100th Review Special, Part 2: The Terrible Twos

When I consider assigning a 2/10, my thought process involves asking myself if the terrible game I just played can be enjoyed ironically. If so, this is the grade I award the game in question, and if not, it gets a 1/10 instead. To be clear, it’s more of a general guideline than a cast-iron rule, and the point I try to get across when awarding this grade is that it does have a redeeming quality or two (or barring that, it doesn’t quite go the extra mile in terms of sheer badness). Regardless, I still couldn’t recommend the following games in any capacity.

91. Takeshi’s Challenge

Originally reviewed on: March 3, 2017

In a strange way, I find Takeshi Kitano openly mocking his audience refreshing. Whenever a development team felt the need to condescend to their audience in the 2010s, they invariably went about doing so in a heavy-handed, passive-aggressive fashion that gets very grating very quickly. If nothing else, I have an easier time accepting the tone of this game knowing that the joke was ultimately on Mr. Kitano. He tried to make the first generation of gaming enthusiasts hate the medium by creating the worst game ever. Instead, he has to settle for the reality that, as evidenced by the previous nine entries, that there are people who surpassed him in awfulness without even trying. Failing is one thing; failing at failing is a feat most people go their whole lives without ever achieving.

90. Quest for Camelot

Originally reviewed on: August 5, 2017

There wasn’t a single thing Quest for Camelot tried that wasn’t done better five years earlier with Link’s Awakening. To make matters worse, Quest for Camelot was released around the same time as the Game Boy Color edition of Link’s Awakening, and the latter was by far the more economical purchase even if you had a copy of the original game lying around. Quest for Camelot fell victim to the same trappings of most contemporary licensed games by being made for the express purpose of tying into the movie property. A slight problem is that Quest for Camelot bombed in the box office, meaning even the brand didn’t get people interested in playing this game, and that’s for the best. Funnily enough, one of the criticisms lodged toward the film is that there was nothing it did that Disney hadn’t done better with their animated canon in the past decade, so that does technically make the Game Boy Color tie-in a 100% faithful adaptation.

89. Friday the 13th (NES)

Originally reviewed on: October 13, 2017

The NES Friday the 13th game is proof positive that being ahead of your time doesn’t always save your work from being terrible. It along with the more obscure 1985 computer game adaptation were arguably survival horrors before the Alone in the Dark became ground zero for the genre in 1992. Unfortunately, having been made before the rules solidified, the execution of these rather forward-looking ideas is decidedly unimpressive. Indeed, the worst aspect about the game is that the difficulty depends entirely on you having no idea what you’re doing. One could argue it’s fitting given the chaotic nature of the horror genre, but it’s not something that translates well to a game. To make matters worse, once you know how the game works, it suddenly becomes too easy. If you’re lucky, you can complete the game in less than fifteen minutes. I give Atlus some credit for creating such an atmospheric, tense title in 1989, but it’s still not worth playing.

88. Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures

Originally reviewed on: February 2, 2016

Pac-Man 2 has a fairly unique premise, being an interactive cartoon where you don’t directly control the main character. Such a concept wouldn’t feel out of place among the 2010s indie scene. However, there’s a reason you rarely hear this game being spoken of favorably despite its reasonably innovative idea. That’s because guiding Pac-Man in this game a true exercise in frustration as his sudden mood swings ensure that he responds less and less to your suggestions. It’s especially amazing when he’s sufficiently angry and begins lashing out at random townspeople and engaging in other activities that fall outside of the spectrum of socially acceptable behavior. People cite various reasons as to why they choose to play games, but I doubt the desire to babysit a bratty, overgrown toddler is one of them.

87. Lester the Unlikely

Originally reviewed on: September 5, 2017

In case you thought developers doing the “this nerd is you” thing is a new trend that got out of control in the 2010s, you can rest knowing that even back in the nineties, they had no inklings of self-awareness whatsoever (and even then, Sierra engaged in that trope back in the eighties). A lot of people cite the title character’s lack of a spine when making a case for why this game is horrible. Though that is indeed a problem, playing the game to the end reveals that it has far more serious issues. Other than the terrible stage design, the main problem with Lester the Unlikely is that the puzzles often make no sense, yet usually punish the player with instant death, and in the American version, you only get twelve lives total with no chance to get more. To add insult to injury, using the level select code has a high chance of placing you in an unwinnable situation. Considering the care and attention that went into Lester’s animation frames, it’s astounding none of it shows in any other aspect of the game.

