Tag Archives: Terrible Games

Hong Kong ’97 Review

There are varying degrees of bad games. There are games with glaring flaws, but also boast enough redeeming qualities to make them worth a look. Then there are games that are mostly bad, but have a few qualities that show that, at one point, the game may have had some promise. After that there are games so bad you might get some entertainment out how hilariously terrible they are. Those are followed by games so atrocious that it’s no longer funny. They’re just flat-out broken.

Below all of that, we have Hong Kong ’97.

If you’ve never heard of it – something you should be thankful for, and I’m sorry if I’m serving as your introduction to it – there’s a good reason for that. Hong Kong ’97’s release is still one of gaming’s great mysteries. All that’s known is that in 1995, a company known as HappySoft LTD desperately tried to get their one and only title into video game stores as an unofficial release on the Super Famicom (the Japanese Super Nintendo), but that few retailers (if any) would take it.

Years passed, and along came the internet, which allowed gamers to finally satisfy whatever sick curiosity they may have had for the game. Whether through questionable downloading, or by indie retailers putting the game on an SNES cartridge as some kind of joke, people were finally able to see exactly why no one wanted to sell it to begin with. Hong Kong ’97 is abysmal in every regard.

Honestly, Hong Kong ’97 is difficult to describe in mere words. Just about every aspect of the game is as baffling and absurd as they are atrociously designed. But this is a review, so we have to give it a shot.

First, let’s start with the music. As soon as you start the game (and I mean as soon as you start the game), you are bombarded with a five-second loop of the Chinese song “I Love Beijing Tiananmen” repeatedly. It never stops. Through the opening cutscene to a game over, and everything in between, the first two lines of I Love Beijing Tiananmen are constantly looped, without any break or pause under any circumstance. Also, it’s the only element of sound in the game, as there are no other music tracks, and zero sound effects to speak of.

As dumbfounding as this audio “quality” is, it’s actually the least of Hong Kong ’97’s slip-ups. Next, let’s talk about that notorious opening cinematic.

“Desperate much?”

After multiple screens of text asking retailers that HappySoft will buy and sell games, you are introduced to the “story” of the game. In 1997, the Transfer of Sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China is taking place (an accurate prediction on the game’s part). To counter the threat of Chinese rule, the Hong Kong government assigns Chin (represented by a stock photo of Jackie Chan) – an unspecified relative of Bruce Lee – to wipe out “All 1.2 billion f***in’ ugly reds.”

Wait, that’s not all.

To combat Chin, the Chinese government is researching a means to take the deceased Chinese leader Tong Shao Ping (represented by a stock photo of real-life, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who was still alive at the time of the game’s release), and transform him into an “ultimate weapon.”

My words simply can’t do this intro justice. This opening cinematic is just so absurd on so many levels that it has to be seen to be believed.

“This picture is beyond a thousand words.”

After the opening, the “game” immediately and abruptly begins without warning. Players take control of Chin in what basically looks like a parody of the shoot-em-up genre. Chin throws nonspecific white balls at enemies, who appear from the top of the screen. Occasionally, car enemies will appear from the sides of the screen. Defeat three cars (something that takes about a minute and a half), and the “ultimate weapon” Tong Shao Ping appears (still little more than the same photo of Deng Xiaoping’s head from the intro). Defeat Tong Shao Ping, and everything starts over. The gameplay (I use that word very loosely) is just an asinine, endless loop, much like the music.

Weirder still, the backgrounds that the action takes place on are all random stock photos, ranging from Maoist propaganda to the Coca-Cola logo (of which I doubt Coco-Cola gave any consent).

The bizarre visuals don’t stop there. Every enemy you defeat turns into a poorly-cropped photo of a nuclear explosion, with Tong Shao Ping exploding into dozens of square-contained mushroom clouds. It’s downright laughable.

Oh, and should you get hit even once, you are immediately (IMMEDIATELY) taken to the game over screen, which has got to be Hong Kong ’97’s most tasteless element (and that’s saying something).

