Sorcerer's Kingdom

Brad: Oh, goody! Another RPG from what appears to be that genre’s stone age, complete with thin story that barely disguises what a grind-fest it is, inane menu-driven combat, and almost no distinguishing characteristics at all. I really like the linearity of knowing that I’ll almost certainly get killed if I dare venture to any area other than the ones directly related to the quest I’m on, and the fact that every area has only one or two kinds or enemies. But the best part is having to mindlessly level up for about an hour every time I enter a new area. Why yes, I would like to fight my 100th kobold! What fun! Oh, and the glitch that makes all your other party members completely useless is just the cherry on top of this shit sundae.

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Sweet.  Now I can finally buy that tiara I’ve had my eye on.

Stryker: SK’s biggest problem is pacing – you’re constantly at a disadvantage compared to the enemies you’re supposed to be facing, and it’s so damn hard to stay alive that you’ll probably be limited to fighting 3 or 4 random encounters before going back to rest. Repeat this process enough times and eventually you’ll get enough experience and gold to become powerful enough to survive in an area. But then you’ll move on to the next part where the monsters are tougher, and you’re right back where you started. Maybe nobody told the development team, but RPG combat is kinda boring. Sorceror’s Kingdom’s slight innovations only make it marginally less so. No Seal of Quality for you.

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Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition

The original Jurassic Park Genesis game took the top spot on our list of “The Worst Genesis Games You’ve Probably Heard Of”, so it probably goes without saying that we didn’t really have high expectations for this one. And by that I mean that I half-expected to turn the game on and have a digitized T-Rex yelling at me for my poor taste in games. Instead what we get is mostly a lot more of the same, except now the already remarkable amount of insanity has been cranked up a few more notches. Considering that the first game included a level where Dr. Grant voluntarily climbed into a dinosaur filled active volcano, and another part where he just happened to find a rocket launcher laying around the would-be theme park, that’s really saying something.

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Oh, alright, so we’re just letting the triceratops ride boats now.  Fine.

Much like the first Jurassic Park game for the Genesis, Rampage Edition gives you the option to play either as Dr. Grant or as a Raptor. As in the first game, the game was really designed to be played as Dr. Grant, with the Raptor portions being something of an afterthought – mostly a lot of throwaway sections that nobody really seems to have put much time or effort into. That’s not to say that it isn’t still more fun to play as the raptor – the development team did such a lousy job making the game that having them put less effort into an area generally means they had less time to screw it up. Besides, this way you get to play as a ferocious dinosaur.

According to Stryker, a lot of copies of Rampage Edition got traded in while he owned the game store, and not a single one of them ever had the box or instructions. I only mention it because if at times it seems as if we didn’t exactly know what was supposed to be going on, that’s why. The fact that there’s no opening text or cinematic didn’t help, either. Come to think of it, neither did the fact that almost everything you do or see in the game is complete madness.

In the first game, your motivations were pretty clear – Dr. Grant was trying to escape the island, and the raptor was trying to eat him. This no longer seems to be the case – on the level select screen, one of Grant’s first options is the cargo ship. Presumably this ship leaves the island, allowing Grant to escape. However, he seems to have no intentions of doing so, instead mowing down everyone in his path with a rather impressive arsenal of weapons. Admittedly, that may be because the ship has been hijacked by what appears to be German soldiers from WW2, which I believe would effectively make them Nazi Pirates. So at least the game has that going for it. Even so, Grant’s intentions appear to be, at best, unclear at this point, and at worst, homicidal.

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A Raptor does a somersault jump in order to reach the flying candy bar. You know, like on those nature shows.

And of course, this being a Jurassic Park game, the Nazi Pirates are working in tandem with angry dinosaurs. Because all dinosaurs apparently love Hitler. And of course, eating you. Never fear though, because the cautious, middle-aged Dr. Grant from the movie has been replaced by a new and improved pistol-twirling, machine gun toting action hero who is perfectly comfortable blasting raptors with a shotgun and disintegrating Pirate Nazis into dust with some kind of a super taser. And those aren’t hyperbolic examples I just made up, those are things that you actually will be doing throughout this game. Rather frequently. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that Grant’s real objective here is to simply exterminate every living thing on the island. Perhaps there was some kind of explanation for this transformation from intellectual scientist to raging psychopath, but if so, it must have been included in the missing instruction booklet.

