Star Control

Stryker: Star Control 2 is one of the most celebrated, critically acclaimed, popular PC games ever made. Star Control, on the Sega Genesis is… um… less so. It has the potential to be a decent strategy game, but everything is severely hampered by an interface that makes it kind of hard to see what you’re doing, which in turn makes it hard to move your ships where you want them to be, which then makes any kind of strategic planning an exercise in futility. Moving your fleet across the map to block an enemy, only to discover you’ve actually traveled down a dead end and doomed your bases is the kind of thing that gets old pretty fast.

The addition of shooter-style gameplay to the ship battles adds some excitement and twitch action to the mix, but is undermined by spotty control and lack of balance. Bigger, more expensive ships almost always win, making most the skirmishes a foregone conclusion and also avoiding what could have been an additional dynamic to the strategy by having some ships with specific strengths or weaknesses to others. These battles have all the suspense of Detroit Lions football in December.

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Yeah, you try to figure out what the hell’s going on.

Brad: Back in 2001, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Brian Giles was asked what he thought of his team signing the washed-up Ramon Martinez. Always one with a quick, witty reply (and no doubt also strugling to find anything remotely positive to say about the guy), Giles replied “His brother’s Pedro,” indicating that the only thing the guy really had going for him was being related to Boston’s perrenial All-Star, Pedro Martinez. That’s kind of how I feel about this game – It’s sequel is Star Control 2.

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10 Games Eliminated in Brief

No time to waste, let’s go!

Arch Rivals: If you are a 15 year old who doesn’t know how to count – and that’s not a totally unreasonable assumption to make about anyone playing Arch Rivals – putting up a picture of a busty cheerleader after you make a basket probably isn’t the worst way to teach you the concept of two. Also, if you score a three pointer, do they show you the alien hooker from Total Recall with the three boobs?

Skeleton Krew: The whole game looks like ass. I seriously got sick of looking at it after about 10 minutes.

Warpspeed: Is it just me, or are there a lot of asteroids and Dreamcast logos in space?

World Heroes: Finally, a fighting game where you can have Hulk Hogan vs… Hulk Hogan! Is it my birthday already?

James Bond: The Duel: For some reason, the women in this game keep holding their arms up like they’re signaling a touchdown. Perhaps the James Bond Football League, the players all wear tuxes and the refs are women in cocktail dresses.

Toki: Going Ape Spit: Wow.  I don’t even know what to say about this.

Red Zone: I think we should give Red Zone credit for breaking down stereotypes. In most games, you see the huge menacing black guy walking around with the machine gun and the girl with the gigantic boobs firing the T-shirt cannon. It’s nice that this game is willing to challenge our assumptions.

Zany Golf: Hey, I know, let’s get the guy who made The Immortal – one of the hardest, least fair games of all time –  to design a miniature golf game! It’ll be impossible!

Championship Pro-Am: I’m just wondering who would actually sit down and watch what appears to be 4 dump trucks racing each other. The fanbase for a sport like this has to be somewhat limited.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day: For those of you who have always wanted to play as a kid abouit to shot in the back by mall security.

Socket: Time Dominator

Brad: In doing this project, we’ve seen more than a few games that were rip-offs of other games, but never quite to this degree. The similarities between Socket: Time Dominator and Sonic the Hedgehog are so obvious that it borders on plagiarism. Socket (the Time Dominator!) is a duck who’s special power is… wait for it – running really fast. He uses this power to speed through some oddly familiar-looking stages that happen to contain some borrowed obstacles and, like the stages in Sonic, branch out into multiple paths. Even the character’s names are pretty similar.

Perhaps in a failed effort to differentiate themselves, there are some slight gameplay differences between Sonic and Socket. First of all, the visuals looked to have suffered a significant downgrade, or have been “assed out” as Mr. Do! likes to call it. Also, Socket cannot attack enemies by jumping on top of them – doing so actually causes damage. Instead, pressing the B button unleashes some kind of “electric kick” upon his foes. The best part is that because of the way it’s animated, it honestly looks more like he’s farting lightning at his attackers. Which is not a terrible metaphor for the game, really.

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“But Brad,” you’re probably saying by now, “Sonic is a great game. If Socket is just like Sonic, wouldn’t it also be fun?” Well, it probably would be, except they sort of forgot to copy over the best parts of Sonic. For some reason, the people who designed the game not only decided to make everything look awful, but also covered the screen with so many overlays that its hard to know what the hell’s going on most of the time. Not that it really matters – many of the stages are automated to the point that I literally got through the first few levels by walking a few steps, and then setting the controller down and watching the character bounce through most of the level on his own. It’s like playing Sonic’s ugly, rejected levels with a prototype character that got cut out of the final version of the game because he looked like the lovechild of Big Bird and Andy Capp.