Hong Kong ’97’s game over screen is notorious for showing what appears to be a real-life crime scene photo of a body, due to the date and time being featured in the corner of the picture (though the horrendous pixelation makes it difficult to discern the more graphic aspects of the photo, thankfully). Call me overly sensitive, but this isn’t a history book or something where the use of such a photo would have any kind of context. Having a photo like this in a game is just distasteful.

After the offensive game over screen, you go back to the opening of the game (the part where HappySoft is desperate to buy and sell games). You can speed up the screens of the intro, but you can’t skip it outright. Get hit just once and you have to view it all over again.

There’s really nothing else to say. As a game, Hong Kong ’97 is as poorly-designed as they come. It doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. It’s empty, shallow and broken. But what makes Hong Kong ’97 all the worse who how distasteful it is: the desperate advertising in the opening, using brand logos and celebrity likenesses without any permission, and worst of all, using what is probably a real photo of a violent crime scene as a game over screen make Hong Kong ’97 a “game” that knows no shame.

Up until this point, my rating scale has remained a 1 through 10 system. But Hong Kong ’97 has broken me and my rating system. Hong Kong ’97 deserves nothing more than nothing.

 

0

Where’s Waldo (NES) Review

Where’s Waldo? on the NES is 8-bit Hell. It’s a game so fundamentally flawed and aesthetically unpleasing that it has to rank as one of the worst video games of all time.

For those unfamiliar, Where’s Waldo were a series of picture books which featured complex images featuring the titular character of Waldo hidden amongst the countless other characters and goings-on on the page. Though his candy cane-striped shirt, cap and coke bottle glasses may lead you to think he’d stand out like a sore thumb, the books were really creative in how they hid the character on each page, with plenty of other characters and objects sharing at least one similar trait to Waldo, to throw the reader off.

The books were a lot of fun, but they don’t exactly scream to be translated into video game form. But that’s just what happened on the NES in 1991, and it was a chaotic mess. But don’t take my word for it, just look at a screenshot of the game.

“Good lord, where IS Waldo?! Where is anything?!”

Under any circumstance, this would be one of the absolute ugliest NES games ever. But this is a case where bad graphics actually do equal a bad game, because the whole point is to find Waldo. But how can you tell what anything is when it looks like this?!

Most of the stages use this setup, and players have to find Waldo by hovering a square cursor over different sections of the picture, and selecting where they think Waldo is. If they find Waldo, they move on to the next stage. If not, time is taken away from the countdown timer. If the time reaches zero, it’s game over. Of course, you can’t pause the game at any point, to ensure you don’t cheat.

At the very least, Where’s Waldo? tried to take advantage of the medium in just about the only way it could, with Waldo switching locations in every playthrough. Something a stagnant picture in a book couldn’t accomplish. Not that it really matters, when the game itself makes finding Waldo an unfair situation with its horrendous visuals.

The game features three different difficulty settings, with the harder difficulties giving you less time, a smaller square, and bigger pictures with more characters.

Players are given a fair amount of time to find Waldo, so you might think about just randomly clicking everywhere until you find him. But that won’t serve you any good in the long run, because the time limit isn’t set to each level, but for the whole game.

As it is, Where’s Waldo would already be an abysmal game, but it’s this time limit for the whole game that really kills it, because the developers were seemingly sadistic in finding ways to cheapen this aspect.

You may notice when starting up the game that Waldo is holding a countdown timer…which is already ticking down. That’s right, before you even “play” the game, the clock is already running. But the worst part of it all is that, in between stages, you are taken to a map screen where Waldo walks to the next stage – where the player has no control and has no ability to skip – with the clock still counting down the whole time. And Waldo doesn’t simply walk to the next stage, either. Instead, he walks around aimlessly, zig-zagging all over the place before making his way to stages. It is an obnoxiously cheap trick that makes the game blatantly work against the player.

Where’s Waldo? does try its hand at some variety, with three of the game’s eight stages featuring different gameplay. But these stages may actually be worse than the rest of the game.

