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#675 - Road Riot 4WD

Hmm, what even is this game? Dune buggies with machine guns? Random taxi cabs trying to wreck you? Graphics worse than an 8-bit title like Rad Racer? Rick James and Elvis? Oh THQ, if only the actual gameplay was as cool/stupid as this premise had potential for. Instead the game looks and plays like the most generic racer in all the land.

First off, the graphics are just awful. Really awful. The background landscapes and track itself must be the worst on the system. Tone down the colors a bit and it could pass for an NES game. The framerate is equally terrible and barely better than what was present in Race Drivin'. Then on top of that you're limited to a tiny viewpoint with a massive HUD, even in single player. Why do these games do that? To alleviate a horrible framerate? Hide the terrible graphics? Well the developers should program their shit better in the first place. A teeny-tiny view is not the solution.

And why do the vehicles look like go karts? And what is going on when I'm turning-



What am I looking at? Am I about to crash? Is the dune buggy shape-shifting? Falling apart? Who knows.

What absolutely kills the game though, is the horrible car hitboxes and the opponent AI. The other racers love to bunch up and crowd an already pretty narrow raceway and getting past the mob without slamming into something and losing control is nearly impossible. So what do you do? Thin the herd with a constant stream of gunfire (ABS, always be shooting). This will send everyone spilling in every direction and let you scoot past. Of course the endless obstacles and jumps means you'll crash soon enough and let them catch back up. Or the extreme rubber-band syndrome will. Either way, this is one of those racers where you and your opponents spend every race clumped together, trying to jockey for position. Performance doesn't matter, you just need to make sure you send them crashing near the race's end and you'll win every time.

The game is pretty easy though. After suffering through a dozen one minute long races (MC'd by Elvis, James, and various other ethnic/cultural stereotypes) the game ends. There's no time trials or battle mode or anything so the entire game offers just about 20 minutes worth of content. It's about 15 minutes too much.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I got first in every race.


#674 - Foreman For Real

Take almost everything I said up above about TKO Boxing, and apply it here. I just do not understand how to play these stupid games! Not to spoil it or anything but every boxing game that isn't Super Punch-Out! has pretty good odds of landing in the bottom 100.

This is actually the second of two George Foreman titles that Acclaim put out on the system. I don't know why; wasn't he already like 50 years old by the time this came out? Maybe that was the gimmick/appeal. That he was as old as shit. Well, despite playing almost nothing alike, I hate both of his games almost equally.

I give this one the lower ranking because it actually gets your hopes up when you first boot it up. It has various game modes and options, decent looking production values, graphics and animations that are alright (though kind of creepy looking), and the promise of a career mode that lets you work your way up the rankings. I was excited to play it! Well that obviously didn't last because here we are.

The gameplay is just so lousy. Unlike the rest of the boxing games on the console it tries to be closer to a true simulation than an arcade title , but the results are pretty much exactly the same; baffling mechanics, boring fights, and tons of frustration. Why do some punches land and others go right through your opponent? Why do half of my inputs get swallowed up? Why do I lose every round despite landing twice as many punches with a better success rate? What are the stars below my health bar? How the fuck do you actually knock someone down? I read the FAQ for the game and still got nowhere on any of these.

In fact I tried on three separate instances to play and understand this game. And I gave up every time. It's just too frustrating and too unpleasant. I'm sure these games are completely intuitive to some people, but they are beyond me.

Did I beat it?
No, I suck at most boxing games.


#673 - NCAA Final Four Basketball

Usually when I pop in sports titles (low expectations often in tow) it's to get a quick feel for the game and see if it is A) playable or B) beatable. If it satisfies either of those requirements I may stick with it for the night so I can get the complete experience and "check it off the list" as it were. Well let's just say I played this for an entire night once because it was very much an option B title.

The gameplay is bad. Not Barkley Shut Up and Jam or Jammit-levels of frustrating and bad, but "early SNES basketball game that came out before NBA Live 95" bad. I cannot stress enough just how archaic the design of seemingly every basketball title was before that landmark gem came out and revolutionized how to put one of these together. It's always the same faults too; plodding pace, inability to generate an offensive (without resorting to exploits), and unexciting gameplay.

Offensive strategy once again means trying to muscle your way to the basket and then praying for it to go in. In this case it means getting directly under the basket if possible. I'm guessing whatever formula is used to calculate your accuracy solely uses distance to the hoop as opposed to timing, presence of defenders, specific player abilities, etc. So just force your way into the paint every possession, there's no reason to ever try any sort of ranged shot.

Playing defense is about the same. Sit under the basket, trying to get in the way of anyone driving the lane, and then hope they miss and you get the rebound.

The graphics are on about the same level as the gameplay. The character sprites themselves are actually rather decent, and animate rather well. But everything feels zoomed out and devoid of detail, like you're playing the game from the nosebleed seats. And those animations that look pretty good, also significantly hamper the gameplay since you have to wait for them to play out before you can input another action. It makes everything feel super unresponsive.

And of course as the cover art indicates there are no player or school licenses, as usual. But there is a license for the tournament itself... ? For whatever that's worth.

Did I beat it?
Yes, with Kentucky. In the championship game (against Arizona or Arkansas?) I nearly blew a double digit lead in the final minutes. In fact they missed a shot as time expired that would have given them the win. At that point I probably would have either broken down crying, or smashed the cart. Either way I'm never playing this again.


