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#650 - Super Play Action Football

I know, I know. Yet another football game? What am I, some sort of futbol-loving Communist with a vendetta against the sport? Well if only that were the case...

No, most SNES football games really are bad enough to warrant all of those low positions. Especially this trainwreck. And it's a first party product! Which means this is, bar none, the worst Nintendo-made title I have ever played. In fact, I honestly cannot think of anything else that even comes close. And it shouldn't come as a shock either because the high number of football games on the list already, including entries from powerhouses like Konami and Capcom, shows just how hard it is to get one of these games right. See my Emmitt Smith Football review(#700) from the last installment for further details.

As for the gameplay, let's first talk about the viewing perspective. My understanding is that it was also used in the precursor to this game, Play Action Football on NES. Perhaps it was intended to offer something unique and different from all the other pigskin games or maybe it was a workaround to some hardware limitation. Maybe they just wanted something as far removed from 10 Yard Fight as possible. Well whatever the reason, they decided to stick with it for the 16-bit sequel, and it sucks a big one. I honestly have no idea why anyone would think this viewing angle was any sort of good idea. Not only is it severely limiting to your field of vision, especially in the secondary, but it greatly impacts the controls. Instead of pushing up and right to head downfield you just press up, as if you were playing with a traditional behind-the-offense view, which is not something I can get used to. You know why isometric games like Q*Bert offer multiple control options? So you can find something that works for you. And what they have here does not work for me.

The pacing is also extremely torturous. Like most of these poorly-made football games every single little thing you do moves at a crawl and takes forever to execute. I realize everyone is in a damn hurry nowadays, and that we don't have the attention spans to play our vintage game tapes for more than a few minutes at a time, but this was bad even for the era. If it takes 20 seconds to field a kickoff, you're not properly simulating a football game in any sense of the word.

Now, either of those things could be overlooked to some degree if the gameplay worked at all, or had some fun aspect to it, but every portion of it seems hopelessly broken...

Football checklist:
Passing game - Completely and utterly impossible. I swear to God my career stat line reads something like this: 0/40, 0 yards, 0 TDs, 34 INTs. That is not an exaggeration.
Running game - Broken, as your players are too slow, and the blocking too unreliable to call this anything other than pure chance. Most runs end with getting tackled in the backfield.
Playing defense - Good luck stopping the pass. You cannot see the secondary, or tell where a throw is going, so you just have to blitz the QB like a madman and pray you get to him before he gets the pass off. You won't.

And then there's the playbook, which is shown above. I think it speaks for itself. Want to call a dime package? Well then quickly study all those tiny little dots and try to decipher which one it is. Is one of those a punt return? Is that a punt block or a goal line formation? Who knows.

Are there any positives to the game? Well it is fully licensed with NFL teams, and they also included the option to play as any one of a shit-ton of Division I college teams, which was definitely a pleasant surprise. And bizarrely enough you can even play as a high school team. I don't know why you'd want to do that, but you can, and this is a feature that you otherwise wouldn't see until many years later with EA's college football franchise.

Now I have to admit that I am actually somewhat compromised with this ranking. Objectively this should be closer to 700 than 650 for being such a miserable, unplayable piece of shit. Hell, it plays way worse than lower ranked games like MVP Football and Tony Meola. So why did I do this?

Because you can play as my alma mater (an FCS program).

All you Ohio State and Florida State fans don't know how good you have it. Playing as your team is something you take for granted, kind of like being able to see them on primetime TV or find their recruitment classes on the internet. Whereas out here we count ourselves lucky when our team appears inanything, especially a video game. Granted it means getting haplessly murdered by power conference teams when you try to use them, but I never look a gift horse in the mouth. And outside of SPAF I cannot think of another game giving me this option prior to those EA games on PS2 and XBox. I mean hell, this game even lets you play as North Dakota State and they were Division II at the time! I've never heard of a video game digging that deep, ever. So screw it, the game gets some bonus points from me, and that soft spot gives the game a little extra leeway in these rankings. In fact I have compulsively returned to the game multiple times to try and decipher its mysteries strictly because I want to be able to enjoy playing as my team.

...even if it never ends up actually happening because the game is an abomination.

Oh, and further bonus points for some truly batshit insane college name stand-ins:

Did I beat it?
No, this is another one of the few football games that continues to elude me in that regard.

#649 - D-Force

If you look at those screenshots you may think "that game doesn't actually look half bad." And you'd be correct, it doesn't. Shooters are fun right? How bad could they possibly screw up such a simple formula?

Well, play this game. It has unlimited continues but I DARE you to see it through to the end. The game is also ugly as hell, the sound is terrible, the powerups are scarce and boring, your chopper's hitbox is so ridiculously big that you're going to die to the stupidest shit over and over again, and there is some major Gradius-syndrome going on. It's excruciating.

Besides the main game, D-Force also offers a "Shooting Mode" and an "Exploration Mode." Unfortunately these just appear to be collections of levels from the main game. I guess the idea is that the different levels sets are supposed to be "real-world" and "fantasy" themed, in case you wanted to segregate the dinosaurs and giant birds from the giant mega planes during your play experience. Weird. And useless.

There's also a gimmick where you can move between two vertical planes to attack foes or dodge attacks. It adds absolutely nothing to the game. In fact, I would recommend you avoid doing this whenever possible because all it does is make previously-unseen projectiles appear all over the screen. Again, your chopper has the world's biggest hitbox, so this is basically an automatic death.

Also, I'm pretty sure the chopper in the cover artwork is some sort of transport model. They couldn't even get that right...

The soundtrack is a mixed bag. Some of the levels' themes aren't too shabby. They kind of sound like shit, but I like the melodies. Everything else from the title screen to the boss fights is pretty generic and forgettable though. So overall it probably gets a straight up "C" from me. Which for this game is high praise.

Anyway, the next shmup isn't going to appear for at least 300 more entries, just to drive home how horribad this game is. It's the most consistently likeable genre for me, so you have to mess it up pretty bad to drop down this low. I guess you could say this is a spite ranking. Spite for taking something so easy to get right, a shmup, and beating the odds by making it so very wrong. You have to reward that special type of incompetence.

Did I beat it?
Yes, on easy. Haven't quite managed to finish it on normal yet.

#648 - Speed Racer in My Most Dangerous Adventures

What a strange game. Probably mostly known as the other Exertainment game, Speed Racer is a racing/platforming hybrid based on the old Japanese cartoon as famous for its horrendous dubbing as it is for introducing Japanese animation to an entire generation of Westerners. And it is indeed compatible with the Exertainment exercise bike peripheral for, uh, some reason (note - see update below). And of course that Accolade logo stamped on the side of the box is a pretty good indicator that game is going to be a giant piece of shit. Not that you wouldn't have guessed that by now.

The game alternates between racing and platforming level throughout, and starts with a race, so I'll talk about that first. Everything seems promising initially, or I should say appears playable, which at this point in the project is promising. Of course that doesn't last long because everything is so rough and uneven in every way. The frame rate is decent, the Mach 5 is loaded up with powers such as spinning blades, a turbo boost, super grip tires, and a spring-loaded jump. And you can practically turn on a dime which is a nice change of pace from the usual attempts at realistic physics in these games. In fact I rather enjoy making 180 degree turns with ease, probably because of how ridiculous it was. But the actual racing gameplay itself is a disaster, and quickly devolves into frustration as the Mach 5 ends up wrecked again and again from colliding with the other vehicles or falling into lava, or getting hopelessly lost on a maze-like track (WTF?).

Or at least, that's the case at first. You see there does not appear to be any difference between placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, as you will advance to the next level either way. Which means there isn't any incentive to actually try and win any of the races. Especially since the AI has some extreme rubber-band syndrome that renders that nearly impossible anyway. You can pass up the leader with nine consecutive turbos, and he will still scoot right back past you the instant the last one expires. And since it's so easy to take damage from other vehicles and get wrecked you'll want to do your best to avoid getting near anyone else anyway. So your best bet is always settling for an easy cruise to 2nd or 3rd place, staying clear of the lead vehicle at all costs. What fun is that? It's a race without racing.

I should also mention that the tracks are continuously flowing up and down, as if you're driving a boat through turbulent seas. So if you get motion sick you may not last long with this game. I mean, you probably won't last long anyway, but the nausea will be an added bonus.