There’s a cave stage which is pitch black, with Waldo only showing up sporadically for the player to find them. If they manage to do just that, players then take control of Waldo (complete with slippery controls) and guide him to the exit. An hourglass icon also appears when controlling Waldo, but it’s actually detrimental and takes away a good chunk of time. It’s not like it’s an enemy that chases Waldo, it shows up and looks like a power-up or something. So it’s basically just another cheap trick for first-time players.

Then there’s the subway stage which – good heavens above – is on par with the telephone booth segments from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure as one of the most unnecessary, convoluted, and downright horrible stages in gaming history. Here’s another screenshot to give you an idea.

The goal of this stage is to guide that tiny, blue box (apparently a subway car) to Waldo and his glasses, and then work your way to the other side. The whole thing just looks like a jumbled mess, and because the game never has the courtesy to tell you what’s going on, I didn’t even realize you could change the directions of each space by pressing the B button until my fourth try. The worst part of this stage, however, is the character other than Waldo. This guy moves around the board, and if you come into contact with him, he will subtract from the timer at an absurd pace. You can blast through the previous stages in a minute’s time (dead serious), and this guy can eat up your remaining time in a brief second.

The final stage also changes things up…with a slot machine. The two slots on the sides move at a pace that you can time, but the middle slot moves so fast that getting all three slots to land on Waldo (the stage’s goal) is nothing more than an act of sheer luck. What’s worse, your cursor on this stage moves so slowly between the three buttons, that you’ll likely lose a lot of time going from one button to the next. It’s a disaster.

In case all this was telling enough about the game’s terrible quality, Where’s Waldo’s title screen features some of the most wretched, ear-piercing, headache-inducing “music” in video game history. So in case the game wasn’t hard enough on the eyes, it also assaults your ears.

Simple put, Where’s Waldo? belongs on a shortlist of history’s very worst video games. The Where’s Waldo? books may be colorful and fun, but the game is anything but.

 

1

Superman (NES) Review

Superman NES

Though video games based on licensed properties are always a bit of a gamble in terms of quality, comic book superheroes have faired a little better than most. There have been a number of good video games based on superheroes, and even sone great ones (mostly thanks to Batman). But this does not apply to Superman, who is seemingly cursed when it comes to making the transition into gaming.

Superman’s most notorious video game is his Nintendo 64 offering, which often ranks as one of the worst video games of all time. But good ol’ Superman was producing video game duds even before then, including a lackluster venture on the NES.

Superman on NES has to be one of the most boring games on the console. You play as Clark Kent, and can become Superman by entering phone booths. If you take too much damage, you revert back to Clark Kent.

Now, Clark can fight just as well as Superman (at least, as well as you can fight in this game), but only as Superman can you use your super powers, which include ice breath, flight and X-ray vision, among others.

The game is basically a sidescroller, with Clark/Supes able to jump and attack with the A and B buttons, respectively, and the select button using your assigned super power (which you can change via the pause menu). It sounds simple enough, but everything about the controls just feels way off.

The jumping is slow and floaty, and makes you feel like you’re jumping without gravity working against you. And the attack, well, I think it’s supposed to be a punch, but the animation doesn’t look any different from Clark Kent/Superman’s walk cycle, so it’s more of a nondescript lunge. What’s really weird is that if you keep punching while in the air, you’ll just stay in place. What really ruins the attack though is how awkward it is used against enemies. You can hit enemies without being particularly close to them, which makes the whole attack feel like a half-assed implementation.

Worse still are the super powers. The super powers can only be used in specific instances, with the flight ability being particularly head-scratching. Flight only works in particular areas, but there’s no visual indication as to where you can use it. If it works, you may fly to a different part of the map, or to the top of a building to fight more enemies. If it doesn’t work, you still have to watch Superman fly upward and then come back down, even though nothing comes of it. So you’re usually just wasting the flight power watching the same piece of animation over and over, and you’ll probably only effectively use it out of pure luck.

