The 8 Ball 12.17.13: Top 8 Bad Games With Some Good In Them
Welcome to another edition of the 8 Ball, where the topic is about bad games. There are a ton of bad games out there that can be usually ignored. However there are some bad games that have a sliver of a good idea behind them. Or games that might have been reasonably good for the time but upon later reflection you see some of the faults associated with them. I tried to pull a little from both sides for my list, so without further ado, here we go:
While there was another “conventional” Tony Hawk game that came after this, Project 8 already kind of felt like the last nail in the coffin for the series. Project 8 suffered from some issues that tended to slightly compound one another, the long load times, goals that were often not explained well/were very frustrating, and some truly ugly facial graphics that make Jason Lee look downright scary. Still, if you grew up on the Tony Hawk franchise, going from PS1 to PS2, to 360/PS3, it was a decent enough experience. The game just went in some truly annoying directions (Nail the Trick, for one), that the game suffered because of the misplaced focus. There was also a distinct lack of Bam Margera, which depending on your feeling, is either a good or bad thing. It still feels like a Tony Hawk game but the writing was on the wall for the series.
GunValkyrie got some mixed reviews when it came out originally. There seemed to be a pretty big dividing line between people who thought it was great, and people who thought it was garbage. I was stuck in the middle, I spent a lot of time with it, but didn’t really enjoy myself. The biggest complaint that people had (that I shared) was that the controls were deeply flawed. The game was centered around you filling a boost gauge as you dashed around the environments. And what button did they map the boost function to? The left analog stick button. So to boost, you had to press in the stick and pick a direction to go. It made combat and basic movement in the game feel incredibly unwieldy, especially given how many enemies you would face on screen sometimes. I damn near finished this game on my original Xbox before finally giving up. I’d like to pick it up again someday to see if I could master that boost mechanic or not.
Gex: Enter the Gecko wasn’t so much bad as it was just highly derivative. Enter the Gecko was essentially a less powerful clone of Mario 64 done on a console (PS1 first) that couldn’t quite handle the ambition of the developers. To say it’s “bland” is a huge understatement, as it takes literally almost all the elements of Mario 64, and other likewise platformers of the time and makes a product out of it. The game is saved though, by the writing of the character, the satire of the world, and especially the vocal talents of Dana Gould. He didn’t completely save the game but his jokes did help break up the monotony quite a bit, as I enjoyed his humor.
There is a great theoretical idea behind Wild 9 that just fails to make it into the game, which is completely depressing. You play Wex, a guy with “The Rig”, basically an energy lasso that can manipulate enemies/objects in the game world. The game was basically a 2.5D version of Earthworm Jim. The problem was that it just wasn’t that fun overall, and the few rig tricks you see at the start of the game, repeat endlessly. This made combat a chore because most enemies encounters boiled down to the same two or three actions. Sadly, this game was not “Wexcellent” but that sound effect sure was.
Angelica Weaver has a lot of problems contained within. Most of the gameplay is relatively simple, the logic of puzzles makes little sense, the story has the biggest “WTF” moment I’ve experienced in a game, and the voice acting is almost beyond laughable. Some puzzles go way off the difficulty scale, and are complete exercises in frustration. Still, I find myself thinking of this game sometimes, wondering what the original goal was. More than that, I kind of wonder who the game was aimed at. For people new to adventure games, the difficulty spikes kill their enjoyment. And for people who know adventure games, it’s likely too easy for them. It’s not very good but it does keep you interested in what is going on and I actually like the graphics.
Put simply, Pepsiman is not a very good game. It was an endless runner game before the term was popularized. You just play as Pepsiman as you auto-run through various levels, collecting floating Pepsi cans, and trying to avoid obstacles. It’s not complete garbage, but it is essentially one of those Crash Bandicoot chase levels in a 2 to 3 hour package. The reason I love it? Pepsiman. I am a life-long Coke drinker, and even I love Pepsiman. If it was just some made up creature running around then this game would be complete garbage. But because it is Pepsiman, it gets a pass from me.
Alpha Protocol should have been a fantastic game. A Mass Effect-style dialog system, branching story paths, and some great voice acting (particularly by Nolan North). It has all the trimmings of a great game, except for the “gameplay” part. The problem with the game is that it was an RPG trapped in a stealth-action game setting. So when you aimed for a headshot on some guy, even if the reticle was red, there would be an invisible dice roll to determine if you actually hit him or not. This wrecks any and all shooting in the game because it never makes you feel like you are actually in control of shooting. I pretty much went around my time just knocking guys out from behind, only using a gun when I was forced to. Honestly, if this game just had Splinter Cell’s gameplay mechanics, but still had the story/characters/choice stuff, it would’ve been amazing, but it doesn’t and is severely flawed due to it.