Somehow the platforming defies the odds by being even shoddier than the racing. In these levels you'll try to guide Speed through some relatively small areas, beating up generic goons while sliding down ropes and leaping across fire pits or avalanches. The controls are decent enough, though the running jumps can be tricky as you feel a bit out of control trying to stick the landings. The hit detection on your punches and kicks is pretty damn poor too. Kicking enemies several feet away is super effective whereas trying to attack an enemy right next to you is often futile, which means some nasty combos happen if more than one enemy gets their hands on you because they are too close to counter and will lock you into an endless animation of getting hit. Fun stuff. Luckily the game has unlimited continues and these levels are super short so it tempers any frustration. After a few attempts you'll know where to go and where the pitfalls are, and end up breezing through each stage for the most part.

Beyond all the game's quirks and poor designs is an experience that is meh at best anyway. There's no bosses, no setpieces, no highlights, no thrills, and no excitement whatsoever. Each race matches you up with a rival, but they play no differently from the rest of the generic cars in the race. If there is a storyline I've already forgotten it. And Racer X isn't even in the game as far as I know. The entire thing just reeks of a lack of effort or inspired game-making.

And finally I'll say the same thing I said about Cannondale Cup, which is that I'm not reviewing this from the perspective of playing it with the bike for very obvious reasons. Though I also have no idea how you could play this game that way. Color me intrigued I suppose.

I watched some Youtube videos for awhile, and am now convinced that the Exertainment version of Speed Racer (the one on the combo cart) is actually a completely different version of the original game, similar to the Star Fox and Donkey Kong Country competition carts where they took a small portion of a game and shoe-horned it into another cart.

On that combo cart there appears to be no main campaign and no platforming levels. Instead there is a new menu that takes you directly to a random race. This also presumably means there never was any bike support for the original game. So why was this considered a good candidate to bundle with Mountain Bike Rally? Who knows. I guess it wasn't if it never got officially released. That doesn't really change anything as far as my review goes, but I thought it was interesting, and answers my questions as to how the heck you'd play through the full game with the bike (you wouldn't).

Did I beat it?
Yes. It sucked, but I stuck with it.

#647 - Brett Hull Hockey

#646 - Brett Hull Hockey 95

Hockey games number two and three, the Brett Hull duo represents a serious leap in quality over previous entry Street Hockey '95. By that I mean you can at least keep your character on screen long enough to feel like you're playing a video game. That's how low the bar was at this point.

Like usual, these games feature zero licenses and no features beyond the standard barebones exhibition and tournament modes. Even navigating the menus in the first game is a major pain-in-the-ass because I swear they somehow have unresponsive controls. I even went so far as to disassemble and clean my controller to see if that was the cause. Nope, it's just really shoddy coding. You know a game's in trouble when the problems start rearing their heads before you even begin play.

The games themselves plays like any clone of EA's NHL series, albeit with laggy controls, underwhelming graphics, and a super annoying lack of offense. In fact these seem like some of the harder hockey games to score a goal because those controls completely kill your ability to generate or execute any sort of offensive strategy. Usually by the time you get a pass off and line up a shot that player will have already become swarmed by the defense. The only way I could even get shots off were to feverishly move the puck as fast as I could, akin to Soccer Shootout. I find that type of gameplay to be infuriating. On top of that it's also rather difficult to tell where the puck is at any given moment, which only makes things even more hectic. Whenever it moves into a cluster of players it will be a few seconds before you can tell which one of them has it, so your already crippled chances at offense are even worse off as the delayed reaction will kill your ability to get behind the defense most of the time.

Now, I need to add a caveat to this review. I did not play an entire season, or spend dozens of hours with either BHH game. That will be the case for many of the lesser sports titles in the library. If I did, I could probably find some sort of exploit or strategy, or hidden depths that allow me to play the game differently and maybe even start to develop an appreciation for it (not likely, that almost never happens). But I'm not going to do that. With 700+ games, and hundreds of those being sports titles, I don't have 10,000 hours to devote to playing a season of every one of them. Several hours will have to do.

Did I beat Brett Hull Hockey?

Did I beat Brett Hull Hockey 95?
Also no.

#645 - The Terminator

This game is just... ^%$@#$. Another title where I have to ask "did anyone play test anything back in the day?" I must have a soft spot for anything that even remotely resembles Contra to put it this high up the list because this could easily be in the neighborhood of Terminator 2 or RoboCop 3. It is equally as bad in almost every way.

The game starts you off in the post-Skynet future as Kyle Reese (or whoever, those sprites could be anyone) gunning down an endless stream of terminators and flying robots. And I mean endless; this is one of those games where the levels go on forever, and there are no checkpoints. And of course you're gonna be taking a shit-ton of cheap hits which means just beating the first level turns into a massive struggle.

If you manage to conquer that first level (most likely through memorization or moving at a crawl) you'll get to experience one of the dreaded Terminator "driving" levels. Every game seems to have these, and they are always just the worst. This one has you crawl into the back of a pick-up and man an anti-aircraft gun as a large craft of some sort strafes you. It's horrible, and avoiding hits is nearly impossible thanks to the lack of room to maneuver, and your massive hit box. Thankfully it only lasts about 45 seconds.

If you beat that driving level you get another level identical to the first, only this one goes on even longer, and has even more cheap hits. And again, this game has no checkpoints. After failing to get through in a few times I threw in the towel. The game probably isn't that hard if you take your time and really try to anticipate every attack (memorize the entire game), but who wants to do that? It's just an unfun slog all around. The controls are decent, and definitely do their job much better than Terminator 2, but if the rest of the gameplay sucks then what is the difference?

I challenge anyone to play this game and Robocop 3 for extended periods of time, back-to-back. If you don't swear off video games forever I will owe you a Coke.

Did I beat it?
No, but at least I can make it further than I did in Terminator 2.

#644 - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

More Sony schlock from a lambasted movie of the era. This time it's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, based on the Kenneth Branagh film starring Robert DeNiro. Probably mostly known as the other Victorian Gothic horror adaptation of the era (behind Bram Stoker's Dracula), it offered a plot much closer to the original novel than than any of the old Universal pictures. Of course that also means it was that less fitting for a video game tie-in, but hey it's obvious no-one knew what the fuck they were doing in regards to licensing movies for video games at the the time so I'll let it slide.

The game has you assume controls of DeNiro's creature as he is trying to escape from some German village while being constantly bombarded by rifled soldiers, pitchfork-wielding farmers and... uh, women armed with flowers. I hate games that don't give you an easy introductory level to learn the mechanics and controls, especially when infinite respawns are thrown into the mix too. It all lends to a frustrating and anxious start. Though on the bright side there is no level timer at least.

To escape from the village you'll need to navigate through the maze-like level, pulling on latches to trigger platforms, escaping into back tunnels via a labyrinth of doors, and for the most part avoiding combat. If you do decide to fight you are armed with a mere stick with which you can swat at your foes. It's pretty impotent, and the animation to use it has a pretty decent delay to it, so expect to take damage from almost everyone you fight. You can set the stick alight if you come across a lit torch, but this doesn't seem to actually do anything. Or at least it doesn't affect combat, because who knows if it has other applications...

By that I mean the game and its items are very, very confusing. After finishing the first area you are trapped down on the street, fighting off endless soldiers, dogs, and cavalry riders. I never could make it past this part, and I never could figure out what I was supposed to do. A quick survey of Youtube found a longplay where the player actually skipped this section entirely. How? By assembling some of the inventory he found into a makeshift pulley which allowed him to create a back alley escape to the next level. I'll give the game points for that sort of creativity and nonlinearity, in fact I'm rather impressed with how ahead of its time that is. But it's not intuitive at all. How many SNES games like this have alternative level exits? You'd probably never know it was there without either watching that video, or possibly from reading the manual. Plus I hate item hunts in games like this. I hate digging through thirty crates spread across every corner of the map, hoping that maybe three of them contain something useful. And I don't want to thoroughly explore a large area if there is shoddy combat and infinite enemies. That is a drag, and not fun. So great idea, but poor and confusing execution.

In any case, that's all I can really comment on. I never made it past that second part of the first level. I scanned through the entire longplay though and can confirm that the game:

A) Takes massive dramatic license with the property

B) Diverges significantly from the actual storyline

...or maybe my memory is failing me and the book really does end with the creature fighting off the knife-wielding narrator with the powers of lightning, I dunno.

Did I beat it?
No, I can't get anywhere in this one.