Stryker: I think what’s most disturbing about Socket is that it proves beyond any doubt that whoever was in charge of handing out the Sega Seals of Quality was asleep at the switch. This entire project is based on the understanding that the SoQs had nothing to do with whether the game in question was actually any good, but even so, how did Sega give a license to a game that so obviously mimics its own corporate mascot? I honestly have to wonder if anyone played this thing at all before giving it permission to be released on the system.

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Mr. Do!: Nice idea ripping off the game that almost everyone got for free with their system, guys. That’s a sound business strategy right there.

The Addams Family

Brad: Here’s some free game design advice: If you’re going to make a game that rips off Mario as obviously as this game does, maybe try to avoid calling attention to it by doing anything as blatant as stealing Mario’s death animation. That’s like a band plagiarizing all of U2’s songs, trying to pass them off as originals, and then naming their singer Bono.

Stryker: Or acting like douchebags every time they make a public appearance.

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What’s wrong, Gomez?  Walk into a Koopa Troopa?

Brad: Also, I know the point of the Addams Family was that they were all supposed to be a bunch of creepy weirdos (I’m assuming that’s the English translation of “a little ooky”), but seriously, if someone kidnaps your family, and decides the best place to hide them is inside your own house, it’s time to remodel. You shouldn’t almost die walking from the kitchen to the living room.

Stryker: I think it’s more likely that the kids didn’t get kidnapped at all. Think about it – they’re teenagers, and they have this super-embarrassing dad who likes to play with model trains, do “The Freddy”, and generally acts like a lunatic whenever they have friends come over. They’re probably just hiding from him. I did the same thing to my parents when I was 16, except it didn’t work as well since we didn’t live in a mansion full of deathtraps.

Brad: I’m going to go out on a limb and say you probably didn’t hide in your room and play Addams Family for the Genesis.

Stryker:Oh hell no.I’d go to a frat party with my mom before I’d play this damn game again.

Brad: Yeah. I thought the Metroid-like layout was kind of cool, but that wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the fact that its basically just a less-interesting version of Mario.

Stryker: And even on the heels of a moderately successful film, this isn’t exactly the movie license anyone was dying to see a game made out of. I mean, seriously, The Addams Family? Who cares?

Brad: I think my favorite thing about the original Addams Family TV series was on the air during the same years as The Munsters, but The Munsters got higher ratings because people found their working-class family to be more relatable than the aristocratic Addams. Keep in mind that the Munsters were 2 Frankensteins, a Wolf-Boy, and a Vampire. You have to be really trying to make a show about a family that people have a harder time relating to than that.

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Funny how in a house full of crazies and traps, those damn portraits are the creepiest thing in the game.

Stryker: No kidding. Say what you want about the Addams Family, at least they were human.

Brad: I can only imagine what people must have been saying: “Well sure, the grandpa on The Munsters kills people in their sleep and drinks their blood, but those rich Addams Family snobs have a butler. Fuck them, I’m not watching this!”

Stryker:The Munsters have to worry about holding down a job, paying the bills, and putting brains on the dinner table every night.Those are the same challenges I face every day!

Brad:Yes.Give me Herman Munster, that shambling corpse sewn together from the remains of relatable everymen.

Doom Troopers

Brad: There’s just not a lot to say about Doom Troopers. It’s an ugly, insipid, poorly designed Contra rip-off with terrible graphics and enemies whose heads pop off for no apparent reason when you shoot them. It’s is the kind of thing people who hate video games automatically assume all games are like.

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Stryker: Or the kind of game you would expect to see Bart playing at the Kwik-E Mart on the Simpsons. Really though, if all games actually were like this, they couldn’t possibly be the menace to society that parent’s groups make them out to be because nobody would ever play them. This game is so “meh” I get bored just thinking about it.

Mr: Do!: Jesus Christ, it looks like the fucking Genesis threw up on my TV.

Techno Cop

Brad:Techno Cop is a game so bad that its completely unworthy of any kind of detailed analysis.Instead we’ll base the rest of the review off one screenshot.  It’s really all anyone needs.

Stryker:Normally, I’m the one pushing for some degree of semi-professionalism in our articles, but I gotta admit, I’m pretty ok with us taking the easy way out on this one.I think once you look at the picture you’ll understand why:

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Brad:You know, for a game that came out in 1990, stopping Dead or Alive seems like a pretty unnecessary objective.I’m pretty sure record sales and music fans had already taken care of that for us a few years before then.

Stryker:No.The threat of “You Spin Me Right Round” can never be fully contained. That’s why the Techno Cop was created.

Brad:The more I look at this picture, the more it starts to look like I turned that guy into a pile of bloody guts with a finger gun.But that would be crazy.To do that would require double finger guns.

Stryker:I enjoyed the fact that after you explode the bad guys, the bloody corpses on the ground still blink at you.It’s little touches like that which prove that you really just don’t give a rat’s ass whether your game is any good or not.

