Playing the Lame SPECIAL POKEMON WEEK EDITION.

Howdy all. My name is Mark B. and I should really be working on my calculus final.

But here I am, and here you are. Fancy that.

With it being Pokemon Week here on Diehard GameFAN, I kind of felt like I should participate in the proceedings, mostly because it’s pretty much going to be a thing every year, I imagine. As we’re well aware, however, I am not a man of sunshine and rainbows, so I was kind of puzzled about what to do to participate beyond the usual “write reviews until tired” thing I usually do, until I remembered, “Hey, there are some crappy Pokemon games out there, right?”

Yes, that was the entire reason for doing this.

Well, that and revenge for being abducted by an army of Pikachus and subsequently brainwashed into loving Pokemon. I tend to hold a grudge about that sort of thing.

Also, it keeps me from having to spend any time with Final Fantasy XIII, which I rented a week ago and have yet to play. It’s either the best or the worst game ever made and I cannot get a clear consensus from the gaming media, so I’m kind of having to work my way up to playing it. Talk to me in a week and we’ll see if I’ve gotten anywhere with it.

And now, the column.

PLAYING THE LAME: SPECIAL POKEMON WEEK EDITION.

Pokemon is one of those franchises that has managed to maintain its immense popularity despite changing economic conditions, market over-saturation, and the generally fickle nature of children, something very few franchises can manage to do. Part of this comes from the fact that Pokemon has always found a way to adapt itself to find new fans, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Pokemon themselves appeal to a wide range of people, whether they like their Pocket Monsters huge and imposing or small and adorable. The biggest positive in favor of Pokemon as a franchise, however, has been Nintendo’s iron grip on anything with their name attached to it and their insistence on releasing mostly quality products. Of course, no one is perfect, and plenty of games with Nintendo’s name on them are horrid affairs, but the majority of their games are generally good or better, and the margin of good games to bad games isn’t even a close one. Pokemon, as such, benefits from being under the umbrella of a company who makes great efforts to try and ensure most of the games they publish can be called a quality product by the majority of their customers, if not all of them. The core Pokemon games are often some of the best games Nintendo attaches their name to, even if they might not be the most original products on the market, and many of the more experimental games released under the franchise banner are often exciting and enjoyable products that have plenty of positive elements to offer, even if they need some polish. Heck, even something like a Pokemon Mystery Dungeon or a Pokemon Rumble generally tends to please the more diehard market who crave more niche-oriented titles than mainstream kiddie games, giving the franchise a much broader appeal than it would have in the hands of a more conservative organization.

That said, Pokemon is far from a perfect franchise, and just as there have been some great games, so too have there been some terrible ones, which is where I come in. Now, “terrible” games are relative, as we’re well aware. I think Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is a fine spin-off because I’m a fan of Rogue-like games and think the Pokemon take on these games is amusing and generally well done. I’m fine with Pokemon Rumble because, frankly, it’s a new and interesting direction for the franchise, one not often considered, and it’s actually pretty amusing for the cost. Neither of these Pokemon spin-offs has been well-liked by the critics, because they’re too busy beating off to bald space marines or whatever, but frankly, there’s nothing inherently bad about releasing something different as long as it’s interesting and playable.

But the Pokemon franchise has still managed to kick a few true stinkers out the door now and again. There are games on the market that are either uninspired hack-jobs, completely unoriginal retreads of old ground, or absolutely unplayable messes that no one in their right mind would want to spend any time suffering through amongst the “classic”, “interesting”, and “adequate” releases the series is known for, and since we here at Diehard GameFAN (and by “we” I mean “mostly Alex”) tend to just kind of rough up the bad games a bit before moving back to singing the praises of the good, I figured I’d spend some time with the bad games and see what I thought of them.

This ended up not being a particularly well received suggestion, but no one ever said I like being popular amongst the staff.

In the end, I made a simple list of games, culled from Gamerankings, of the worst Pokemon games of the lot, then removed the games I personally liked and reviewed the remaining games and got a second opinion from Alex, until I had a list of five games, ready for me to play. I also wanted to try and focus on games people might actually be able to play without difficulty, so I created the list mostly out of games that would be easy enough for anyone to play. In other words, DS, Gamecube and Wii games were considered higher on the scale than GBA and GBC games. This was not, as you would expect, a big problem, as most of the more uninspiring releases in the franchise were released on these three systems.