#643 - Boxing Legends of the Ring aka Chavez II

Do those screenshots look familiar at all? Because this game looks and feels a lot like earlier entry Foreman For Real Boxing. And yes, that is a bad thing.

Like that other title, Boxing Legends of the Ring offers the ability to create a fighter and help him rise through the ranks, battling through legendary fighters such as Sugar Ray Leonard and Julio Cesar Chavez. And it has the exact same behind the shoulder perspective and control scheme, where you press a punch button in conjunction with the d-pad to aim at a specific body part. It's not a terrible system, or I should say it's not a terrible idea, but it just doesn't really work in practice. Every fight is a marathon of endurance, endlessly wailing on your opponent's head or ribs, trying to guess where he'll block, and trying to trap him in the corner so he can't move out of range. If there is any strategy to the fights it's beyond me; just mash the attacks as fast as you can and hope enough land to knock him down.

So why do I have this ranked higher than FFRB? I guess because it seems like it has an actual difficulty curve, or at least because I can successfully button mash my way through several opponents this time. And the scoring is less out of whack since outperforming your opponent here actually leads to being scored the winner, which is a lot more logical to my uninformed brain.

As to why the two games are so similar, I can only assume that the later Foreman title was basically just stealing ideas from this game wholesale. It seems like the sort of thing Acclaim would do anyway. That isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world if the original game is really good (i.e. Batman Returns and its spiritual "successor" Death and Return of Superman), but that was obviously not the case here.

Did I beat it?
I'm incapable of beating any of the boxing games.

#642 - The Flintstones

Oh hey, an Ocean licensed game. I guess if I named the thread after them that it was inevitable they start showing up. Plus it was only a matter of time before their crap started flooding the bottom ranks.

And speaking of licenses, Ocean certainly loved to aim for bad movies that no one in their right mind would try to adapt into video game form. At least Acclaim/LJN knew that the Arnold and Stallone games kind of make sense. I swear Ocean just picked names out of a hat.

The Flintstones is another movie game that has nothing to do with the source material, other than trying to make your character resemble John Goodman as opposed to the classic Hanna Barbara design. And the between level cutscenes seem to imply that the Kyle McLachlan character is kidnapping your children, though I don't recall that happening in the movie. I guess the real plot with its (attempt at) corporate intrigue and interracial sexual tension didn't really translate to a K-A video game very well so they just had to make a new storyline up. Plus it's a platformer so I guess it doesn't actually matter in the end.

What you'll immediately notice upon playing the game are the controls; they are pure garbage. The sense of inertia is horrible and punishes you for late reactions to incoming hazards. Which means this is another game where you have to memorize the layouts of the levels and what to do before you come upon the enemies and traps. That's always fun. And the mechanics for grabbing onto ledges are some of the worst I can think of; it's amazing how many games couldn't get simple things like this right. I guess maybe don't have the player clip through the thing they need to grab onto if you're gonna make it so finicky? Just a suggestion. Expect to spend some time mastering this simple concept when you start the game, and any level that requires you to grab onto a ledge over an instant-death pit is always a moment of pure dread.

Fred's attacks are garbage too. Your main club has a very short range, and a fairly extensive animation, which means you're gonna be missing a lot and leaving yourself open to hits every time. There are several ranged attacks you can use to relieve this, but the ammo for either of them is limited, especially in the later levels.

The nail in this game's coffin however, is neither the spotty controls or the plodding combat. It's the brutal lack of any checkpoints whatsoever. The further into the game you get, the longer the levels go on, and the more instant death pitfalls and hazards await you. Since you're only given a few lives to get through (a minimum of) three levels at a time you're gonna be restarting them a lot. Over and over and over again. There are occasionally a few scattered 1UPs to help you out, but they also double as health refills. Which means you only get the extra life if you have full health when you pick it up, so the only way to get 1UPs is to be good enough to not need them in the first place. Great.

Luckily the game does have a password system. It's not totally optimal (you only get a new pass every three levels or so), but it saves the game from being completely unplayable as you only have to memorize a few levels at a time instead of the entire game in one go. The game is hard enough as is, without passwords it would have been impossible.

I should also mention that there is one level that breaks up the platformer action for a few minutes. It is early on in the game, and has you guiding your foot-mobile car through the town, bouncing Pebbles and Bam Bam off of the roof to safety. The only comparison I can think of is the Puppy Love levels from Earthworm Jim 2. Except this one is a million times worse.

Did I beat it?
Yes, and it was a horrible experience.

#641 - Tony Meola's Sidekicks Soccer aka Super Copa

My third least-favorite "footie" game on the console. No, I take that back. It's soccer. I don't care what you want us Americans to call it. And this one sucks, mostly by making me sick trying to play it.

The menus are... different. The reason I used two of them in the gallery was to really illustrate that; I have no idea what most of them mean. Some of them actually are relatively straightforward, like I can safely assume the cheetah and turtles set the play speed. And the picture of brackets must be a tournament. But what the hell is the hourglass? Minutes per half? Game? What are the calf muscles telling me? What does the yellow card do? Rest assured there are even more confusing icons than those too. If you plan on playing this game you'll probably want to buy or download a manual. Not that you should plan on playing it.

After you figure out (or fumble through) the menus, you'll immediately notice what is most wrong with this game. During play the game tries to track your player's perspective by fixing the camera behind him, similar to the Mode 7 titles Nintendo put out (NCAA Basketball and NHL Stanley Cup). The problem here is the movement is so herky jerky and robotic that the stuttering camera position changes quickly gives me a headache. I have never been motion sick from playing a video game in my life. Descent didn't do it, Jim Power didn't do it. Not even virtual reality has done it. Well this game toes the line, I had to take a break after each match to shake it off. Congrats on that amazing accomplishment Tony Meola.

The AI is also extremely annoying because 90% of the time it's going to dribble up the field through a series of sickness-inducing right angle turns. Trying to steal the ball means trying to line up with him (which is hard because the loose controls mean you'll constantly overshoot him), and then trying to ram into him until the ball gets kicked loose. You'll do this about 500 times a match, and that is not an exaggeration. There's also a slide kick you can try to use, but that sends you flying 10 yards down the field and way past your opponent if you miss.

Trying to score is also fussy. I have figured out exactly two ways to do it, and neither is fun. The first is to make a beeline for the goal and hope only a couple defenders have managed to set up by the time you get there. Otherwise 10 different players will crowd the goal box and you may as well not try. If you're lucky and only have a few in front of you, enter the box so that the goalie bum-rushes you (is this a thing that actually happens in soccer?). Once he does, pass to the right or left and just pray that an unseen teammate is waiting there, with no defender in the way, and can quickly put it in the net. I can accomplish this roughly once or twice a game, or about 5% of my attempts.

The other option is to try and sail the ball into the center of the goal box and just hope someone is nearby and that they happen to put it in with a header. This happened once. I assume it was just sheer luck and that the stars were aligned.

I also once got scored on from a free kick. The AI let loose and the ball floated softly down into the corner of the net while my goalie watched. So... there's that too.

Now, is any of that how you're supposed to play the game? Is there another point to the high sailing pass that doesn't go to anyone in particular? Is it possible to beat the goalie one on one? Is there a setting that tones down the goalie? I have no idea, and I'm done playing this so I'm not gonna find out.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I won a tournament with Boston.

#640 - Battle Cars

Okay, fuck Space Football, fuck Taz-Mania, and most of all, fuck Battle Cars. These three games represent the trifecta of frustrating gameplay that gets my blood boiling and my controllers flying. BC might actually be the most infuriating of the lot (I keep saying that), but it also has the most upside to it. Hence the best ranking. It's still a horrible, evil game, but I guess everything is relative.

The best way to describe everything here is a mixture of F-Zero and Super Mario Kart. But sans all the good stuff and challenging but fair gameplay. It has the twisty futuristic raceways with bouncy edges from the former, with the weapons and rubber band syndrome of the latter. And the cheating ass AI from every racer that has a cheating ass AI.

The weapon system is absolutely horrid. You have unlimited missiles, discs, and grenades that you can fire, all of which you can toggle through at any time. And all of them feel more or less useless in one way or another. They each have 5 levels of strength that you can work towards, but it never really seems to make them feel more powerful or useful.