#672 - Barbie Super Model

Does this seem surprisingly high on the list? It's a Barbie game, it's 10 minutes long, the gameplay is horrid, the controls stiff, and again, it's a Barbie game. What self-respecting person puts this above anything not named Pit Fighter? Well the truth is I'd rather have to play this again before something as mind-numbingly boring as NFL Football, or as headache inducing as Captain America. So I guess it's this high by default. In other words you could say everything going forward is less of an assault on your sensibilities than a Barbie game meant for young girls and that everything that has come before is more painful to play than this game is emasculating and shameful.

You start each "level" by walking/biking/driving across town while avoiding various frisbees, snowballs, or wild animals that are trying to murder you and your dreams of becoming a super model. If you survive the journey you will be subjected to a mini-game where you have to dress up Barbie, or stylize her hair and makeup, or something else along those lines. If you succeed at that you then get to bike/walk/drive back across the same town. These crappy games sure love to come up with sleazy ways to add game length without actually adding content. Anyway, if you make it back to the starting point you'll finish up the level with a catwalk mini-game where you need to make her twirl or prance Simon Says-style to a sequence you witnessed at the level's halfway point.

You do that for 4-5 levels and then the game ends. There might be some sort of big fashion show mini-game at the++ end or something, but I forget. Like I said, 10 minute long game.

So obviously the game is horrible from the eyes of an adult. But how do I rate a game based on a toy for female children, in a more progressive era where girls have higher aspirations than being a vapid Malibu ditz, through the eyes of an 8 year old girl? I can't, so I won't try.

I also cannot for the life of me recall how I purchased this game. It was possibly at Hastings, which would mean a grown man was willing to stand in line and get checked out purchasing a Barbie game, just to save a few dollars. Or maybe I chose to pay more and get it on eBay so I could salvage some dignity. I hope it was the latter.

Did I beat it?
Yes, and it actually took a number of tries. Damn seagulls gunning for Barbie's face.


#671 - The Rocketeer

Another early title, this one based on the (now) obscure Disney film from the early '90s, which itself was an adaptation of some old comic or serial or something. The Rockateer movie starred some unknown actor as some guy who becomes a rocket pack superhero, fights dapper Timothy Dalton and his Nazi-stand-in fascist goons, and falls in love with Jennifer Connelly. This plot has been very clumsily shoe-horned into a video game.

Part of the reason I have this game so low (besides being kind of shitty), is spite. Spite that I spent a couple hours playing it, and was teased with a completion, only to get my ass kicked by the Timothy Dalton boss on the final blimp level. And not just getting my ass kicked, but being flummoxed while doing it. Good luck figuring out what you're supposed to do, it's totally trial-and-error.

I'm fine with changing up the gameplay mechanics every level; but when you completely change it up in the final one to something you have not seen before whatsoever, it's super annoying to have to do another attempt from the beginning just to try and figure out what is going on.

The rest of the game sucks ass in various ways too. It has some shooting gallery segments kind of similar to what you see in The Untouchables, some horrendous shmup sections that make D-Force look like a Compile game, and some plane racing sections with a forced perspective that has to be one of the most awkward in the history of the genre. Now none of them are horribly difficult, but they all go on for waaay too long. If I had to individually rate all of them, I'd go:

Biplane racing: D-
Biplane shmup'ing: D-
Shooting galleries: D+
Fisticuffs on a blimp: ???

Now I haven't seen the movie since it came out so I have no idea if the music is faithful to the Jack Horner score or not, but I will say that it sounds extremely simple and "8-bit". This is an early title so perhaps they hadn't figured out how to use the sound chip yet. Not that that's an excuse for being shitty.

Did I beat it?
No. Fuck you very much Mr. Dalton.


#670 - Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends

I've bunched all of the preschool learning games together because they're all basically the same thing...

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends is another edutainment game based on the television show about a... talking train engine? I dunno, I never watched it. But it receives this low ranking because I feel like they were barely trying here. The entire game consists of getting Thomas around a track full of mini-games, each of which entails answering a few questions, putting together a puzzle, following along a storybook, or some other mundane task. It's about 10-15 minutes of content, and that's being generous. At least the Mario games take 30 minutes to run through and are randomized to keep things fresh.

Now just like with Barbie Super Model you might ask why I have all of these games aimed at small children ranked higher than something like D-Force. And again it's because they're not as painful to play. Or at least the pain is reduced to boredom instead. For example, I'd happily play TtTE before ever touching The Tick again.

I'm struggling to come up with anything else to write. It's a dumb little game that received little effort and was meant for wee people with low expectations or attention spans. I guess let your kids take it for a spin to see if they can wrestle any fun out of it. In this age of iPads and fidget spinners they'll probably last about 2 minutes.

Did I beat it?
I did one loop, yes.


#669 - Mario's Early Years: Fun with Numbers


#668 - Mario's Early Years: Fun with Letters


#667 - Mario's Early Years: Preschool Fun

All three Mario learning games are basically the same thing so the order is interchangeable. I'll be doing this same setup for other series of games that are not markedly different from one another.

Just like Thomas the Tank Engine, the name of the game here is working through a set of mini-games that will educate you in shapes, colors, numbers, the alphabet, and so forth. You'll choose the correct shape/number/letter a dozen times, get a Luigi cheer or Yoshi growl (?) of approval, and then move on to the next set of games. Rinse and repeat, until you've done everything. It's very boring for an adult, and probably most children.

I would say there at least seems to be more content than there was in TtTE, but if I was to try and introduce my children to a learning video game (and had to do it with a SNES), I'd probably stick with Math Blaster Episode 1 instead. It's geared towards older children, but it adds some excitement and challenge to the process, while still trying to teach. It will also appear much higher in the rankings for that reason.

Anyway, when my children are a bit older perhaps I will do a trial run of these games with them and see which ones they enjoy the most. That seems to be the only real way to gauge their worth.