I can understand that the abilities are meant to be situational (though it would be nice to use at least some of them outside of their specific situations), but the game fails to give you any idea when you should use the super powers. It’s annoyingly cryptic.

Not that it would matter too much anyway, as the gameplay that is present just feels so flat and boring. You just walk around Metropolis and punch(?) bad guys, and not much else. There’s no fluidity to the controls, and the gameplay is never engaging.

To add insult to injury, there’s not a single NPC in the game that says anything even remotely helpful. The people of Metropolis are apparently the simplest people on Earth, as they’re only capable of saying short sentences that have no meaning. What’s worse is that the text appears so slowly, that even their shortest lines take an unnecessary amount of time.

On top of all of this, the game is just downright ugly, probably one of the worst-looking games on the NES. The characters have a cartoonishly stumpy look to them, which was probably the result of rushing the game, as opposed to any attempt at a novel art direction for the property. The colors are garish, and the backgrounds bland. It’s just a very ugly game. Complimenting the ugly visuals is a ghastly, irritating soundtrack (the game never even bothers making a synthesized attempt at John Williams’ Superman theme).

Superman on NES is one of the worst games on the system, though it currently ranks as the second-worst game to star the Man of Steel. It’s so boring and so bland. There’s nothing ‘super’ about it.

 

1.5

Dark Castle Review

Dark Castle

Dark Castle is unquestionably the worst game on the Sega Genesis, and equals – and perhaps outdoes – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure for the title of worst video game I’ve ever played. It’s that bad.

For starters, the game looks like one of the uglier 8-bit titles. It’s hard to believe it was released on the same console in the same year as Sonic the Hedgehog, which still looks colorful and vibrant today. Dark Castle is an ugly game that was visually outdated on its release.

Graphics are only the smallest of Dark Castle’s offenses, however. The most prominent, game-breaking flaw of Dark Castle are the controls. It is the worst controlling game I have ever played.

You play as some guy with a mullet in a green shirt, who controls so poorly he may outdo Lester the Unlikely as my most hated video game character. This dude can only pick up throwing rocks for weapons, and is the worst jumper in gaming history.

Jumping is performed by pressing the A button, but the dude can only jump forward, and there’s no way to change his jumping height or distance, which makes any platforming feel awkward and clunky. And to throw rocks, you have to tap the D-pad up or down to position his arm just right (it can be positioned in any 180-degree direction in front of him), and then press the C button to throw a rock. It is beyond tedious.

All the more baffling is his ducking ability. If you press down on the D-pad along with the B button, he ducks for a split second. If you want to keep ducking, you press up on the D-pad and B. Why on earth two different actions for ducking were necessary is beyond me, and holding the up direction in order to stay ducking is just confusing.

The control scheme itself is horrendously awkward, but it’s made all the worse by its execution. I can’t even begin to describe how off the controls feel with the character’s movements and actions. The character will continuously trip (seemingly over nothing), he’ll stop and get dizzy from falling two feet (leading you susceptible to enemies, all of which kill you in one hit). And falling any higher than that will kill you.

Then there are functions which don’t even seem to work. To climb on ropes, you have to jump towards them and hold up on the D-pad, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. You’ll also fall if you try to move from one rope to another too quickly. There are indiscernible dead-ends left and right, and sometimes there’s no definition between the foreground and background, with one wall in particular seemingly in the background, until you reach a certain point of it and it becomes something of a wall right in front of you.

Dark CastleWith the aforementioned abysmal controls for throwing rocks, it’s an immense chore just to hit enemies. Most of the enemies are generic bats and rats, which are so small you have to be on the pixel to hit them, but there are also some human enemies as well, as well as small gnome-like creatures that make the most obnoxious sound effect in video game history. All of these enemies move quickly and usually come in hordes. Not to mention they either respawn or get back up after mere seconds. In order to rotate the character’s arm to throw the rocks (already a tedious endeavor) the character has to stand perfectly still. Combine that with his constant dizziness and tripping, and you’re basically a sitting duck no matter where you go.