Missiles - will automatically lock onto an opponent. Think red shells. Except there doesn't appear to be any way of controlling which car it attacks. And they will often overshoot their target and get confused. Or just disappear off into the ether. When this happens expect 10-15 seconds of waiting for it to show back up. In the meantime, your weapon systems are locked out and unable to be fired again. This will single-handedly ruin your later races.

Discs - act like hockey pucks, bouncing all over the track until they find an opponent. Think green shells. Since the game is very generous with the enemy hitboxes they're actually decently useful. At least at first. By the later tracks your opponents are too fast and will outrun them.

Grenades - look like old-timey naval mines. Think explosive banana peels. I'm unsure why you would ever willingly use a banana peel over a red shell. These appear to be completely useless. Moving on.

The layout of the game itself is as follows:

- Lap around the course where you try to earn cash
- Car upgrades
- 1v1 race
- Collect credits, move to next planet

I like what they tried to do here. Doing laps to determine a starting position is a tired idea, and not something I relish having to do. Instead, here you're just trying to blow anything and everything up. Too bad it doesn't actually work in practice though...

To destroy an enemy vehicle you're going to need to hit it with 2-3 attacks before it is finished off. Each hit will also bring that vehicle to a dead halt. So in order to deliver the coup de grace you're gonna need to park behind them and wait for each hit to be delivered. But you're on a timer, and if you do not complete your lap fast enough UFOs will swoop down and start hammering you until you're dead. So you have to be speedy. In fact, after the first few races you pretty much have to gun it the entire time in order to make it to the finish line before they kill you. So you don't actually kill anything most of the time, so earning money becomes a problem. A big one by the game's end.

After your practice lap with the UFOS you'll enter the race proper, which is a one-on-one affair against various alien opponents. Though they have different vehicles and biographies none of them play any differently from one another. Other than they gradually get more and more overpowered and annoying. Eventually every race goes the same way:
- Keep peppering your opponent with missiles just to keep him in the same ballpark as your own car. If he gets behind you, hope you can trick him into repeatedly ramming you so he gets stuck behind you
- Pinball off the wall on every turn because they're usually 90 degrees and the driving engine is so clumsy that you're better off never touching the brakes
- By the end of the second lap just hope that you haven't died from hitting walls, and then pray that a missile hits your opponent just before the finish line so you can pass him up at the last second. This gradually becomes a smaller and smaller window until the final track where you basically have a 1% chance of pulling this off.

After the race you earn "credits" which are used to upgrade your weapons and are different from cash. Now why didn't they just put everything under one umbrella, and give the player the choice for how to earn money and what to spend it on? Because the developers are idiots.

The game also glitched out on me a number of times. At one point I escaped the track and drove around for a while in an ocean of orange. Since this was basically a soft lock I got to reset the game and start over. Though to be fair to the game, when I opened up the cart it appeared that the board had tried to commit suicide or something (not that I blame it) so perhaps that was the cause. Either way, I'm calling it a demerit.

The soundtrack is about the only bright spot to the game. Most of the tracks are pretty decent and fit the game nicely. Hell, I even listened to the soundtrack at work once. Call it a C+ or B-

Did I beat it?
Yes. Only because the game has unlimited continues so you can bash your head against the wall until you happen to win through sheer luck.

#639 - Eek! the Cat

Another travesty from Ocean, this time it's a port of some Amiga game called Sleepwalker that tasked you with protecting (sleepwalking) people from various hazards and pitfalls. Think of a cross between Lemmings and a full game-length escort mission, and try not to puke. Apparently there was also some forgotten cartoon at the time called Eek! the Cat, whose titular feline's calling card was helping people. Some executive connected the dots between the two and this reskin for SNES was born.

Does anyone like escort missions in video games? Ever? Because they generally have a reputation for being any game's lowpoint. There are exceptions where special care is made to make your charge moderately competent or interesting (i.e. Ico or Resident Evil 4), but frustration is generally the norm. This game is that experience at its lowest, stretched out for a two hour runtime.

Now the idea for this game could work if the developer knows what they're doing and execute the plan flawlessly. The previously mentioned games are perfect examples of this specifically because of how well everything is implemented and are almost universally considered works of gaming art because of it. But this game is not only very flawed to the core, but features controls that can only be called a nightmare; some of the very worst on the system in fact. If you were to take the sublime control and inertia from a Super Mario Bros. game, and then invert that to be its complete polar opposite, it would be the movement in this game. It's really just another one of those things you have to play to understand because Eek! is so slippery and out of control with everything he does that it's comical.

I guess that's also why they didn't even bother giving him a healthbar, because you can expect to slip and slide into each and every enemy and hazard in each level approximately a million times apiece. If Eek! could die the game would be even more aggravatingly hard than it already is. Instead you just have to worry about protecting whichever Grannie or purple doofus you're tasking with watching over, and that is a tricky enough of a job as it is. They all travel in a straight line (again, they're asleep) so your only interactions with them are nudges in the right direction, whipping them into the air over pitfalls, or stunning enemies in their path. In fact it's exactly like the Peter Puppy mission from the first Earthworm Jim, but minus all the good things and charm. Eventually you'll start resenting them for their unrelenting and determined stupidity and plot their demise on purpose. Or at least I did, since it was the only way to find any enjoyment with this game.

After making it through the first couple missions, and with no end or change in the formula in sight, I threw in the towel. And that represents a major milestone in this project. So far this is the first and only non-sports title where I've given up on the game before I received a game over (on my best/longest run at least). It was just too tedious and unpleasant to stick with.

Now there is one bright spot to this game, and that is the soundtrack. I like it quite a bit and am in fact listening to it right now as I type this. It isn't especially large in scope, or super varied, but it is way out of the rest of the game's league. That composer deserved better.

Did I beat it?
No. I made it to the fourth level but shut the system off so I could play Wild Wild Quest. That's how tedious this game is; I would rather play a broken Cheetos-ad-masquerading-as-a-video game than another minute of it.

#638 - ABC Monday Night Football

Blah blah blah, football game, blah blah blah. Who cares? Nobody.

...but wait, this is a Japanese product trying to ape Tecmo Super Bowl? I guess I can try a little bit here.

Oddly enough the only license at play here is with ABC (the network), and their commentator at the time, Frank Gifford. For those too young to remember, he was a placekicker married to Kathy Lee. For those too young to remember her, she was on that thing with Regis Philbin. For those too young to remember him, google it. And what does this license mean for the game? Absolutely nothing, other than two voice samples, and an image of his ugly mug that barely animates. And the ABC logo I guess.

Oh and a Gatorade logo at midfield... so... yeah.

The TSB similarities are numerous, from the play selection and pop-up menus, to the way the cinematics and field goals and overall presentation all play out. The developers' intentions are very obvious here, which I don't blame them for considering the legendary status of that series. But unfortunatley for them, they botched every single fucking part.

One of the biggest things that makes the TSB formula work so well is the carefully predicated balance of rock-paper-scissors gameplay. There are few things as satisfying as your entire D-Line engulfing a quarterback, or throwing an 80 yard bomb to a wide open receiver. And the over-the-top cutscenes and music that accompany these moments are just perfect. Well ABCMNF mangles every one of those things:

Football checklist:
Running game -
Absolutely impossible to pull off with any real success. Or I should say, impossible with anything resembling a real running game. I did find you could exploit the AI by calling a pass, and then moving your QB over between the guard and tackle and diving forward immediately before you cross the line of scrimmage. This is good for about 3-4 yards a carry.

Passing game -
Mind-bogglingly broken. If your opponent calls a run defense your receivers will truck the defenders and run down the field completely uncovered. An overpowered catch-up mechanic means they will almost never actually make it to the endzone, but you will easily get first downs before anyone can reach them.

However, if your opponent calls a pass defense it is your guys that will get tackled. The solution? Backpedal your quarterback for awhile and wait for one of the tackled receivers to get back up, at which point he will be left uncovered. So as long as you can avoid a sack it doesn't matter what defense is called, you should have a wide-open receiver and an easy reception.

...or I should say that would be the case if your receivers didn't drop about 80% of the passes that came their way. It is no exaggeration to say you can expect to regularly face 4th and long because you dropped three straight wide open passes that hit your receiver in the face.

Playing defense -
Guess what, it's completely broken. Since running the ball is impossible, just call a pass defense every time. I was picking off 6-7 passes a game at the end because it's so easy to jump a route, especially since receivers are consistently underthrown if you're in pass defense. So just camp on the free safety and guess right or left. If they end up throwing in that direction you can pick it off. If not, regroup and do it the next play.