Then Alex enticed me with a statement that has caused me much hope and disappointment over the years: “I have a game that’s worse”. Curious as to how there was a Pokemon game on the market that somehow was NOT on my list of “bad games as decided by group vote”, we made a simple arrangement. He would mail me the game, out of his pocket, and allow me to sample what he described as one of the very worst games in the Pokemon franchise.

In return, I would remove Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness from my list.

That was an inside joke. I apologize. But not really.

Anyway, each of the five games is broken up into three categories, which break down as follows:

“What is it?”: Simple enough. This is as bare-bones a description I can provide of the game in question without really getting into the mechanics of the product itself.

“What’s the consensus?”: What did Gamerankings think, basically. The idea here is that Gamerankings aggregates the scores of every review publication on the market and averages out the scores into a number that SHOULD indicate the overall opinion of whatever game we’re looking at, thus giving us a base idea of what to think before we actually boot the game up.

In the instances where a staff member (AKA Alex) has reviewed one of these games, the opinion of that game will also be reflected in this section.

“Why is this on the list?”: Basically, why I picked this game for the column over any one of the other games available to me. In short: what perception of the game did I have prior to actually playing the game? What did I think of it before I sat down with it for the column? That sort of thing.

“What’d I think of it?”: Exactly what you’d expect. Is it really bad? How bad is it? That sort of thing. The thing is that, with one exception, I’ve never really spent a good amount of time with any of the games on this list. I’ve maybe played half an hour of one or two, tops, so this is really a chance for me to sit down with the games and pick them apart from top to bottom. It’s entirely possible that these games may, in fact, not be as bad as everyone says, or they may actually be good in some instances. I’m writing this introduction completely unaware of how I’ll actually feel about any of these games, and the possibility for quality, though slim, does exist.

So let’s get on with it.

1.) POKEMON TROZEI

What is it?: A Pokemon puzzle game for the DS. For those of you who’ve played Pokemon Puzzle League, this is theoretically a similar product.

What’s the consensus?: Gamerankings says the average score is 73.65%, making this the highest ranked Pokemon game on the list.

Alex Lucard reviewed the game back when the site was simply called “Inside Pulse Games”, but wasn’t very enamored with it. He felt the gameplay was interesting but the overall product didn’t seem to hold up.

Why is this on the list?: Because it’s an unenjoyable and unimaginative retread of old ground, and I felt that way about it the first time I played it.

What’d I think of it?: The same thing, pretty much, except now I think it was highly overrated.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note here that this game is the only one I had spent any sort of specific amount of time with prior to creating this list. I’d love to say that I owned the game because I was a huge Pokemon fan at the time, or because I was so enamored with the idea of a Pokemon puzzle game after Pokemon Puzzle League that I just had to jump on this. The truth is, however, that the pre-order gift for the game was a stuffed Pikachu sitting on a Pokeball, and for whatever reason it called out to me like the Sirens to Scrooge McDuck. While I still have the stuffed Pikachu sitting on my curio cabinet, however, Pokemon Trozei found its way to the trade in pile not too long after it arrived at my humble home, mostly because it is a boring mess of a puzzle game that I had no interest in playing ever again.

So, the fact that I had to buy it again stings a tiny bit.

That aside, Pokemon Trozei has the makings of a good game. It’s a Pokemon themed puzzle game, featuring a large cast of Pokemon from across the series. It features a neat little story that is a good bit different from anything else in the series, and cute cut scenes to go with it. There’s multiplayer support, the ability to send a demo to a friend, and the game is pretty simple to play. Frankly, at first glance, there’s really no reason for this game to even be on the list.

And then you play it.

The basic gameplay is simple enough. Pokemon drop from the top of the screen and you have to move them into groups of four to remove them from the field. There’s a catch, though: when you eliminate the first group of four, you can then eliminate a group of three, followed by groups of two until you clear the board or run out of time or moves. You play by moving the Pokemon around, by sliding their columns around until the Pokemon heads touch on-screen, which then causes the Trozei chain reaction. Again, this concept is fine on its own and if the game were well designed it might even be a fun gimmick.

