The philosophy of a video game corporation nowadays is that if a game doesn’t prove to be popular, then all support and everything to do with it should be dropped like a hot potato, and attention focused elsewhere.
This sort of thinking only started around ten years ago, when budgets for video games began to enter the millions. Or to be more precise, around the same time the Xbox arrived on the scene.
Even if Microsoft started work on a Super Smash Bros. clone we don’t think we’d see these faces again.
The Xbox’s launch line-up read like one giant checklist of genres to cover. Azurik: Rise of Perathia was to fill the adventure game hole and starred a blue-hued warrior out to collect elemental fragments, thus giving him the power to command wind, water, fire and earth. As launch games go it was a passable enough endeavour.
We’ve never noticed before how similar the character artwork is to that of Avatar. We can’t be the first to notice the similarities, surely?
Another launch game, this time designed to fill the role of being the Xbox’s launch-day RPG. Rather than play like Final Fantasy and the like, this had more in common with Gauntlet and other western RPGs.
Enemies were colour-coded – yellow enemies could only be defeated with lightning, and so forth. As a result, it was almost as if you were fighting toys which had escaped from a Monster in Your Pocket production line.
A sequel with co-op play was released but not published by Microsoft. Instead Majesco picked it up for a budget release.
Ah, Blinx. Is it all right for us to say that the character design held some appeal? He was a menace with a cheeky grin, but at the same time quite adorable looking. We also liked the fact that his eyes were Xbox green.
Quite what Microsoft were thinking getting Japanese developer Artoon to handle what was supposed to be the Xbox’s mascot is beyond us. We assume that it was because the studio had a lot of ex-Sega staff at the time, but even so their previous games had been less than great, including Pinobee for GBA and PSone and Ghost Vibration for PlayStation 2.
Reviews were mixed but it sold well enough to warrant a sequel, which was a lot less frustrating to play. Gamers, having gullibly fallen for the hype behind the first game, stayed away however and it soon found its way into the bargain bins.
Stubbs the Zombie
A lot of fuss was made around Stubbs the Zombie prior to release, due to being developed by an ex-Bungie co-founder. It also ran on the original Halo engine – something the developer/publisher was so proud about that they mentioned it on the front of the box.
Eddie Stubbs was a highly unlikely video game hero, and that’s no bad thing – he was a travelling salesman, shot dead by the father of his over protective girlfriend. Skip forward thirty years and Stubbs finds his eternal rest being disturbed by the creation of a new city on his resting place, and so sets off to eat the citizen’s brains.
Arriving in 2006, Stubbs the Zombie is often referred to as one of the Xbox’s last hurrahs.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies had a whiff of a rush job about it even though it was at one point in development for GameCube. The character design of the protagonist Cooper simply wasn’t up to Rare’s previous standards, nothing more than a spiky-haired teenager with bad taste in clothing. It has even been reported that Rare came up with the name Grabbed by the Ghoulies first and then decided to base a game around it.
For Xbox gamers looking for something similar to Luigi’s Mansion though, it fit that bill quite nicely.
We’re kind of cheating here as Brute Force featured a quartet of characters. Tex was the heavy-arms expert, cyborg Flint provided sniper support, stealthy female Hawk could turn invisible while Brutus was something of an odd one out – a giant green lizard creature with thermal vision and healing abilities. One magazine at the time joked about why the hell gamers would want to play a game where you spend a lot of time staring at a lizard’s arse.
Microsoft must have sunk a lot of money into Brute Force, expecting it to be as big as Halo. Development started in 2000 as a PC title only for Microsoft to suggest it become an Xbox-exclusive. Three years later it finally emerged to mixed reviews. According to Wikipedia it did beat Halo’s launch day sale figures, which we assume was down to the Xbox having a much larger userbase by that point.
Another failed attempt at providing the Xbox with a mascot, Voodoo Vince was a voodoo doll able to inflict pain on himself in order to harm the enemies around him. It sounded like an original feature on paper, but in reality it was no different from activating a smart bomb to kill everything around you.
The Xbox was never a console that could offer lots of quality platformers, but despite not quite living up to its potential this was one of the better ones. Microsoft never got around to releasing a patch so that it could be played on Xbox 360.
When first shown Nezmix received quite a bit of press attention as it was considered to be the game that would help sell the Xbox to the Japanese market. The fur effects on lead character Apollo and his mouse cohorts were quite impressive at the time too.
Sadly, it was also one of the first games to suggest that Microsoft weren’t heavily focused on quality control – reviews were terrible. As such it was only sold in chains of Toys R Us in the US, under the new name of Sneakers.
IGN gave it 2.0, describing it as a video game version of ‘tag’ in which you could only move on-rails backwards and forwards.
The worst first-party launch game ever? We’re certainly struggling to think of anything else as bad.