There's also two super plays you are able to run each half; one pass and one run. When you execute these the game switches into a sort of cinematic mode and you have to beat the AI in a button-mashing mini-game. If the offense wins it's an automatic touchdown, if the defense wins it's a long or short gain, depending on how well they did. The AI has had their way with me here every single time, no exceptions. Not only have I never persevered over them in the button mashing, I in fact think it is literally impossible. The only accidental stops I ever got were when my guys inexplicably picked off a super pass, or tipped the ball. I can only assume this was RNG and not anything I did since I had long since stopped trying by that point. So my main strategy each game was just trying to keep the ball out of the other team's hands in the final couple minutes of each half because that is when they would use these plays. Overall a nifty idea, but terrible execution. Perhaps it is properly balanced when you're playing a human opponent but I never got the chance to find out.

Oh, and one last thing. The pacing is ridiculously and painfully slow. For as bad as it was in Super Play Action Football, this is even worse. It's no exaggeration to say most players run a 20 second 40 yard dash, and that any gain of longer than 30 yards is virtually impossible when your ballcarrier moves slower than a goomba. There's also other miscellaneous issues at play here that are too numerous to remember or point out. Just one example though is that just like with Football Fury the play clock goes by its own set of rules. Running the clock out turns into a massive pain in the ass when you can't actually run any clock off.

ABC Monday Night Football is a title I'm really torn on. On one hand, it's a deeply broken game, with nonexistent play balance, endless rough edges, the slowest pacing of possibly any sports game on the system, terrible graphics, and an overall presentation that was shamelessly stolen from Tecmo Super Bowl. But it's also so damn goofy as to give it some charm. I even tentatively placed it in the "guilty pleasures" section of this project, but was forced to remove it after prolonged play. It's a shame too because I really wanted to like it.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I did a full season and playoffs with San Francisco. The average score was roughly 56-7.

#637 - WCW Super Brawl Wrestling

Another wrestling game, a genre I do not care for at all, that I'm going to dump on. This time it's the sole WCW title released on the system from Ultima-publisher FCI. I have no idea what other people think of this one, but it at least seems slightly playable this time. Technically.

People who actually know what they're talking about can correct me here, but my understanding is the WCW broke away from the WWF at some point as a rival start-up. And presumably it was the lesser league at the time because with the WWF games I can at least recognize some of the cast from their presence in pop culture. As in, everyone knows who Hulk Hogan is, and I can at least recognize Roddy Piper from his movies and Randy Savage from those Slim Jim commercials. Whereas I have no idea who anyone in this game is. Not that I particularly care, but I'm guessing having a roster full of B-grade characters was probably not a great selling point for wrestling fans at the time.

The game mixes things up by using an isometric perspective this time. This doesn't really change anything gameplay-wise; the controls still work in exactly the same manner as other titles. So all it does is change up where you need to go to climb up and stand on the ring corners, for whatever that is worth. And the game seems to use the same exact formula as all of the other titles; try to punch or kick your opponent until their endurance goes down. Or better yet, grapple and throw them down repeatedly until you can eventually pin them. I guess there is only so much can do you to liven-up the formula of a wrestling game.

The controls are responsive enough, and I find the game exponentially less confusing or infuriating than Hammerlock Wrestling or NWC. It's still not any fun, but at least I'm not infuriated, which is a big step in the right direction. And most attacks will actually connect when they should, which is nice. That's how low the bar is with these games.

One thing this game does do differently is give you two distinct energy meters. Or maybe one is a life meter. I admit I have no idea, and I played through the game twice. I just know you have to damage someone repeatedly enough to empty both of them before they can be finished off. Which for this game meant using the grapple, throwing them down, and then immediately doing that again as soon as they stand up. In fact I did that on every opponent to win every fight. It gets very boring, very fast. And it's also the main reason that I have WCW ranked below the WWF games (spoiler: they're coming up soon). They're all terrible games, but at least those ones force you to mix it up a bit. Here I have to spam the same thing all the time in order to actually do enough damage to pin someone. Whenever I try to change things up my foe starts recovering faster than I can hurt him.

So like with any of these wrestling titles, mileage will probably vary greatly depending on how much nostalgia you have for them, or how much of an enthusiast for the genre you are. If you have neither you'll probably share my sentiments.

Did I beat it?
Yes, a couple times.

#636 - The Ren & Stimpy Show: Time Warp

Considering the general age range for most classic Nintendo collectors I'm assuming anyone reading this thread knows what The Ren & Stimpy Show is. For you few outliers out there it was a very bizarre cartoon that aired on Nickelodeon, featuring a Peter Lorre-esque psychotic Chihuahua named Ren and his manchild friend Stimpson J. Cat. Besides a number of adult themes and disturbing imagery, the series featured a sense of humor that I can only call "experimentally weird" with plotlines too absurd to bother trying to explain. And yet it somehow made its way into the inaugural Nicktoons lineup and was a big hit with people of all ages, continuing to live on to this day as a cult classic.

The video game adaptations of the show on the other hand, are standard platformer garbage that maintain none of the franchise's appeal, while also being brutally difficult and sloppily put together. It's a pretty abysmal group of games in many ways, and Time Warp is the worst of the lot, which is a pretty damning statement overall.

In typical Ren and Stimpy fashion the storyline is too ridiculous to understand. The dog and cat duo learn about a promotional giveaway that will award a time machine to whomever redeems 47 million kitty litter proof of purchases. Several levels and one (literal) trainwreck later, you use that time machine to travel to different eras in order to, I guess, beat up various series characters for some reason. Just go with it.

The initial levels that task you with collecting those UPCs are a disaster, simply put. They're best described as being a beat-em-up, but with a massive number of environmental hazards, and tons of destructible scenery that mostly just unleashes enemies if you destroy any of it. Most enemies will also drop money if you kill them, but I never could figure out what you're supposed to do with it. In fact the combat's controls and mechanics are so dodgy that I would recommend against fighting anything at all costs, ever, if you can help it. The worst offenders are a hitbox on your attack that is extremely unreliable and jumping controls that are extra finicky. For instance, you cannot move your character on the vertical plane when you jump. I've never heard of a game like this doing that. And since most of the enemies in this game are flying it becomes a big problem. Sort of. You see you cannot move up or down when you jump, but you can still hit or be hit by enemies above or below you. Confused yet? Well you will be if you play the game. In later levels it is basically a death sentence and you'll spend more time fighting the controls then anything else.

On top of all of those issues is the hurdle of the first area having FIVE bosses. Most of them give you a checkpoint after you defeat them but it still doesn't prevent level one from being a massive grind and lesson in trial-and-error. You'll most likely die a number of times to each one of them before you figure out how to cope with the poor design of each fight and persevere. And then you'll still die a number of times to each of them. Probably. Because that brings to light another glaring problem I have with the game; I have no idea how the health works. None. Sometimes you can suffer what seems like a thousand hits before Ren melts into the ground and sometimes it's more like five. And if there is a health bar or indicator on the screen somewhere I have yet to spot it.

Eventually you'll reach the end of the level, at which point you'll game over and be set straight back to the main menu. Why? Because you need to grab an exact number of the kitty litter UPCs before you're allowed to advance, and I assure you this will not happen your first couple times through. It's truly bizarre too because the rest of the game plays out in a more traditional manner and will only game over if you run out of lives and continues. Here you are booted straight to the menu, with no idea of how many of the UPCs you were supposed to collect, or how close to the goal you were. 99% of the brave souls who managed to overcome level one will promptly quit at this point.

Eventually that first stage can be beaten by those stubborn or crazy enough to stick with it. At that point you are treated to the second type of level; the Mode 7 shooter. These might actually be even worse...

The first part of these shooting stages tasks you with navigating a psychedelic space-time continuum, blowing away mosquitos and bags of kitty litter while collecting money. The closest comparison I can think of is HyperZone, but a million times worse. Since you can barely make anything out in the sea of pulsating colors I'd recommend flailing around in circular motions like a madman, trying to avoid everything.

If you survive that acid trip you'll reach the second part of the stage which is mash-up of a shooter and Breakout, but again, much, much worse. Each section of this area tasks you with blowing holes into an approaching wall of bricks so that your craft can pass through, and culminates in a rapid descent into a series of tight circular openings. Each failure bounces you back with a jarring crash and disorients your ship, but overall these sections are relatively forgiving. Which is a good thing because it is impossible to do any of this with anything resembling finesse, especially since the controls are reversed for just this section. Eventually, if you haven't thrown up or had a seizure at this point, you are allowed to advance.

