Holy Invasion Of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This? is a cheeky game rife with pop-culture mockery. Given the ludicrous title, that’s probably no shock. The surprise is how much Badman relies on its goofy humor, at the expense of telling players what the heck it’s about. Even in tutorial stages, Badman reveals only tiny bits of its core, diverting the conversation with wink-nudge wisecracks that start to feel like a defense mechanism. It’s like Badman is a nervous high-schooler nursing a crush, afraid you might decide you just don’t like it. The most maddening part is that there’s a lot to like about this faux-RPG dungeon-building game.
Badman shouldn’t be so tentative, given that it pairs an underused idea with an artful 16-bit aesthetic. That’s a daring move on the PSP, where homely PS2 rehashes are the norm. The unorthodox story has you fighting off a series of squeaky-clean knights, straight out of Dragon Quest central casting, in order to usher a smirking ghoul called the Overlord to world domination. Unlike the demon from the Overlord series of games, though, this dark king is a defenseless stooge. So as the God Of Destruction, you dig an underground dungeon and fill it with monsters to keep the Overlord safe from the good guys. The monsters spawn from nutrients in the ground, and you must structure your lair to create an ecosystem where they’ll thrive—open spaces where Lizardmen can build nests, for instance, or tight corners where Slimemosses can work the soil in peace.
While the look is rooted in console RPG lore, the story mode’s gradual build of armies and resources plays more like a sped-up Civilization with a dash of subterranean Dig Dug flavor. After conquering the unnecessarily steep learning curve, players will likely feel the sense of exasperation melt away, although the constant “Do you want to save?” screens act as a sort of Chinese water torture. The game doesn’t get easy, but the slow improvement of your dungeon-design skills, culminating in the defeat of those smarmy heroes of light, make Badman worth the effort.