There was a time when we’d use Metacritic to compile our annual round-up of terrible games. As popular as these pieces were, in terms of page views at least, we’d always hit bumps along the way.
Scores varying between formats were the least of our problems. In most instances, we hadn’t experienced the games in question for ourselves. This, of course, made them tricky to talk about, forcing us to rely on second-hand opinions. We’re also pretty sure that Metacritic’s ‘worst list’ was almost entirely occupied by casual WiiWare and DSi games one year, reviewed by just a scant handful of critics. Hardly thrilling subject matter.
And so we no longer use Metacritic as a reference, choosing to talk about our own hands-on experiences instead. Some of the games below we received to review while others we picked up cheaply, knowing full well that they’re bad.
Spare us no sorrow. Bad games often have their own dubious pleasures. Amusing glitches, terrible voice acting, typos, poorly directed cut-scenes. Between the five games below, we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing all these ‘quirks’ first-hand.
The third stage of this psychological stealth shooter involves a PlayStation 2-quality shootout in a multi-storey car park. To paint a better picture: the controls are clunky, the shooting mechanics feel ham-fisted and sloppy, and the cover system can’t be relied on. It’s like something from a pre-Gears of War age. We had already experienced a game-breaking glitch that caused us to fall through the floor, so you can imagine our confusion after falling through an air vent into a weird seemingly unfinished area set inside a sewer.
The textures appeared unfinished and the lighting effects weren’t behaving themselves, obscuring half the room. It appeared there was a puzzle to solve that entailed shutting off the power to cross a walkway, but after ten minutes of head scratching – and one checkpoint reload for good measure – we took to Google to find a solution. Turns out we weren’t alone in being confused. A user on Steam also found themselves trapped in this room, and likewise wondered if they’d accidentally fallen into a scrapped area.
Turns out this was a brand-new puzzle the developers added after the game launched, as they felt it needed more abstract/psychological moments. That’s to say, they patched their already frustrating game with an additional broken, seemingly unfinished, and downright confusing area. Now that’s counterintuitive.
After finally figuring the puzzle out, we found ourselves in a boss battle of sorts which entailed running away from a colossal statue with glowing red eyes. As we frantically ran, not even stopping to look behind, we made it unscathed to the doorway ahead. Inside was an open manhole cover with a ladder leading down, so we took the plunge…and landed outside the level, able to roam around freely in a white open void. Thankfully, the game behaved itself on the second (third?) checkpoint reload and the manhole took us back to the multi-storey car park as it was supposed to.
We gave up playing on the next stage – an extremely unforgiving stealth section with no radar or other stealth game fundamentals, other than a stealth kill option and the ability to crouch.
As bad games go, Past Cure has slightly more going for it than most. The visuals are appealing in places, the voice acting is more than passable, and there’s a degree of variety between missions. But with glitches galore and fundamentally flawed mechanics, only the most determined will ever see it through to the end. For us, even the lure of some easy achievements wasn’t enough.
We have an inkling Extinction was once destined to be an all-singing, all-dancing, big budget title with way more variety than the final product. But when budget publisher Modus jumped onboard for publishing duties a spanner was thrown into the works, prompting the developers to dial down their vision somewhat. Just a theory, we should note, but one that stands to reason.
Whatever happened during development, this shouldn’t have launched at full price. Amazingly, there was even a £64.99 deluxe edition with bonus DLC. We pity anybody who coughed up full whack on day one, especially at sixty-five quid, as there’s so little content and variety on offer that even at £24.99 Extinction would’ve come under scrutiny.
It’s a hack ‘n slasher that involves protecting citizens from generic goblin foes while a rampaging giant smashes through a whitewashed city. Defeating goblins charges a meter, which once full sets the nondescript protagonist’s sword ablaze. It’s then time to take down the giant, which entails targeting body parts via a slow-mo feature. Take out their legs and they’ll fall to the floor, allowing their back to be scaled before chopping off their head – something not quite as grisly as it sounds here. If the giant destroys too much of the city, or too many citizens die, then the mission is failed.
This isn’t Extinction’s first mission, you understand. It’s the entire game. This cycle repeats from start to finish. Sometimes you must take down multiple giants, which occasionally have padlocks(!) on their armour which must be destroyed first, and a few new goblin types are also introduced along the way but that’s it for variety.