The game does offer several continues, and I did notice several extra lives during my attempts, but I cannot get anywhere close to beating the game. It is just brutally difficult, and unlike the other R&S titles it does not give you any sort of passcodes to work with. Well it does, but all those do are give you access to mini-games that rip-off pay homage to arcade classics like Space Invaders and Asteroids. By completing those you can earn money which, again, I have yet to find out the purpose of.

Overall, it's one of the worst beat-em-ups on the system and one of the worst shooters. I like that it offers a varied gameplay experience, possibly the most varied of any of the R&S games, but none of it is done well in any way, or is fun enough to recommend in any manner. And at the end of the day it is just too frustrating to stick with for long. It's one of those games where I have to ask myself "Did these developers ever play a video game before, and were they aware of a single thing that would make one fun?" It really doesn't seem like it.

Did I beat it?
No, of all the games I've covered so far I feel like this is one of the most insurmountable.

#635 - Captain Novolin

The best known of the Rayasoft games, and commonly referred to as one of the worst games on the system, Captain Novolin is actually the least offensive game in their portfolio, and is infinitely more playable than many of the games on the system. It's also pretty short and easy, and definitely keeps the aggravation-factor low.

It's also a complete bore. The mechanics and level design are very, very simple, and the game can easily be beaten in under 30 minutes. Furthermore, the insulin-control aspect of the game is also super forgiving, your guy can soak up a ton of hits, and the levels are usually only a minute long. So there is no reason you can't do it in the first attempt even.

There's only a few levels, and each starts with a doctor advising you on a diet for morning, snack, or night. During the level you then need to collect one of each food item he mentioned in order to keep your insulin under control. And if you don't do this... nothing happens. Or at least nothing as far as I could tell. Not that you have any reason not to manage this since the game is basically on rails and you'd have to go out of your way to not get them.

Your enemies all take the shape of evil "sugary" foods. You have doughnut dogs, rabid milkshakes, paddling cupcakes, etc. You can either bypass them, or try to butt stomp them, though the latter is kind of awkward since the character sprites are so huge that you have relatively small windows to fit it in. But the controls are otherwise fairly responsive so you should be able to smoke most enemies with ease.

Eventually you reach some sort of final boss that resembles an obese man in a floating Rascal or something. If you touch the switch in front of him a few times he seems to die. So... yeah, like I said it's not a challenging game.

There's also some sort of code you need to input when you start the game that is supposed to be doctor-provided in order to tailor the game to "your condition." I have no idea what this does or where the doctor would get that information. Presumably it configures what food items you should eat in each level.

So yeah, what else can I say? It's a Rayasoft game. It tries to educate and entertain, and definitely does not accomplish the latter. But I've beat it several times and would have no problem clearing it again just because it's so light and breezy and harmless overall. So consider that a back-handed compliment of sorts... it's a stupid game, but way less annoying to play than everything that has come before.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several times. Too many times.

#634 - Football Fury

The terrible football games are never-ending on this system. And to reiterate my theory as to why this is the case, and why I don't necessarily completely blame the developers for this, is that I feel like it's a really tricky sport to capture. Unlike baseball where you really just need to nail batting and pitching, a football game is reliant on 22 players acting in a way that befits video game play balance. So is it any wonder that the programmers can't get the job done 90% of the time?

This time the culprit is Sammy, they of Ys III and... other games probably. Football Fury is their attempt at a Tecmo Super Bowl-ripoff that seems unaware of every single thing that makes that series a classic, while including your standard checklist of bad SNES football games; ugly graphics, slow plodding pace, cumbersome interface, no licenses, and severely flawed gameplay.

Like TSB, the game is played from a side perspective, and features extremely cartoonish gameplay and cutscenes. Unlike that game, there is no rock-paper-scissors aspect to the gameplay. Most of what happens is just chance. Passes will most likely be completed, regardless of how tight the coverage is. Runs will mostly fail regardless of the alignment of the defense. And every player on the field is more or less the same in speed and agility. So, why would you play this as opposed to TSB? You wouldn't. So let's just take a closer look at the various flaws...

First off, it's nearly impossible to get off a block. In TSB you can bash buttons to beat the blocker, whereas here that player has basically been removed from the equation for the play. In fact if the computer picks up the safety on a run you're probably screwed.

Next, you cannot see the receivers when you pass. Now, I don't mean they eventually run offscreen if you hang on to the ball long enough, I mean you never see who you're passing to. And it's not because they're running deep; every damn route ran in the game is an 8 yard hitch, regardless of the play call. I assume that is a bug.

Finally, the tackling is a complete disaster. Unless you dive at the ballcarrier for a head-on collision you're probably not going to be bringing him down, and defenders diving through him or being dragged for 5 yards is the norm. By the time I reached the playoffs the AI was basically in full cheat mode and the only way I could stop their offense was praying they tried three straight passes.

Now some things in the game did amuse me at least. Like tackling the punter. You can do this 95% of the time for an effectively blocked punt. I relied heavily on this to win games, which reminds me of another thing I like about FF; no penalties. Go ahead and dive at their receivers off the line, or bash them off their route. I also like that if you roll the quarterback out to the sidelines, the corner or safety will get fooled into rushing you, leaving the outside receiver wide open. That gave me pleasure because the AI is such a cheating dick otherwise. It's nice to return the favor.

So yeah, the only good things about this game are the absurdities about it, otherwise it's just another crap-tastic football game.

Football checklist:
Passing game - Every route goes for about 8 yards, but you'll complete 75% of them
Running game - You'll get either -3 yards, or 5-8 yards. It's totally binary.
Playing defense - A crapshoot early on, and nearly impossible against later opponents

Did I beat it?
Yes, I did a regular season, advanced through the playoffs, and then won the "Ultra" Bowl. This added up to all of six games in total...

#633 - Chester Cheetah Wild Wild Quest

Terrible. This is the second Cheetos games trying to get in on furry mascot platformer craze, and by far the worst of the two. This game's dysfunctions almost have to be experienced to be believed.

I'm just gonna say it; this game eats more inputs than any game I have ever played on Super Nintendo, or any other system, or any systems in the future, by a wiiiide margin. It is some mind-bogglingly broken shit. And it is mostly due to some Gradius III-levels of slowdown. Actually scratch that, it's much worse here and it never seems to let up. You are perpetually playing this game in slow motion, sometimes for entire levels at a time.

The controls could be called "loose", to put it mildly. You know bad games where just trying to land on a boss's head is a battle unto itself because of the busted handling? This is one of those games. You'd think that anyone making a platformer would dedicate like 20-40% of the development hours towards hammering out movement and a sense of inertia. Super Mario Bros. accomplished this back in 1985, so why were so many people unable to figure it out? It shouldn't have been that hard; you move right, you move left, you jump up, and you come down. Just go play any good Japanese platformer, take note of why it works, and then reverse engineer it. The mind boggles.

The gameplay itself is a perfect complement to the controls and slowdown. By that I mean it is unfun and infuriating. You're constantly taking cheap hits, and it's a one-hit-and-you're-dead game. This means that, coupled with the crap controls, every boss fight is a huge headache and serious impediment to any sort of real progress. Assuming you even make it to one of them. Trying to steer your way onto any of their heads while the game is moving at two frames per second and you die with one hit means it's a pretty tall order. Oh, and I should mention that you have to restart each fight after dying. Add all of that up and you get a game that is the wrong type of challenging.

Now since this was released after Sonic the Hedgehog there is also a dash button, because that was practically mandatory at the time. And of course the absolute last thing you want to do in a platformer with large sprites, frail characters, massive slowdown and crap controls is get any sort of speed going. So instead of playing the game like it's meant to be played, you have to methodically move through the levels, learn where the enemies and hazards are through trial-and-error, and memorize your way past everything. I'm going to start referring to that as "Bubsy syndrome."

So why the relatively high ranking? The game looks decent, for one. And if they fixed the slowdown, controls, difficulty and all the other broken shit, it could be a decent game. In fact I hear (from bronze) that the Genesis version is just that. The game also does give you the freedom to chart your own progress with branching paths on the world map, including three starting points. I like that, and I like that all of those levels are supposed to be modeled after different parts of the United States, which is pretty cool. Including one set in my home state, which as I've already said earlier I'm a sucker for all things having to do with. But those are (tiny) bright spots when compared to the myriad issues in this wreck of a game.

