It wasn’t on purpose that I found myself gathering up a collection of bad titles. It was somewhere between bad luck and curiosity killing the cat due to falling through glitchy floors. For every handful of excellent games I purchased, I’d find myself bringing home something of a turkey. Sometimes this would be down to my own personal preferences. For example, I believe Wild 9 on PS1 is held in fairly high regard, perhaps through rose tinted glasses, but I found it to be an absolute mess. On the other hand I was happy to pay full price for Evil Dead: Hail to the King, even though I knew full well that it couldn’t live up all the fun and scares of the movie. Little did I know that it actually couldn’t supply any of the above, and instead attempted to get away of the merits of simply having Bruce Campbell kicking out the one-liners.
Before I knew it I was going out of my way to check out bad games. I wouldn’t go onto Youtube to find the best of the bad because, put quite simply, that would be too easy. It would also take a lot of the fun out of that first playthrough, as the shock factor is a big part of the appeal of these games for me. Instead, I’d keep an eye out for titles that I’d never heard of or titles that look like they cost about the price to make of a tasteless ham sandwich. Luckily enough my console of choice, the Playstation 2, was a hotbed for absolute shovelware. The popularity of a system can often be measured in the amount of games released for it. The Playstation 2 seemed like the kind of machine where games landed in such huge numbers that it was inevitable to have a hefty wealth of underperformers. This would have been something that could lead to many big mistakes and bad purchases at the turn of the century when each game cost around €50, but now, it’s actually become fun to hunt these cheap horrors down.
Myself and my friends approached the concept of bad video games in the same fashion that we approached bad movies. We wanted them to be shit so we could sit back and laugh at their expense. The worse they were in every conceivable way, the better, to a point where they’d have to be downright unplayable for us to pass them by. And when we found god awful gems like Charlie’s Angels or Demolition Girl we would crack open a few beers and dive in head first, hoping that we wouldn’t even make it all the way through the first level.
Demolition Girl on the other hand was not such an enjoyable bad time. In fact, it was pretty much just a bad time, one that made me feel a little uneasy. It opens up with a bikini model named Riho strutting her bikini stuff on a hot Japanese beach, preparing for a photo shoot when a small alien being touches her, causing her to transform into a humongous giant capable of crushing hotels and holiday homes underfoot. The entire opening scene is displayed via a series of still images with no music or background noise. This haunting silence seems like it’s causing each picture to remain on-screen for an eerily long time, giving me more than enough time to think about what I’d done and regret powering up my PS2. From here you pilot a helicopter, fully armed and ready to embark on its sleazy mission of “collecting data”. Well, they say “collecting” the actually mean “stare at” and when they say “data” what they really mean is “Rhino’s ass!” It’s your job to fly around the scantily clad colossus, zooming in on requested private parts for an alarmingly long duration. Later in the game you will get the chance to fight aliens while manvouring a jet fighter and chase the Godzilla girl through the city in a tank; however, I’d imagine you’d have turned off the machine, lobbed the disc out the window and hopped into a cold shower long in order to fight off the nausea before you ever get to that point.
In my arrogance and my rushing to pop the disc into my console, I never even considered the possibilities that this might actually be a good game. Thankfully, it wasn’t. It was shit! The sequel, however, took me and my friends by storm. This was still a pretty bad game alright, but somehow we became incredibly invested in it, to a point where it became our go-to game every time we wanted to play some multiplayer. It got to the stage were hugely popular games like Street Fighter IV and Left 4 Dead were being placed on the back burner so that we could hand-pass a ball to each other in the hopes of striking it over the bar. It seemed that everything was on the line with each match, as we hyped our own abilities up so much and put each other down with such ferocity that we knew the loser would have no choice but to swallow his pride along with a mouthful of verbal abuse once the match had ended. I was almost disappointed by just how much fun we had with this game, due to my initial expectations. The ironic flipside to this entire endeavour was that when I rushed out to buy Gaelic Games: Hurling to complete the collection, I genuinely had high hopes. High hopes that were soon dashed because it too was shit. Not fun shit like the second football title, just boring old shit shit. Whatever way they miraculously managed to make Football 2 so entertaining was just not suitable to carry over into a Hurling title, mainly due to the fact that the sliotar (the ball used for the sport) was fucking tiny and impossible to see when being launched around a rainy virtual field on a Playstation 2 at high speeds.
It’s odd just how much fun I manage to get out of bad games. Most of these titles have an eternal shelf life, because nobody else is dumb enough to actually spend money on them. Me though, I live for it. I don’t see bad games the way the general population does. I’m not the kind of guy who’d rather have a buffalo take a diarrhea dump in my ear than throw down an hour or two with Spice World or Blood Drive. I’ll happily take my chances with Beverly Hills Cop on PS2 just to laugh at the fact that it’s so bad they couldn’t even get Eddie Murphy ethnicity correct, or with America’s 10 Most Wanted because the whole damn thing is unaware that it’s a hilarious parody of everything it thinks it represents. Many people may see these games as just numbers, there to fill up spaces on the shelves and make the collection look better from a distance. Not me though, these are the games that I bring friends around to play. The kind of things that are so outrageously bad that they really have to be seen to be believed. Bad gaming makes for great fun time and time again. I’ll continue to hunt down these rotten gems and give them a place in my collection. I’ll hail Duke Nukem Forever as the king of FPS games for all the wrong reasons, and I’ll absolutely love it.
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