Still, even considering the introduction of Pirate Nazis to the Jurassic Park universe, nothing I’ve described so far comes anywhere close to the craziness of the Savanna level, where Grant rides a dinosaur while shooting down helicopters. You know, just like in the movie. I mean, not the Jurassic Park movie, obviously, but like some other really fucked up movie that featured a bizarre time-warped version of a wild west show. He even yells “Yee-haw!” right before jumping onto the back of the dino. I wish I was making this up, but here’s a picture:

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In the first Genesis game, the Raptor wanted to eat Grant at all costs, even though it usually meant rushing past hundreds of similarly flavored JP workers. In this game however, the focus is much more on killing other dinosaurs, fighting the invading Pirate Nazis, and trying to avoid being shot in the ass by helicopters (this last one is much harder than it sounds). Since the Raptor now seems to have the same objectives as Grant, one cannot help but wonder if they have put aside their differences and have begun working as a team. The game never says so explicitly, but perhaps this was covered in the instructions. It would certainly help to explain Grant’s bloodthirsty ways.

In order to make the game more scientifically accurate, the raptor no longer replenishes health from eating other dinosaurs of humans, instead relying on a steady diet of candy bars to stay alive. You’ll remember this from the movie, where to Australian guy (no, not Dr. Grant, the other one with the funny hat) explains how all the dinos on the island have a genetic dependency that will cause them to die if they aren’t given candy bars by the staff. Or that might have been lysine. Maybe they’re lysine candy bars. In addition to a craving for Hershey bars, the raptor also now has a fearsome double-jump, which allows him to practically fly through the stage. Recent research suggests was a pretty well-known trait of the species. Don’t forget, these guys evolved into birds – even the word “Raptor” means “bird of prey”!

You’re also supposed to collect what appears to be car batteries… I don’t exactly understand why.

You know what though? Games do crazy stuff like this all the time. All the deviations from the original movie, and to a much greater extent reality, would be entirely permissible if the game were any good. Of course it’s not – if there’s one thing that didn’t change that much from the original, it’s the failure of the game’s overall design. Enemies bombard you in such overwhelming numbers that it usually makes more sense to try and rush through each level blindly, rather than really try to play the game. The levels are poorly designed, with plenty of areas to get stuck in, hazards and attackers besieging you from off screen, and my all-time favorite, the ever-popular stages where falling can either lead you to the rest of the level, or else kill you instantly, with no way to know until you try it. Playing the game isn’t exactly an exercise in frustration, but I’d say irritation is a pretty accurate description. Much like the original, Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition is the antithesis of fun.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters

Brad: Did we really need to even play this one? If I had told you that it was a fighting game that game out right in the middle of the fighting game craze, when every company was rushing out 2D fighters to cash in, and starred the Ninja Turtles, wouldn’t that really be all you needed to know? Do you really need me to tell you that its horrible – that the control is unresponsive, the AI is cheaper than your average garage sale junkie, and the sound clips are distorted and annoying? Doesn’t that all kind of go without saying?

What I’m asking is that if we had eliminated this game, sight unseen, would anyone have really faulted us for it? Would you have questioned our “journalistic integrity”, or would all of you have had simply admired our intuition and foresight?

Well, don’t ever say we’re not 100% committed to this project. And to prove it, here’s a screenshot from my epic battle against Purple Leonardo:

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And yes, this game was every bit as bad as we all knew it was going to be.

Stryker: The Genesis only has three buttons, which puts a cramp on fighting games, because they get their depth and balance from each character having a lot of moves. Even so, this game sees fit to dedicate one entire button to the relatively useless act of taunting. That’s a monumentally stupid idea, and things only get worse from there.

Mr Do!: This is exactly what Guilty Gear would play like in hell.

Slaughter Sport

Slaughter Sport might seem kind of obscure to many of you now, but back when it was released, there was a fair amount of buzz surrounding it. It was a fighting game that put a bigger emphasis on graphic violence than on quality gameplay. Advertisements for the game boldly featured warning labels about the sheer amount of carnage that took place, and emphasized that this game was for mature players only. From a historical standpoint, this is significant because the game predated Mortal Kombat, Night Trap and several other controversial games. From a “game sucking” standpoint, it’s also significant because – oops! – They forgot to put in most of the horrific violence they were promising.

It turns out that for all of its warnings and disclaimers, Slaughter Sport is actually pretty tame. There’s no foul language, barely anything sexually suggestive in the game, and the bloodshed is rather sparse. Instead of killing your opponent directly, you knock them out to win. Then a shark swims through the floor (?), and eats them. There are a few gross parts – one character’s special move is to fart on you, and the main boss is a insanely fat shirtless guy with a mouth in his stomach, but that’s about as bad as it gets. Overall, Slaughter Sport features only slightly more mature content than a typical episode of Antique Roadshow. How hard is it to put blood in a video game?Apparently “scribbling with a red crayon” was beyond the art team’s abilities.

