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:
Game studios like shoehorning popular licenses into crappy new games about as much as writers like re-using old article topics—and for the same reasons. You don’t have to think of anything new, and you can work off of something that people already like. Here are a few of those quick and dirty games that have long since gone the way of the Dodo.
Note: Again, since we’re dealing with some obscure licenses ,I’ll be including Wikipedia links to get you up to speed with what the hell I’m talking about.
No, I’m not talking about those hi falootin’ new Pokeymans and, no, this isn’t a hentai dating sim. Monster in my Pocket was basically a marketing ploy to sell comics, toys, videogames and trading cards based on a few hundred different monsters and creatures from various mythos. Yes, I’m SURE I’m not talking about Pokémon.
The gameplay couldn’t be more basic. Choose between a vampire or Frankenstein’s monster, walk around and punch enemies. That’s seriously it.
The game’s a bit better than most of the affronts to God and Man that you’re used to seeing here at Top of the Heap, but it’s certainly not Konami’s most prized gem.
Replay Value: 4
Back in 1989, a lazy game developer stood up at an office meeting and said “Hey, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game did well. Let’s just buy up licenses and throw them into the TMNT game engine from now on instead of actually working.” Presumably, he was greeted with deafening cheers and applause from the rest of Konami’s staff, because that seems to be exactly what happened from 1989 to 1993 in Konami’s arcade game department, spawning such TMNT arcade rip-offs as The Simpsons, X-Men, Bucky O’Hare and Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa.
Of all the Konami arcade games of the early 90s, this one probably tried the least to distinguish itself from its peers. The four characters you choose are barely any different from one another. There’s not much in the way of special items, and level design is pretty basic. Overall, it’s not a bad game, but you could find a better use of your precious quarters at the local arcade.
Replay Value: 6.5
Proving once and for all that not everything Disney touches turns to gold, Bonkers was a TV show featuring a police officer cartoon bobcat that never really took off and has since fallen into relative obscurity.
Bonkers is a painfully basic platformer. You run through levels, collect occasional powerups, defeat enemies by jumping on or dashing into them and retrieve stolen items from level bosses. That’s it.
Replay Value: 3.5
Baby’s Day Out (SG)
It was probably this game that made Hi-Tech Expressions stop and do some real soul-searching and come to the realization that while other game companies were getting the rights to big movies in 1994 like Ace Ventura, True Lies and, shit, even Timecop, HTE had to slum it with Baby’s Day Out, a flop about a bunch of kidnappers trying to kidnap a baby. So it’s basically Home Alone with a baby.
The game plays a bit like Lemmings in that your role is as a guide to assist a character safely to a goal. The similarities end there, as Lemmings is a classic puzzle game and Baby’s Day Out is a soul-scarring piece of garbage.
You control an angel that resembles the Wal-Mart rollback face, and you have to guide a baby to safety without letting it get kidnapped. Why are people trying to kidnap him? I don’t know. Let’s pretend they’re representative of a Satan-worshipping NAMBLA cult.
Gameplay is very tedious and boring, and the music is so tinny it makes you want to drive a pair of needlenose pliers through your ear drums. For Christ’s sake, just go play Lemmings.
Replay Value: 2.5
And so ends your second uninspired batch of forgettable games.
The top of this wholly forgettable heap is:
Wild West C.O.W.Boys of Moo Mesa
Just as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a cheap excuse to load a show with shell puns between bouts of ninja-related action, so too was C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa a cheap excuse to make stupid cow puns between bouts of cowboy action. The show may have been pretty dumb, but the game really wasn’t that bad if you like a mindless beat-‘em-up.