That said, the game is, in simple terms, easy, frustrating, and boring.

Easy is simple enough to explain: when I can put the game down and let it play itself, your game is too easy. This is entirely doable in Endless Mode; I literally turned the mode on, left the game to its own devices, and got to Level Six before I turned it off. The game will eventually drop Pokemon into positions where they will eliminate themselves, and at that point it just starts eliminating the Pokemon for you faster and faster until it clears the board, at which point the cycle starts over again. I’m not saying that it remains that way, you understand, but that this is something that can go on for an extended period of time is inane and not a good way of doing business. Boring, again, is fairly easy to explain: when the game can potentially be left to play itself for a fairly decent period of time, that makes the lack of tension and immediacy apparent. In a good puzzle game, like Puzzle Fighter, Tetris, Columns or any one of the hundreds of other games that claim such a ranking, the game rapidly progresses in pace to a level where the tension can become unbearable. Pokemon Trozei takes forever to get to this level, and the tension it provides isn’t rewarding in most cases. When the drop rates become heavy very late into a session and the patterns become more sporadic, there can be a certain sense of reward to clearing the board with some well placed combinations, but in most cases the late-session play becomes annoying because, hey, the controls don’t hold up well to frantic play, leaving the experience feeling like an hour of tedium for ten minutes of frantic play and ten minutes of cursing the controls.

And that is where the frustration comes in. The game mechanics fail when the game becomes very hectic. The controls are simple but the mechanics of the game are not, leaving the player desperately trying to move Pokemon into place, and the end result leaves the player cursing not their own poor reflexes, but the sloppy mechanics of the game. Pokemon as a franchise has produced better puzzle games. Nintendo as a company has produced better puzzle games. The idea that this game was given the green light, based not on its mechanical merit or its well-crafted design, but on its relationship with a popular franchise, is annoying to anyone who knows that Nintendo is better than this. This isn’t a game, it’s a product. It isn’t meant to be good, it’s meant to be sold, specifically to fans who won’t care that it’s boring, because it advances the “Gotta Catch “Ëœem All” mantra they know and love.

No. No I do not. I reject your inane idea that I would feel rewarded by eliminating a Pokemon head from the game board because it’s rare, and I reject feeling like I’m grinding at a puzzle game. Pokemon Trozei, you are bad and you should feel bad. Back in the trade in pile you go.

2.) POKEMON DASH

What is it?: A Pokemon-themed racing game for the Nintendo DS.

What’s the consensus?: Gamerankings says the average score is 49.21%, making this one of the lower ranked Pokemon games on the market, and the lowest ranked Pokemon game on this list.

By all indications, no one on staff reviewed this game, or if they did the review has been lost to the sands of time, as we have no archive of it. I’m… actually kind of surprised about that.

Why’s it on the list?: Because everyone seems to hate it. I’ve seen no positive reviews of the game whatsoever and the few “Worst Nintendo Games EVAR” lists I’ve seen constantly hype up Pokemon Dash as one of the worst mistakes Nintendo has ever made.

What’d I think of it?: Oh, wow, yeah. This one really hurts.

Now, making a good racing game for the DS is not a difficult task. Nintendo has, in fact, already done this thing with Mario Kart, so it’s obviously not that hard. For whatever reason, however, Pokemon Dash does not, in fact, work in the way one would expect a racing game to work AT ALL. There are so many things I could be hyper-critical of with this game that it’s not even funny (though lord knows I’ll try). The fact that the game environment can slow down your Pokemon is annoying. The fact that, from what I played of the game, you really only play as Pikachu is boring and he gets annoying in a hurry. The whole “fly around in balloons and land on markers” gimmick works like crap because it’s very difficult to actually know where you’re supposed to land from like a million feet up, the whole gimmick is annoying and it’s just not well implemented at all. I could go on and on here, but these are all small complaints, relatively speaking.

You see, the biggest complaint about Pokemon Dash is that you have to play the game by rapidly scraping the stylus across the touch screen to make Pikachu run, which simultaneously simulates the feeling of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in three races and also allows you to feel what’s like to KILL YOUR HANDHELD while you play. Seriously, between the massive forearm pain and the imagined screams of agony as I destroyed my touch screen, I felt like I was confronting Jigsaw.