Did I beat Fun with Numbers?
Yes, I cleared each minigame.

Did I beat Fun with Letters?
I cleared each minigame.

Did I beat Preschool Fun?
I cleared each minigame.


#666 - Toys

Some of the movies that got licensed video games back in the day really seem out of left field. I can kind of understand The Lawnmower Man because the movie featured some really terrible CGI scenes set in a virtual reality game, and someone thought "yeah, we could add that to a Contra clone." But Warlock? Beethoven? Wayne's World? Uh, ok.

Toys has to be the biggest head scratcher though. A forgotten (and lambasted) Barry Levinson passion piece, that came off his run of success with Bugsy, Rain Main, Good Morning Vietnam, and Avalon. Remember all the video games based on those? Well since the Toys film did feature tiny toy jets blowing up some enemy aircraft (don't ask) some Sony exec must have thought "If there is anything kids love more than Barry Levinson, it's toys and video games!"

Anyway, the game itself is an isometric actiony thing, with bad controls, frustrating combat, and thoroughly unsatisfying gameplay. I've tried and failed to beat the first level a number of times despite my best efforts too. You take so many cheap hits that at some point your will to keep trying is sapped. Perhaps I just don't know how to play it correctly, or I haven't found a good exploit for the enemies [it's not that hard, you just suck - editor]. Or perhaps there is a better way to make my stupid bowling balls hit those toy tanks, but it's beyond me.

Update:
At the urging of my editor I tried to play this again. I failed to beat the first level. Again. I conclude that the game sucks and is nearly unplayable.

Though I guess I could at least try to explain the gameplay a little more. It sort of plays out like a game in the Strike series. Except instead of an Apache/Comanche helicopter raining down hellfire missiles, you're Robin Williams, attacking RC cars with... mechanical ducks. And tops...? Yeah I think the problem with this game is the weapons, they're all really annoying to actually use:

Bubble gun thing (?) - default weapon, horrible and impotent, like you're trying to use a water pistol with no pressure
Bowling balls - roll in a straight line in whatever direction you're facing
Ducks - wander around aimlessly?
Tops - spin around randomly?

After you run out of ducks and tops because they refuse to hit anything you can try to use your bowling balls or water gun to kill the tiny tanks guarding each objective. And they will smoke your ass.

Screw this game, play the Strike series or Mechwarrior 3050 instead

Did I beat it?
I have yet to beat the first level. I think. It's been awhile.


#665 - Street Combat

In case you can't tell (you can't) this is an Americanized port of one of the Ranma 1/2 games. I guess this was back before companies thought anything steeped in Japanese culture would sell over in America, so they re-painted games like this with the most generic early '90s motifs they could come up with. That little factoid is probably also the most interesting part of this game, because otherwise it's as plain and unmemorable as they get. It's a stupid-looking Street Fighter II clone that sounds stupid, plays stupid, and is in general... stupid.

As the above pics should make clear, every single part of the game's look is underwhelming. Everything from the menu design and character art to the character sprites themselves - it's all super plain if not downright ugly. Like the lowest possible amount of effort was put into each one of them. Remember all the cool little details in the backgrounds of the SFII levels? Yeah, there's nothing like that here. Anywhere. And again keep in mind that this game came out after SFII, which makes it all the more pitiful. Doomsday Warrior at least tried to look interesting, even if it failed.

The gameplay is also about as vanilla as fighters get, do not expect any frills (or thrills) of any sort. And of course every character's moveset is very tiny, as is pretty typical of these early fighters. Besides your standard kicks and punches you'll have a couple unimaginative specials for each character. It's all the same stuff you've seen a million times; a Hadouken-like ranged attack, flying uppercuts, jumping kick things, etc. They obviously weren't trying very hard here either. And of course they are all a pain in the ass to pull off and super finicky as far as getting any use out of.

Even the protagonist that is forced upon you in the single player mode, Steven (yes really), has to be one of the lamest on the platform. They somehow maxed out his '90s tude, yet made him boring and generic at the same time...



Pathetic.

I'd almost rather play soulless shit like Rise of the Robots than this loser of a game.

Did I beat it?
Yes, which means I found an exploit and button pressed the hell out of it.


#664 - ESPN Sunday Night NFL

I'm getting tired of writing about terrible football games. I'm tempted to just tell you guys to re-read the games I already covered and assume that everything I previously said applies here. But I'll resist that overwhelming urge to be lazy and do my best.

First, the menu is put together in a pretty poor manner. It's funny how many sports titles couldn't figure out how to do this. For example, player 1 at home? Computer away? How about you just put the home team on the right/bottom like EVERY SPORT OR SPORTS GAME ON THE PLANET? If it's not broke, don't fix it. And why do I have to scroll through every team, one division at a time to find my team. Just do what every other game has done!

That's a minor issue compared to the graphics though. Of course they look and animate like shit, with a shit framerate. Typical stuff at this point. In fact, I seriously think the players have maybe 2 frames of animation. And everything just looks washed out and... I dunno, blurry? Blame that on terrible sprite art design I guess. It's not quite Pro Quarterback or Emmitt Smith Football levels of fugly, but it's bad. For whatever reason that is a trend with this ESPN line that Sony crapped out, but we'll get to that later.

What kills the game most of all though is how horrifically slow everything is. Like NFL Football anything you do takes foooooorever. Wait for the play to end. Wait for the play selection to come up. Wait for the game to let you select your formation. Wait for it to let you select your play. Wait for the team to line up. Wait for everyone to be set. Wait for it to actually let you snap the ball. You cannot take what is already a slow-paced sport, and be inefficient with these things, or it will really sap your will to stick with the game. Don't get me wrong, I realize real football is just about the most drawn out sport this side of baseball or auto racing (a 3.5 hour game has about 11 minutes of actual play in it, look it up), but that doesn't mean the video game has to mimic that. Just let me select a play and hike the ball already.