The controls alone already make the game a disaster. But to add insult to injury, the game also plays some unfair tricks on the player. I’ve already mentioned the confusing wall and quick-fire enemy respawns, but there’s more where that came from, including a dungeon area which you’ll be visiting time and time again.

The dungeon is just a single screen, with a man whipping prisoners at the bottom and rows of rats, bats and human enemies above. Rocks pass right through the whipping man, and in order to subdue him you need to grab a nearby flail and hit him with it (before you think this is a new weapon, you automatically drop it as soon as you knock the whip guy out, and you can’t pick it back up again). You need to get past the whip guy while he’s unconscious (which, again, only lasts a few seconds) so you can grab one of two nearby keys. If the whipping guy gets back up while you’re getting the key, you’re dead, because you can’t get past him. But what’s even worse is that one of the two keys – which have no visual distinction from each other – is a trap that will kill you, and it randomly changes each time you try to grab it. So you go through all that trouble for a mere guessing game that has a 50/50 chance of making you start over.

That’s not even the worst part about the dungeon. The worst thing about it is how often you’ll get there. It seems like just about every room in the blasted castle somehow has its own way of getting you back there. If you stand still for too long, the floor might fall from underneath you, and it’s back to the dungeon. Other times you might trip and fall into a pit, and it’s back to the dungeon. In perhaps the most aggravating example, if you take too long to get past certain rooms, a weird gargoyle/flying monkey will appear – which you can’t avoid – and will then grab you and drop you into the dungeon. Naturally the only way out of the dungeon is to somehow get past all the enemies above and leave via the upper right corner of the screen, in which case you need to backtrack several rooms to get back to where you were. You are honestly just better off resetting the game.

Other unfair elements include the rat enemies. Not only are they hard to hit with rocks, but sometimes you can walk past them without any problems, and other times they kill you. There is no way to tell when they will kill you, making the act of going passed them a gamble.

Dark CastlePerhaps Dark Castle’s most humorous blunder is its music. The sole piece of music in the entire game – from the title screen to the end – is just a looped segment of a synthesized version of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which gets really old, really fast. You have the option of turning the music off in the pause menu, but here’s where things get really hilarious. You have to turn it off when a note isn’t playing to ensure you turn it off. If you turn it off during a note, that note will be sustained for either a short while, or until you turn the music back on and try again. Yes, you could play through the game with one long, continuous note through all of it. It is the most baffling audio slip-up I’ve ever heard in a game.

On top of that, the game’s sound effects are an assault on the ears. It seems every enemy is constantly bombarding you with insipid sounds, and the main character sounds like a total buffoon. If Dark Souls represents the pinnacle of video game sound effects, then Dark Castle sits at the exact opposite end of that spectrum.

If there’s any act of mercy to be found in Dark Castle, it’s that you can actually make the game considerably shorter right from the start. When the game begins, our idiotic hero stands in front of four doors, two with question marks above them, one with a shield, and one with the letters “BK” at the top (which apparently stands for ‘Black Knight’). Each door leads to a different section of the castle, though the whole thing is ultimately connected.

Normally, the two question mark doors are supposed to give you a fireball when completed, and the shield door gives you a shield, both of which are meant to make the final boss easier. But if you just go to the BK door, you only have three screens to worry about, the third of which is the encounter with the Black Knight (who fights you by throwing his never-ending supply of beer mugs at you, making him the goofiest final boss imaginable).

Still, even if you shorten the suffering, playing Dark Castle is still suffering. Its abysmal controls, lack of clarity, unfair obstacles, annoying sounds, blatantly unfinished elements, ugly graphics and all-around poor game design make it one of the worst video games of all time.

 

1

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure Review

Bill & Ted

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure on the NES may very well be the worst video game I have ever played. It’s right up there with Wizard of Oz on SNES and Superman 64. It’s a game that’s so bad, that I can’t even begin to comprehend how anyone involved with it could have thought any of its aspects were anywhere near finished. It’s a broken, unplayable disaster.

