First-person shooter, real-time strategy, sports, action, puzzle. These are just a few of the genres that every videogame falls under. Sometimes, however, these don’t tell the whole story. To call Katamari Damacy just a “puzzle game” is to overlook its charming ridiculousness. To call Zombie Nation a “shooter” ignores the fact that the point is to control an inexplicably large, disembodied zombie-head that destroys cities while simultaneously saving the people whose city you are in the process of destroying.
Genre labels have their purpose, but sometimes they overlook important quirks. That’s where I come in.
This month’s heap:
(Part 1 in a recurring series)
All the big game developers know that nothing makes real money like a high quality, innovative game. Unfortunately, they’re also painfully aware that nothing makes a quick buck quite like shoving a temporarily popular cartoon/film/TV show into a mediocre videogame based vaguely on that license. Some of these licenses will be remembered and their videogames forgotten (e.g., Lethal Weapon), and, for some, the game will be remembered while the original license will be forgotten (e.g., Maniac Mansion), but sometimes both game and license are so worthless that both are forgotten. These are but a few of such forgettable game and license pairs.
Fido Dido, that soda-shilling scribbleman who got somewhat popular in the early 90s for reasons unknown, starts off our list in a type of game that sets the tone for the rest of this month’s heap: a mediocre platformer.
Jump around a level and avoid being hit by an innocuous looking bunch of enemies including a skateboarding kid and a walking pencil. If you do happen to take an attack from any of these enemies, you’ll find that your “coolness meter” goes down. Apparently Fido Dido was supposed to be the mid-90s epitome of cool. News to me. I’ve seen cooler characters portrayed by Jonathan Lipnicki.
The good news is that the game is slightly less generic than some of its licensed-game brethren in that there are a handful of mildly creative items you can collect to help you through the levels.
This Genesis title is certainly no Sonic the Hedgehog—hell it’s not even Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude—but it’s marginally above average compared to most other licensed crapfests.
Replay Value: 3
Though I never actually saw it, I do remember this show being on in the very early 90s and it’s supposed to have been rather good. The quality of the show, however, doesn’t mean half a bucket of asses to me; I’m here to review the game. This game is so bad that five seconds into playing it I’m considering changing the topic of this month’s article to “Games that have nothing to do with Peter Pan” so I can have a reason to get far, far away from this horrid game. Alas, I am some kind of self-loathing masochist so I stuck with my original topic.
You begin as a chubby little stub of a man that I assume is Peter Pan and you walk around a wooded area that has all the rich, vibrant colors you’d normally only expect from a nihilist’s wardrobe. Pan is armed with a sword that has the reach and stopping power of a dull push pin. The “Fox” referred to in the game’s name must refer to “Michael J” as the game shudders and shakes the entire time you play it.
Everything’s by the book here. Travel through levels, collect worthless items, defeat filler enemies, go to next level. The only thing THQ went above and beyond the call of duty on was suck. They loaded this game with more suck than any one game should ever have.
Replay Value: 1
What do you get when you sign up both Tim Burton and Stephen Spielburg as producers for a new TV show? If you said “A totally awesome hit show,” you lose. If you said “A piece of garbage that gets shitcanned after two episodes,” *ding ding ding* you win. Your prize is having enough sense to steer clear of both the stupid TV show and the even dumber videogame.
This game is so by-the-numbers that you can write this review without even playing the damn thing. Here, I’ll help you: You just fill in the blanks with the most generic answer you can think of.
In this game, you play as the family dog. Your enemies are (1) and (2) . You can defeat your enemies by (3) ing. Your life meter is represented by a long (4) . This game is worse than (5) .
Ok, that’s it. Let’s see how you did at filling in those blanks, Charles Nelson Reilly.
1. Cats 2. Dog Catchers 3. Bark 4. Bone 5. SIDS.
So the game is insipid, uninspired trash, are there any other redeeming qualities? Graphics? Audio?
The visual quality of the show itself was criticized for being horrible, and naturally that translated over to the game, making it ugly too. As for the sound, the only logical explanation for the noodling they’re trying to pass off as music is that they gave the lead programmer’s developmentally disabled nephew a keyboard and said “Go to town, Slappy.”
Replay Value: 2.5
A piece of music written by Beethoven, if played well, can be immediately recognized as such from just the first few notes. A Van Gogh can be immediately recognized by a savvy art aficionado. So too can a game made by Hi Tech Expressions be recognized within seconds of initially playing it. Beethoven, by the perfect blending of each note; Van Gogh, by his use of color and style of brush stroke; and Hi Tech Expressions, by the fact that you’re playing a licensed game that’s less fun than most inpatient procedures without the luxury of Novocain.
In A Dinosaur’s, Tale you assume the roles of Cecilia, a girl who looks a bit like Elmira in Tiny Toon Adventures and Louie, who looks like an extra from Newsies.
Pick Louie and you’ll be jumping around squishing rats and avoiding falling dinosaurs until you reach the end of your stage. Boring and formulaic. After this level is where the real pain begins. Now the game tries to be a 3D flying game in which you avoid pigeons that are, apparently, as big as pterodactyls. It’s nice to see one of these games trying something new, but it’s no good if they can’t pull it off and, trust me, they didn’t pull it off. The animation in the quasi-3D flying levels is terrible; the pterodactyl you’re riding is so large that you can’t see your enemies until they’ve already hit you (yes, there is an enemy in the picture below.).
Cecilia’s stage doesn’t offer any more in the way of fun. You jump from fire escape to fire escape trying to descend a building. If, however, you jump anywhere the game didn’t intend for you to jump, even if it’s only the equivalent of jumping two feet, you die. Flawed gameplay like that is almost an admission of shoddy level design.
Mix all this together with the fact that the music sounds like someone playing with a keyboard set to “Jew’s Harp,” and you’ve got a real piece of crap that only the license-leeching turdsmiths at Hi Tech Expressions can churn out.
Replay Value: 2.5
Imagine, if you will, a game that makes you defeat a handful of enemies that are constantly running away from you before allowing you to move three inches further into the stage you are currently on before dropping another load of enemies on you. That’s frustrating. Now imagine a game that does all of the above, but makes you hit those enemies thirty-five times each while playing a three-second long music loop ad infinitum. That’s Bebe’s Kids. Think of it as a modified version of The Simpsons Arcade Game that Jack Kevorkian made to drum up sales.
This game is repetitive, control is choppy and it’s as boring as listening to an audiobook of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Replay Value: 2
That’s all I can take for this first installment of Forgotten Games/Forgotten Licenses. There’s still a whole bunch I’ll get to in a future installment. For now, we’ll see who the best of this bunch is.
The top of this uninspired heap is:
Yes, you heard me right. This month’s winner is a game based on a mediocre comic strip character turned Orange Slice spokesman. Not a good game—not even a particularly fun game—but it felt slightly (ever so slightly) less canned and by-the-book than the other games were.