Speaking of play selection though, the playbook menu has to be the worst I've ever experienced. Bar none. And that includes MVP Football which doesn't even give you enough time to actually select something most of the time. It's amazing that someone could one-up that.

See, the issue is that not only do you have to press buttons that correspond with a row and column in the correct order (you will botch this repeatedly), but it eats the hell out of your inputs. How damn hard is it to get a game to register hits from a menu? You'll press the buttons six times to get the play in. Add in the time spent mentally reminding yourself of the button sequence and it becomes comical. And slows down a mind numbingly slow game even more.

The defense also can only see three plays at a time while the offense gets nine. What the hell is that about? Designing the play call screen is not rocket science. See what the original John Madden Football did? Just fucking do that, game.

Football checklist:
Running game - impossible
Passing game - overpowered
Playing defense - defending the pass is a crapshoot. Just pray they run it a couple times and then overthrow a wide open receiver

Did I beat it?
No, and I have tried quite a bit to do it too.


#663 - The Great Waldo Search

I'd assume everyone of a certain age knows Where's Waldo? (or Where's Wally? for the Brits). For you younger readers (assuming I actually have any of them); it was a series of books that came out in the late '80s. and featured impressively large and detailed scenes from various eras and genres with hundreds of characters doing all number of absurd things. Hidden within each one would be a candy caned-goof named Waldo that you had to locate.

It was a bit of a cultural phenomenon at the time, spawning a number of books, a television series, and several video games, including this entry on SNES. And it has to be just about the most harmless title on the system. Even more so than the preschool games. The entire game consists of a few scenes taken from one of the books, albeit on a much reduced scale, and has you hunt for Waldo, some small scrolls, and a wizard guy. And then the game is over. The whole thing is 5 minutes long, tops.

So, why would anyone play this? You could buy one of the books for a fraction of the price, be able to take it on the go, and get 50 times the content. Plus, since it was a British product it had some playful violence and a stray boob or two that somehow slipped past Tipper Gore and the other moralists. It goes without saying that the Nintendo-approved game has none of that.

Well, the answer is no-one in their right mind would. The game is completely pointless and I imagine anyone who paid full price for this felt rather cheated. Even the small children receiving it probably felt cheated. Hell I felt cheated because I actually expected a fully finished product that would occupy me for at least an hour, and I'm usually impatient as hell to get these games over and done with.

Impressive portfolio already for THQ, eh?

Oh, there's also a magic carpet mini-game apparently, judging by the pic. But it must have been unmemorable enough that I have completely forgotten about it. Knowing this game it was probably 10 seconds long.

Did I beat it?
Yes, in a matter of minutes.


#662 - Natsume Championship Wrestling

Okay, take everything I said about Hammerlock Wrestling above, and apply it here. Of the three Japanese wrestling games released in the states, I completely do not understand these two. And the other one barely counts because it is basically Final Fight in a wrestling ring, almost an entirely different beast altogether.

Just to further drive home what I said in the HW review, I do not know anything about wrestling. I've never watched wrestling, my friends didn't watch wrestling, my dad didn't watch wrestling, I never did competitive wrestling, and in general have no idea what is going on. Everything that happens seems completely illogical. So I don't know how I'm supposed to play these games, which is not a good start. And trying to figure it out has been a rather bewildering experience. Are we supposed to embrace each other every 5 seconds? Do I mash buttons to win that? Why am I running into the ropes and why don't I just stop? Why the fuck is that guy's health recovering despite my endless chain of hits to his face? Is there any strategy to any of this? And so forth.

That all being said, I'm still fairly confident that both of these games are terrible and that even hardcore wrestling fans wouldn't get much out of them. A real game like Saturday Night Slam Masters offers such refined gameplay in comparison that there is no point in trying to work with these horrid mechanics and frustrating controls.

Did I beat it?
No. It's a wrestling game.


#661 - Nickelodeon Guts

Mini-game fest based on the old '90s Nick show where kids would do vaguely athletic things while covered in safety gear. I cannot recall specifics, just that damn smoking mountain they had to climb at the end. I guess I preferred the playground-oriented Wild & Crazy Kids, but Guts seems to have gathered some fans who remember it fondly.

The video game on the other hand is making me nauseous just thinking about it. Perhaps a sign I should have had it ranked lower. And of course it has all of the usual demerits at this point in the list; terrible controls, terrible graphics, confusing as shit gameplay, complete absence of fun, and mountains of frustration. Let's take a look at each one of the piles of excrement they tried to pass off as an event:

Basketball - Three different events here that all play the same; a mix of bungee jumping, the long jump, and basketball. The controls are awkward, the perspective shit, and it looks like garbage. And good luck figuring out how to master it. Your kid stands on a ledge while rigged to some sort of bungee cord harness. The idea is to jump down, bounce off the floor, and then throw a ball into a hoop or goal. If you do it with pizzazz you get credit for a "special". And even after watching and reading guides, and trying it over and over again I have no idea how to play it. Sometimes you make dunks, sometimes you flop around like a fish. My best bet was using trial-and-error to figure out when it wants me to release my shot, and then just hammering every button on the controller. This was the best strategy I could come up with for making specials. Though whether or not your shot actually goes in still seems to be pretty luck based. A horrible experience all-around.

Obstacle courses - Think Prince of Persia controls and obstacle courses, on a time limit. Your pre-teen also has two jumps; a normal one, and a high flying acrobatic front flip which is hilarious to watch. Who knew these kids were also Olympic gymnasts? These segments are pretty miserable too, but highly forgiving. You can easily get through them in half the allotted time once you know what jump to use where.