Extinction is so repetitive and slim on ideas that after around an hour of play missions become auto-generated. It’s as if the developers gave up entirely. It’s also around this point that the Xbox achievements start flagging as rare, making it obvious that most gamers simply gave up too.
Did we mention the deluxe edition cost sixty-five flaming quid?
When reviews of Agony went live – roughly a week after launch, we should note – critics stood up, leaned out the nearest window and yelled “The name Agony is apt, because it’s pure agony to play.”
Or at least, gaming sites were rife with words to that effect. Agony may look and sound enticing going on screenshots and concept alone – being a savage, gore-filled, stomp through hell – but it’s an utter chore to play. The biggest issue, by far, is that the developers seemingly made it purposely disorientating. Corridors and paths often look alike, the pace is frustratingly slow, and it isn’t long until the ability to scale walls is introduced which makes navigating the levels all the more confusing.
Then, to top it all off, the focus changes from exploration to stealth early on, throwing you straight into the deep end while still adjusting to the wayward mechanics.
Just like Extinction, the Xbox One achievement ratios are telling signs of woefulness. Even such early accomplishments as finishing the second level flag as ‘rare’ (currently unlocked by less than 31% of players), and as of yet not a single gamer on True Achievements can boast of a 100% completion.
This inexpensive indie platformer was almost excused from this list on the grounds that it was clearly made on a minuscule budget by a very small team. The more we thought about it though, the more we were able to justify its inclusion.
Deep Ones was intended to be a modern-day ZX Spectrum style platformer, which sounds both intriguing and enticing, but there’s an undeniable stench of laziness about it. It was as if the developers hoped nobody would complain about the shoddy animation, harsh difficulty, and dull backdrops on the grounds that it’s meant to look and resemble something from the early/mid-80s.
Above all though, it’s a hugely missed opportunity. There’s no faux Spectrum boot-up screen, or even a pixel art title card. The use of a grungy, downbeat, modern electro musical score is another odd choice. There’s no excusing the sloppy mechanics, either – a wayward jumping arc, and a painfully slow rate of fire when using a harpoon gun. Two projectiles on screen at once is as much as the game can handle, yet the enemies come thick and fast. The boss battles, as frustrating as they are, do at least raise a grin as the cut-scenes are littered with amusing typos.
While playing through Deep Ones prior to launch we received a couple of messages on Xbox Live asking how we got the game early, and how it fared. This suggests there’s demand for a platformer that appears to have been coded on an ancient micro-computer. An untapped market, perhaps.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn
Out of all the games on this list, this long-delayed crowd-funded sequel is easily the best. That’s to say, it’s the best of a bad bunch – not terrible, but ordinary in every way. This is the kind of thing 5/10 review scores are reserved for.
It’s a scrolling brawler that has nothing going for it aside from the appearance of Shaquille O’Neal himself, and even then, there’s no shaking the feeling he didn’t realise what he was signing up for.
There’s a crass sense of humour present, including a storyline that involves tracking down, and killing, thinly disguised real-life celebrities that mutate into grotesque beasts during boss battles. The levels are rife with low-brow jabs relating to the celebs in question along with the occasional crass visual joke, including a Bill Crosby themed bar and a handful of jokes about Chinese factory workers.
The fighting mechanics are nothing special. Everything works, but on a functionary level, and there’s no real depth or any subtle nuances to speak of. It’s a case of button bashing your way to victory, only with the occasional set-piece, mini-boss, or interactive backdrop to spice things up.
Signs of the game’s troubled development (it was once destined for the Wii U) are frequent. The animation has a rough, amateurish, look to it and it’s visually dated, resembling a mid-life Xbox 360 title for the most part. Then to top it off, we came across a game breaking bug during one boss battle – if a certain enemy spawned from an enemy generator, it was impossible to progress. We had to restart this battle several times, hoping that this enemy type wouldn’t make an appearance. Once this bump in the road was overcome we were able to see Shaq Fu through to the end, albeit through gritted teeth. If it wasn’t for the crass humour, it would be entirely forgettable.
With a bit of luck, another 25 years will pass until the next Shaq Fu revival.