Monday, September 28, 2009

The World's Greatest Assholes

Is it possible to label an inanimate object as an asshole? Because, boy howdy, if you've ever played the above cartridge, you know what I'm talking about. You know just how possible it is that a few ounces of plastic circuits can seem like the living, breathing, pulsating embodiment of foetid evil.

I know less about the current state of the video game world than I do about quantum physics - ie, not a whole lot. But what I have heard about contemporary games like Ultimate Alliance or Arkham Asylum makes me envious. You see, back in the day, if you wanted to play a video game featuring your favorite four-color heroes in tales of derring-do, you were pretty much SOL. Sure, there were a few superhero games made for the NES and more for the SNES - and a few for the SNES were even pretty good (not Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade's Revenge, however, which is verifiable proof of the God's nonexistence). But in the beginning, despite the fact that the audiences for video games and comic books overlapped considerably, most comic book games were pretty poor. Movie tie-ins were generally dire (something I never really understood, but apparently it's pretty much CW at this point that movie games have always sucked across the board), but comic book tie-ins were worse. Who remembers the Silver Surfer game? That one actually looked pretty good, graphics-wise, but was almost impossible to win because it was impossible not to die. You know how in comics the Surfer is pretty much invincible, and can only be physically harmed by great cosmic power? In the game, he died when he was attacked by frogs. He died when he was hit by small weapons fire. He did when he flew into platforms. He just basically died, period.

But as bad as the Surfer was - and I should point out that I actually beat the Surfer's game, which at the time seemed an achievement on par with passing the oral defense for a PhD - it plays like Super Mario 3 next to LJN's X-Men. Calling this thing a game is stretching the point. First of all, you can't move - you just sort of wiggle. It's an overhead view, so you can't really see anything distinctive about your characters, other than they are vague lumpen dwarf things moving about in a surreal, ill-defined world of labyrinths and puzzles. In retrospect, it sort of plays like you imagine a Teratoid Heights game would - only, instead of the poor, unresponsive controls being a symbol of some kind of dysfunctional, existential reality-altered perception, the controls in X-Men just make it looks like the characters are wiggling when they should in face be running or dodging or doing something to avoid being hit by everything on the screen simultaneously. I don't think I ever made it past a few feet on the map for any level. It wasn't just hard, it actively worked against intelligibility.

This is, let's be frank, the worst video game I have ever played in my life. It gains added points in the field of soul-crushing despair due to the fact that it's based on a license that so many kids and pre-teens in the late 80s would have killed to see made into an awesome game. How many of these same kids rushed home from the store, unwrapped their copy of X-Men in a fevered rush, and proceeded to watch their fondest desires fade into the infinite abyss of gnarled purplish pixelated hell? There are few things that more define an asshole than arbitrarily crushing the hopes and dreams of children.


No comments :