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Oh Shit! - MSX (1987)

by Nick Zverloff

Japanese Cover

Japanese Cover

Oh Shit!

Oh Shit! is such a bizarre creation, one that's totally unashamed to swear and steal at the same time. It's a complete 100% rip off of Pac Man, released for the MSX by Aackosoft. Everything, from the ghosts, to the maze, to the little intermissions between levels is ripped straight from Pac Man. At least they bothered to change the ghost's names from Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde to Joey, Paul, Willy, and Frankie. The ghosts also all act the same, all of them being aggressive instead of how the ghosts all had their own distinct strategies like in Pac Man. Obviously for people who plagarize games, plagarizing them well isn't a top priority. There are also some other subtle differences, such as power pills not lasting as long and the game speeding up on higher levels, but otherwise Oh Shit! is basically Pac Man, but with more swearing.

When the Original Pac Man died, he melted away and made one of the most memorable sounds in video games. When Pac Man Imposter dies in Oh Shit!, you hear a digitized voice shout out "Oh Shit!". That's pretty much the game's entire gimmick. Now, home ports of Pac Man have been historically bad, including the infamous Atari 2600 version that dropped ghosts in favor of exclamation points, pills in favor of wafers, and completely changes the maze into something that is not nearly as fun. Oh Shit! is, at least, somewhat playable beyond the game logic inaccuracies, and the digitized sound quality is quite good for 1987.

It also must have taken a lot of guts to not only steal Pac Man, but to put the word "Shit" right on the box and try to sell it in Europe. That being said, it was released as "Oh No!" in the United Kingdom. The fact that no one really remembers it indicates that the controversy they probably intended just never happened. In Japan, this game was simply called "Shit", with new box art that would lead one to believe that it involves vampires in some capacity. Oh Shit! is still one of the more playable kusoges on the MSX, and it's not every day you find a game with a swear word right there in the title.

Oh Shit!

Oh Shit!


Limbo of the Lost - Windows (2008)

by Kurt Kalata

Mock Cover

Limbo of the Lost (Amiga / unreleased)

Limbo of the Lost

Initially conceived as an Amiga game in 1993 and finally released in 2008 for the PC, Limbo of the Lost reached a certain level of infamy for its blatant plagarism. What were the developers doing in the fifteen years between conception and publication? Apparently they were busy running around the likes of Enclave, Unreal Tournament 2004, Oblivion, and Painkiller, hitting the Print Screen button and using the results as background artwork.

The rest of the visuals seems be, ironically, winning a contest for laziness. Text is not actually incorporated on to any textures - it is merely pasted on the image itself, presumably in Photoshop (or perhaps even MS Paint) in the same font, for every object, without regard for shape or depth. Some of the torch flame flickers seem to be taken from the animated GIFs from every web page in the 90s. The subtitles are filled with grammatical malfeasances and miscapitalized words. Nearly every sentence is divided by a series of a dozens periods or more, and occasionally sprinkled with insane laughter, whether it's vocalized or not. The main character is a default model from the animation program Poser. The camera has a strange obsession with extreme close-ups, dramatically zooming right up to the subject's nostrils and back. The animation is deliriously amateurish, with some facial expressions practically custom made for message board macros.

The main character, modeled after historical figure Benjamin Spooner Briggs, is caught in the battle between two godly forces, Fate and Destiny. Outside of Captain Briggs, most of the rest of the cast speaks with approximately the same voice, that being a Jar Jar Binks imitation with a strange British-Cajun accent. There's actually a character Cranny Faggot, a spooneristic reference to famed chef Fanny Craddock, which is about as insultingly clever as this game gets.

If stealing and butchering artistic assets were its only sin, Limbo of the Lost would have already been cast into hell, but as an adventure game it fails on pretty much every crucial level. The dark hallways are long and seemingly endless - if they were going to pilfer so many backgrounds, why did they steal the most boring ones? The camera deliberately hides important objects, when they're not concealed by the lighting. The puzzles aren't technically the worst the genre has seen, although at one point it challanges you to "create" tequila by taking some rancid sewer water and sticking a worm in it.

There's a lot of evidence that Limbo of the Lost really is a slapped together comedy, full of brazen, "what the hell, screw the man!" spirit, as if it were a high schooler's programming final that somehow got released as a commercial project. The game's official site was actually hosted on Geocities, and the epilogue also suggests as much - it ends up with all of the secondary characters gathered in a bar, mumbling through a song dubbing the hero "The King of Limbo". It's quite catchy in its insanity, and practically reveals the whole project as a gigantic prank.

Limbo of the Lost

Limbo of the Lost


Zelda's Adventure - CDi (1995)

by John Szczepaniak

Cover

Zelda's Adventure

Zelda's Adventure

One of the most annoying misconceptions perpetuated in videogames is that Zelda's Adventure on CDi is better than the earlier Zelda games, simply because it resembles the original NES Zelda. As a result of this ignorance, and low print numbers, ZA occasionally tops the $300 mark despite being demonstrably one of the worst games ever made.