Aggro Craig - A slight variation on the obstacle course. This time you have to step on pressure plates and avoid large plastic boulders. Once you master the stiff controls this segment is also a breeze.

So why isn't Guts ranked lower? The review was pretty glowing right? Well there's just too damn many horrible games on the platform crowding all the lowest spots I guess.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I conquered the Craig and earned the world's ugliest trophy.


#660 - Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball

Okay, companies like LJN/Acclaim are known for being publishers of terrible games back in during the Super Nintendo's day. And even THQ, LJN's spiritual successor, curated a reputation as a purveyor of crap all the way into the 2000s. But it is secretly Mindscape that is going to be making a bid for worst publisher on the system. The combined sucktitude of their output can stand toe-to-toe with anyone. In fact everyone else seemingly managed to release at least one classic title or two, even if it was by accident. That's not the case with with the boys from Illinois, because the best they're gonna be able to claim is several games that are "not that terrible." I'd go so far as to say the amount of dreck they put out on the system is almost awe-inspiring in its near-uniform badness. So it should be no surprise that Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball is just another poorly playing endeavor of theirs, quickly slapped together with nothing to separate it from the pack.

It should also go without saying that there are no licenses of any sort either. Other than Cal himself. A running theme with the bottom 100.

Now to be fair to the game everything seems promising, at first. The graphics and animation are decent, and the controls are intuitive and responsive enough. Pitching and fielding are both relatively straight-forward; unlike many other baseball games you should be able to throw the ball where you want it, and properly judging fly balls is a snap. No, the problem is offense. Or I should say, the complete lack of offense. And it's a big, game-killing problem.

A major part of any baseball game is learning how to properly read the pitches and hit the ball. If you could master that in your first attempt the game would lose its challenge real quickly so it's usually an acquired skill, or art form even. And that's a good thing because the reality of the sport is that hitting is and should be really, really hard. Where else can you fail 70% of the time, and still be doing amazingly well? So baseball games are best if they make you work for your runs, and learn how to properly utilize all of the offensive strategies that can be put into play.

Well the issue here is that none of those things matter because it's impossible to beat the defense and score. And that's not because you can't make good contact on the ball, but because good contact means nothing. It doesn't matter where you hit the ball, or how hard you hit it, you're probably not gonna get on base for a number of reasons. And you will be making contact a lot because this game has the world's slowest pitches, which is another issue in itself, but I'll get to that a bit. You see 95% of the time you put the bat on the ball it will either fly foul or fly straight to the defense. That's partially because the ball also moves extremely slowly once put into play. So finding the gaps in the defense is virtually impossible. And to make matters even worse the fielders have rocket arms, so you cannot beat anything out either. In three full games I managed four hits, two of which were solo home runs. My AI opponents didn't fare much better. It's a shame too, because the pieces are all there, they just needed some tuning.

So if offense is a disaster what about defense? Well like I said the pitches move absurdly slow, which almost defeats the point of playing baseball entirely. The whole strategy of pitching is fooling the batter and getting him to guess wrong on what's coming. But you can't fool anyone with a fastball or changeup if they travel at 30-40 miles per hour. So you're just serving up softballs, and letting the defense do all the work. It's no fun, and a massive drag.

Fielding is about the only thing the game gets anywhere close to right. It's not balanced whatsoever because the slow ball speed and rocket arms mean you're rarely in jeopardy of giving anything up, but it at least lets you know where your fielder and the ball are in relation to one another, and lets you react accordingly. That is one thing that many of the games on this system really fucked up, even though it seems like it should be such a simple thing to get right. So... kudos to the game for that I guess.

What else can I say, it's the worst baseball game on the system, mostly because they just couldn't tune this thing to resemble anything remotely fun and/or realistic:

Baseball checklist:
Batting - impossible to get on base
Pitching - impossible to fool a batter when the pitches move slower than they do in a Bugs Bunny cartoon
Fielding - massively overpowered

Did I beat it?
No, this has to be the hardest baseball game on the system.


#659 - Best of the Best Championship Karate

This is a strange one. Yet another port/remake of some old Amiga title, Best of the Best Championship Karate can only be described as a (very) early fighter mixed with the rotoscope animation and very methodical control of a title like Prince of Persia. And it is not a good fit...

The game seems pretty deep, or at least successfully gives that impression at first glance. You can customize your fighter with a huge number of different strikes and kicks, each of which appears to have a very specific purpose for where it hits, and how far its range is. So presumably you can map a combination of them that gives you the flexibility to hit your opponent through his defenses at any time.

Interesting idea. Poor execution. And poorly-aged gameplay. By the time you actually execute any of the attacks your opponent could have moved in any direction. And since they have such an extended animation, it seems like pure chance on whether or not it will hit anything. Furthermore, each one of them seems to require pretty exact placement to actually land, as even strikes that look like they're right on the money will often pass through your opponent. For me this usually means escalating frustration, and a rapid descent into button mashing, and just hoping anything sticks.

Now if someone had the fortitude to stick with this, perhaps they will discover a deep fighter that plays much truer to a simulation than any other title on the system. I, on the other hand, will pass.

Did I beat it?
No, I don't have the patience for this game.


#658 - Dragon's Lair

The classic Don Bluth pseudo-video-game comes to SNES! Er, sort of. This is not an arcade port, and unlike Space Ace, it is also not a re-imagining of the arcade game, but instead is just some dumb platformer. It's a pretty even trade-off.

