I don’t know if I’ve ever really gotten into it here, but I am endlessly fascinated by bad video games. I like bad movies, too, but terrible video games are even more delicious. And they’ve got to be real bad. If a game is just mediocre, that’s boring and no fun to dissect. But when you have a game that is consistently making you wonder what the heck the developers were thinking, that’s the real good stuff.
To put it simply, the more of a “complete garbage fire” a game is, the better.
And that’s where The First Skunk Bundle comes in. A $25 eShop game that for some reason went on sale for free a while back, this is a pack of five games that range in quality from passable to, well, complete garbage fire. Let’s have a look-see and break down the contents.
No, wait. First, I feel obliged to mention that the music on the game select screen is a piss-poor piano rendition of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. So poor, in fact, that I thought that it was a piss-poor rendition of the Friends theme at first. In retrospect, they do have seem to have a similar melody. Maybe? Am I crazy?
~ Snake Classic ~
This is exactly what you think it is. What? No, not an off-brand copy of the original Metal Gear. Why would you think that? It’s just Snake. Good old infinitely-copied Snake. You know, where you slither around to pick up the kajiggers that make your snake longer, until you inevitably end up losing when you crash into yourself? Yeah, just like you played on you old flip-phone back in the early aughts.
I’ve always wondered why you lose when you come in contact with the rest of your body. To my knowledge, a snake can, in fact, slither over itself. Perhaps this snake is just so hungry that it just chomps up whatever is in front of it, never stopping to consider that it may be pulling an ouroboros. Maybe the snake is on some sort of hallucinogenic drug and doesn’t even recognize its own body. I mean, we’ve all been there, am I right?
Anyway, this is bog-standard stuff. But there are two critical errors. The first is that if you press in the opposite direction that the snake is moving, it will double back and you lose instantly. I feel like this should not be a thing that can happen. Secondly, the kajiggers can spawn under the snake, which doesn’t seem so bad at first. But then you realize that once the snake gets real long, it’s covering an awful lot of real estate, and it could take a long time for the thing to be unearthed.
And that’s about that. I’ve now typed roughly 250 more words about Snake than anyone else in the history of humankind. I probably deserve a medal.
~ Catchy ~
Why is this game titled Catchy? We may never know. I may have missed something in my time with the game, but I did not encounter any “catching” to speak of.
Other than that, Catchy is so close to being a decent game. The goal is to navigate short levels, grab an ankh, and then get in a lift to the next stage. Of course, there are hazards strewn about, like mummies and crumbling platforms, and every level is a short maze hovering above a bottomless pit. It’s got a solid foundation, really. It’s just a matter of control issues that holds it back.
See, your little guy (maybe his name is Catchy?) waddles around fairly slowly. He also moves via good ol’ PS1 survival horror “tank controls” instead of being able to move freely in all direction. It’s exactly as plodding as it sounds. His jump is also very slow and it’s somewhat difficult to gauge its distance. You could probably clear these stages in half the time if the little guy wasn’t so sluggish.
I don’t know why, but the whole time I was playing this game, it reminded me of the Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers game on Wii, and I have no idea why. They have nothing at all in common besides being notably shoddy. I’m not sure why I even felt it was worth mentioning.
I sort of wanted to beat this one, because it seemed within the realm of possibility, but it’s just so darned slow and boring that I couldn’t be arsed to keep going. I made it roughly halfway through before I couldn’t stand it any longer. A for effort, I’d say. That’s for me. I get the A. Not Catchy.
Oh, I never finished Onechanbara, either. So it and Catchy have two things in common.
~ Zombie Epic ~
Have you ever played Zombie Shooter? Or any top-down twin-stick shooting game? Because that’s what this game would look like if were done properly. Instead, we got… something completely different.
The game opens with a long-winded narration, and then a choice, which confused me. From the description, I thought that I was playing a shooter of some kind, not a text adventure. But this is the only instance of narrative choice that I came across in my short time with this game. At the end of the monologue, it lets you pick between life and death. In a somewhat amusing twist, choosing death and ending the game right there may be the preferable option.
If you choose to live, you’re plopped down in a massive, empty, square arena with about five enemies. You shoot them up and then begin the process of very slowly walking around to find a way out. From that point, it’s a matter of plodding from screen to screen while occasionally shooting some enemies. You also pick up a friend at one point, which lets you shoot from two directions, which I can wholeheartedly say is the best thing this game does.