To me, there were four big futuristic racing games on the N64: F-Zero X, Extreme-G, Wipeout 64, and AeroGauge. Without a doubt, AeroGauge is the worst of these four, but it’s the one I played the most. It’s a racer where you could fly above the track (to a certain limit), turn-boost around corners, and occasionally fly through 360 tunnels as they whizzed by you. For the time, the game had a good amount of controllable speed (something Extreme-G didn’t), but that was about it. No weapons in the game, no great track designs, nothing to keep it fresh or interesting. It simply existed without trying to do anything creative or unique, except to have some truly horrendous texture pop -in. The high point of the game is that one of the secret ships was a flying model of the N64 controller. The analog stick on the ship would move in tandem with what way you were steering. That’s about the only special thing about it.
Top 8 Games I Shouldn’t Like But Do
What constitutes a “good” or “bad” video game is often a highly subjective thing. Often it’s a roulette wheel of matching a product with the expectations surrounding it. Other times, the sheer popularity of a franchise lets it get away with sloppy storytelling or a lack of innovation, while other games flounder under bad PR or an enduring grudge against its publisher. Sometimes though, games can be disappointing for one reason or another but still have something in them to recommend them. Numerous games like Haze and Dark Void almost made this list of games that I take crap for enjoying, but I spent very little time on those games, and felt no need to really think about them until I did a search of “worst PS3 games”. The games that follow, however, are ones I spent significant time with, despite recognizing that there are things with them that are really really wrong. I think it’s important, when you write about games, to occasionally take reality checks like these: they’re reminders that video games are art, and art is subjective.
8: Dragon Age II
Dragon Age II was generally considered to be a disappointment, and after I played through it the first time, I admit, I felt like “that’s it?” However, that disappointment was in comparison to Dragon Age: Origins, which set an incredibly high bar, and I felt like I didn’t quite understand the game yet, so I gave it another try, and that’s when it came alive for me. It’s an RPG that actually did play significantly differently depending on the choices I made. I’m not talking just different paths based on a handful of obvious forks in the story. The characters actually behaved differently based on the choices I made, and the story branched in dozens of places except for a few critical choke points. And let’s not forget the cameos by DA:O characters that differ depending on what you did in the save file you load. These role-playing elements are critical parts of Role-Playing Games that so many games in the genre neglect in favor of hack-and-slash action combat. So despite the numerous fair complaints people have with Dragon Age II, it’s an incredible achievement for less than two years development time, which EA should really be ashamed of, but there you have it. Dragon Age II’s characters have proved to be endearing and enduring, embraced by cosplayers and spun off into comic books and novels. Not bad for a game with over 1000 negative reviews on metacritic, even if I will forever hate the dialogue wheel and the paraphrase system.
7: The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings
My experience playing The Witcher 2 was marred by a save files crash bug on the PC version that the developer never bothered to fix. Before I discovered the cause of the bug, my game crashed so frequently I was lucky when I got forty minutes continuous gameplay. But that’s not all that’s wrong with the Witcher 2. There are places where the voice acting is almost Skyrim-level bad. The inventory management is so clunky I kept accidentally unequipping my boots. All but one of the spells are only useful in very specific instances. The level maps are mostly useless. Certain key characters are ludicrously hard to find, which meant hours of frustration – and sixteen game crashes — because I needed bombs, and couldn’t find the stupid elf that would give me the bombs. But most importantly, the story is not laid out in an especially artful manner, especially in terms of how gameplay and story fuse – if the game is called The Witcher, why am I playing as all these other characters I don’t give a hairy shit about?
And then there’s the shameless, degrading, borderline-juvenile overuse of rape. The land is raped. Its traditions are raped. The women are raped – but not the men, which is a major myth that is inexcusable in any game made in the last three years. There are even implications of child rape, rape babies, and rape as a critical plot point. And this would all be fine, if the game actually treated rape as a bad thing, instead of shrugging its shoulders at it. Furthermore, there isn’t a single woman in The Witcher 2 who doesn’t have her boobs, butt, or both prominently on display, which, again, isn’t inherently a bad thing… but why would any woman dress that way in a world made of rape?! It really feels like a game written by a bunch of ignorant 14 year-olds. But when the trolls show up, they ruin all my justifiable indignation. Man, why did the trolls have to be so awesome? Why are Geralt’s scars so cool? I should be absolutely dead set against playing Witcher 3… but I’m not sure that I am.
A while back, I decided I’d better figure out what the whole social facebook game thing was about, so I tried Farmville, and found it kind of endearing. There were animals in costumes, after all. These things are important. After a while, of course, all the people I played with jumped to Frontierville, and I followed suit. I kind of lost track of which games came next after that, but with the addition of Cityville, these Zynga games were like little digital zen gardens that let me keep in passive touch with old friends, before the spam got overwhelming and there were so many games that they were more of a part time job than something one did for fun. I found the payout multiplier system in Cityville especially consuming, since I liked arranging items to create massive bonuses. I also liked making in-jokes in my environments, like naming Cityville buildings after my pets, and creating an avatar of my husband in Frontierville that constantly looked terrified and tended to avoid any manual labor or dangerous situations. It’s how it really would have been had we lived on the pioneer frontier. In a situation of high irony, I lost interest in Cityville after seeing the SimCity demo at E3 because a REAL city-building simulator was on the horizon for modern systems. Crushing disappointment was soon to follow.