Hello Mark. I want to play a little game.“

“Uh… okay. What do I have to do? Dip my arm in syringe-filled buckets? Cut off a limb?”

You have six hours to complete every cup in Pokemon Dash.“

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO~”

Anyway, at first it wasn’t so bad, as my forearm wasn’t on fire and I could pretend I was punishing my DS for various unspecified crimes. “This is for the time you powered down when I was playing The World Ends With You and I lost an hour of progress! This is for the time you popped the game out of the system when I dropped you and had to start the final mission of Trauma Center over again!”

Don’t tell me you’ve never done that.

After about an hour, however, I needed an ice pack and I was starting to blame my DS for Brokencyde and World War II, so I figured it was time to give up.

Look, to any developer who thinks that making the player repeatedly scrape on the touch screen for any more than, say, fifteen seconds at a time is a good idea is A HORRIBLE DEVELOPER. Nintendo manages to escape such condemnation because the developer of this horrid thing is Ambrella, who we will be seeing again shortly. I’d like to give them a free pass because they developed Pokemon Rumble, which wasn’t bad, but the fact that they developed two of the games on this list and if their aggregated review scores, combined all together, counted as the IQ of the company, Ambrella would be legally retarded. Pokemon Dash is an affront to video gaming in general and racing games specifically, and it easily earns its reputation as one of the worst Pokemon games ever made.

So good job for that, I guess.

3.) POKEMON CHANNEL

What is it?: A game that simulates the experience of watching television with your pets. Don’t look at me like that.

What’s the consensus?: Gamerankings says the average score is 52.79%, so this wasn’t a particularly well received game when it came out, to put it politely.

On the other hand, Alex reviewed this back when it came out and gave it a very positive review, and the game ended up winning the “Best Gamecube Game” award for the year of 2003. I feel the need to point out here that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker also came out in 2003, mostly because I imagine someone is going to do this thing in the comments and I’d rather beat them to the punch.

Why is this on the list?: Because what was then Inside Pulse Games was the only website to say anything positive about the game whatsoever, and frankly, Alex and I do not see eye to eye on Pokemon as a franchise. Also, hey look, it’s Ambrella again! We just saw you guys like five minutes ago! How ya been? How’s the wife and kids? Good, good. This might hurt a little, guys, but we’re cool, right? Awesome!

I am obligated to note here that the opinions of this game, should they be in any way in opposition to that of the staff who voted on the 2003 gaming awards, are my own, and do not specifically reflect the opinions of the website. I have also been asked to refrain from denigrating the opinions of the staff should my opinion of this game drastically differ from theirs, so if the following description of my experiences with the game seems in any way “charitable” towards the game, that would be why.

What’d I think of it?: Describing this game would be like describing red to a blind person: no matter how well you think you’re doing, you’re never going to get the description across in a way that actually conveys the thing you’re attempting to explain. Pokemon Channel, at its most basic, is a game that attempts to simulate living in a Pokemon world. You can interact with Pokemon, collect Pokemon items, watch Pokemon TV shows, and play with the Pikachu who has chosen to move into your home. That’s the best way I can possibly describe this game.

Now, video games generally exist to fill one of two basic needs for the player, in most respects: they either provide fun or they provide challenge. This isn’t to say that one can’t be involved with the other, and indeed many games do both, but at the end of the day a game really needs to do one or the other to entertain the player. Something like Demon’s Souls focuses on the providing of challenge to entertain the player, for example, and while that can be fun, that isn’t the specific point. Conversely, something like Endless Ocean is more fun than challenging, and while a player might find the game challenging to some extent, again, this isn’t the point of the game in the strictest sense. While games can attempt to be both fun and challenging, and many succeed at this thing, the fact is that so long as a game can pull off one of these two things in a fashion the player deems enjoyable, the game can be considered a success, depending on how well this is accomplished.

The reason that I mention this is because I’m completely at a loss as to how Pokemon Channel is attempting to do either.