Brad:I always found it amusing that parent’s groups would typically complain about the depictions of “realistic violence” in a game like this.Techno Cop is a game where you walk into slum tenements and gangs of hundreds of punks try to kill you with a wide assortment of weaponry.And you shoot all of them with a gun that makes them fucking explode.I’m not sure what world they’re living in where the violence seen in Techno Cop would ever seem realistic, but I wouldn’t want to visit there.It sounds pretty dangerous.

Stryker:Maybe the designers were trying to appease parent’s groups when they decided to give you the option of using a net gun that leaves the bad guys alive and unexploded.That way they can say “Look, it doesn’t have to be violent.You can use the net gun!”I realize that’s a pretty cynical theory, but it’s really hard not to get cynical while trying to explain why a game would give you the option to either capture your enemies alive, or else turn them into ground hamburger.

Brad:And I’d really like to believe that showing boxes cleary being stacked upside isn’t some kind of lame way to emphasize that these are some pretty bad guys.But I honestly can’t imagine any other reason they would have even included that detail.

Earnest Evans

Before we get started, let’s just make one thing perfectly clear – Earnest Evans is a terrible game. It’s hard to even know how to begin describing where a game as bad as this goes wrong – to do so would be like a mechanic trying to explain why the wreckage of a vehicle used in a car bombing might not pass inspection.

Here’s the story as best as I can sum it up – First, we see Earnest standing on a boat looking at an ancient ruin.Next, we play as Earnest inside of those ruins.Shortly after that, we turn off the power, remove the cartridge from our Genesis, and attempt to light it on fire.It’s not a great story, but I do like the ending – it’s sort of a tale of redemption.

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He carries a whip and does a lot of tomb raiding, so it seems as if he was supposed to be inspired by Indiana Jones, but thanks to his skin tight blue jeans and extreme mullet, he ends up looking more like some strange anime version of a 90s-era Billy Ray Cyrus.

Standing still, Earnest Evans looks like an average NES game, except maybe slightly more colorful. The game really shines once its in motion, however, as you get to see one of its more innovative and unintentionally hilarious qualities. Unlike most games of that era, Earnest’s limbs are animated independently of his body. In the proper hands, they might have resulted in some very state of the art animation, where similar actions could look slightly different (and more realistic) depending on context. In this case though, it just looks really awkward – nothing Earnest does ever looks remotely natural, and every time he gets hit, his arms and legs splay out in random, painful-looking directions.

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I can’t even pretend to know what the hell is going on here.

Oh, but it gets better. Laughing in the face of the conventional wisdom of just about every other game ever made (with a few exceptions that are notable only because they were also notorious for being awful), the makers of Earnest Evans decided NOT to give you any period of invincibility after taking damage. This means that you can (and will) easily end up in a situation where you get trapped and end up taking constant damage until you finally die. Adding to the frustration is the fact that while this is going on, Earnest will flop around helplessly like a tragic, drunken ragdoll.

The game’s first level takes place in a cave, complete with a frustrating layout full of damage areas that can’t really be avoided, and a bunch of sections where if you miss a jump, you’ll have to repeat a large section. As I mentioned before, I don’t know what the second level is like, because reaching it would have required more time playing this game than any human being ought to endure. Let’s just assume that all the subsequent levels are also ugly, poorly laid-out caves. Or better yet, that they don’t even exist at all.

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C’mon Earnest!  Show those hot dog links who’s boss!

Perhaps as a result of the game’s obvious anime influences, a lot of the enemies are tentacles. No, I don’t mean that a lot of the enemies have tentacles – I mean that they themselves are tentacles. Just disembodied tentacles coming out of the ground or ceiling for no reason. I could go on about the game’s other enemies, such as the inexplicably tall skeletons (apparently we’re raiding the tomb where an NBA All-Star Team was buried), or the overly aggressive swarms of vicious porcupines. But let’s not kid ourselves – your real enemies are the development team and whoever bought you this game.

Final Thoughts

The developers of Earnest Evans ought to be put on trial, if not for crimes against humanity then at the very least for fraud. Calling Earnest Evans a “game” is like calling a trip to Dave and Buster’s “fun” or a Smash Mouth album “music”. The definition would seem remotely truthful only to someone with the vaguest possible understanding of the concept. The only explanation I can come up with for the ineptitude of Earnest Evans is that the people who made it were intentionally trying to get fired. That still doesn’t explain why the publisher didn’t bury the game rather than release it, but I suspect the people responsible for that decision may have been short selling the stock of their own company.

Games this bad usually don’t even appear on consoles – they’re typically homemade shareware efforts for the PC that come packaged with a virus that mercifully puts your computer out of its misery after a few hours. So I guess about the only good thing I can say about Earnest Evans is that at least it didn’t break my Genesis. That’s something. Then again, neither did the other games remaining on the list, so that’s not really enough reason to keep it around.