There are around 20 weapons (probably more) and no fewer than 30 artifacts masquerading as key items - the majority of which you're likely to collect in the game's first third. Out of all this junk less than a fifth is ever needed and the rest exists only to confuse. Worse still is that some enemies can only be killed with one specific weapon, and no clue is given as to which. Also, acquisition of some key weapons is so counterintuitive it's a miracle anyone's completed the game. The Noise spell for example is on the other side of the map in the opposite direction to where you first need it. In the Sky Shrine meanwhile, the bow weapon is dropped only after killing every enemy in a generic room, despite every room until then yielding absolutely nothing. Everything suggests you should ignore the enemies, but doing so results in an invincible boss.

Another recurring scenario is finding a locked dungeon room where the door only opens after killing a new enemy, meaning you need to cycle through your 15 or so weapons trying each and hoping you've previously acquired the right one. If not, you then need to scour the massively open-ended non-linear world in the hope of stumbling across it. Compounding this problem is that every weapon requires rupies to use, and some cost rather a lot. Don't be surprised to spend considerable time reaching a dungeon's depths only to be halted because you ran out of rupies after testing half your inventory on said new enemy. You could farm for rupies, except enemies don't always respawn. This forces you to commit suicide, whereupon you respawn at the game's start along with everything else.

And none of these inventory problems even touch upon how most of the game is utterly bizarre. Who is the sleeping hobo? Why are there mute ghosts in some areas? What the hell is the point of that swamp village, and why do they give you a pair of yellow boots? Why after struggling through an enemy infested forest to find the quarry man who gives you metal ore, said item is never mentioned again? You end up with enough useless crap to open your own Walmart, and none of it does anything. But you can't ignore anything since reaching some areas, such as the Water Shrine, require you help a seemingly arbitrary NPC.

An issue of CDi Magazine had an interview with Lee Barnes, president of Viridis, who claimed ZA contained 300 hours of gameplay and 160 NPCs. This is complete nonsense of course, since it can be finished in 12 hours and there's only a handful of NPCs, most of whom do absolutely nothing. But it becomes significant when you read other interviews which reveal ZA spent two years in testing - longer than it took to develop. With key staff moving on to other projects, the only option to fix bugs was removing various sections wholesale and hoping it didn't collapse. Which explains why so much of ZA is without function. In a way these events resulted in something almost Dada-esque: absurd, illogical, and wholly at odds with conventional game design.

Images courtesy of Quebec Gamers

Zelda's Adventure

Zelda's Adventure

Zelda's Adventure


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Color a Dinosaur - NES (1993)

by Jave

Cover

Color a Dinosaur

Color a Dinosaur

In the early 90s, a developer called Farsight Studios got their start in the industry working on the notorious Action 52 as well as a series of art programs for home consoles. First came Videomation, a very primitive drawing program for the NES, and then Art Alive for the Genesis, which is a sort of antecedent to Mario Paint, only harder to use and not as fun. Both of these games were fairly clunky, and it would take considerable effort to actually draw something, but they did technically fill an otherwise neglected niche. Their third and last game in the series is another story altogether.

In an attempt to appeal to that untapped market of 3 to 6 year olds, Color a Dinosaur delivers exactly what it says on the box; you color dinosaurs, and that's pretty much it. Now, at first blush, this type of game might seem like an unfairly easy target for an ostensibly hardcore gaming website to pick on, but on a conceptual level, the idea of a game like this isn't altogether terrible. After all, coloring is a pretty good activity for keeping small kids entertained, and hey, dinosaurs are pretty rad, so if you're gonna to be coloring something, why not? The trouble with this game (some of which can be blamed on the limitations of the NES) is that, even when judging it on it's own terms, it's not a very good coloring book.

Once past the title screen, you're presented with the dinosaur select screen, where you can choose from one of 16 different cartoon dinosaurs to color. When choosing your dinosaur, whether you press the A or B button will determine whether you use a free-roaming cursor, or one that jumps automatically to different points on the picture, though both are clunky in their own special ways. Pressing A colors whatever selection the cursor is pointing to, and B selects which color or pattern you'll use. Select allows you to cycle through the games 8 color palettes, though half of these are just the same palettes wherein one of the colors is constantly changing. The start button takes you back to the dinosaur select screen.

Each palette has 3 colors to choose from, and yes, you just read that correctly; three colors. The rest of the choices in the palette are just patterns comprised of the three original colors. When you switch palettes, all the colors on the screen switch over, so you can't actually mix colors from different palettes, though you technically can mix and match patterns from different palettes. When you do choose to color in a certain area, the color doesn't fill in all at once, but instead goes through an elaborate (and depending on the size of the area being colored, a painstakingly slow) sequence.

The dinosaur drawings themselves are kind of cute, and the music, by none other than Tommy Tallarico, is at least catchy, though there isn't a lot of it, so it does grate a bit after a while, and the interface is simple enough that you could reasonably expect a small child to handle it. The problem? With 16 pictures, and 4 palettes of 3 colors each and no save feature, the game stacks up fairly poorly when compared to the much cheaper option of just buying an actual coloring book and a box of crayons.

Color a Dinosaur

Color a Dinosaur


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