Well, it’s that time of year, when everything wraps up. And as such, everyone likes making numerically quantifiable lists of the best and the worst of the year. I’ve decided to do this myself, with a list of the worst games of the year.
But I’m adding a caveat — my own video game tastes are uniquely my own. As such, my perspective on things varies quite wildly from dominant opinion. The result is a steady stream of, “Dude! How could you not think such and such was trash?!?” So I’m going to alternate. First, I will list a game that, for whatever reason, I don’t think qualifies to be on a Worst Of The Year list, then I will do one that DOES deserve, complete with reasons why.
FOURTH WORST GAME OF THE YEAR — UMBRELLA CORPS. I have Resident Evil 2 on my Tiger game.com. And when you make a game that makes me want to play that instead? Something’s wrong.
Capcom engineered this game to join the esports scene that has been so good to games like Rocket League. However, they tried to tie it into the RE universe despite it having almost nothing in common with the series. Oh, zombies, sure. But there was no atmosphere, characters, or narrative that linked back. Hell, there were no characters or narrative period, just faceless Umbrella Corps soldiers shooting each other without explanation.
The game has major balancing problems. There’s a simple instakill weapon that removes all challenge from the game. Respawns of both the players and the missions are completely random, sometimes in either the worst placement for the players (resulting in instant death) or the best placement for the characters (a new objective right by the squad so they can get it within a few seconds of it commencing). And while I do complain about games the focus on multiplayer to the exclusion of single player, when the single player is this lousy, they simply shouldn’t have bothered.
NOT ONE OF THE WORST GAMES OF THE YEAR — CSGO LOTTO AND OTHERS OF THAT ILK. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a coder myself and see how this can be rigged. I don’t know if it’s just common sense that unregulated gambling can be rigged. I don’t know if it’s my awareness that the whole CSGO gambling thing had already gotten shady before the CSGO Lotto debacle. I don’t know if it’s just my disbelief that people are willing to put thousands of dollars on the line and risk losing it with a coin toss. All I know is, if you are really that stupid, then you get what you deserve.
THIRD WORST GAME OF THE YEAR — SAILOR MOON DROPS. I’ve bitched before about “pay to win” games, but Sailor Moon Drops, a game I described in my summation as “ass on toast,” spins it to a whole new level. Despite being a Sailor Moon fan, the game only lasted two days in my possession before I excised it from my iPad.
On the surface, the game is your basic “match 3” game popularized by Bejeweled and copied by just about everyone that wants to make a branded game without actually developing anything. But the game hits the grass almost immediately. The game doesn’t adequately explain its mechanics. The Luna Bonus at the end of levels, I still have no clue what triggers it, what prolongs it, or what exactly it does. But the worst is that it will set up playfields and challenges that are impossible to win without either buying powers or the kind of luck that makes your left eye glow.
When I downloaded it, there was a special challenge week where you could play as Codename: Sailor V. Then I got to that impossible level. Like I said, it’s a “match 3” game. The playfield is split into two wells, each four pieces wide, with a single piece in the middle of the two linking them. There are seven special pieces that you have to get from the top of the wells to drop off the bottom in about 35 moves to win. And the seventh piece doesn’t appear until the other six drop off. And because the wells are four pieces wide, moving pieces to vanish and drop the special pieces are almost impossible. Unless you pony up dough to get special power-ups. I reached the challenge on the first day I was playing. I was stuck there until the evening of the second day.
At which point, I physically threw my iPad down the hallway in fury.
The last time I physically blew up at a game to the point of physical action was 1994, while playing Cannon Fodder on the Atari Jaguar, a game so frustrating, I actually smashed the controller (and this was before eBay, so finding replacement Jaguar hardware was no easy trick). And while I have played games that made me rage in the ensuing years, none of them got to me to that point.
Until Sailor Moon Drops.
Thank God the iPad is made of aluminum, or I might have broken a very expensive piece of very necessary equipment. Realizing this was not good, I deleted the game from my iPad. Keep in mind, I have only sold back four games in my lifetime, and I can’t remember deleting a digital one, it usually just sits dormant on my machine. Sailor Moon Drops? Gone, never to return. Namco Bandai, who also gave us the disastrous Slashy Souls, could have done something else. Almost anything else. They could have made something like Final Fantasy — All The Bravest, as hands off and inconsequential as it was, with the senshi and it would have been fine. Instead, they took a “match 3” game and specifically engineered it to be unbeatable by skill alone. No.
NOT ONE OF THE WORST GAMES OF THE YEAR — NO MAN’S SKY. I know I’m going to hear about it for this one, but putting aside the horrible behavior of the fan base and the hype machine, No Man’s Sky is simply meh. (I was immune to the excitement that gobbled up gamers the way I gobble up a box of Ding Dongs. Seeing the game footage and hearing what Sean Murray was saying would be in there didn’t square, and I figured the game would not be as revolutionary as promised. All my suspicions proved correct, and disappointed me in my fellow gamers that they fell for it all). It’s not bad, just a generic space-based crafting game, like an Asteroids Outpost 2.0. Even if the game launched without the hype and at, say, half the price, it wouldn’t have made it any better. It’s simply wandering around the environments. Not a lot of game, true, but that’s hardly a reason to bash it.
SECOND WORST GAME OF THE YEAR — STARFOX ZERO. Oh, my God, what were they thinking? Seriously. This couldn’t have been more disastrous if Fox McCloud and the crew were replaced with the Five Nights At Freddy’s characters. I don’t mind the short campaign, as I replayed StarFox 64 constantly. And I genuinely enjoyed the characters (up until Command, where Krystal apparently got a brain transplant), even if Armada could have been better — I did play and complete Adventures, after all. So I could overlook the graphics seemingly downgraded and a short campaign as long as it had replay value. But the campaign had no replay value because the enemies were more like drones than actual attackers. Maybe if they got rid of the chicken-walker mode or the remote robot levels, it could have been fun.
