Tuesday Top Ten: Terrible Licensed Games


It’s that time again, friends—time for another Tuesday Top Ten!  Every week, we go through the top ten something-or-anothers related to our hobby, and this week is no different.  This week, we’re going to steel ourselves and look at the top ten worst licensed games—that aren’t E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.  I mean, come on; that one‘s a given.

It’s not easy to take established characters and settings from another medium and translate them into a video game.  What makes something wonderful to watch or read can, and often is, incredibly difficult to capture and hand to the players to control.  Some characters are just difficult to translate, period, for whatever powers they may possess, or perhaps a mentality that just doesn’t work well in a free-ish setting of a video game, or whatever else.  Then you have fan expectations to live up to, and you can see that developers and publishers have their work cut out for them.

It’s also somewhat difficult to translate a story from a “passive” medium like books or movies into the video game medium which is by its nature interactive.  If a gamer wants to ignore the story—or, worse, take an action that would bypass large sections of the plot—the developer has difficult choices to make.  Do they force the gamer to stick to a more linear path and thus try for a more cogent storyline, or do they let the player do whatever they want and risk the player forgetting enough of the story to make its resolution met with a lukewarm reception?  There really aren’t any easy “good” answers to that question, and it’s one developers face every time they make a licensed game.

Some licensed games turn out at least decent, even if a title is fun in spite of itself.  Some, though—some are simply terrible.  They hit the ground running straight through crap, and never let up.  Those are what today’s list is all about.

Now for the usual disclaimer: Where possible, I’ve included links to Let’s Plays, play-throughs, game-play videos, and so on.  Some, many, most, or all might well be utterly infused with profanity and vulgarity.  Keep that in mind as you ready that clicking-finger.

With that out of the way, let’s go!

10. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Hand-held games are not easy things to make.  Since they come with such strict memory restrictions, sacrifices have to be made, though a good developer with a good base to work with can come out with insanely fun titles.  Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones for the Game Boy Advance was not “fun”, though it did edge near “insane”.

On the one hand, the game was beautiful.  It really pushed the system’s capabilities for what graphics it could produce.  The game sounded pretty good, too.

On the other hand, the actual game play was mind-tearingly atrocious.  The controls were abysmal and incoherent; you could use your light-saber while moving, but not standing still; yet you could block while standing still, but not while moving.  Those two are the least irritating examples.  Aside from that, the levels were terribly simplistic.  You started at the left, and your goal was to get to the right.  That—that was it.  The side-scrolling levels were broken up with three-dimensional starfighter-piloting action, but they were short and you only got two levels to break up the monotony of the side-scrolling levels.  It was a terrible game, even for a brand notoriously hit-or-miss.

Game play footage can be found here.

09. The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction surprised gamers.  It truly was one of the best licensed games around—it handed you a character and a world nearly perfectly suited to said character, and told to just go have fun.  The story was decent and coherent, it handled great, it looked great—it was simply fantastic.

Which is why this game being so bad is a real head-scratcher.  Granted, this one was developed by a different company, but the engine was the same.  You’d think it wouldn’t have been that difficult to make a game at least passable, right?  You’d think.

Loosely based on the film of the same name, the first mis-step made was trying to make the Hulk the protector of Manhattan.  A good idea on paper, and it worked in the movies and comics alike, but in a video game—not so much.  The Hulk is best known for smashing and smashing and smashing—with some occasional bits of smashing on the side to shake things up.  That’s what made Ultimate Destruction so much blooming fun.  Here, you destroy more of the borough that you’re supposed to be protecting than the enemies do, which rather goes against the primary conceit of the game.

...only six vehicles? Really?

That was just the first thing.  The PlayStation 3/X-Box 360 version was “simply” boring and repetitive, with missions boiling down to protecting this person/thing or destroying that other thing over there.  As a video game character, turning the Hulk into a protector for escort missions or—worse—missions where the person/object to be protected is stationary and the Hulk runs around a little area like a green chicken feels—cheap.  It feels almost like an insult to a character gamers had just seen, only three years previous, allowed to destroy as only the Hulk can.