The game serves as something of a sequel to the 1980s comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The film was not exactly a classic, but it’s a fondly remembered and pretty entertaining comedy about two idiots (Bill and Ted, obviously) who are about to fail their history exams, and go back in time to find historical figures to help out with said history exam.

It’s not the worst concept for a movie to be turned into a video game, but boy, the execution is nothing short of abysmal.

In this video game quasi-sequel, Bill and Ted are informed that space-time rebels have gone back in time and put historical figures in different time periods. Why they did this is anybody’s guess, but the grand crescendo of this crime is that it means Bill and Ted’s band, the Wyld Stallyns, will miss their big concert that will make them big stars in the future. Bill and Ted are then sent back in time to restore the historical figures to their proper time.

Here’s where things go completely off-the-rails. Like in the movie, Bill and Ted travel through time via phone booth, so there’s an in-game phonebook to flip through featuring the different historical figures and their phone numbers (don’t ask why Cleopatra would have a phone).

Now, you would think that this would work like a stage select screen. You’d call a number, and go to that level. But that’s asking for way too much from this game. You still have to go through the levels in a linear order (making the whole phonebook kind of pointless), with the only time period you can even travel to at any given time being the one with a blinking phone number under the normal phone number (making these phone numbers utterly pointless as well). What is the point of any of this?!

"The most pointless segment of any video game I can remember."

“The most pointless segment of any video game I can remember.”

After you dial the number, you aren’t taken right into the level (of course you’re not). Instead, you go to some bizarre mini-game where the phone booth bounces around the place, and you have to try to navigate it to reach the numbers that match the phone number you just dialed! Again, I have to ask why this was even remotely necessary.

It is possible for this section to play itself if you wait long enough (again, pointless), but that takes away some of your coins, which are required to dial future numbers.

If you actually have the patience to make it into the stage, you are thrown into a somewhat isometric viewpoint, with the stages in a 45 degree slant. Words cannot describe how awful the controls are here. Walking on the pathways feels so incredibly awkward. Your character seems to walk around all over the place when you’re just trying to go in a single direction.

What’s worse is if you get off the pathways. Sometimes, you can walk just fine when going off the path. Other times, you are stuck in place, and have to continuously jump to get back on the path. But being off the path means your jumping distance is greatly reduced, and you fall flat on your ass whenever you land. It is an unnecessary hassle that defies all reason in the realm of video games.

So how do you find the historical figures? By luring them out with bait, which take the forms of different objects based on whatever figure you’re currently after. You find this “bait” by randomly jumping around the place. You can find it by jumping on the path, off the path, on a rock, on a tree, it doesn’t matter. You have no visual or audio cues as to where the objects are, you just keep jumping like a madman and hope to get lucky.

"Okay, now which way is south???"

“Okay, now which way is south???”

You can talk to passersby to get hints about where to find the bait, but the hints are as useless as anything else in this game. People will tell you to search in directions like north or south, which doesn’t help in the slightest as there’s no map or compass, and again, the stages are in 45 degree slants, so good luck figuring out which way’s which. They’ll also tell you things like “look around the four rocks” even if there are multiple quartets of rocks on the stage. It’s nothing short of atrocious that the developers would think any of these “hints” could possibly help the player.

To make matters even worse, you talk to people by running into them, but many of these people will also punish you for running into them by taking coins or throwing you in jail (which you can simply walk out of, but still). And of course there’s no variety between NPCs in a stage, so you just run into them hoping they’ll help out (not that they really help, anyway).

Even worse still, there are some NPCs that chase after you, and if they catch up, they’ll throw you in jail for the hell of it, which becomes a recurring nuisance. You can slow these grabby-hands down by throwing your coins, which distracts them, but again, you need the coins. Or you can temporarily send every NPC on the stage into a dance craze if you find a cassette tape and throw it on the ground.

On the subject of music, the game has an entirely forgettable soundtrack, and the music awkwardly stops after a single loop (though “escaping” from jail will lead to another loop). And to top it all off, it’s just a really ugly game to look at, with eyesore environments and indefinable characters.