5: Pet Rescue Saga
I got bored by Candy Crush Saga. I got annoyed by Bubble Witch Saga. But for a while, Pet Rescue Saga was a daily habit before I went to bed. I could argue that the game design is much better than Candy Crush Saga and relies less on luck to succeed, but the truth is that I enjoyed the monotony with a side of cute animals as a way of getting away from the stress of my day-to-day life. I managed to beat every existing level without spending a cent, and the facebook spam is manageable, so I figure I can reward the game with a mention here. It also contains mercifully little pink. Is it a good game? No: it’s derivative of a million things that have come before it, but it succeeds because everyone loves gooey-eyed animals. However, these days, it’s been replaced as my casual game of choice by Heroes of Dragon Age and Kitten Assassin. I want my adorable critters to be able to fight back!
4: EA Mobile Monopoly and Clue
I will fully admit that the mobile versions of these classic board games are cheap, lazily-designed garbage, but I played them when I still had a Blackberry and was therefore extremely limited in my selection of mobile apps. The Clue game is cheesy as anything, has a very limited roster of possible solutions, and gets boring fast. But the Monopoly app is possibly worse: the tokens move around the board at a snail’s pace and there’s no way to skip the animation. The AI sucks. The computer players won’t trade squat on easier difficulties, and on harder settings they seem to have an eerily psychic sense of where the tokens are going to land. Also, if you win the game, you have to restart your phone to play again, because the game hangs up on the congratulations screen. I had a floppy disc version of Monopoly on my old Tandy 1000 that, in many ways, was better designed. But… they’re mobile versions of Monopoly and Clue, and they cost, like, two bucks each, so I can’t claim I didn’t get my money’s worth based on the number of hours I played these games on subways, in doctors’ waiting rooms, and various other places of sensory overload and potential crushing boredom.
3: Darkest of Days
Darkest of Days is a little-known historical first-person shooter about a soldier at Custer’s Last Stand who is spared from the slaughter by a futuristic company that has harnessed time travel… so that he can save other important people throughout history from untimely deaths. I will fully admit that it’s a hot mess, created, in-house engine and all, by a publisher who previously made casino games. It was astoundingly underfunded, which is seen at every turn, for instance, the text sequences are some of the ugliest I’ve seen in any video game ever. In fact, nothing looks or sounds especially good, but the concept was such a great idea and I actually enjoyed playing it. I keep hoping someone will buy the rights and do it properly, bloated civil war corpses and all. Still, Darkest of Days is one of those hipster titles and if you’ve played it, it earns you some cred in certain circles. Are these especially cool circles? Probably not. But hey, acceptance is acceptance.
2: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
When I was five years old, I did not know that the E.T. game was one of the most enduringly terrible games ever. All I knew was that it was about E.T., and I was obsessed with E.T. I had an E.T. stuffed toy, the E.T. board game, an E.T. lunchbox, and the little E.T. PVC figurines. I had to, therefore, play the E.T. video game for hours and hours, and I just assumed that I wasn’t doing very well because I wasn’t very good at it. Come on, you have to admit that the computer game music version of the E.T. theme song still induces a few goosebumps. And the way his little feet wiggle as he walks around is adorable! Just me? Okay, moving on to something even more embarrassing.
1: Too Human
Yes, you read that correctly. Too Human. I actually liked Too Human. Other than the laggy melee combat animations, the time-sink color-coded inventory management, the way the respawn Valkyrie mocks you by taking her good sweet time bringing you back to life as if you’re in some sort of multiplayer match, and a story that’s all beginning because Denis Dyack bet the farm on the game being the first of a trilogy… okay it’s really hard to defend a game after all of that, but game world and the character designs were actually pretty sweet. Okay, those sweet-looking characters were created with the Unreal engine, which Silicon Knights didn’t technically have the right to use, but… oh man, you know the kicker? The judgement against Silicon Knights — $4.45 million – was almost exactly the amount of Canadian taxpayer dollars the company got from our government to make this, to quote Ben Croshaw, “auteur developer” game. There’s really nothing redeeming about Too Human in the grand scheme of things because of that petty bit of fraud, but… I think I was bored of shooters when it came out, and anything that tried to be different, no matter how terrible it turned out to be, was refreshing just because it was change. Okay, embarrassing confession put on the internet, where it’s going to be viewable forever… why do I do this to myself?
Everyone has their own definition of “bad” games, depending on opinions now, or even when the games came out. Feel free to list some of the games you like in the comments, but here were a few games that didn’t quite make my list: Bloodrayne, Neo Contra, Transformers, Red Faction, Bebe’s Kids, Krusty’s Fun House, Fantavision, One, Messiah, G-Police, Bionic Command (New), Maken X, and State of Emergency.
As usual, I’ll respond to a few comments from last week’s column. I did Arkham Origins on my list. It would’ve been on my actual list, assuming I had played it, or it warranted me playing it. Fahrenheit is a good pull. The snowy weather in that game gets downright oppressive at times and evokes a weird feeling. And really, you could put any snowboarding game on that list. I simply chose the most popular one that is out there.