Slave to the Game

Filling you in on the oddball gaming news

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No one sets out to make a bad video game, right? Even the worst games start off with fairly lofty expectations, only to be undermined by lack of money, lack of time or lack of talent.
Still, some games are so atrocious that you can't help thinking their awfulness was deliberate. Take the Nintendo DS version of "Deal or No Deal," a hideous tie-in that doesn't even deliver the basic mechanics of the simplistic TV show that spawned it. And it costs $30!

Then again, any savvy gamer probably has the common sense to avoid "Deal or No Deal." More often, bad games come in deceptive packages. And typically, a bad game has the germ of a good idea, even if it's obscured by incompetent design and programming.

These games sounded promising when they were announced, but something went terribly wrong on the way to store shelves.

ESCAPE FROM BUG ISLAND!

0 out of four stars

Publisher: Eidos.

System: Wii.

Price: $30.

Rating: Mature; blood, violence.

The title sounds like something out of "Mystery Science Theater 3000." If only it was as much fun. The premise is classic B-movie, involving three dopes who decide to explore an island filled with giant insects. Unfortunately, only one of the characters (not the one you control) thought to bring a weapon, so you're forced to fight the monsters with -- get this -- a stick. You use the Wii remote to poke the bugs, but the on-screen actions are always a few seconds behind your physical movements, making it hard to get any momentum going. Still, the bugs aren't particularly hard to kill, even though they're human size. You also can kill a giant gorilla by throwing rocks at it. With its stiff controls, drab graphics, annoying characters and inane plot, "Escape from Bug Island!" is the Wii's worst game yet.

VAMPIRE RAIN

0 out of four stars

Publisher: Microsoft.

System: Xbox 360.

Price: $60.

Rating: Mature; blood and gore, intense violence.

Here's another not-bad idea: combining a stealth-action game such as "Splinter Cell" with survival horror à la "Resident Evil." You play a special-forces operative whose mission is to infiltrate a city filled with "nightwalkers" and -- well, I'm not entirely sure what you're supposed to do to them. You can't kill them; a head shot just gets a vampire's attention, and before you know it, he's tearing out your jugular vein. So the high-tech weaponry you're assigned is pretty much useless. All you can do is sneak past them -- which isn't particularly difficult, but there's usually only one safe way through a level, so there's a lot of trial and error. After you've been slaughtered a few dozen times by sloppily animated bloodsuckers, you might start to wonder if "Vampire Rain" is worth all the agita. It isn't.

HOUR OF VICTORY

0 out of four stars

Publisher: Midway.

System: Xbox 360.

Price: $60.

Rating: Teen; mild language, violence.

The one emotion that comes across in "Hour of Victory" is boredom -- not just your own, but the evident boredom felt by the programmers who were assigned to this cynically conceived project. Midway promises a journey through the war's "pivotal" battles, but you won't recognize anything from the History Channel. If it weren't for the swastikas worn by the bad guys, you could very well be playing on Mars. And if the Nazis were as stupid as this game makes them out to be -- enemies will often stand still while you walk up to them shooting -- World War II would have been over in a week. And any game in which it's more effective to punch a guy than to shoot him is seriously broken.

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