I wish I could accurately describe just how truly horrible this game is. Every one of its aspects could be described as a crime against game design. It’s broken, cryptic, clunky, awkward, ugly, and it’s dumber than Bill and Ted ever were.

The only thing “excellent” about Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure is how excellently it out-sucks just about any other bad game I’ve ever played.

 

1

Ghostbusters (NES) Review

Ghostbusters NES

Unlike the mediocre 2016 reboot, the Ghostbusters of the 1980s was a cultural phenomenon, and became the most successful comedy of that decade. With video games also growing into prominence during the 1980s, it only makes sense that Ghostbusters would find its way to the world of video games. With Nintendo in particular becoming a powerhouse in the gaming industry, a Ghostbusters game of course found its way on the NES.

Too bad it really sucked.

Ghostbusters on the NES is one of the most tedious and monotonous video games ever released. In fact, it barely resembles the film in which it’s based at all.

As soon as you begin the game, you’ll find what’s in front of you to be nothing short of baffling. You have a screen that is supposed to represent a city, but instead looks like disjointed green boxes with pictures of buildings in them. In the center of this “map” is a building labelled “Zuul” (attempting to be named after the film’s villain, which is inaccurate as Gozer was the name of the villain, Zuul was one of his followers). You’ll also notice a shop, gas station and the Ghostbusters’ headquarters on the map.

Because the game can barely contain what is present on the screen, don’t expect to control the classic Ecto-1 car. Instead, on the map screen you control the Ghostbusters logo. Before you think you simply move the logo to a location and select a stage, you first have to buy the Ghostbusters equipment at the shop (don’t the Ghostbusters make their own equipment?).

So first you head over to the shop, but instead of going straight to the shop, you first have to finish a driving stage. These driving stages are played from a top-down perspective, with their fast movements and ugly graphics quickly becoming an eyesore. Here, you actually control the Ecto-1, but it looks more like a cube with a tiny Union Jack on top.

During these driving stages, you have to collect canisters of gas, which show up so spontaneously you’ll probably miss them. All while avoiding reckless drivers who go out of their way to bump into you, which results in you having to pay for the damages. If you run out of money, you can’t buy the Ghostbusting equipment, and the game is over. And if you run out of gas, two Ghostbusters come out of the car to slowly push it to the gas station, which is an absolutely needless addition to the game that only serves to make it all the worse.

Once you (finally) get to the shop, you have a variety of items to buy, but you can only hold four at a time. You can buy beams to hold on to the ghosts and well as traps to capture them, as well as ghost armor and ghost bait which are used at a later point in the game.

After the pointless shopping section, you are back on the world map, where you must find one of the squares that’s flashing red. You can enter these red squares, which will immediately take you to another driving stage. Once the driving section is over, you get to do some ghostbusting. Or, at least, an approximation thereof.

You move two Ghosbtusers, one drops the trap and shoots his beam directly upwards, while you can continue to move the other from side to side to shoot his beam at the ghosts. You just need to snag the ghosts, bring them to the trap within an incredibly short amount of time, and that’s it. Just a single screen of monotonous ghostbusting.

Each ghost you successfully capture gives you extra money, which you then need to buy more items (the first traps you can afford need to be emptied via trip to Ghostbusters HQ, but if you have enough dough you can buy one that doesn’t need to be emptied, making the original traps another useless element in the game). Thus the process repeats itself again and again. It is beyond tedious.

This formula already makes the game an absolute bore, but after maybe an hour of keeping this up, the “Zuul building” finally unlocks, which is where the formula finally changes, though not exactly for the better.

Once inside the Zuul building, the Ghostbusters must ascend an absurdly-long staircase while avoiding ghosts. In order to move the Ghostbusters, you must tap the A button non-stop, and press B to backtrack should the ghosts come closing in. If you get hit three times, the game is over, and you have to start the whole thing from the beginning.

