Monday 25 January 2010

The Worst Games I Ever Played

Firstly, I must assert that this post would have been a lot easier to write if either of the following had been true:

1) My desktop PC had not been subject to what I like to call "Spontaneous power supply combustion". It's been a couple of weeks in coming, but finally I've been able to get hold of my spare and set it all up so that I am back on the Rig of Glory. However, this wouldn't have been so much of a hardship if:
2) My laptop was not five years old, and suffering from what appears to be mechanical memory decay.

"Hey laptop, do you think you could bring up a Google search? I need to do some research for an article."
*Time passes*
"Hey Rob, I found that........information out for you........."
"...It's been three weeks. Believe it or not it was actually quicker to go to the library and look it up in a book."
"Oh. Well, that was pretty........obscure information."
"Yeah, I know, I had to wait a week for the book to be available."
"Hunh............Want to play Solitaire?"
"You mean Patience? I don't think that'd be an appropriate game for me right now."

You know that your laptop is a clapped out piece of crap when you can accurately simulate its working order using the wheelchair-bound kid from Malcolm In The Middle as a template.

So now all is well, Van Halen are playing in my earphones and my keyboard is full-sized. Let's rock.

The subject of today's "Worst Games I Ever Played" is a relatively unknown gem from 1998 that was released for PC and Macintosh, named Knights and Merchants: The Shattered Kingdom.

Incidentally, three things spring instantly to mind. Firstly, is that woman stealing from that stand, despite actually being one of the more presentable specimens in the street? Secondly, is it me or does the guy with the lance blatantly fancy the guy with the box under his arm? Thirdly, is that Fagin from Oliver Twist giving an apple to those kids?

Anyway, I digress. I first saw this CD cover in Staples, the stationery store that, true to its word, has been in the same place since it opened. After perusing the back cover, and having a read of the description, it actually sounded like a game of reasonable quality. Add to this that it was priced at £3, and I thought it would be worth taking a punt.

One thing that anyone who knows me can be sure of is that I'm into my real-time strategy games. While other people were using their "year abroad" for the purposes of "travel" and "enrichment" and all that bollocks, I was about two things: Filling myself with as much caffeine as possible, and playing on my PC. Some people may call that tragic, but I would argue that those people haven't put Aston Villa into the Champion's League and overthrown an evil corporation's genetic experiments on a tropical island within the space of a couple of weeks. Pah, amateurs...

So I took this game home with me and considered that a bargain. That is to say, until I loaded the game up.

Let's get one thing out of the way. By today's standards, these graphics are piss-poor. In 1998...they weren't amazing.

However, I was prepared to look past the graphics, as the game tutorial did have elements that I really enjoyed. For instance, in order to make bread, you had to first get wheat, then make that wheat into flour, then make that flour into bread. It sounds convoluted, but it turns out that this is actually the way bread is made (some steps have obviously been removed as it is, after all, a war game and not a bread-making simulator - it's not called Knights and Morphy Richards for a reason).

Said bread would then feed your army at the local inn, and I was even drawn in by the little sprites actually eating in the inn so you could see them. Not a huge game-breaking step, but a nice little addition that I thought was cool.

Why, then, did this game belong on the list of "Worst Games I Ever Played"? Very simple.

After the tutorial ended, I decided to launch into the game and was presented with a plot the width of an After Eight mint. The long and the short of it was that my village was being attacked, and I would have to go and drive out the invaders. The problem was that the invaders, on their way out, killed all my soldiers and then set up camp just outside of town on a bridge.

Now, this isn't necessarily as big an obstacle as you might think in any other strategy games, as you can generally create more units. In Knights and Merchants, however, you could only create a limited number due to the limited resources you were able to gather. This essentially meant that you sat in a state of absolute stalemate for as long as your patience would take it, for as many times as you were willing to attempt to upset the balance of this otherwise broken game.

In my case, ten minutes each for a total of three times.

As if that wasn't enough, I couldn't even pass the game on to another person via the wonderful site eBay, as the disc wouldn't work with all PCs, and was particularly stubborn with newer machines. As a result, I ended up binning it and hoped that I would never have to tell the tale.

There, happy now?! You made me sad.

Robot Chicken is back! Season 3 of the toy murderin’, attention‐span shatterin’ TV series comes to DVD today!

No cow is too sacred, no star too celestial to escape the Robot Chicken treatment. Created by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, Robot Chicken Season 3 delivers 20 fifteen‐minute episodes of fastly‐paced sketches featuring an impressive list of vocal talent from creator Seth Green and an impressive cast of Hollywood names.

In its native USA, Robot Chicken has gone on to become Adult Swim’s highest rated original show, winning an Emmy© for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation in 2006 and 2007. It was recently nominated for two more Emmy© awards for the Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II special.

All of this mayhem started over a love of toys. Having worked throughout the comic book industry, Matthew Senreich rose through the ranks at comic bible Wizard to become editor of their Toy Fare publication. While attending the annual Comic Con in San Diego he ran into actor Seth Green (Rat Race, It) and a friendship blossomed over their mutual love of action figures. An idea was struck to take a knowing swipe at everything from Star Wars to George Bush by animating their beloved toys – every man’s dream right? But where did the obscure title come from? Seth Green explains, “Um, “Robot Chicken” was a dish from the Chinese restaurant where we ordered take‐out.”

Highlights from Robot Chicken Season 3 include Sarah Michelle Geller pedaling a Japanese yeast infection cream; Albert Einstein and his wife have couple’s therapy and Governor Schwarzenegger investigates the illegal immigration issue with Speedy Gonzales and Dora the Explorer.

And then there's Aqua Teen Hunger Force...

In case you don’t know, this is how it goes down. Aqua Teen Hunger Force stars Master Shake, a sadistic, lazy milkshake; Frylock, an erudite, floating packet of fries and Meatwad, a simple‐minded, easily‐lead meatball and their corpulent next door neighbour Carl. They live in New Jersey in a less‐than‐salubrious situation. Seriously, you should see their kitchen. There are plenty of badly thought out attempts to score booze, cash, women, and booze. And cash. Guest characters abound, including Frat Aliens, killer robot scorpions, a clown virus, Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, Zack Wylde and, yes, yes y’all, the notorious Mooninites make another appearance. Seriously, it’s great. Tell everyone.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force is written and directed by veteran Adult Swim talents Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro. Voice talent includes Dave & Matt, Dan Snyder, Carey Means and Atlanta‐based rapper Schoolly D, (who wrote and performs the theme song, and also provides occasional links and commentary). And Zack Wylde voices his own character. If you’re into rock music, you might think that’s quite cool.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volume 3 is out on DVD today!

Thanks to our friends at Revolver Entertainment, we've got two Adult Swim bundles containing posters and a t-shirt to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Monday 1st February (UK time). The first two names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a prize bundle!

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