NHL ’98

If you look closely, you can see a rough abstraction of two breasts, each impaled on two railway spikes, which is something I'd rather look at than this game.

This is the last N sports game I have to review.  Words cannot express my gratitude.

It is also difficult to express with words the extent to which I do not care about sports.  Typically, such an expression would involve – nay, require – strained, gurgling noises emanating from my throat, a contorted, purple rictus of enraged apathy, and a disturbingly enthusiastic series of self-inflicted blows to the head.

My disinterest in sports has moved far beyond mere absence of interest, into a kind of aggressively negative interest.  It is the same kind of negative interest that your girlfriend has in video games – the kind that is slow-roasted in a fine blend of resentment, boredom, contempt, pity and despair as people all around you converse excitedly about something you find profoundly, infinitely uninteresting, excluding you from any conversation or social interaction because they want to talk about statistics, whether it’s how great their new purple broadsword is, or how many assists John McHockeyton verbed in the last noun of the more general noun.

As such, I literally – yes, in the literal, denotative meaning of this upcoming sentence – feel minor headaches and nausea when I play a sports video game that is attempting to be authentic.  I am physically affected by it.  It repulses me.  Hockey is probably the worst, as it is the least interesting sport that is the most well-liked amongst my Canadian brethren.  Football I have occasionally felt a flicker of interest in, but as soon as a game reaches the playbook and little scrawls with symbols and arrows I just want to scream and scream and scream until there is nobody left to look at me or talk to me or touch me, ever again.

I have been to a hockey game once, for free, but it was a bizarre circumstance, a malformed half-baby mewling in its own fluids, birthed from a combination of artistic talent, lust, guilt, shame and obligation.

I played this game for three minutes, and it hurt my brain.  There is real physical pain in my skull. I hate this game more than racism.  I would rather drink a tall glass of vinegar than play this game for half an hour.

In conclusion, fuck your hockey team, they are probably worse than the hockey team that you do not like because they beat your hockey team that one time in the past when they were likely composed of entirely different players, or whatever.

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Home Alone

Home Alone
Home Alone

Another movie game.  Turn off brain.  Check.  Set expectations low.  Check.  Let grey matter ooze out of ear.

Mlllaaaaargggggghhhh…

It’s funny because you figure with all the failures in the dawn of gaming, they would stop making this sort of shit.  But that’s the rub: they’re failures in terms of anything remotely related to a gaming quality metric, but, somehow, they still sell.  Video games (and other media and pop culture to a similar extent) are somewhat unique in that respect: they sell almost entirely based upon their marketing appeal.  The game itself is separate from the marketing.

Get used to seeing this screen a lot.  It would be so much funnier if someone appended "es".
Get used to seeing this screen a lot. It would be so much funnier if someone appended "es".

The experience of playing Home Alone is based pretty much entirely on the nostalgia of the film.  That’s it. The developers make a point of trying to tie it in to the good-guys-bad-guys silliness of the movie, which was amusing as a kid, granted, but fails here when your worst enemies are in fact bats and rats, and the kind developers somehow decided that when there are bats or rats, you CAN’T USE YOUR SLINGSHOT CAUSE THAT MAKES SENSE!

Fucking bats, and rats. Why can't I shoot you with my slingshot?!? WHY?!?
Fucking bats, and rats. Why can't I shoot you with my slingshot?!? WHY?!?

The game is full of the usual poorly designed, half-assed side scroller theme.  There are a thousand games like this, and the only thing that sets this one apart is the “collect the valuables” aspect, where instead of mindlessly moving sideways, you have to think enough to go back and forth to the drop spot.  Once you’ve amassed enough valuables, you have to get past the nigh interminable array of bats and rats to seal the valuables in the vault.  I don’t remember any bats and rats in the movie, and with this number, the house would be condemned!

If you want to gather loot, go play the original Duck Tales.  It was fun while presenting an interesting challenge.
If you want to gather loot, go play the original Duck Tales. It was fun while presenting an interesting challenge.
Same concept, better level design, better controls with two buttons, and a lot more fun.
Same concept, better level design, better controls with two buttons, and a lot more fun.

Verdict: Home Alone is exactly what you expect: A poorly thought out movie-based game with awkward controls, frustrating gameplay, dismal music, terrible graphics, and laugh-out-loud design choices.  If you really want to be nostalgic about the movie, watch it with silly subtitles or commentaries and heckle it.  You’ll have more fun.