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Yet another match ends by Land-Shark-ality

Now if including graphic violence was a bigger priority to the developers than making the game fun, and they failed miserably in that regard, you can probably imagine how the rest of the game turned out. Each match consists of trying to figure out which one of your moves the AI is too stupid to avoid, and then doing that move over and over until you win. Collision detection is sloppy, you can’t block, and whether pressing back on the controller causes you to move backwards or slowly turn around apparently changes at random.You can only choose one character in the one-player mode, a kind of generic kung-fu guy whose special move appears to be “get killed”. There’s really no point in discussing the two player mode since there will never be two people willing to play Slaughter Sport in the same place at the same time. It’s a statistical impossibility. You earn money after every fight, which can be used to purchase powerful magic spells, like the “No jump” spell that seems to have no effect on whether or not your opponent can jump, or the “No attack” spell, which keeps your opponent from attacking you for about 2 seconds.

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This game does indeed lick ass.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the game is that your character doesn’t turn around automatically when someone gets behind him. As a result, it’s quite likely that at some point in the match, your opponent will jump over you and start kicking your ass both literally and figuratively at the same time. There are probably several reasons why Street Fighter II was an instant hit and Slaughter Sport remains obscure, but I’m guessing at least a few of them have to do with the fact that Chun-Li never spent an entire match walking on top of me and trying to punch me in the back of the head while I flailed around helplessly.

The only excuse I can come up with for Slaughter Sport being so bad and so devoid of violence is that it was actually some kind of trick being played on gamers by anti-violence crusaders. People bought the game expecting carnage and gore, and instead ended up with one of the worst games ever made. By using promises of extreme violence as a selling point, they were hoping to create a mental association between excessive gore and horrible gameplay. This plot of course backfired – instead of Slaughter Sport creating an association between graphic violence and terrible gaming; it instead simply lowered people’s expectations to the point where mediocre games like Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct could become runaway successes.


Superman

Brad: So let me see if I have this straight. In this Superman game, you can’t fly, you don’t have any eye lasers, and you get hurt if people walk into you.

Stryker: Watch out, Lex Luthor.

Brad: I understand that if you made a Superman game where he had all his powers, it would probably be pretty easy, but it seems like Sunsoft could have done a better job of disguising how badly they had gimped the character. Maybe give the bad guys some kryptonite lasers or something.

Stryker: Or just do like Superfriends and have him forget that he has any powers until the last level or something.

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Great Scott! I’m on the wrong building.  If only I had a way to get over there… and fast!

Brad: Honestly, I never really got the appeal of Superman in the first place – he can do almost anything and the only thing that can kill him is this super-rare mineral from a destroyed planet, so he’s pretty much a god. Where’s the fun in that? No matter what he’s up against, the comic book writers could just invent a new power to stop it and it wouldn’t even seem cheap. Everyone would be like “Well, of course he can do that, he’s Superman.”

Stryker: Well of course he managed to get decent customer service from Verizon, he’s Superman.

Brad: Of course his Xbox 360 didn’t RRoD and almost burn his house down, he’s Superman.

Stryker: Of course Time Warner actually gives him all the HD channels he’s paying for – he’s Superman.

Brad: Well, of course he bought a game at Gamestop without being harassed about reserving 10 other upcoming titles – he’s Superman.

Stryker: Oh c’mon, NOBODY is that powerful.

Brad: Yeah, seriously. You know they asked me if I wanted to reserve a copy of Madden the other day. It’s April.

Stryker: Yeah, last year when I went to pick up my reserved copy of Madden, they had enough extra copies that they built a maze out of them in the parking lot. So no, Gamestop, I’m not too worried about it being sold out on release day.

Brad: Besides, when’s the last time you played Madden and thought “Gee, I sure am glad I paid full price for this?”

Stryker: It’s been at least 4 years. Maybe longer. Wait, we’re supposed to be talking about Superman, right?

Brad: Yeah… So, anyway, it’s bad enough to make a Superman game where he can’t fly, but if you’re going to do that, maybe you shouldn’t call attention to it by having the first level be on the rooftops. I kept thinking – why didn’t I land closer to the enemy base, where there are fewer people trying to kick my ass?

Stryker: And if you’re not going to let Superman have his eye lasers, or freeze breath, or X-ray vision, you probably shouldn’t give him a “special attack” in the game that’s just a really slow punch.