Now if you are at all familiar with the NES version of Dragon's Lair (made famous by, again, AVGN), you're thinking of a very slow-paced methodical game that you inch through, bit by bit, via memorization. Well, the SNES game has nothing to do with that version either. Instead it's just one of those games where you're hopping around platforms, attacking enemies and grabbing floating doo-dads. As far as I'm concerned it has nothing to do with Dragon's Lair franchise whatsoever, other than the "Dirk the Daring" character, and presumably some other shared enemy and environmental designs.

The controls are extremely loose too. Whenever you try to come to a stop Dirk continues on through several frames of animation, like you're permanently on ice. It's actually one of the worst cases of this I can remember as you will stop what is easily a full body-length further than from where you intended. Hell, Rollergames on NES had you play the entire game on roller skates and I still felt more in control there than I do here.

The platforming and enemy designs are pretty by the book, and I'm honestly having trouble coming up with anything to write. You'll jump across platforms, hit various monsters with a sword, and take lots of cheap hits. It's incredibly boring.

Now the one interesting thing about the game is that it is somewhat non-linear. Many of the levels will have multiple exits, some of which actually move you backwards on the overworld map. I'm not sure if you're supposed to do that, perhaps to access previously locked areas or something, or if it's more of a gimmick to either reference the original arcade game or to add a puzzle element to the game. Either way, it's kind of frustrating, but not too bad since the levels are fairly short.

Are there any positives to the game? Well, it's not Space Ace. Even a stupid generic platformer is better than a botched re-make of the arcade title, as that game proved. The soundtrack is also actually pretty okay-ish. Or I should say it is light years ahead of what the rest of the entries have offered thus far and doesn't have me immediately muting the game. Beyond that though, no. It's bad platformer, with terrible controls. I guess try it out if you're a fan of the original and are curious, otherwise don't bother.

Did I beat it?
No, I put in a number of tries, but never got too serious about it.


#657 - Captain America and The Avengers

If you were a kid like me you saw this game either sitting on the rental shelf, or in the arcades, and knew you HAD to play it. Well, I never did get around to it (I was too poor for arcades and I would always rent Urban Strike or Wolfenstein 3D instead), but I did keep it in the back of my mind. Fast forward to the 2000s, when I got back into SNES collecting at a more active rate. This was one of the first titles I pursued and actually put it in the top 25 section of the wishlist I kept logged.

Talk about a gigantic letdown. This bastard has to be the third worst port on the system behind Race Drivin' and Pit Fighter and one of the worst brawlers I have ever played. How do you screw up such a simple genre so badly? Brawlers aren't that complicated, you just need to be able to move around, do some sort of attack, and make that attack actually connect. I guess the developers forgot that last part, because between actually hitting anything, and not getting hit immediately back in retaliation, playing this game with any sort of skill or strategy seems impossible. Every damn battle is a war of attrition and the boss fights are a nightmare. Anyone who has ever beat this must have found a way to cheese the fights.

There's also some shmup levels to break up the action, and they are even fucking worse. Notice a pattern with that? Whenever a bad game tries to interject a different playstyle to liven things up you end up with misery on top of misery. If you don't have the resources to put out a quality game, you certainly do not have the resources to put out two halves of two wildly different games. Fix the damn foundation of the game before adding new modes.

I also hear all the time about how the Genesis version of this title is substantially better. Perhaps that means it is actually playable, because that is how low the bar is. Noticing that Mindscape (they of the perpetual video game abortion) put out the SNES port whereas Data East did the Genny version, I'm not surprised. Say what you will about those DE guys, at least they occasionally appear to know what they hell they are doing.

Did I beat it?
No, and it drives me nuts because this is on of the few brawlers left I have yet to beat.


#656 - International Tennis Tour

The first entry from powerhouse third party publisher Taito. And like Capcom I guess just because you know how to do a platformer or or action game doesn't necessarily mean you know shit about making a sports title. This is the worst tennis game on the system, or at least the least enjoyable one to rubes like me.

What kills this game more than anything else is the perspective. It's set low and over-the-shoulder which means you cannot judge depth whatsoever. I mean just look at how tiny the back of the court looks in the pics. This isn't an especially uncommon thing in tennis games, but for whatever reason seems especially pronounced here.

Now, I don't profess to be very good at tennis games. Perhaps I just don't know the nuances of strategy enough to know what I should be doing (I only play table tennis). Regardless of the game I will usually get my ass kicked by the AI. With ITT that is always the case. I have yet to win a match. A single one. The computer is just too good at returning shots and working you horizontally until you cannot catch up. And the game just loves to let the AI put shots into the top of the net, which will dribble over for an unreturnable point. This happens alarmingly often. Coupled with the awkward view that makes timing your shots extremely difficult, and it adds up to an ass kicking. Don't even get me started on trying to play from the back part of the court, when I'm over there I may as well just set the controller down and save myself the effort.

Actually, another thing that really makes the game harder than it needs to be is the hit detection. Specifically between the racket and the ball [what else would you be talking about in a tennis game? - editor]. There is absolutely no room for error here.

So between the merciless AI, the terrible viewing angle, and the difficulty in actually putting string on ball, is a game that is just too hard for its own good, and too hard to be fun.

Now there is an easy mode for cupcakes like me who cannot cut it against the AI. But this actually removes control over your player entirely! You only get to control the swing of the racket; your player will do his own movement and aiming. I'm not sure who would want to play this because it's practically the same as watching a demo from the title screen.

Did I beat it?
No, this is one of the hardest games on the system to complete.


#655 - Redline F-1 Racer


Racing games can really be separated into two distinct groups; those that control like garbage, and those that do not. That is probably at least 80% of the battle with making these games any fun, or playable for that matter. If you can't stay on the track, or get past opponents, you're not gonna have a good time. Redline F-1 Racer, as you can probably guess, is among the former. In fact, this may actually be the worst controlling racer on the system. Or at least that's the excuse I'm using for my extreme incompetence at it.