At one point you have to drive a car down a straight but very narrow path. Touching a single pixel to the barrier on either side will kill you. You would think that just not touching the control stick would be the key to victory, but there are bumps in the road that will send the car careening off to the side, so you must engage this annoying diversion. Also, the end comes out of nowhere so you’ll probably crash and die the first time, which is super annoying.
After that, I got to a parking lot screen where a massive horde of zombies approached from all sides. Even though the game gives you a gun upgrade that lets you shoot in almost a complete circle, the zombies take six or seven hits to kill and bullets don’t pass through them, which makes this screen feel impossible to clear. In fact, this is where I gave up. I tried roughly a dozen times, decided I was having no fun and that it likely wasn’t going to get better, and moved on.
I feel no sense of loss. The game is ugly, slow, and needlessly frustrating. Good riddance.
~ Bomb Blaster ~
You remember Angry Birds, right? Wait, what? It’s still a thing? Are you serious?
Anyway, this game is Angry Birds. Only, you get to just place your bombs anywhere you like instead of having to slingshot them. Takes a whole lot of guesswork out of it.
On the odd chance that you have no idea what I’m going on about, it goes like this: there is a structure on the screen, built of several blocks or posts or what have you. Also there will be one or more enemies scattered about. Your job is to place bombs to explode the structure in a way that makes the enemies fall off the screen. So it’s a matter of understanding how the explosions will move the pieces of the puzzle. Which can be a little bit of a crapshoot, but it’s easy enough to figure out.
I was actually enjoying this game for the first couple worlds, but then they introduced a wrinkle that only served to frustrate me: creatures that I had to avoid knocking off the screen. Yes, adding new complications to an existing problem is the way to escalate your game’s difficulty. It’s been that way since forever. But I felt that it made the game too complicated and less fun.
Actually I just got to a level that I just couldn’t solve and needed something to blame it on.
The silver lining here is that this is probably the best game on offer in the First Skunk Bundle. It’s fairly fun, and has some deviously clever puzzles. It’s a little soulless, but I think that’s to be expected with any Angry Birds knock-offs. I managed to clear about half the levels in the game before I gave up on it, which is a heck of a lot more than I would have guessed.
~ Haunted Hotel ~
Finally, this is what we’ve all been waiting for. This is the garbage fire of which I spoke earlier. This is, well, maybe not the worst game I’ve ever played on my Wii U, but it is without a doubt the most perplexing.
I feel like this game deserves to be pulled apart on the level of the How Did This Get Made? Podcast. Is there a podcast about dissecting bad video games? Because if not, I think I might need to start one. Do I have any volunteers to co-host? No? Oh, come on, it’ll be fun, I promise.
Haunted Hotel is… just something else. The game is seemingly an interpretation of the hit Eagles song “Hotel California.” In fact, you are told right off the bat that you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
The goal is to escape the hotel. By getting to the roof. That seems counter-productive.
There is exactly one jumpscare (pictured above), which is copy and pasted to several floor triggers throughout the hotel, and it goes off every single time you walk over one.
There is a crazy amount of slowdown and the controls are barf.
Speaking of which, at one point there is a man projectile vomiting through a wall. Also at another point there is a man diarrheaing through a wall. I don’t know if these character models glitched into the wrong place, or it’s intentionally like that to mess with you. The other side of the wall actually has an anus on it, so it may very well be intentional.
The music is a “spooky” cover of Hotel California, and another generic spooky piece of music played at the same time. Somewhere along the line, a third song is introduced, and all three just continue to play over each other forever.
It’s worth noting that this is the only game in the Skunk Bundle that I saw through to its conclusion. That’s how engrossing its terribleness was. It really wasn’t worth the effort, as nearly every floor is the same, which made the trek very boring. The ending was something else, though.
I feel like I could go on about this forever. It’s not quite on the same level as The Letter, but this is definitely the kind of game where you wonder about the chain of events that allowed it to exist in this reality.
So there you have it, ladies and germs. That’s the complete summary of the worst bundle of games that I’ve ever gotten for free. What’s the worst bundle I’ve ever paid for? I really have no idea off the top of my head. I’d need to do a deep dive into all the games I own to figure that out. Probably some Indie Gala bundle though. Those have proven time and time again to be almost exclusively trash. (Sorry, Indie Gala.)
Just FYI, I am 100% serious about doing a bad games podcast. I think it would be super fun.