The PlayStation 2/Wii version of the game takes all of that and tops it off with a comparably lifeless city (Spider-Man 2, which had come out four years previous, had numerous pedestrians on the sidewalks and cars in the streets; here, not so much)—which looks terrible and is only half-visible anyway because the draw distance was absolutely atrocious.  It’s like they were handed the engine from a Ferrari and tried to put it into a Chevy Suburban with a sledgehammer and an acetylene torch, coming out of that mess thinking it’d be a work of art.

PlayStation 2 game play can be seen here, a whole lot of PlayStation 3 game play can be seen here, and a walkthrough for the Wii version can be found here.

08. Spider-Man 3
If you’ve read my review, you’d know that I rather enjoyed Spider-Man 2, based on the film of the same name.  It had a metric butt-ton of problems, sure, but it was fun in spite of itself.  As developer Treyarch was tasked to make the game based on the third movie for the PlayStation 3 and X-Box 360, the PlayStation 2 and Wii version was handed over to Vicarious Visions, a game company best known for ports—and ports that don’t really hold a candle to the original, to boot.

Now, the Treyarch-developed version wasn’t terrible.  It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible.  The Vicarious Visions-developed version—well, that’s the one on this list, and it’s here for a reason.  The Wii version had some odd motion control, where you used the nunchuck to point Spidey’s hands to swing.  It was—cumbersome.  On the other hand, it was at least novel, which is more than the PlayStation 2 version had.

The only really good thing about it was that, like its predecessor, it offered a large version of Manhattan, New York to run around in.  Everything else, well—it would be, sadly, fair to say everything else sucked eggs.

You had the basics—the very basics—of the film’s plot, yes, but they were spread thinly between odd sub-plots involving characters who would be completely unknown to gamers who had only seen the films.  While that’s fine on the face of it, the motivation for someone like, say, Morbius is difficult to distill into a few voice clips and still expect gamers to care.  What didn’t help was that the myriad sub-plots weren’t really woven together anywhere near cohesively.  You’d be in the middle of one thing, then expected to stop that and go tend to this other mayhem way over there without much of a good reason given as to why.

Aside from the plot missions, there were numerous side-missions—but they also sucked eggs.  They weren’t really “side missions” as much as random elements strung together to form something that tried, and failed, to masquerade as side-missions—made all the worse by an insanely obnoxious element that referenced an element of comics not only old even when this game was new, but best forgotten in the first place.

There are plenty of other things to harp on—the black suit was annoying yet boring, the combat was dull, and more.  Yet the worst part of it all was that it had pretty much whizzed right on the one thing Treyarch had made stupendously fun in Spider-Man 2—the web-swinging.  It was in that grey area between obnoxious and boring, made all the worse by the horrible animation of Spidey himself mid-swing.  Everything added up to a game that was a chore to play through, without anything but the existence of the city to redeem it.

Game play footage can be seen here and here.

07. Ghost Rider
While the film was received poorly by critics, it was at least considered passable for the average movie-goer.  If nothing else, it was a good “popcorn flick”, something to stare at while munching popcorn without turning your brain on.

The game, well—the story was supposedly penned by notable comic book writers, but it really didn’t feel like it.  It felt far too simplistic.  It wasn’t really that coherent and didn’t serve much purpose beyond giving a vague reason for going around smacking demons.  On that note, you have what shockingly feels like God of War‘s engine, with nearly everything but the smacking stripped out and a would-be deity replaced with a glorified Halloween decoration set on fire.

Seriously, smacking is almost all you do.  You go into a room with the exit “magically” blocked off, you clear the numerous waves of demons, the door is unblocked, and you proceed to the next room to start it all over again.  That’s the entire game, right there, broken up by an odd motorcycle-based element.  It wasn’t that well-implemented; it was kind of like the motorcycle bits from Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend, only even less fun and far more oft-occurring.