86. Sonic R

Originally reviewed on: June 3, 2016

Having Sonic the Hedgehog star in a racing game was a logical step to take with his character. Sadly, the execution was botched, and it could very well be one of the worst racing games of its generation. Though not quite as bad as Sonic Drift, it suffers from horrible balance. If one player picks Super Sonic, their victory is a foregone conclusion. If that wasn’t enough, there are only five tracks, meaning that even with the many shortcuts and alternate paths one could take, the game’s replay value is all but nonexistent. It fares better than the previous entries on this tier because it’s playable and intuitive, but a game needs to be more than either of those two things to achieve true success.

85 Snake’s Revenge

Originally reviewed on: February 29, 2016

Snake’s Revenge is an otherwise passable game marred by enough appalling game design choices to drag the overall quality of the product down to an absurd degree. If it weren’t for the awkward side-scrolling portions or the many instant-death pits, Snake’s Revenge would have been a serviceable (if not particularly innovative) sequel to the original Metal Gear. We have this game to thank for inspiring Hideo Kojima to continue the series, but it has served its purpose, and I couldn’t think of a compelling reason as to why anyone should go out of their way to try it out.

84. Metroid: Other M

Originally reviewed on: June 16, 2016

One could make a strong case that Metroid: Other M is the worst game Nintendo ever had direct involvement in creating. Their early games such as Urban Champion are worse from an objective standpoint, but by this point in their history, they really should have known better than to create something like this. To backpedal slightly, I have no doubt Metroid: Other M is the best game in this tier if we’re only talking about its technical aspects. It is the only game I have awarded a 2/10 or lower that I can see somebody play for a significant length of time without experiencing immense frustration or a burning desire to play anything else. “So, why does it rank this low?” you may ask. The answer is simple: Metroid: Other M demonstrates what happens when you create a story-heavy game with a terrible story. While the gameplay is vaguely passable, it does not even begin to make up for the abysmal writing, which is filled to the brim with childish symbolism and awful characterization.

I don’t believe Yoshio Sakamoto to be a terrible storyteller; I just think his approach to writing this particular installment didn’t suit his strengths. He was at his best whenever he used the environments to tell a story with the occasional log entry to provide more context. This game was going to continue that tradition, but after the higher-ups expressed a desire to appeal to their Japanese fanbase, Mr. Sakamoto began thinking more about the story, leading to the creation of this game’s (frankly) amateurish, heavy-handed tone. Thankfully, he learned his lesson since then, and took a more hands-off approach with Metroid: Samus Returns, allowing the franchise to recover from this disaster.

83. The Beginner’s Guide

Originally reviewed on: November 16, 2016

Whenever I run into a game I don’t like, I can usually think of what could have been done to improve it. This is one of the few times in which I drew a complete blank. There are no glaring execution issues like there were in other bad games I’ve played; Davey Wreden, the game’s creator, captured exactly what he was going for, which in this case was a problem in and of itself. The concept is so at odds with the medium on which it was created that trying to come up with improvements is a lost cause.

The Beginner’s Guide falls into the exact same pitfall as Mr. Wreden’s debut effort, The Stanley Parable, in that it has more merits as a conversation piece than as an actual game. The one key difference between the two of them is that The Beginner’s Guide doesn’t benefit at all from being played. It is, at its core, a movie wherein you’re allowed to move the camera. There is no sense of urgency on your part to advance the plot, for you are a mere observer listening to someone describe a series of events that has already come to pass. Many talented people out there have made videos dissecting the themes of The Beginner’s Guide, and they’re far more interesting than the game itself. If you’re at all curious about this title, the best course of action is to watch somebody else’s playthrough instead.

4 thoughts on “100th Review Special, Part 2: The Terrible Twos

    • I do admit between Urban Champion, Other M, and Yoshi’s Story, (my least favorite Nintendo games) it’s the one I dislike the least. It hasn’t aged well, but it was a passable game for its time. Back then, it’s main draw was that you could play a game like that at home rather than in the arcade. The other two games were made when they really should’ve known better.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve got soft spots for Pac-Man 2 and Sonic R myself. Although I think that’s more for the memories of the company I had when playing it than anything else.

    But yeah, a game that can only be enjoyed ironically captures Takeshi’s Challenge perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will admit of all of these games, Pac-Man 2 and Sonic R are the ones that annoyed me the least. For those, I was mostly thinking in terms of whether or not I’d recommend them, and I even if I once enjoyed them somewhat, I think everyone else is better off avoiding them.

      Liked by 1 person

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