Pokemon Channel is not challenging in the conventional sense. There are quiz games, certainly, and doing well as these quiz games earns you money, but otherwise there is no challenge to the game. The game is entirely about interacting with the game world and watching television with the animal living in your house, which is something I DO NOW WITH MY DOGS. Playing a video game that simulates what I do in my actual house is incredibly bizarre, but more importantly, it lacks any kind of challenge whatsoever. I can compare this to a number of games that do something similar, but even those games have some type of base challenge associated with them. In The Sims you are challenged to keep up your social life, work life and overall happiness, which becomes harder and harder as you progress in the game. In Seaman you have to keep your Seaman alive by regulating his food and environmental conditions. Pokemon Channel eschews the notion of challenge in the strictest sense, allowing you to do what you wish with the game without fear of failure.

Fine, then, so it’s a fun game, yes? Well, it can be, but only if you’re the sort of person who is, and while I’m certain using this term is going to get me some flack I feel it’s an appropriate description, a fanboy of Pokemon. If you love Pokemon, or adorable things in general, you’ll certainly love this to some extent, because it’s basically you fooling around with Pikachu, and the game has personality to spare, but… well, okay. Allow me to quote from our esteemed Editor-in-Chief’s own review of the game, for reference purposes:

You will become addicted people. Oh yes. You can attempt to fight it, but you will be. Sure, you’re probably thinking. “I’m an overly macho hillbilly who refuses to let himself be entertained by anything that doesn’t involve killing a man in cold blood, bitch slapping a hooker, or saving the world from alien invaders. I need gore, sex, and the ability to temporarily forget I am one ugly bastard who will never gain the social skills necessary to properly interact with humanity on a level above that of Anti-Social Hermit.” But then you haven’t sat down with Pokemon Channel yet.“

Having spent time with the game, I must respectfully disagree.

Still, however, despite my weird and eclectic tastes, perhaps I was not the target demographic for this game. I love weird experimental games as much as the next person, but perhaps this game was meant for someone else, someone who was perhaps not so dedicated to his bitch-slapping of hookers and inability to interact with humanity. So I sought out the assistance of a few other people, people who I felt might give me more of an appropriate litmus test of what the game was trying to do. First off, my own best friend and esteemed site artist J. Rose, who has even more bizarre tastes in gaming than I do and loves adorable things like Hello Kitty and such. Second, my friend Mike, who I mentioned in my review of Dokapon Kingdom when I noted that 1.) he is a gigantic mountain of a man who is about as macho as one could possibly be without being Randy Savage and 2.) he was hopelessly addicted to Dokapon Kingdom for two weeks straight. Third, my mother, who adores Pikachu a whole lot.

Their responses were identical: “What is this? This is stupid.” Not a single one wanted to spend any more than an hour with the game. Not. A. One.

Look, there are people in the world who will undoubtedly enjoy fiddling around with Pokemon and watching Pokemon-themed television shows, but I play video games to actually do something. Pokemon Channel is strictly for the “casual gaming” crowd, and it is very proud of this thing, but it’s painfully obvious why the game did very poorly in the rankings, just as it’s obvious why the game did so well amongst the staff here back in 2003. Pokemon Channel was a critical failure because critics, ultimately, have no tolerance for experimental video gaming or video games where you don’t do anything but poke around. Endless Ocean proved that much for me. The adorable presentation might put off some people, certainly, but at the end of the day, the game has no purpose. It exists. It isn’t a game, it’s interactive art. That’s fine, certainly, but someone who wants to play a video game is going to think this is inane and want nothing to do with it.

Conversely, the game did as well as it did here back in 2003 because, surprise, the staff was full of Pokemon fans. If I have a staff full of Yankees fans on my sports writing staff, and I hold a vote asking who the best baseball team is, you wouldn’t need Kreskin to come in and guess what the response would be. That’s okay, though. Pokemon is a popular franchise, even now, and it continues to make millions of dollars each year because it’s still incredibly popular. No one can deny that. I’m not saying that Pokemon Channel didn’t deserve the award it received at the time it won it by any means. What I am saying, however, is that Pokemon Channel is a game for fans of Pokemon, which is why fans of Pokemon loved it.

