• Elf Bowling 1&2

    “An Internet Christmas Story.”

    “C’mon, rack your fat brain!”
    Festive doodling by yours truly.

    Christmas-themed video games suck. I should honestly just induct every one of them ever made to the Bad Game Hall of Fame all at once, and save myself the chore of having to write about any of them individually. But I reckon that’s not really in the spirit of the site here, is it? No, it feels like my duty is to take on the worst of them one-by-one on an annual basis, until such time as the abolition of all December holidays or the heat death of the universe. Well, as long as we’re in it for the long haul here, I may as well get what is largely considered to be “the worst of the worst” out of the way nice and early.

    Elf Bowling 1&2 was launched concurrently on Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance and DS on November 28th, 2005, to what can only be described as a overwhelmingly negative critical response. I may as well mention right upfront that they are almost identically the same game, with only minimal differences in terms of presentation between them. I should also mention that these retail products serve as conversions of a pair of freeware PC games, which were nearly six years long in the tooth prior to their consolization treatment. Oh, and to top it all off; the current owner to the Elf Bowling trademark once waged a Wikipedia edit war to condemn the “unauthorized” releases of these games — a trademark he only owns because his company bought the rights second-hand for themselves, right out from under the original creators’ noses.

    Well, to hell with my plans for the holidays, I guess! It looks like I’m gonna have to put in the hours getting down to the bottom of this incredibly stupid mystery. You know, I really thought I was just picking out an easy little game for myself this month at first? I seriously had no idea what I was getting myself into. But now that I know what I know, I feel obligated to share it with the rest of the world. So, here we go folks: It’s time to thoroughly examine the circumstances and history behind a novelty Flash game from the late 90s, and to dissect its cheap cash-in of a cartridge conversion. Let the festivities begin!

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    X-COM: Enforcer

    “Crop Circle Surprise.”

    “Aliens, prepare to be enforced.”
    (North American PC box art)

    The return of X-COM in 2012 was certainly one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. It had been something like an uncertain decade for the property leading up to the release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown; with rights to the franchise stuck in limbo for a time, the announcement of a first-person shooter side project being met with much skepticism, and a struggled development cycle that dragged on over the course of nearly nine years. None of this is even to mention the tumultuous times for the property leading up to its initial hiatus period — stuck under a publisher facing financial turmoil, struggling to establish a new identity for itself, and seeing the cancellation of several of its intended entries. And so, the comeback story that saw the franchise return to its tactical, turn-based, alien-stomping roots rates as a truly compelling tale.

    I could probably sit here and gush for a hundred pages about how great the recent run of Firaxis-developed titles have been, but we’re not really in the business of writing at length about “critical darlings” on this website. And besides; I don’t think the developers really need me stepping up to bat for them at this stage, seeing as they’re already plenty successful and well-loved enough as is. That being said, I reckon there are a pair of X-COM titles that feel better suited for my style of examination. We’ll get to the other in due time, but the subject of today’s article feels like the perfect starting point, seeing as it was the game credited as nearly killing the X-COM brand entirely. Oh, and the fact that it’s another one of our Patreon “pledger requests” is a pretty major motivator as well. (Thanks ruderubik!)

    2001’s X-COM: Enforcer represented MicroProse’s last-ditch effort at making the X-COM brand appeal to a broader audience. With Enforcer’s failure marked the end of an era for the franchise, and the beginning of that aforementioned decade-long slumber. It has come to be seen as a game that nobody asked for, eschewing the time-tested traditions that had come to define the series, the likes of which had built up and brought in its audience to begin with. Behind the scenes, it was a project born of utter desperation, cobbled together from the pieces of projects previously cancelled. But having said all that, the questions still remain: Is it really all that bad a game, and was it wholly to blame for the franchise falling off the face of the earth? That’s what this document aims to declassify.

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    Season’s Spookings

    Apologies for the lack of new articles this month. My favorite month of the year, no less! Believe me when I say I had plans for a handful of long-winded rundowns and reviews I wanted to get done for y’all, but my head just hasn’t been in the right space for writing.

    For one, I attended Portland Retro Gaming Expo, and planned to do a write-up of my three days spent there. I may still get to it, but of course, the longer I take to get it written the less relevant / the more foggy my recollection becomes. I definitely have some thoughts on the experience that I wanna share, and some neat photos I believe are worth displaying on here.

    Secondly, I’ve been frustratedly slow on delivering on a Patreon request, and bringing an article on X-COM: Enforcer to fruition. Again, it’s not that I don’t have anything to say about the game: I just haven’t been in a mindset to properly type them out. Making the promise to pledgers that I can write articles on games of their choosing is one I take very seriously, and I’m disappointed in myself for taking so long with this one.

