this was the idea, and one level where you clearly have to do this, but usually, you’re just waiting for the moment for a weak point to appear, and this can seem arbitrary.
For example, when the daughter of the family is in the bathtub, her suck spot is on her left tit. Give me a minute, I have to finish laughing at my own joke. Anyway, this exact spot never submerges in the tub, but it only appears when she’s in a very specific pose that is not significantly different than any of her other movements. In another stage, you need to traumatize the girl’s friend by biting her in multiple spots, but certain places, despite being always exposed, only appear at certain moments, and I honestly couldn’t tell you when those are.
You have to be prepared for some heavy jank in general when approaching Mister Mosquito. The hit detection, for example, is complete crap. This not only causes problems when flying around the environment but also when flying in for a snack. You attach to suck spots by launching yourself mouth-first like a missile, but if a single hair gets in your way, you’ll just bounce off. It can be frustrating, especially when you’re trying to stop a battle.
It’s also a ridiculously short game. It can be comfortably completed in three hours, thjough there is an unlockable second quest. The game also challenges you to best your times in each level. It’s not much, but Mister Mosquito would be really insubstantial without its bonuses.
Where it really wins is its personality. Mister Mosquito comes from a time before we knew that putting a grizzled dude with a gun on a game’s cover was the best way to sell copies. Any unique idea was fair play.
It’s also unapologetically Japanese at a time when most Japanese games most certainly apologized. If you don’t know anything about Japan’s bathing practices, the joke about the daughter having to bathe after her father would probably be lost on you. What is interesting to me is that the English dub voice actors are actually Japanese, complete with thick accents. Normally, a dub, even when taking place in Japan, would be an English cast with a regional accent. It’s strange to see this bit of authenticity.
Mister Mosquito is simply a product of a bygone era. Mechanically, it is hardly the tightest and most well-designed game, but you’ve never played anything like it. I’d love to see a modernized take on the formula. It could probably be done better and easier than it was in 2001.
Japan got a sequel to Mister Mosquito, but since the first game didn’t do too well overseas, we never saw it localized. It’s definitely something I have on my to-do list.