That said, the core Pokemon games are fundamentally good games that anyone can play and enjoy, which is why the franchise has managed to remain as popular as it is and why those games tend to score high in most places. Pokemon Channel is the sort of game that is impenetrable to someone who isn’t a fan, and while I can’t really say it’s a bad game in the strictest sense, I can say that I never want to… interact with it ever again, as I can’t even really say I was “playing” the game, and within my own circle of friends and relatives, I have yet to find anyone who WOULD want to do this thing, either.

4.) POKEMON BATTLE REVOLUTION

What is it?: Did you ever play any of those Pokemon games on the Nintendo 64? The ones that basically allowed you to pit teams of Pokemon against each other, devoid of any sort of storyline or context, like some sort of virtual cock-fighting simulation? This is pretty much that.

What’s the consensus?: Gamerankings says the average score is 53.15%, placing it marginally above Pokemon Channel, somewhat above Pokemon Dash, and WAY below Pokemon Trozei.

Alex reviewed it back in 2007, and he didn’t think very much of it, essentially describing it as an average game overall. So, nothing offensive, but nothing good either.

Why is this on the list?: Because after the two Gamecube Pokemon games made an attempt at being actual games instead of just programs that allowed you to have Pokemon fights on your TV, the idea of console Pokemon games actually REGRESSING annoyed me immensely. So here we are.

What’d I think of it?: Well, aside from the game punishing me for not owning a DS Pokemon game and basically boring me to tears, it wasn’t the worst thing on the list overall, but it’s not very good, either.

So, upon booting the game up, I find out that because I don’t have a DS Pokemon game, I’m unable to make my own trainer in the strictest sense. I can customize the default trainer passes that I earn if I wish, but I’m simply incapable of building my very own trainer if I haven’t purchased Nintendo’s hand-held console and a Pokemon game to go with it, because I didn’t devote one hundred hours to leveling up an awesome Charizard or whatever. Note to Nintendo: ANY GAME THAT REQUIRES YOU TO OWN ANOTHER GAME TO FULLY ENJOY IS SHAMEFUL. As much as I picked on the Wii version of Bakugan Battle Revolution, it was its own game and allowed me to actually customize my character and deck without owning the DS version. I’m not paying money for half a game, and the idea that you would sell half a product to me is abhorrent.

Still, I can play with the default trainers, so at least the game is somewhat playable otherwise. Once you get down to the actual gameplay, the game is pretty much as simple as can be: choose a Pokemon, choose an attack with said Pokemon, repeat until you win or lose. It’s basically like playing regular Pokemon battles, except that it’s in 3D.

Oh, yes. I almost forgot. It’s also like playing a regular Pokemon battle, except for the fact that in a hand-held Pokemon game I can do other stuff, while in this game THAT’S ALL YOU DO.

Now, it’s great that I can customize my avatar, sure, and it’s lovely that the game supports online play, absolutely, but THIS GAME IS BATTLING FOREVER. Even as a front-end that allows you to orchestrate full-on 3D battles between your custom Pokemon and that of a friend, it’s not anything interesting. Back on the Nintendo 64, sure, we could tolerate that sort of thing because Pokemon was new and different and we loved the idea of battling on the TV. Now? We’ve seen that Pokemon games can have actual depth, limited though it might be, with the two Gamecube Pokemon RPG’s, so taking a step backward and giving us another 3D battle game is a waste of our time and yours. Pokemon needs to, if you’ll pardon the expression, evolve, not regress. That this game is generally the most accessible of the lot here doesn’t mean it’s not a tedious affair with little variety and less substance. For lack of a better way of describing it, Pokemon Battle Revolution, besides basically lying in its title, is another cheap cash-grab, and once again, this is disappointing, if not surprising.

5.) POKEMON TEAM TURBO

What is it?: A “racing” game, and I use that term in the loosest sense of the word possible, with some mini-games tacked on for added value.

What’s the consensus?: Gamerankings has never heard of this game, and we never reviewed it, despite the fact that Alex actually mailed me the damn thing.

Why is this on the list?: Because Alex mailed it to me and I was perversely curious as to just how bad it could be.

What’d I think of it?: For a game that probably cost five dollars, it’s still pretty freaking bad. Like Newgrounds Flash Game bad.

Now, when Alex told me Pokemon Team Turbo was a racing game, I figured, hey, that can’t be all that bad. I’ve played plenty of terrible racing games in my life, believe me, so even some horrid budget racing game with Pikachu and Charmander in it wasn’t something I was expecting to be too offended by. How horrid could it be, I figured?

