I like videogames. Videogames let you escape the burdens of the world. They allow your brain to melt with a plethora of unrealistic violence and novel-worthy storylines while giving you the right to anti-socialism at the same time. Being a child of overprotective parents, I was always confined to the safety of home while the other children played outside in the “dangerous” world. So naturally, videogames became an important part of my life. However, there have always been a few special videogames that made me doubt my interests…and possibly my existence. So, to reminisce in my past, I’ve decided to revisit my shelf of unpleasant time-wasters and tell you a little about the dark underbelly of the interactive entertainment industry: half-assed videogames. Yay self-torture….
Basically, I’ll be reviewing videogames that nobody plays; movie and TV licensed games as well as the weird stuff you may find in the bargain bins at your local gaming shop. Since I have a vast collection of mediocrity at my disposal, I may have a lot more of these reviews to come in the future, assuming that I’m able to maintain my sanity while writing them.
I decided to select my first set of tragic videogames in a comparatively tragic way: I let my sister choose from her own personal collection (you can check out her articles here). Consequently, the games that I’ll be reviewing this time around all have a “feminine” theme to them (and are all from the realm of Nintendo), but hey, nobody said guys couldn’t like them too right?
Without further ado, let’s get this over with…
1. Zoey 101
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Year of Release: 2007
Okay ya. I’m sort of ashamed to say I played this game. In retrospect, letting my sister choose these games was a bad idea. Oh well, I guess I have to bite the bullet…or put one in my head. That sounds nicer….
To my knowledge, Zoey 101 is a TV show that is about a bunch of rich kids that live on campus at a private high school called P.C.A. Sadly, I’ve never watched it and I can’t tell you very much about the show other than the fact that the main character’s name is Zoey…go figure.
Honestly, this game is very confusing and I really don’t understand the purpose of any of its aspects. Basically, it’s nothing but weird mini-games. These mini-games are initiated by taking “requests” from different characters in the game. You then complete these requests through a specific mini-game as either Zoey or one of her friends. These requests are divided among three different characters from three groups: Girls, Boys and Faculty. After completing every “request”, you then play a “big” mini-game called a “dare”. After completing the “dare”, you then move on to the next level, or as the game calls it, “semester”. Oh, and after completing a request for each character, you earn “friendship points”, which implies you somehow develop some sort of relationship with each of the characters you complete requests for. The thing I don’t understand is that is that fact that the requests you complete for these characters are usually in direct competition with them or have nothing to do with them whatsoever. What’s more, these “friendship points” seem to have no bearing on the game.
In terms of actual gameplay, this game really sucks. All you do is scroll through the three request groups over and over again; select a character to do a request for; have a random superficial conversation with them, and play a mind-numbingly boring, generic mini-game that’s vaguely related to the conversation you just had and even less related to school activities. Since each mini-game is different, you have to read through excruciatingly detailed gameplay instructions each and every time you do a request which is really, really annoying considering almost all of these games can be played intuitively. A few mini-games include: disc golf, basketball shootout and some random game that involves Zoey running through a hallway in side-scroller fashion while avoiding boys hiding in trash cans. Surprisingly, that last mini-game comes from the faculty request group…if only high school is that fun…
If you happen to be shopping for GBA games for some reason, I would recommend this game if you feel like reliving your high school years as a ditzy teenager in need of a reality check and some good corporal punishment.
2. Hannah Montana
Year of Release: 2006
Ah, good old Hannah Montana. A game that reflects the wholesome time before Miley Cyrus became an outrageous twerking weed-fiend. I always wondered why the whole Hannah Montana persona died so abruptly. After looking back at the TV show and playing this game, I got my answer; Hannah Montana’s downfall was imminent from the start.
As you could guess, the Hannah Montana videogame is based entirely off of Disney’s TV show. It is essentially a mystery game in which you take the roles of Miley and her best friend Lilly to try to figure out the identity of the person who supposedly discovered that Miley is secretly Hannah Montana. While playing the game, I found it quite amusing to see odd caricatures of Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus. Other than that, I guess the game would’ve been sort of okay if I was a 9 year old schoolgirl. Unlike a lot of other generic TV-licensed games, this one made full use of the touchscreen on the DS which is nice to an extent.
Hannah Montana is a limited, semi-open world game in which you frequently transport back and forth between different parts of the world (such as Miley’s house, the mall and the beach) in order to find clues. Throughout the entirety of the game, you encounter several characters from the TV who give you clues and doors. There are a lot of doors. The main game mechanics consist of dragging magnifying glass-type objects around the screen to find hidden clues, dragging objects off of roads so Lilly doesn’t crash into them during race sequences (instead of doing the normal racing game thing and having the player steer around the objects) and drawing patterns on the screen to open doors (yes, to open doors, not unlock them. There are actually keys for that) and to select passages of speech when asking for clues from other characters or getting them to move out of the way, because, you know, we all whip out writing utensils and draw random patterns over whatever we can find in order to open doors and talk to people. This pattern drawing thing is probably one of the major downfalls of the game (other than the fact that it’s painfully repetitive and boring as hell) as the patterns require an inconsistent amount of accuracy to register. If you can get over that minor flaw and the urge to smash your DS over your head from hearing the constant drone of Hannah Montana background music, this game will satisfy you for about 10 minutes.
If you enjoy wasting time on memories of past disappointments, this is definitely the game for you.
3. Cooking Mama: Cook Off
Year of Release: 2007
While not the most unpopular game franchise out there (as a matter of fact, the DS games were pretty good if memory serves me correctly. The first game actually won “IGN’s Best of E3” award back in 2006), the Cooking Mama series of games did have their fair share of obscurities and downfalls. This was perhaps most prominent in the first Wii adaptation of the franchise, Cooking Mama: Cook Off. In all of the games, you choose a recipe play a bunch of mini games that “simulate” the real-life steps necessary to make the dish.
It was nice to dust off my old neglected Wii and feel the Wiimote in my hand again. As soon as I loaded up the game, I found myself wishing that the Wiimote was some kind of firearm instead.
Going into the game, I was determined to get at least one “gold” ranking on one of the recipes. This proved to be quite difficult due to the finicky motion sensing controls of the Wiimote. This led me to have to contort my hand in very awkward positions to do simple things such as mixing a freaking bowl of ingredients together. Some mini games include cracking eggs, grating vegetables, cooking the ingredients over a stove and peeling potatoes. All of these tasks were made pretty difficult by the issues mentioned before.
Also, this game discriminates against left-handed people. My sister is a lefty and it was quite satisfying to see her attempt to get her motions to register. In each mini-game, Mama (or Cooking Mama, I’m really not sure what her name is), your guide in your kitchen quest, constantly congratulates you or reassures you with phrases like “Great!”, “Good Job!” or “Do not mind!” (when you screw up) in a maddeningly thick Japanese accent. Despite her kind words, I still felt like I would be inferior in the kitchen. After trying many different recipes, raging and failing, I finally managed to survive through Mama’s Engrish and achieve a “gold” ranking on scrambled eggs.
If you want a game to lower the self esteem of your children and make them feel like they have inadequate cooking skills, then I would highly recommend this game. If not, please save yourself the trouble and try cooking something in real life.
So there you have it, crappy videogames. Go ahead, don’t be afraid to go back and play your own stash of electronic excrement. We’ll have fun in mental hospitals together.