As you smacked enemies you leveled up in a fashion so ripped off from God of War even the sound seemed the exact same.  You obtained more moves to use against the enemies, and—that was the game.  They tried to give a reason to play through the game more than once by adding a couple different skins for Ghost Rider, plus a version of Blade that came with more melee attacks, but—it was a brain-eatingly terrible experience to play through it once.  Nothing short of Lara Croft wearing naught but her guns would have made a second play-through worth it—and even then, it’s rather iffy.

Game play footage can be seen here.

06. Eragon
The film was based on a series of novels, and did a so-so job of following its inspiration—up until the last few minutes, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.  The game was based on the film, but—failed to live up to it.  It followed the same plot as the film and did so faithfully enough, but that was the best that could be said about the game.  The game play was boring as heck, and that’s when it wasn’t glitchy and unresponsive.

If only the game were even a tiny fraction as fun as this looks.

That enemies took a ton of hits to go down only highlit the problem—you could watch your blade go right through an enemy, but because the hit-detection was absolute crap, it wouldn’t count as a strike.  Considering that the main thing you do is smack enemies, and one can see how that could quickly become quite—tiresome.  Granted, you also had a bow to use, but arrows do even less damage than the sword does.  You also had magic, but setting enemies on fire is humorous for only so long.  You had other magic abilities, but they were mostly used at pre-determined points in pre-determined ways.  There was no ability to choose how and when to use your magic, making it less an interesting element and more a boring one.

As for the levels themselves, they were short, boring, and made even more frustrating by fixed camera angles that seemed intentionally designed to be a hindrance.  There were some very light platforming elements such as shimmying along ledges or overhead beams, but they were too few, too short, and far too boring.

A very humorous Let’s Play—though it’s closer to a Let’s Fail—can be found right here.

05. 50 Cent: Bulletproof
There was a time when rapper 50 Cent was positively everywhere.  When he got his first game, it wasn’t a huge surprise.  What was a surprise was how much it stunk.

The plot was like something off of a rap album—50 Cent’s friend is caught up, you have to go help him, everything goes wrong, and 50 Cent spends the rest of the game dodging bullets and trying to figure out just what’s going on.  Interestingly, the player will be wondering just what’s going on as well.  The plot was poorly told and not very coherent, so by the end of the game you have almost as little of an idea about what’s going on as you did at the beginning.

The game play itself was appalling.  It was supposed to be a third-person shooter, but the primary aspect of that—the shooting element—was horrid.  Whomever dreamt up how weapon accuracy was handled has perhaps either never been in the same postal code as a real gun before, or had insane and strict “guidelines” set forth for them.  Either way, if you held the aiming reticule over an enemy for a few moments, it became a bit smaller, and your shots would do more damage.  Sounds fine, but the enemies rarely stayed still longer than a moment, so attempting for anything more than a spray-and-pray didn’t really turn out well.

The problems with the game play goes on and on, from terrible artificial intelligence scripting, poorly designed levels, and more.  So much more.  Aside from that, implementation of things like music was poor as well.  By earning money in missions, you can purchase music videos—but being compressed so much, they’re all grainy as heck.  There was also an attempt at “mood music”—low-key when there’s nothing going on, louder and angrier when in the middle of a fight—but considering how you’d fight for a few moments, walk around for a few moments, fight, walk, fight, walk, it sounded almost spastic at times.

Over all, it served neither the 50 Cent fan nor the third-person shooter fan.

An informational Let’s Play can be found here.

04. Fight Club
Most people have at least heard of the film.  It told a tale of men rebelling against a culture that tried to strip them of masculinity while forcing people as a whole to create an “identity” through the stuff they own.  It was somewhere between being anti-materialistic and pro-freedom of self-expression.  The game based on said movie seemed to be made solely for money while ignoring everything about the film save for the part about people beating the snot out of each other—and it didn’t even do that much well.

When you start the game, you don’t really create a character as much as lightly customize one.  After that, you’re thrust into a shoddy “plot” of the character attempting to find Tyler Durden and having to fight pretty much everyone on the planet in order to do so.  The first problem is that the fights were repetitive to the point of insanity.  This isn’t like most one-on-one fighting games, where, sure, you fought an opponent, then another, then another.  In something like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, everyone at least had their own moves, or if nothing else their own “feel”.  Here, though, it was just one mook after another, each feeling mostly the same as the one before.