Did I beat it?
No, my hat is off to anyone who can do that.

#632 - Tommy Moe's Winter Extreme: Skiing & Snowboarding

For all the heat the SNES took for its slower processor and severe lack of anything resembling a framerate in a number of titles, there are actually several games that I wish would just slow the fuck down. You can probably guess if this is one of those titles.

Tommy Moe was an Olympic athlete back in the day, and I'm gonna make an educated guess and say it was as a skier. Like most Olympic Athletes his star shone bright for a few years, before he was inevitably forgotten forever, joining Mary Lou Rhetton, Eric Bergquist, Anton Apollo Ono and Brucer Jenner [or Caitlyn! - editor] in pub trivia purgatory. But before he lost his marketability some assholes decided they needed to capitalize on this fleeting fame and rushed a SNES game to market, producing this ramshackle mess of a game in the process.

First off, this game is impossible. Since you can only see for about 30 feet in front of you, and you're going roughly 40 miles an hour, you're gonna be wrecking or going off course every 4 seconds. And every race is on a timer, which means you're constantly just trying to make it to the next checkpoint. So that means you have to memorize each and every course if you hope to have any success. Courses that have no landmarks, no variation, no warning signs, and go on forever. And there are over a dozen of them. So not only is making it through a single race a slow crawl of trial-and-error and memorization, but trying to play through the game is exponentially worse as the course layouts start running together in your head, making for one long white blur. You know Tetris syndrome where you close your eyes and all you see is blocks? Well I experienced Tommy Moe's Winter Extreme-itis, a dizzying white-washed nightmare that was stuck in my head as I laid in bed. It was not a fun night.

Like the title implies you also have the option of skiing or snowboarding. It's a graphical difference at best as it doesn't seem to actually change anything about the gameplay. And I'm not even sure they bothered since Tommy Moe was a famous skier... call it a lazy attempt to cash in on what was an increasingly popular sport at the time.

It's unfortunate too because I want to like this game. It's the only skiing game on the system, not counting the Winter Olympics mini-game fest. And I like that it has a sense of speed, even if its poor implementation severely hampers the gameplay. Plus as an avid skier (at least back when I had the time and money to do it) I really do think this game does a pretty decent job of recreating the sensation of being on the slopes, which has to count for something. So it's a bad game that I can't help but try and find the good in. Even if every attempt ends in failure.

Did I beat it?
No, maybe someday I'll give it a real go.

#631 - ESPN Speedworld

The sole NASCAR title on the system, and the only one I've ever played, ESPN Speedworld is... not very good. And extremely ugly. But at least tries to do a few things differently, which I guess I'll give it some credit for.

So the primary gimmick with this game, and something you'll need to rely on pretty heavily if you hope to have any chance at succeeding, is "drafting." Basically you're moving into position behind another car so that you can take advantage of the air wake he leaves behind. In the real-world this would give you (I assume) better fuel efficiency. Here it allows you to sling-shot past them at a higher speed. Or maybe that happens in the real-world too, I dunno, I don't watch racing. Anyway, it's an essential strategy as all cars otherwise will go roughly the same speed, which I suppose is much more realistic than your typical racing game where you're just trying to go from last to first with a faster car. And the game is nice enough to have on icon on the HUD that lets you know when you're successfully doing it or not. And I have no idea if this type of gameplay existed in previous NASCAR or racing titles, or if it was first introduced here, but either way it was new to me.

Now, is any of that any fun? That's hard to say. It's definitely different, which I appreciate, but I don't know if it makes for good or interesting gameplay. And once you get over the concept and adjust to a new type of racing you are left with a pretty barebones racer on three different circular tracks.

As you can see graphics are ugly as hell, with barely any animation. In fact, this may be one of the ugliest games on the system. The frame rate is decent which shouldn't be surprising considering the lack of objects or detail to the graphics. The sound effects are pretty piss poor too. F-Zero this is not. It's not surprising either, because this whole ESPN line uniformly looks and sounds like shit. Maybe the same development team put them all together.

On the other hand the game controls well enough, which is huge. Not that there's too many demands placed on a system where the only thing you need to do is hold down the throttle and turn slightly to the left around a big oval. But after Redline Racer any game that actually lets me stay on the track is gonna get brownie points for it, regardless.

So if you're a NASCAR fan you may enjoy a few races as you try to rub paint and slingshot past the likes of Dale Earnhardt and [insert whoever another NASCAR guy is here]. Everyone else is better off avoiding it.

Did I beat it?
Nah, it's not worth that effort.

#630 - ESPN National Hockey Night

Three ESPN games down, one to go (imminently). What a sorry-ass series all around.

Very similar to the Brett Hull series, National Hockey Night suffers from loose controls, bad graphics, and a severe lack of offense. In fact they may as well be the same game; I had to go play them all several times just to remember which one was which. The only reason I'm giving this guy a slight edge over those titles is the fact that it's fully licensed, and it offers both horizontal and vertical perspectives. That may not add much for some people, but for whatever reason I seem to have a much easier time playing these games from a side view.

Once again, it's tough to explain how the controls can be slippery when you're playing a hockey game and every character is wearing skates and playing on ice. It's one of those "you know it when you play it" sort of things. Well nothing ever feels right with this game. When you play EA's NHL series everything feels intuitive almost immediately; yes the players are sliding around, but it feels as it should. This never happened with NHN. In fact trying to make any sort of tight turn seems impossible at times and can lead to some comical scenes with players circling around a puck haplessly.

The other game-killer; lack of offense. I never once scored a goal in this game despite playing four different games to completion. I'm not saying hockey games shouldn't be low scoring affairs, or that I don't usually have difficulty figuring out the mechanics, but it was especially pronounced here. And the worst part is I could never tell how my opponent scored because the graphics are so pixelated and muddy that I could never actually tell where or how the shots were going in. So it's just a frustrating experience all-around when you can never generate any sort of rhythm, or even hope to try and set up some shots.

Finally, one last demerit; I had several games where I didn't seem to be controlling any of the players, and I never could figure out exactly why. It only happened when I was trying to do a postseason, and it may or may not have had something to do with the difficulty setting. So, either this was a viable setup and the game bugged out, or I got confused somewhere during one of the endless menu options. Any way you strike it, I'm holding that against the game. Why is it even an option to play a game like that anyway?

So overall it's just another of the endless sports games that are dominating the early goings of this project, that you'll probably forget about 3 minutes after reading this. Hell, I had to keep playing it because I couldn't remember what to write about. It's just not much fun, does nothing to separate itself from the pack, and is overall a soulless and forgettable experience.

Did I beat it?
*sigh* No. Stupid hockey.

#629 - Brutal: Paws of Fury

One of the million Street Fighter II clones that flooded every system back in the early '90s, Brutal Paws seemed like it got a port on everything. The gimmick it brought to that table is that it's a cast of anthropomorphic animals that are kicking each other's butts, instead of peoples! And that about sums it up; it's the only remotely interesting thing about this title, everything else about it is as forgettable and generic as these things get.

Just like every single one of these games your mission is to defeat the rest of the cast (of rodents) in one on one matches, best of three. You'll do that with an array of kicks, punches, and throws until their lifebar has been depleted. There is nothing here you haven't seen a million times, usually done much better elsewhere. The graphics are subpar and more cartoony than the box art would indicate, and the animation is super choppy, something especially jarring for a game trying for this sort of animated look. The controls are also super loose with a slight delay in your inputs, neither of which is something you want to see in any game, much less something as dependent on precision as a fighter. And finally the AI is its usual cheap-bastard self that these types of games just love to rock. So figure out some exploits if you hope to progress anywhere. Fun stuff.

Now the game does at least try to do a few things differently. One is some detailed stats of your fights. Each pre-match screen will show you your overall record for the session, and the post-match results give you a list of the moves you've used and your accuracy with them

The other (relatively) big thing is letting you earn new moves as you progress through the campaign. It's not a terrible idea; I'm one of those people that think RPG elements automatically make almost anything better. But it's handled pretty poorly as you don't get to choose any of upgrades, they're just assigned to you. And I don't know how worthwhile any of them were because to my eye none of this ever made any sort of difference or altered the gameplay in any real noticeable way. Good idea, bad execution.

