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:
If there’s one thing Top of the Heap does and does right, it’s that it treat serious current events with the respect they deserve. So, with that in mind, this month’s heap is a tribute to one of the biggest news stories around right now: the murder/suicide of Chris Benoit. If only Princess Di had waited until the Burnout games were released—then she would have gotten a totally sweet tribute, too.
Full disclosure: I am not a sports fan.
If you ever ask me if I saw “the game” last night, chances are very good that I won’t even know what sport you’re talking about, let alone the teams that played or the final score.
If, however, you were to replace footballs with hand grenades, baseball bats with sawed-off shotguns and cover Soldier Field with landmines, then you’d have yourself at least one new painted-faced, beer-gutted, dyed-in-the-wool sports fan.
Until that happens, at least there are a few videogames out there that dare to make my ultraviolent sports-related dreams a reality.
Base Wars (NES)
Base Wars offers a unique twist on traditional baseball games. Replace players with robots, implement an RPG-style upgrading system and encourage players to beat opposing robots all to shit. It’s kind of like a combination of Field of Dreams, Blade Runner and Pimp My Ride.
Fighting is a welcome addition, but it’s implemented poorly. Here’s a quick guide to help give you the best chance of winning any fight you get into in Base Wars:
Step 1: Press A.
Step 2: Repeat Step 1 as necessary.
The RPG element is also a very nice addition to this game, allowing you to upgrade your players’ body parts and weapons to make them better baseball players/killers.
Baseball games on the NES have an unfortunate habit of all playing exactly the same. It’s nice to see one that takes the sport in a slightly different direction, especially when that direction is murderous robots.
Replay Value: 5
Jerry Glanville’s Pigskin Footbrawl (SG)
As previously mentioned, my sports knowledge is sub-par at best, so I had no idea who Jerry Glanville was until I did a little research. Wikipedia is telling me he was the coach for the Oilers and Falcons in the 80s and 90s, so I’ll just go ahead and assume that’s right.
This game almost makes you feel bad for Mr. Glanville. John Madden gets to put his name on the most popular, longest running, best made sports franchise in videogame history. Jerry Glanville, on the other hand, is shilling a game in which a handful of assholes dressed like Visigoths strut about a cluttered Ren Fest tossing around an overripe navel orange.
This is something of an unorthodox football game—not just in its choice of scenery and players, but also in its gameplay. You don’t choose plays and there’s no huddles; you just toss around the ball and run, slamming into obstacles every 1.3 seconds until somebody enters an end zone. If you’re a sports fan, you probably won’t like it because it’s only similarity to football is that you run while holding a ball, and non-sports fans won’t like it because it, well, sucks. On the bright side: It’s a game the whole family can disagree on.
Replay Value: 3
Mutant League Football (SG)
Mutant League Football is probably the best known of this heap, and for good reason. MLF presents all the fun of an unorthodox, mutant-on-mutant, ultraviolent, crooked game of football, but it also remembers that the game itself still has to be fun. I may not know sports, but I know a good football game when I play it, and MLF would be a good football game even if you removed all the violence, nasty audibles and ref bribing. Why EA doesn’t make an updated version of this game with the Madden engine is beyond me.
Graphics and sound aren’t what I would call cutting edge, but they get the job done. Overall, MLF is a great choice for anybody itching for a football game where the long bombs are a lot less Joe Montana and a lot more Timothy McVeigh.
Replay Value: 7
Mutant League Hockey (SG)
Despite living so close to the Canadian border that I can smell the taint of poutine from here, I’ve never really been of fan of hockey or even hockey videogames, so I can’t tell you if Mutant League Hockey is much better or worse than the other hockey games of its time.
I can, however, tell you that even though graphics and sound are a bit more polished than the original, this Mutant League offering leaves me a bit flat. It brings nothing new to the table except a different sport, and it lacks the charm of its predecessor.
That’s it for this roid-raged heap. At the top is:
Mutant League Football
Violence, hellfire, bribery—how can you not enjoy a game with all those important features. The most important thing about MLF, however, is that if you took out all of these great things it would still be a very good football game.