    Another point I’m bummed out about is missing my self-imposed Halloween deadline to get an article done for 2009’s Ju-on: The Grudge on the Nintendo Wii, which I had planned as the site’s sort of “celebration” for the holiday. Instead, all I can offer is the archive of a livestream of me playing through the game (as seen at the top of the article), as recorded on the Bad Game Hall of Fame Twitch channel. Watching it may spoil the prospect of a potential future article on the game, but I want to be able to provide some sort of content for you guys on this most spooky of days.

    Regrettably, that’s really I’ve got to show for myself right now. I’ll be back to work on writing as soon as I’m able. Thank you all for your patience and your understanding.

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    GoldenEye: Rogue Agent

    “Why Save the World When You Can Rule It…”

    “Auf wiedersehen, GoldenEye.”
    (North American PS2 box art)

    The James Bond film franchise might just be the very definition of the term “problematic fave.” On the one hand; it’s impossible to overlook the rampant sexism, racism, and glorification of aggressive masculinity all on display in what are considered the classic entries of the series. On the other hand… well, there’s just something about them, isn’t there? They manage to present action movie shlock as polished art, and pass off some of the most objectively goofy of plots and premises as espionage intrigue. And so, it’s with some hesitation that I have to admit to being a fan of the film series, and to having watched [and re-watched] every last one of its currently twenty-four entries.

    But there’s more to the 007 brand than just the movies. For one, there’s the matter of the original novels that inspired the films in the first place, if written word is your cup of tea. Somehow though, I doubt you’ve come to this article for one of my book reviews. Yes, we’re obviously here to discuss the matter of James Bond video games, which have taken on something like a life of their own outside of the respective film series. Why, with software starring the world-famous spy starting to appear as early as 1982, you could argue that the history of the Bond games franchise is nearly as long and storied as that of the movie franchise! (For something like a look at pre-GoldenEye Bond games, might I recommend B.J. Brown’s article on James Bond 007 The Duel?) And of course – as is the case with any franchise as long-running as that – there are bound to be a few duds and misfires along the way.

    Today we set our sights on 2004’s GoldenEye: Rogue Agent: A title which dared to invoke the sacred name of the game franchise’s most cherished entry. Naturally, we’ll have to at least briefly discuss that particular bit of inspiration and what made it so special to begin with, as well as the range of releases that came in-between. Once we get all that sorted, we’ll be get into the messy business of dissecting what might well be the most reviled release in the 30-plus year history of the 007 video game series, and where exactly it went wrong. Do you reckon that’s enough material for one article? Well, sod that: I say the world is not enough for the Bad Game Hall of Fame, so we’ll also cover Rogue Agent’s handheld conversion too, and a bizarre bit of game franchise-crossover that came with that. As an on-screen comedy duo once quipped; “They always said the pen was mightier than the sword.” “Thanks to me, they were right.”

    Or twenty-five, if you wanna count Never Say Never Again. Hey, say what you will about it, but at least it’s not Live and Let Die.

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    “My Energy is Depleted… I’m Shaking!”

    “Suddenly, Tokyo began to shake and crumble!”
    (Japanese box art)

    If I might start this article off with something like a shameless plug: A couple of months ago, the Bad Game Hall of Fame launched a Patreon page, so that viewers like you could have a way to support the website if you so choose. Pledging as little as $1 gets you access to articles as they’re still “works in progress,” as well as some exclusive polls and other assorted nonsense to come. If you’re feeling particularly generous, a $5 pledge will see your named etched onto the prestigious walls of the Hall of Heroes. And finally – for those of you who are presumably as obsessed with bad games as I am – a one-time $20 pledge will allow you request a game for me to focus my efforts on in the form of a future article.

    Of course, I’m mentioning all this upfront for a reason; that reason being that today’s article is the first “pledger request” I’ll be fulfilling! With that in mind, I’d like to thank one Dustin Cooper (@GenioAugusti) for their contributions to the Bad Game Hall of Fame — and I’m not just talking about sending some of that precious paper my way, no siree bob. For one, Dustin has been a long-time reader and friend of the site, so I’m happy to try and give back in my own goofy way. In addition, they were accommodating enough to provide me with a handful of different suggestions from which to pick from, all in a similar vein: Japan-exclusive PC Engine / TurboGrafX-16 games. And while I’d like to keep the other two suggested titles secret for the time being – since all three games really did manage to pique my interest in different ways – I reckon you might be able to tell which release I ultimately landed on.

    So, here I am to cover 1989’s Energy: Released on the HuCard format for the PCE, as published by Masaya Games, and developed by the elusive Quasar Soft. Information on Quasar on the English-typing side of the web is both difficult to come by and inconsistent to boot, but by my guesstimation, they developed a grand total of five games before falling off the face of the earth. Curiously, this game is actually intended as a remake / conversion of one of their previous titles, so you could argue that they’ve only got four unique games to their credit? But perhaps the most confounding element in all of this is the fact that one video game can effectively demonstrate so much flawed design in such a small package. Of course, I reckon that means I’m just going to have to cover every last one of those flaws in painful detail, huh?

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