This stair segment is when the aforementioned armor and ghost bait come into play, but they don’t do a whole lot. The armor only adds a couple extra hits to the Ghostbusters, while the bait only temporarily keeps the ghosts at bay, as once the screen scrolls upward as the Ghostbusters continue their ascent, the bait disappears and the ghosts are back on your tail.

If, by some miracle, you actually make it up the stairs, you have a dud of a final encounter against Gozer, followed by one of the most infamous ending screens in video game history.

Ghostbusters on NES is simply a disaster of a game. Everything about it is tedious and boring, with many of its elements feeling utterly pointless. On top of all that, the graphics were ugly even in their day, and the music consists of a single, out-of-tune loop of the Ghostbusters theme, which plays during the entirety of the game, non-stop!

Ghostbusters was one of the most iconic films of the 80s, but its NES adaptation should go down as one of the all-time lows of licensed games.

Ghostbusters NES

1.5

Super Pitfall Review

Super Pitfall

Super Pitfall is one of the worst video games of all time. It is cryptic and glitched to irredeemable levels, making it an unbearable, unplayable gaming experience.

The original Pitfall on the Atari 2600 is seen as one of the most fondly remembered games from the era, but its NES sequel deserves no warm feelings of nostalgia. It’s a game so broken that its only real accomplishment is that it gave the video game medium its most ironic use of the word “super.”

In Super Pitfall, players take control of Pitfall Harry, who must navigate a labyrinth to find a lost princess. It sounds pretty standard, but its execution is far below even the most basic of games.

Pitfall Harry has two basic actions: Jumping and shooting. The game manages to fumble even these most basic of gaming actions. The jumping feels awkward and stiff, and Pitfall Harry can only shoot directly in front of him, which does very little good considering almost all of the enemies crawl on the ground. So unless you time a shot just right when a frog is jumping towards you, or manage to be standing in the right spot when an incoming bird or bat are flying by, you aren’t hitting squat. So the main character’s basic controls don’t work. That alone would ruin the experience. But that’s only the beginning.

The entire game is just cryptic beyond belief. The whole thing evokes the worst kind of trial-and-error, with flat-out unfair enemies and traps (the very first ladder in the game leads to an automatic death). There’s never any indication of where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do. It’s just a big guessing game, one in which most guesses lead to death.

Even worse still, things like ammo and secret items that are required to beat the game are all invisible, and located in the most random of places. Even if you manage to reach the princess, nothing happens unless you have all the secret items with you. And backtracking to find them is such a hassle you’d be better off restarting the game (though the best option is to not play Super Pitfall at all).

"Gold is the only item that isn't invisible, and all it does is give you a few extra points."

“Gold is the only item that isn’t invisible, and all it does is give you a few extra points.”

So how do you make these invisible items appear? By jumping in certain spots next to the items. Are there any visual or audio cues to know where these spots are? Of course not. So you’re basically jumping around all over the place like an idiot, blindly hoping that one of the items is nearby. All while avoiding enemies that you can’t hit but can kill you with a single touch.

The game’s cryptic qualities don’t even stop there. Super Pitfall contains secret warp zones to fast travel to different areas of the labyrinth, but once again, there’s no indication as to where they are, and you’ll probably just fall or jump into them by pure accident. One of the game’s most notorious moments is one such warp zone that’s found by jumping into a particular enemy bird, which looks no different than the other enemy birds that kill you when touched. So the game isn’t even consistent with its rules.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, Super Pitfall is also glitched to high heaven. Jumping will often lead Pitfall Harry to get stuck momentarily, and I kid you not, I even died by jumping in one instance (much to my utter confusion and the delight of my friends watching). Just in case the intended gameplay weren’t torturous enough, the glitches ensure that Super Pitfall is downright unplayable.

Combine all of this with the game’s ugly, uninspired visuals and grand total of two musical tracks (both of which are irritating, seconds-long loops), and Super Pitfall is one of the worst things to have ever happened to the NES and, most assuredly, one of the worst video games of all time.

 

1