Yes, this doof.

There were three fighting “styles”—Brawler, Grappler, or Martial Artist, but there really wasn’t much actual difference.  Every opponent threw the same basic punches and kicks, with an occasional throw tossed in for flavor.  It was boring as heck—and worse, it looked terrible.  The animation was just odd and awkward.

On another downer note, the game “features” Fred Durst as an unlockable character.  On the other hand, you get to beat the snot out of him, so there’s at least that.

A Let’s Play can be found here.

03. Superman Returns
While we won’t really get into the oddity of the film being received surprisingly well but apparently not well enough to avoid the franchise being rebooted, we will get into how much of a bore the game based on said movie was.

First the good part: Metropolis was huge, which made flying through it interesting.  The bad part: Everything else stunk.

Take the plot of the film—and crumple it up then throw it out the window.  That must have been what happened at the offices of developer E.A. Tiburon.  The plot of the game has next to nothing relating to the film.  It starts with the caped wonder fending off meteors, learning how to control his powers, then zooming off into space.  After making sure his home world of Krypton was indeed destroyed, he heads back to Earth, taking the time to have tea and a light chat with Mongul.  After they set another play-date, Supes finally gets back to Earth just in time to pummel a whole slew of people who weren’t even vaguely hinted at anywhere in the film.

This is made all the worse as the plot progresses.  For reasons not truly clear, Lex Luthor—who actually was in the movie, shockingly enough—has crystals, which is apparently bad, though you’d mainly know that if you saw the movie.  If you didn’t, well—it’s bad, and that’s the important part.  The “plot” just gets worse from there.

As for the game play itself, it’s incredibly boring.  If you don’t want to race this Mxyzptlk person around or destroy wave after mind-numbing wave of robots, you can—rescue kittens.  You can’t go underwater or enter buildings, but by golly you can rescue kittens.  This exercise in game-induced aneurysms is made even worse by the fact that you can’t easily ignore the random missions that crop up.

Like most other sandbox games, you have random missions that have nothing at all to do with the plot.  That’s fine, but because of another mechanic that was great on paper, you don’t actually have much choice in whether to tend to them or not.  Since Superman is nigh-invulnerable, the developers eschewed giving him a health meter per se and instead gave one to the city.  Enemies hurl things, blow other things up, et cetera, which depletes said health gauge, and if it is emptied you lose.  This means you can’t just ignore the random crimes, since the enemies will blow stuff up whether you’re there to stop them or not.  Further, you have to almost zoom away to the other side of the map just to get them to go away so you can get back to your kitten-hunting.

If you have the wherewithal to actually finish the plot missions, you get to fight an end-game boss ludicrously out of place.  While the ending of the film might have been difficult to reproduce in the game, surely they could do better than—spoiler alert, but I really can’t see anyone caring—three tornadoes.  Yes, that is the “enemy” you fight at the end of the game, the culmination of what’s laughably called a “plot”.  Three blooming tornadoes.  What’s worse than all of this?  There are two more games even worse than this.  Sad, really.

A humorous, rant-filled Let’s Play can be found here.

02. Danger Girl
Take Charlie’s Angels and mix that with Mission: Impossible and you’ve got Danger Girl, a trio of butt-kicking women whose specialties can get them out of almost any trouble.  It made sense that there’d be a video game based on the license.  After all, Lara Croft had been raiding tombs for a few years by that point, and she was insanely popular.

Unfortunately, the game failed to live up to—anything, really.  It wasn’t a good companion-piece for Tomb Raider, it didn’t really do the comics justice—it failed on a lot of levels.

For one thing, the engine wasn’t anything new.  Developer n-Space had used that engine on—a surprising number of previous games, such as Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes and Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas to just name two.  The list is, sadly, actually a bit longer.

So you have a game engine that’s starting to show its age, and on top of that was best used in games generally set in small-ish spaces like hallways and small rooms.  Danger Girl featured wide, expansive settings.  On the face of it, not bad, right?  Larger areas to explore, after all.  The problem is that the controls were crap.  It felt less like you were steering a svelte beauty of fearsome tuchus-kicking prowess and more like steering a lethargic Hulk.