But not with those controls.
You will be praying to Ralph Baer, the patron saint of video games, for the dumb touch screen steering of Command within the first few minutes unless you can find a way to focus on both the TV and the control pad screen at the same time. No one in testing thought this was a bad idea? I was only able to play the game by bringing a friend to serve as navigation officer, watching the TV and directing me around as I focused on the targeting and maneuvering. The targeting system is also horrible, locking on to just about any enemies except the ones closing in on you and about to launch a missile up your ass (not helped when you reach the edge of the area you are allowed to fly in and the game forces you right into the path of incoming fire). I could sort of understand using the motion controls to aim from the spaceship, but the tank levels? Why couldn’t they just use the right stick to aim instead of the motion controls and using the stick to make the tank go Nadia Comaneci?
All you need to do to make a successful sequel is take what people liked about the previous games and give them more of it. StarFox Zero doesn’t do that, and gives something no one wanted or could use. At least the early games are still there.
NOT ONE OF THE WORST GAMES OF THE YEAR — FNAF WORLD. I love Scott Cawthon, and this is a perfect example why. Cawthon is always anxious to share his new creations, and frequently releases them early, from the Silver Eyes book to FNAF World. I was really looking forward to it just because it was so unexpected.
But the resulting game was released before it was ready. Glitchy, missing elements, it was a complete misfire.
And here’s where we love Cawthon again. Cawthon pulled the game from Steam, gave refunds, promised to release the fixed game for free, and got to work fixing it. And he did it. Yeah, maybe he should have waited. But the fact is, he did right by the fans. Unlike some publishers that can’t be bothered to fix gamebreaking bugs because they are too busy working on DLC you can buy (you know who I’m talking about), Cawthon didn’t laugh his way to the bank. In a world where games have become cash and carry at the expense of the player experience and the art form, Cawthon stepped up, took his lumps, and tried to put things right. Cawthon is a wonderful person and the world needs more like him.
WORST GAME OF THE YEAR — MIGHTY NO. 9. Oh, how I hemmed. Oh, how I hawwed. Mighty No. 9 broke all known laws, becoming a disaster in ways no one ever anticipated. As a result, I had to sift carefully through the wreckage because, how do I know if my opinion is based on the game itself or if it is based on the surrounding drama? Well, the wheels at Sine Timore turn slow, but they grind exceedingly fine. As such, I am confident that, once the events surrounding the game are removed, Mighty No. 9 is the worst game of the year.
What makes me say so? It’s the implementation of the game elements. It is shocking to me that a game with this much talent, this much time, THIS MUCH MONEY could fail at the fundamentals of game design. Mega Man had it’s problems as well, most of which got worked out and refined as the series progressed. But Mega Man started with solid fundamentals. Mighty No. 9 has a bunch of ideas that were thought to be cool but weren’t implemented properly.
The biggest problem, the thing that pulled me out of the game and nothing could reimmerse me, was the dash. The dash is a microcosm of the problems the game had with design and implementation. You HAVE to dash — enemies can take up to three times the firepower to destroy without dashing, leaving the threats out there, and bosses will recover damage if you don’t. As a result, you are constantly stopping your forward movement or taking up position for a mechanic that doesn’t give you any appreciable advantage other than beating a couple of cheap shit instakills involving an advancing Wall Of Death. It’s the dumbest game mechanic choice since the 2013 Star Trek that was a stealth game with no melee attacks.
There were other problems as well. You can only fire horizontally, but enemies routinely position themselves vertically, and only two weapons let you target things not on the same plane as you, one of which does weak damage and immediately ceases operation the instant you dash. Another was that the game felt more like a fan project than a full fledged title (Pong? One of the bosses is Pong? Are you serious?). The boss battles are simple pattern based affairs. I understand doing this with limited resources, whether the hardware or the coders just don’t have the resources to implement an actual AI (I admit I’m guilty of this myself). But the staffing and platforms meant that something more advanced than a simple clockwork battle could be done. And it wasn’t. It’s understandable and excusable when it’s some singular bloke working out of his garage and eating ramen for weeks to save money for the listing fees, not so for something that raises $4 mil on Kickstarter and still secures outside funding.
Speaking of fan games, the game makes use of waaaaaaaaaay too much artificial difficulty. When you employ artificial difficulty, you need to have a point where you are done jerking the player around and let them continue. Mighty No. 9 blithely ignores this, with precision jumping, sudden dialog that drowns out the enemy’s tells, environmental effects that obscure your view for no reason, enemies that are colored and move with the background so you aren’t sure what is a threat and what is decoration (the highway level), a weapon that can’t be targeted and simply moves around at random, a hidden health power up that is not only guarded but the way out has a mine that negates whatever boost you get, and no checkpoints.
The game’s storyline also deserves scorn. Ultimately, you have a father/authority figure who is only a good guy because we are told he is and a noble person who is evil because we are told he is. Dr. White’s dad saves the world from his son’s mistake, and Dr. White is content to not only let him take the blame and rot in prison, but to continue to do what he wants without considering the possible ramifications of his actions as long as it demonstrates his genius. It is the worst implementation of game design and narrative since Team Ninja whiffed on Metroid: Other M.
Oh, and good work designing Call so that, when she bends over to crawl, her skirt displays her panties. You fuckers are sick. I see you guys at Comcept were involved in ReCore, a game I really wanted to succeed because I like the guys from Retro Studios. How many of the game’s problems came from you? The game has more padding than my prom date’s bra.
See you next year. Spoiler alert: I have a funny feeling Metal Gear Survive will be popping up. Will it? Stay tuned…..