Brad: I always thought it would be cool if Superman used his X-ray vision to give bad guys cancer.

Stryker: Hmm… now I’m wondering how many innocent people he’s inadvertently done that to. Probably a lot. Metropolis has sky-high cancer rates, and they keep blaming it on the smog.

Brad: You can’t make a game where Superman is completely invincible, but is it really asking too much that he not take damage every time somebody bumps into him? I mean, I walked around the crowded streets of Manhattan before without dying, and I’m just a normal guy.

Stryker: Just imagine the Legion of Doom coming up with a plan to create millions of evil drones with the sole purpose of having them walk into Superman until he dies.

Brad: You would even need the Legion of Doom for that. Just a large enough group of people who have a reason to hate Superman. I can see the Daily Bugle headline now – “Superman Jostled to Death at Benefit for Cancer Patients.”

Stryker: You know, I’m just thinking about this game – the lack of superpowers, the rooftop levels, the emphasis on hand-to-hand fighting… Maybe Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne got their outfits mixed up at the drycleaners.

Brad: Right now, Sunsoft’s working on a game where Batman flies around giving people cancer.

Space Harrier II

Space Harrier II is the kind of thing that might end up in one of your nightmares if you stayed up too late playing After Burner (and if there’s a less worthwhile reason to forgo sleeping, I’ve yet to hear it).The game plays more of less like After Burner – it’s a thrid-person shooter in which enemies come straight at you and you have to either shoot or dodge them.Only instead of a fighter jet, you’re playing a a guy in skintight red pants who appears to be armed with one of those icing bags that people use to decorate cakes.

Things actually get weirder from there.Your guy runs along the ground (he can run pretty damn fast, too), but press up on the control pad, and he spontaneously breaks into flight.Except he doesn’t have any kind of means of flying – no wings or jetpack or anything like that.And to make things even weirder, there’s almost no animation at all once he gets airborne, even as he moves up and down and from left to right.He just sort levitates around the screen with his icing bag still tucked securely under his arm, like some kind of half-crazed, cake decorating magician.

Space Harrier II in all its glorious insanity.

Adding to the surrealness of the experience are the landscapes.Every level is a sparsely populated area with a grid pattern on the ground (presumably to help give the player a sense of perspective).Depending on the level, trees, buildings or columns will occasionally appear, and while some areas do get kind of crowded, there’s never enough of them that they don’t look oddly solitary and out of place, especially considering how fast you appear to be going.Every level is like running across, or floating past, the desolated remains of some ruined city that was inexplicably built on top of a giant checkerboard.

And then there are the enemies.As you are hauling ass across these checkered wastelands, stuff flies at you which you have to shoot with your frosting bag.It’s pretty much anything goes with the enemies- Giant dragons, empty suits of armor, 3-headed turtles…The basic rule governing what got into to game seemed to be “Do we know how to draw that?”, and if the answer was yes, then they put it in.And that probably wasn’t even a hard and fast rule, as evidenced by the inclusion of whatever the hell this was supposed to be:

Yeah, um… your guess is as good as mine.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a trip down insanity lane, and the fact that the game makes absolutely no effort to explain any of this makes me think that to somebody, somewhere, this all makes perfect sense, rather than just being weird for the sake of being weird.However, aside from the strangeness, the game is still basically just After Burner with the difficulty cranked up.And that means that all the stuff we didn’t like about After Burner – limited, repetitive gameplay, crummy controls, and your own character blocking your view of what you’re supposed to be aiming at – are present here, too.Except now you’ll probably die a lot sooner.And while that might be a welcome reprieve from actually playing it, we’d still rather just pass on this one entirely.

Crystal's Pony Tale

Crystal’s Pony Tale is a game about a pony who is trying to rescue all her pony friends in time for her birthday party.  Words really can’t quantify just how incredibly girly this game is, so I decided to show you a bunch of picture just to get the point across.  And on the off-chance that you’re wondering, no, this game isn’t much fun.

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This is the opening screen to Crystal’s Pony Tale.  It’s really just one shirtless Fabio away from being the cover of a trashy novel.

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Crystal has to get rid of all her horseshoes before going through the metal detector.

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Knowing that this could be a dangerous mission, I colored Crystal for maximum terror.

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The game forces you to sit through this insipid  puppet show in order to complete the stage.  Because it hates you.

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I love you too, crazy psychedelic horse!

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That jack-o-lantern will totally eat your soul.

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Boat ownership seems like an odd desire for a bird, but hey, everyone’s gotta have a dream.

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Just when you think this game can’t get any cuter, it hits you with wind chimes and tiny little squirrels.