So at the end of the day it's yet another dumb fighter, on a platform already oversaturated with them, that can't really hold a candle to any of the genre's best. It's not as inherently broken as something like Shaq-Fu or as soul-crushingly awful as Ballz, but it's not a game I'd ever willingly play again if I can help it. Part of that is because I do not care for this type of game, and part of that is because Brutal Paws really just isn't any good.

Did I beat it?
I generally cannot beat fighting games. This one is no exception.

#628 - Andre Agassi Tennis

Tennis game number two, this time from TecMagik (whoever they are), Andre Agassi Tennis is a pretty wretched game and one of the last ones written up for this thread. Mostly because I was loathe to play it, which considering the company it's keeping, says a lot. Also the resident tennis expert bronzeshield swears by it being the worst on the system. So if nothing else take his word for it.

Anyway, I'll do my best to babble about it for a bit despite knowing jack about the sport...

By far the biggest issue with this game is the horrid hit detection on your racket. That's kind of an important element in a tennis game since the gameplay basically boils down to moving and swinging. When you can't get one of those two things right it's going to single-handedly drags the entire experience down. Now what they have implemented is probably more realistic than most games of this type, and it would make sense that the tiny racket sprite would have to connect with the ball sprite in order to make good contact and return the ball. But that doesn't make for a good video game, especially if the tiny sprites and limited control do not lend themselves well to that sort of precision. Games like Super Tennis are fun because they know the proper balance between realism and accessibility.

Beyond that it's a basic tennis game. There's a two player mode, doubles matches, exhibition, and so forth. Pretty standard stuff and nothing out of the ordinary or especially noteworthy. Since I never successfully won a match I didn't get to progress much through the ranks of opponents so I have no idea if the AI ramps up, or if things change up much. There's also a couple different court types but I never noticed a difference between them, and I don't know enough about the sport to know what differences to expect anyway.

Overall just an unpleasant game that brings nothing to the table while being too frustrating to have any fun with. Every remaining tennis game going forward will at least do one thing right, which is more than I can say about this guy.

Did I beat it?
No. Did I beat any games in this installment? It certainly doesn't feel like it.

#627 - The Adventures of Dr. Franken

Notice how many of the bottom 100 titles have been sports or platformers so far? Maybe because those are two genres that require some of the least amounts of imagination. Or maybe they're two that take the least amount of effort. Or maybe they're just the most prolific. In any case The Adventures of Dr. Franken reeks of a lack of imagination and effort; something quickly thrown together, without any love or passion behind it, as yet another platformer with a "wacky" mascot trying to cash in on Mario and Sonic's success.

First off, what is with the title? Is that Dr. Frankenstein or his creature? Perhaps he is the creature in this universe? Maybe it was explained in the manual that I don't have, or in the introductory cutscene that I didn't watch. Assuming there even was one. All I do know is that the game tasks "Frank" with criss-crossing the globe, piecing together the scattered parts of his passport, first aid kit, girlfriend (?!), and whatever else. Each level is also supposed to represent the different countries you visit during the course of your travels, though to me they all just look like dank dungeons and decrepit mansions. So who knows why they even bothered. And when I say you have to piece these scattered items together, I mean this is one of those "hunt for all the objects and unlock the exit" types of game, which I don't care for at all. Especially here because that formula is extra annoying when enemies respawn, you're on a timer, and many of the objects and exits are behind secret paths. Even in level one!

The biggest offender from that list of the crimes is easily the constantly respawning enemies. They're already a major pain in the ass to fight because the game is not only extremely unforgiving in its setup (you have 3 lives, few hit points, recovery items are scarce, there's no continues, no passwords, no mercy) which deters you from wanting to actually fight anything, but the combat is super clunky to boot. The fact that enemies also reappear every time their spawn point scrolls so much as a millimeter off of the screen is super aggravating on top of everything else.

The problems with the clunky combat are also myriad, to put it mildly. For one, the sprites for Frank and the enemies are super huge so you usually have little warning of them advancing upon you. On top of that, foreground objects also often obscure them just to make matters worse. The enemies also move super erratically so avoiding hits is often very difficult, which is not something you want in a game with unlimited respawns and a shortage of lives and heals. Worst yet, though, is the awkward front kick that represents your only attack. It will hit anything directly in front of you but exposes you to attack from enemies that are slightly above or below you. And since most of them are flying bats, ghosts or Grim Reapers and shit, this becomes an issue.

Now nothing I have said so far matters in comparison to the way these kicks are implemented; it's a nightmare that single-handedly drags the game down. You see, what they were going for is similar to something like the NES version of Double Dragon II where you have different buttons for attacking in different direction (Y button will attack to your left whereas A will attack to your right). Except here this is reversed if you are traveling fast enough. Yes, you read that right, and no, I'm not kidding. I can't even imagine the thinking behind that one.

Manager - "Hmm, our game seems very unforgiving, and the testers are routinely getting killed by common enemies in the early levels. What should we do?"
Developer - "We could... reverse the controls when you're moving"
Manager - "Interesting. That would take the focus off of all the other glaring issues."
Developer - "I was just kid-"
Manager - "Meeting adjourned!"

Can you imagine if Link swung his sword behind him when moving at full speed? What if Samus shot her missiles downwards whenever she was jumping? What would be the point of that? What would you be trying to solve for? I just don't understand what they were thinking here, at all, and it cripples what was already a stupid and broken game to begin with.

I have never beaten more than 2 levels of this game in a single attempt. The only possible way I could see someone making a serious attempt at completing this would be through abusing save states to learn the positions of all the items, memorizing or recording those positions, hardwiring your brain to accept the reversed attacking, and then making a run at it. And I'm not doing any of that.

Did I beat it?
Nope, though I did try my damnedest.

#626 - Outlander

Does looking at that cover art or those screenshots remind you of anything? Well it should because this game was originally meant to be a Mad Max property, specifically, an adaptation of The Road Warrior, before the developers presumably lost the license at some point. Or perhaps the rights-holders saw what a trainwreck this game was and pulled out to save face. I doubt it considering they had already allowed the shitty NES game to be released, but I know I'd have done everything I could to distance myself from Outlander.

You know you're in trouble as soon as the game starts and you're greeted by the Mindscape logo. Have those dudes ever made a good game? Not to my memory anyway. And you don't even get a menu after the introduction, you just press start to begin a new game. That's never a good sign either.

The game starts off with the first of the two gameplay modes; a third-person perspective driving level. Here you have to navigate your Interceptor black car down the endless highways of the wasteland, avoiding roadblocks and fending off armed bikers. The control isn't terrible, and there is a rather cool mechanic where any bikers who pull up alongside your car also pop up in a little frame in the corner, ready to be taken out by a shotgun blast to the face. It's actually a rather unique little mini-game, and probably the best idea the game comes up with. I'm surprised no one (to my knowledge) has ripped that off since. But aside from that these segments are a giant load of crap. The hit detection on your main forward firing gun is terrible, you take an endless number of cheap hits from enemies that never relent or give you a second to breath, and the action gets very repetitive, very quickly. I doubt most players make it past the first segment.

If you do stick with it, and kill about five thousand bikers, your emergency lights will eventually start blinking. This is the game telling you that you have reached the next "level" and should stop driving in order to proceed. I guess that is the best idea they could come up with, as opposed to... I dunno, anything else? Some sort of graphic indicating you've reached a town? Automatically coming to a stop as the screen fades out? Or anything that any other game has ever done to mark the end of a level? Maybe they were trying for a more seamless experience with a minimal UI, similar to what much later games such as The Getaway or Dead Space strove for? Who knows, but it's stupid and you'll need the manual or trial-and-error to figure it out.

Anyway, once you do figure out that you need to stop you are introduced to the other style of gameplay which is a side-scrolling beat-em-up/shooter type thing. It's just as horrible. The graphics are NES-quality, the controls and animations bring Terminator 2 to mind, the action mindless and easily exploited once you figure it out, and the experience overall is best described as tedious and boring. If the entire game consisted entirely of these side-scrolling bits it would have been a candidate for ranking in the 700s.

Eventually you take enough hits to die, and you get kicked back to the main menu. Er-I mean title screen, since there is no menu in this game. Which means this is one of those games where you have one life, no continues, and no retry system of any sort. And it's a 3 hour long game...

I weep for the people who've completed it.

Did I beat it?
No. I probably could, given enough time, but I haven't been willing to subject myself to that just that.