Like many of the formula one titles on the system RF1R gives you a plethora of racing options and ways to configure everything. You can choose to do a full season, single races, practice laps, or even jump straight into your heat. And you can change everything from the type of engine to the angle of your spoiler. Gear heads and racing enthusiasts will probably get a kick out of it. By default everything seems to be mostly optimized (though I swear it chooses a manual transmission over an automatic, regardless of what the menu says), so there is nothing stopping you from quickly hopping into a race if you choose. And I appreciate that the game gives you that option, which is about the nicest thing I can say about it because...

The racing itself is a disaster. You can only see about 20 feet in front of your vehicle at any given moment, which means keeping your eyes glued to the mini-map or the onscreen indicators in order to foresee any of the turns. And I swear you have zero leeway on actually making any of those turns with any reasonable success. If you are not 100% accurate you will either run off the road, collide with your competition, or over-turn and spill out into the grass/wall. And doing any of those things is close to an automatic loss.

I swear this entire experience is akin to driving your car, in the fog, with frosted windows. If you go any faster than 15 miles an hour you're gonna be in trouble.

So yeah, I've tried the first race four times, and never cracked the top 10. I can occasionally get reasonably close to the pole at times, but since every race is 10 laps long (or at least is defaulted to that length) it's always just a matter of time before I crash or get run off the track and drop to the rear. So I don't know if it's a terrible racing game, just a demanding one. And a frustrating one. And I'm not good enough at them to have any fun with it.

Did I beat it?
I'm pretty sure I've never even had a good finish to a race.


#654 - Batman Forever

Did you know that Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, the launch title for a failed series of planned MK spinoffs, was not the first attempt to take that series' engine and wrap a beat-em-up around it? In fact Acclaim actually pumped this guy out for SNES a couple years earlier, one of the millions of titles I swear they released on the system during its twilight. Now I've never played MKM:SZ, but it has a reputation of being one of the worst games ever made for the N64 or Playstation consoles. And yet I would be very surprised if it was as bad as Batman Forever.

I'm assuming this is yet another game that people are already familiar with thanks to the AVGN video, a running theme with the early installments of this project. His synopsis was pretty spot on too; the controls are baffling, the level design stupid and confusing, the graphics are laughably terrible, and the combat is a complete and utter mess. But I can work around most of that. Yeah, figuring out the controls for moving up and down from one section to another are about as unintuitive as anything I can ever remember, but once you get past that hurdle it's not much of an issue. And I can deal with terrible graphics if they're so bad that they almost become good again, which these are. Like with Ed Wood or Roger Corman movies there's sometimes a charm to poorly-done crud, and I think that is especially true with the truly awful art design and animations in this game. Hell those are some of the reasons I actually like the very similar Timecop for SNES.

But what I cannot get past is the actual fighting in this game, the foundation of any brawler. Here it is hopelessly broken and inept in every way, draining any fun you may have had with the title. And I'll just say it, *flame shield up* I don't think any of the Mortal Kombat games were really any good in the first place. They had an inferior fighting engine that couldn't hold a candle to stuff like Street Fighter II, and they only gained notoriety and popularity thanks to ridiculous gore and violence (and a hit movie with a hit song). And I think those deficiencies have only grown more apparent with age.

If the MK games had a poor fighting engine that has only gotten worse with time, Batman Forever magnifies those shortcoming in every conceivable way, taking the same crippled gameplay and trying to shoehorn another genre around it with disastrous results. First, and worst of all, is some of the worst hit detection on the system. It's nearly Pit Fighter-levels of shoddy. It wasn't this bad in the MK games so I'm not sure what was busted in the translation. I'd even go so far as to swear that every attack, whether it's a punch to the face, a kick to the shin, or a flying jump kick to the face, is complete chance as to whether or not it will connect. Which means every enemy is a threat to you because each whiffed attack is going to leave you exposed to counters. So fights against even the lowliest peons can prove deadly, which exacerbates another glaring issue with this game...

It's too damn hard. I consider myself pretty good at brawlers, I even have a little award thingy below my username to prove it. I've also beat nearly every one of them on the system, and the few still left unconquered I either haven't given them enough attention to yet, or I can get pretty damn close. Well with this guy I can't get anywhere close. There's no continues, few lives, and your life bar disappears real fast once someone starts laying into you. And the random nature of the combat means I never end up getting any better. I may get to the fourth level on an attempt, and then die on level one in the next. It is maddening.

Now I do know that fusions of brawler and fighters can work. Capcom did it several times on the SNES with a couple of Marvel games, and again with a mashup of wrestling and Final Fight they called Saturday Night Slam Masters. All of those are good games because the underlying mechanics they borrowed from were so solid, and lent themselves towards a fun experience. But if the foundation of your game (the actual fighting) is flawed or broken in the first place, you have little-to-no chance of building a good game around it.



...oh, and what the hell is with the Burt Ward Robin?



Did they make this game while the movie was in pre-production and just have to guess what everyone looked like?


Did I beat it?
Fuck no.


#653 - Capcom's Soccer Shoot-out

Man, what was Capcom doing in the sports world? One of, if not the strongest publishers on the system, their limited sports output (MVP Football and this) is just godawful. Did they publish dreck trying to get their foot in the door in an arena they were completely unfamiliar with? Did they look at all the horrible sports games littering the SNES scene and figure we would buy up anything that had a ball in it? The mind boggles.

