Saturday 20 December 2008

The worst games I ever played #1

A common theme among those who review games for a living (and indeed those who don't) is to talk at great length about the games they hold in highest esteem. Rare are those who talk about the mediocre games in their collection, and rarer still are those that go into detail about those games that they infinitely regret purchasing (at least not beyond "OMG this game suxxxxxx!!1111")

I thought since I have this medium of communication now, I would devote some time to the games that fell into one of two categories. Eventually I will have talked about a few of the games I hated instantly *and* the games I enjoyed at the time but now regret ever owning. As far as the second category is concerned, blame the retro gaming phenomenon that's so popular nowadays.

What is it about older games that we find so appealing, anyway? We have these epic, movie-like stories and open-ended game worlds, and instead we obsess over 10 year old games on outdated consoles. That said, I have been clamouring for the original Banjo Kazooie since it came out on Xbox Live Arcade, so I'm no better.

Anyway, a bit of history before I begin. I was a very lucky child in that every few years, my parents were quite happy for me to have the latest generation games console (or at least until I was about 16, and was old enough to have a job and my own money - big mistake incidentally, I now own two out of this generation's three consoles and 5 guitars). On the plus side, I own a SEXY guitar in the form of my Fender Stratocaster in Alpine White with a maple fretboard.

Look, mortals, and become moist.

Anyway, my first entry in the annals of E14 history takes the form of a flight simulator. Now, generally flight simulators are a genre of game (if you can indeed apply the word "game" to something where you do absolutely fuck-all at 30,000 feet). This one, slightly more redeemingly, was a combat flight simulator. The game was F29 Retaliator, for my old 286 PC.

Let's get something out of the way straightaway: I'm well aware that old PCs were nowhere near as capable as new PCs at doing even the most basic tasks. To illustrate this, let me tell you about a particular feature (read: limitation) of the first PC I ever owned. The PC ran in MS-DOS, and had 3 games, one of which was a stretch to call a game. The 2 games, the aforementioned F29 Retaliator and a game called Beyond Columns, a Tetris-like puzzler, served their purpose as far as we needed at the time (I also had a Super Nintendo at the time to keep me busy for good games).

The third item, because of how loathe I am to call it a game, was a virtual Jukebox. The sad thing about it was the fact that you could only play about 5 songs, mostly license-free stuff like 'Peter and the Wolf', in glorious MIDI.

A less awesome version of this used to pass for a game! Who knew?

Anyway, to F29 Retaliator. While doing research for this game, I came across this snippet from the game's Wikipedia article, which I think gives both a sad insight into game quality in those days as well as pretty much spoiling the entire excitement of the game:

The cockpit was pretty exciting, with 3 Multi-function displays

Mmm. Exactly. What I look for with games is the beauty of the heads-up display within the game world. Often, conversations between myself and game store sales assistants go as follows:

"Hi, I'm interested in this game, but I'm not too sure it's for me. Is there anything you can say that'll sway it for me?"
"What would you like to know?"
"Does the game display the health of your character in the top right corner?"

For those who say "oh, this game can't be that bad, trust an Emotionally Fourteen cynic to grumble so much about old technology", shut your stupid face. To demonstrate my prowess at observing those things which are noticeable, I bestow upon your visage a screenshot from the game in question. When looking at this picture, note that the game was intended to provide a detailed flight simulator experience.

That's right. I spent hours playing what essentially amounts to the shit round from the Krypton Factor, except there was no prize at the end of the round, only a sharp pang of sadness when I realise now that those hours could have been spent asleep. In fact, I had ten times more fun ejecting the pilot from the plane and watching him descend to the floor at a rate of metres per hour.

Incidentally, the game was bugged to the point that in certain situations, you could control the plane after eject and slam it into the pilot. That softened the blow, but it wasn't quite enough to keep the game from this list. I'll be back with another game shortly, but for now I'm bailing out.

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