Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures
The Cellar of Shame

Ronald Meeus | 16 Dec 2008 12:59
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In these cases, one can argue it wasn't entirely the developers' fault. Most tie-ins are made on a limited budget with way too little development time, and are primarily sold as trivial merchandise rather than genuine products. Under these circumstances, it's hardly surprising when licensed games hit store shelves and fail to deliver.


Some games in the Cellar of Shame, however, are the product of good intentions gone horribly wrong. Take the PC game NRA Varmint Hunter, launched in 2004 by the now-defunct American publisher ISE Games. Sponsored by the National Rifle Association to promote safe firearm use, the game featured a painstaking procedure just to reload a gun, and didn't even offer players the ability to move. "NRA Varmint Hunter proves that some videogames can be outclassed by potatoes," wrote review site IGN. It became the third-worst game in recent history, with a Metacritic score of 16 percent.

Bad gameplay was also the most common charge levied against Navy SEALs: Weapons of Mass Destruction, a game released in 2003 by THQ's shovelware subsidiary ValuSoft that earned a Metacritic rate of 18 percent. "As you're chucking the box, notice how wonderful it feels to be able to aim properly; and as it hits the trash can with a satisfying clunk, you can be assured that you've just experienced the height of its realism," wrote PC Gamer.

In other cases, there's something wrong with the motivations of both the publisher and the developer. Earning a Metacritic score of 20 percent, the 2007 Nintendo Wii game Ninjabread Man was an exercise in laziness and self-delusion. It's a platform game featuring, as the title suggests, a gingerbread ninja. Ninjabread Man included only three levels, but its makers decided to up the long-term playability by making these three levels abominably hard and adding four gameplay modes which were required to finish the game. You can also question the sanity of the developers behind Yaris, a free Xbox Live Arcade game released in 2007 that earned a Metacritic score of 17 percent. It was supposed to be an advergame promoting the new Toyota Yaris model, but the developers decided to spice up the mundane racing action by adding a gun turret.

A crappy Metacritic score can also be the result of a bad business decision. This seems to be the case with the 2005 DS title Elf Bowling 1 & 2, a collection of two freely released PC games sold at full price in your local videogame store. The game landed a measly Metacritic mark of 12 percent, making it the second-lousiest video game in recent history. Review site, awarding the game a generous 20 percent score, called it "a game promising holiday cheer and instead visiting the reindeer stalls and giving you the content."

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