At first glance Soccer Shootout looks like a quality title. First off it's Capcom, which means the production values are high, and everything has a nice layer of polish. The graphics are sharp and the opening cinematic is impressive and even shows off banners for Final Fight and Mega Man, building your anticipation by making you remember other games that were actually good. Even the menus promise a number of features and options for play, laid out in a straightforward manner. Everything is gravy. That is, until the game actually starts...

The biggest problem is that this is an example of a game you don't play. By that I mean you're a bystander, helpless as the action unfolds onscreen. Seriously, it's impossible to actually accomplish anything here. The computer is on you like a glove from the start and never lets up. The only thing you can try to do is furiously pass the ball like a game of keep-away. But even that is a massive struggle thanks to the bizarre control scheme. You have one pass button that seems to try and get it to your nearest teammate and you have another that sends the ball in a fixed direction. You don't want either of these things, you just want a normal damn pass like every other soccer game ever made. Getting the ball away from the CPU is also a huge problem because they don't seem to have any of these issues. Instead they'll drop long-range passes on a dime for perfect shot setups. And even when they dribble across the field the AI is tuned to perfectly try and counter all your attempts at making desperation slides to knock the ball loose. So 90% of the game is spent futilely chasing the PC, and the other 10% is trying to muster any sort of offense.

Hell, I don't think I've once had a throw in or free kick go anywhere other than straight to the PC. That's often a problem for me in soccer titles, but it's especially pronounced here.

Perhaps the default difficulty is just too punishing? Assuming it can even be toggled. Well I don't know, and I don't care. I hate this game and I'm not going back to play for a third time.

Did I beat it?
This game is impossible to beat.


#652 - Capcom's MVP Football

The second, and final Capcom sports title. I don't know if they developed these, or just published them in the US, but whatever the case I just have to ask; what the hell Capcom? You made Mega Man and Street Fighter II, you have no business slumming it up in the rankings with the likes of THQ and Mindscape! I guess unlike Soccer Shootout this one is at least kind of playable, but it's still ruined by an assortment of bizarre design decisions.

First, the game uses the R button for most actions. Why? It's awkward, and unlike every other football game I've ever played. And if it doesn't sound like a big deal, I challenge you to play it and feel comfortable with it. Especially passing, where X, Y and A will target a receiver, and R will pass it to them. What game has ever required 2+ button presses to pass the ball? It's impossible to get used to, and just adds time to how long your quarterback sits in the pocket. And forgot your 4th or 5th receiver options, because they aren't there.

Did I mention that you'll also need to press those buttons just to see which player is which receiver? So going through your "reads" might take 5 damn button presses. And then another press to actually pass it. It's a fiasco all around and single-handedly drags the game down.

There is also a severe lack of time on defense to pick your play, and select the player of your choice. It's like you're playing a hurry up offense or something. And the fact that I swear there is a delay in the game registering your formation/play selections just makes it even more likely you don't get the call off in time. So my defensive scheme was basically "memorize the position of one of the plays that sort-of works on occasion, and then pick it as fast as I possibly could."

You also can't move your players on defense before the snap. Why in the hell do games do that? Besides removing the ability to try and jump the snap, I also like to move my linebackers around to adjust my coverage. This takes both of those away. Not that you have time to select the player you want on defense anyway, but I digress...

Oh, the game also has to have some of the most obtuse menus I've ever seen in a football game.



Custom? Is that the settings or an exhibition game? What is MVP? What is Demo? I know I've said this a lot in my reviews already, but if it's not broke don't fix it! Just have the usual menu that lets you do a single game, playoff, or full season, with some options.

Football checklist:
Passing game - Besides the stupid controls and lack of more than 3 options, it works well enough
Running game - broken, you're gonna average 2 yards per carry. Better get used to the broken passing controls
Defense - You won't get your play call in half the time. Or get to your player. Or be able to move him. Also defending anything is a crapshoot.

Did I beat it?
No, this is one of the few football games whose completion eludes me.


#651 - George Foreman KO Boxing

Another boxing title. Is it unfair of me to throw all of them so far down the list? Do I just misunderstand the genre, and then unjustly malign it? Or are these games just that stupid and poorly made? Because to me every one of these games just appears to be random shit happening. And it doesn't matter how much I play it and try to learn it, whether it's my first fight or I'm four hours in, they all play out the same.

A typical fight in this game (or any of them, really) goes as follows:
- Try to read the opponent and pop him where the defense is soft
- After that punch may or may not hit him, he does the same. This goes on for an eternity.
- Time runs out, the opponent is scored the winner.

Actually I take that back. This game does have one slight difference. Occasionally the opponent will nail my ass with a special move that takes me out in virtually one blow. There's no tell as far as I know, so you just have to memorize when he'll do it and dodge. This also does not appear to leave him open to extended counter attacks either. If you're gonna copy Punch-Out and least do it correctly.

Trying to get off the mat is a mess too. I honestly cannot figure out what buttons it wants me to press, or in what sequence. I think you need to hammer on every button on the control, but who f'ing knows.

Anyway, I'm at least 0-10 on the first fight, and every loss sends you back to the title screen. So I have to judge the game entirely on that fight. Maybe I'm just terrible at this genre, or maybe this game is just poorly made, but I gave up on trying to see any more of it. I think the main problem is that the game wants to be Punch-Out, but couldn't recognize/replicate a single part of what made that game work. Instead of learning to recognize patterns and then countering, this just has a seemingly random series of punches and blocks, followed by the special attack that gives you virtually no time to react. P-O was a puzzle game that gave you hints to the solutions. George Foreman's game just expects you to blindly figure it out. Assuming you even can figure it out.

Did I beat it?
No, it's a boxing game. I can never beat these.