Well, as it turns out, pretty horrid.

I don’t even know what to say about this. I mean, it’s a game, or more accurately a collection of games, but the idea that this is a retail release is laughable at best. This is someone’s midterm project for their programming class converted into a retail product. Seriously. Someone walked into THQ’s offices off the street with a program in their portfolio that allows a sprite to follow mouse movements, and someone in the office thought this would make a dandy video game. Someone took that, fleshed it out into a “racing game”, added in a bunch of other basic Flash games with Pokemon pictures pasted onto the icons, and released this as a retail disc meant to trick small children into bugging their parents to purchase it. This is the only explanation that I can come up with for why this exists.

The racing game itself is literally about you moving the mouse around as your chosen Pokemon moves in the direction of the pointer. Oh, wait. I’m sorry. That isn’t really a fair assessment. Let me try again. The “racing game” is literally about you moving the mouse around as your badly drawn sprite of a Pokemon head in a glass-topped Pokeball glides awkwardly around the course, animating in the most minimal way imaginable, as it tries to follow the pointer while bumping into other Pokemon. Winning the race comes down to being out in front in the beginning, as otherwise you spend forever bumping into other racers. The courses are all terrible, and all come down to understanding the lame gimmick associated with them. They all claim that their road type (ice, sand, etc) matters, but I have seen no indications as such. You can pretty much beat the races entirely in less than half an hour, and there’s no reward for doing so save a box that pops up informing you that you won. The remainder of the disc amounts to a bunch of mini-games where the designers took normal games and pasted Pokemon pictures over them, like Bulbasaur’s Domino Dash (guess the arrangement of the dominoes by what Pokemon attach where) and Skitty’s Block Out (the most boring version of Columns you’ll ever see), and they all suck.

The credits claim there was a whole development team. Like, multiple people were involved. Look.

Seriously, I could learn how to code in Flash in two months and crap out this exact game. THIS. EXACT. GAME. You could play something like Continuity FOR FREE on the net and someone expected you to pay money for this? This can almost literally be described as stealing, specifically, stealing from children. You could Google “free flash games” and find something more robust and full-featured than this game in, at most, five clicks, FOR FREE.

But hey, it’s got Pokemon on the front! It’s gotta be good, right?

CLOSING COMMENTS:

As we wrap up this themed edition of Playing the Lame, I feel as though I should present some sort of lesson to end on, and if I had to do so, it would be this: no franchise, no matter how beloved, no matter how well respected, and no matter how well taken care of it is by its owners, is beyond producing terrible and/or unappealing games. The fact that Nintendo has released consistently solid Pokemon games as part of the core franchise, even if they are often very much the same games as their predecessors, does not mean that the franchise is a magical flawless series that can do no wrong. That I was not terribly hard-pressed to find five “bad” games and could have probably expanded the list to ten if I’d possessed the motivation and time to do so is proof enough of that.

If you enjoy Pokemon, good on you. I did at one point, and I can see how it can be appealing to a good many people. If you happen to like any of the games I’ve presented as being on the poor end of the spectrum, again, good on you. Obviously you love the franchise enough to forgive it its faults, and are willing to see the good in the games despite their downsides. But for everyone else, I hope you have enjoyed my non-profane evisceration of five not especially pleasant entries in the franchise, which I feel is really the perfect way to cap off this otherwise exceptionally positive week.

Here’s hoping I’ll see you in two or so weeks with Wreckless. And now, I’m Mark B, and you’re not… and I really wish you were right now. I hate calculus.

Mark B. is the Senior Editor at Diehard GameFAN, mostly because he’s been on staff for five years. He has previously written for 411Games, InsidePulse Games, Not a True Ending, Retrograding and Beyond the Threshold, as well as his own personal opinion blog, Your Hot Cup of Rant, which he will update one of these days, he swears. His column, Playing the Lame, is meant as a reminder that developers produce a whole lot of awful games, and he swears it was a really novel idea five or six years ago, before everyone on Earth started doing it. Feel free to recommend any terrible games below or through the E-mail link at the top of the page, or follow him on Twitter if you’re bored.

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