Fun ‘n’ Games

The real sign of failure here is that nobody even took the opportunity to cram in one of their own game ideas.  They just ripped off an easy classic.  Nobody even cared.
The real sign of failure here is that nobody even took the opportunity to cram in one of their own game ideas. They just ripped off an easy classic. Nobody even cared.

Raise your hand if, upon seeing the title of this game, you thought it would actually be a fun game.

If you are sitting there with your hand up, congratulations! You’re now stupid for two reasons.

Fun ‘n’ Games is a “suite” of functions, in the same way that a bacterium is an “animal.”

It has four sections:

“Paint” is, well, a shitty version of Paint that struggles to load when you fill with the paintcan, and is unable to fill at all in a row where there are already coloured pixels.

“Games” includes a terrible version of Pac Man with mice and cheese, and a first person space shooter where you are fixed in position and can only rotate to shoot your foes – floating green orbs which mysteriously damage you by moving around and never ever altering their distance from you.

“Music” is perhaps the only aspect of the cartridge that would actually be engaging if you were a kid at the time of its release.  You can, through its clunky and torturous interface, pick instrument synths and place them on a staff to produce music.  It would take you about four hours to make a decent song, though.

“Style” is…I am at a loss here.  There are two sub-sections, one where you choose the clothing and hair for a woman, one where you scroll between heads, torsos and legs to mix and match some kind of horrid gestalt entity whose sections are clearly delineated from each other.  But the most bizarre thing is that, for the first one, every time you scroll to a new item of clothing it will play a random sound file, including things like “grody,” wacky,” “rad,” “hip,” “gross,” etc.  They are completely random, and are in no way related to the item you are selecting.

Absurd things like the above, and other obvious failures of design (like the fact that the game struggles to render your cursor as it moves) make this the worst “game” I’ve seen yet.

Frantic Flea

Awful.
Awful.

Frantic Flea’s title screen looks like someone is ejaculating slowly across it and they probably should have stopped there. This game is so unrepentantly terrible that I can’t even think of any amusing ways to mock it. It’s just an awful, horrible piece of shit with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It’s not shovelware, it’s “dig your own grave with your hands while I piss on you and shoot you in the calves with a .22”-ware.

AVOID.

Family Dog

Family Dog
Family Dog

How to get through this review without making a pun about how this is when games went to the dogs?  Ugh.  Family dog comes from an era where “making a game” consisted of putting together a shitty obstacle course with bad controls, giving it a sort of theme, and pretending that it was fun.  There are too many games made with this cookie cutter to count.  And they all blow.

The overuse of primary colours also isn't the game's worse flaw.
The overuse of primary colours also isn't the game's worse flaw.

Family Dog is no exception.  You’re a dog.  You have to make it through the house to fetch a ball for your Denice The Menace style owner, who also likes to shoot you.  But you still want to please him.  It’s rather masochistic.  Oh, and the house is out to get you.  But wait! At least there are dog treats that are stuck to the walls at heights exceeding 10 meters!  Bleh, I don’t even want to go on.  Its weak point isn’t that it doesn’t make any sense.  That’s just a given.

It seems the intent of the level layout is to make you spend as much time as possible in the air.  It should have been called Family Bird.
It seems the intent of the level layout is to make you spend as much time as possible in the air. It should have been called Family Bird.

The music is so irritating, it’s best played with the sound off.  It loops endlessly and is almost improved by the random *boinks* and *boings* and *woofs* that are inserted in bad 1930s movie fashion.  The controls are abysmal.  Oh, and apparently you can only bark so many times before you need a treat to bark again.  Did I mention that books kill you?  Yeah, books kill you.

My guess is that every book in the house looked like this.
My guess is that every book in the house looked like this.

Let’s just keep this one a dirty little secret, you and I, and pretend it never existed.  There is zero reason to ever consider turning on this game.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Maybe if you were a clinical psychologist and conducting a study in frustration and irritation you could use this game as a stimulus.  But you’d really, really have to compensate your participants.  And give them giant warnings.  In fact, no, not even then.  I don’t think submitting them to this game would pass ethics board approval.

Verdict: Family Dog was the game that your aunt bought you for Christmas because she thought it looked cute on the shelf and the clerk at Zellers just shrugged when she asked if her nephew would like it.  You put it under your bed, forgot about it, and didn’t miss it.  Don’t bring it back out.  Ever. In fact, just feed it to your dog.