Then you have the presentation, the graphics and sound.  Being generous, it looked simply average for around the “mid-life” era of the PlayStation—when the girls were standing still.  When they started moving, well—the best way to describe the movement animations would be “awkward”.  As for the music, it was, again, dull.  Then you add the boring voice-acting that sounded as if the sound editors had just gotten new equipment the day of dubbing and couldn’t figure it out, and—well.  All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, too.

That’s actually a shame, it really is.  Lara Croft started something spectacular in video games—a confident, intelligent, and, yes, beautiful woman who needed no one’s help in kicking butt and taking names.  Danger Girl could have proven that Lara wasn’t an anomaly, that gamers of either sex and all genders would appreciate—and enjoy—a confident and strong woman as the protagonist.  Yet—it fell flat on its face.

In an era where television shows, movies, video games, and everything else are getting “reboots” out the wazoo and at the drop of a hat, I for one hope someone decides to reboot Danger Girl and give it another go.  In the right hands, it could have been great—and it still can.

A walkthrough is available here, for the curious.

01. Superman 64
Yes, this title has appeared on this site quite a few times.  Heck, you even mention “bad games” in a dark room with the nearest Internet connection being a Smart Phone two houses over and message boards will light up proclaiming this game to be the Worst Superman Game EVAR.  If any game deserves such infamy, though, it’s this one.

Now, to be fair, the Man of Steel is incredibly difficult to write a game (or movie, or comic plot, or…) around.  He’s ridiculously powerful (at one time they just crammed him full of whatever they could think of to add the word “super” in front of, including—and I swear I am not making this up—”

The blue boy scout’s also been in a ton of video games—and not a one of them were all that great.  It was like he had a curse on his perfectly chiseled head or something.  By the late ‘Nineties, if anyone had still held out hope for a good Superman game, well—Superman 64 smashed that hope against a rock, then tap-danced on the pieces.

On paper, it sounds good, or at least workable.  Through a plot no less contrived than many of the character’s comic plots of the era, Lex Luthor traps Superman in a giant virtual reality world and sends him hither and thither, beating up enemies, finding keys to unlock more areas, saving innocents, speedily flying through hoops, and using his super-abilities to save the virtual day.  Like I said, that at least sounds workable, right?

The problem is that not a one of those elements was handled any less than shoddily.  The controls were terrible, making even simply turning in mid-air a chore.  As for using the super-powers?  Save for flight, power-ups have to be found before things like the heat-vision and super-breath can be used, and they’ll run out.  Quickly.  Then you have the artificial intelligence governing the innocents you’re trying to save.  Let’s just say if this were really what saving people was like, Superman would have hung up his cape a long time ago and let people walk right to their doom.

Really pushing the graphical boundaries, there...

Then, of course, you have the rings.  Apparently, this was such a wonderful-sounding element that they just had to shove it everywhere in the game, and by cracky they did just that.  Nearly, if not, every other mission is trying to fly your tank-in-tights through the giant hula-hoops, which gets really old, really quickly.  As if all of that weren’t enough, it was insanely glitchy.  Trying to do what the game wants you to do in the manner it wants you to do it can—and often did—lead to clipping issues (when one model passes through another), and if you just got clipping issues you were lucky.

There was really nothing, at all, redeemable about this game.  There’s a reason why it’s nearly, if not, considered the worst video game of all time ever.  It had some good reasons to be so terrible—developers’ hands being tied, primarily.  Yet—that’s not an excuse.  It has a good reason to be crappy, but it is still incredibly crappy.  It wasn’t good by the standards of the time, and it hasn’t aged well at all.  Not even nostalgia can save it.

An informational Let’s Play I’ve linked to numerous times before can be found here.  I link to it so often because the Let’s Player takes the time to craft wonderful reasons and go in-depth into what made the game the steaming pile of feces that it is.  He put a lot of effort into his Let’s Play, which gets a new video added to it now and again.  It’s still not complete, but it’s so darn good it’s worth the wait.

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