The critics aren’t always right! Find out which panned games you should check out…
It’s probably fair to say that for every great piece of media, there’s a thousand more pieces of garbage art to sift through. Things that tend to stick with us are often those that achieve something, things that mean something to us, things that break on through that barrier that holds so many pieces of art from being that great piece of media that all things have the potential to be.
Of course, artistic merit is largely subjective, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all. While only in its infancy compared to many other forms of entertainment, video games are something that a lot of us younger folks grew up with, and as such we’ve experienced some of the best and worst of the medium throughout its ups and downs.
Here, we’re bringing you some of the titles that we think didn’t necessarily deserve to be as critically damned as they were on their release. Based on aggregate review scores, we’re going to throw ourselves directly onto the controversy bonfire that is review scores, and tell you what you really missed out on if you listened to the critics of yesteryear.
Gotcha Force – GameCube (2003)
Sitting at a middling 56/100 on Metacritic, the general consensus of Gotcha Force on release appeared to be that of an inconsistent mish-mash of existing IP’s and repetitive gameplay loops. In the years since, it’s established itself as one of the many overlooked cult titles of the Gamecube era, going for fairly big bucks on auction sites across the internet.
In the defence of 2003/4 games journalists across the globe, they weren’t entirely wrong in their estimation of what was on offer here. The game seemed to borrow a lot of basic elements from all over the place; little robots from outer space, need YOUR help to stop an invading force that’s now threatening planet Earth (à la Transformers, only much, much smaller). Seemingly half inspired by the smattering of “gotta catch ‘em all” style titles that were all the rage only a few years prior, and the other half by Capcom’s own, then recently established, Megaman Battle Network series in it’s style, Gotcha Force had a lot of other people’s work to thank for it’s backbone.
There’s a constant, pervading feeling that Capcom was wishing for this to be something bigger than it would ever become ingrained into almost every facet of the game. Their clear desire for this to sell merchandise loomed over you perpetually, but unfortunately for Capcom, the game just didn’t sell that well and was considered a big flop. No sequel, no accompanying anime, and (according to my brief research on the subject) virtually no toys.
But the game was fun! There’s not a whole lot of downtime between missions, the action is snappy and energetic, and the style is cute and colourful – the weak links are the story, and lack of other things to do. This is a fairly impressive game for 2003 as far as I’m concerned, and it’s a bit of a shame that there’s not been any news on the series since.
Tweety and the Magic Gems – Game Boy Advance (2001)
Above all else, a video game should be fun. That’s their main purpose. When you’re a kid, you’re not looking at what critics are saying, you’re grabbing a game with a really interesting cover or with brand recognition and just playing the Hell out of it because you want to have fun. Or, at least, that was my experience. Bad game design didn’t factor into 9 year old Dobbie’s gaming habits (unless we’re talking about Sea Monkeys for the PS1 which I knew was bad within about 5 minutes of starting it up…).
Brand recognition is what led me to Tweety and the Magic Gems. I knew I was getting a Game Boy Advance for my birthday, and in the lead up happened to see the box for the game in my local Dixons. I made the decision there and then that I wanted the game. I didn’t know anything about it, I don’t even think I looked at the back of the box. All I knew is that I was getting my first ever handheld console and I needed games for it – Looney Tunes would be perfect no matter what they’re up to.
Tweety and the Magic Gems turned out to be a party game, a term I wouldn’t come to understand until many years after. The story went that Tweety Pie, lovable scamp that he is, had been venturing through the woods one day and discovered a strange box. He opened the box and accidentally unleashed ‘bad forest magic’ and began slowly turning to stone. Granny, in her witchy form here, finds out and summons Looney favourites like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and more to scour the globe and collect 5 Magic Gems in an effort to stop Tweety fully turning to stone forever.
Truthfully, the story doesn’t play a massive part in the game, outside of setting an effective turn limit to the game (every few turns, you see more and more of Tweety’s body turning to stone; once he hits 100%, it’s game over whether anyone’s collected the gems or not). The game board is basically a map of the world with spaces allocated across it, and you decide how many spaces you move via selecting a card from a shuffling deck. The gems themselves change place for every game, but are always located within 5 famous cities across the world, which effectively act as mini game boards that you enter via the main board. There are events across the map that can help or hinder you and your opponents can use items to stop you in your tracks. If you draw an Ace card from the deck, then Taz will arrive as the game’s chaos element to ensure you’re gonna have a bad time. And in true party game fashion, there were MANY minigames to take part in to get character points to save up for items.
Nowadays, and perhaps even at the time, this game would be seen by many purely as a ‘Mario Party’ clone, and you can’t really argue that point. I can argue though that it doesn’t make this a bad game by any stretch – in fact I think in terms of its game board and the minigames within it has a fair deal of scope that Nintendo’s plumber had yet to realise in his Party series. On top of all that, there’s the style of this game – the art perhaps isn’t astounding but it all fits into the Looney Tunes universe superbly (especially for the GBA), the game’s soundtrack has been ingrained in my head for years and, well, I’d take the Looney Tunes over Mario and his cohorts any day quite frankly.
The game currently sits at 45/100 on Metacritic, and I personally think it warrants a higher score than that. Yes, if you’ve played any Mario Party before then perhaps this won’t win you over. If however, like 9 year old Dobbie, you had never played a party game before, you’d see this is very clearly a game that’s good at what it does and, above all else, is a fun video game.
Looney Tunes: Back In Action – PlayStation 2
I know I’m coming off as a bit of a Looney Tunes mega-fanboy here, but dammit this video game deserves better than the middling 51/100 it currently has on Metacritic! Specifically talking about the PS2 version here, Looney Tunes: Back In Action loosely follows the story of the movie it’s based on, taking in locations such as the Warner Bros. Studio Lot in Hollywood, Las Vegas and even Paris! It’s a 3D platformer and, look, it’s not a game that was ever gonna change the world but it’s a damn fine 3D platformer!
You take control of Bugs and Daffy (whom you can switch between at will!) as you attempt to collect various monkeys across the game’s many levels, one of whom has stolen the Blue Monkey Diamond (it’s loose but hey, what does Mario collect all those Stars for anyway?). There are little tasks to do across the world via which you can get these monkeys, or you can even just stumble upon them running around the game world. When compared to the very best of the platforming world, it’s fair to say this isn’t necessarily a standout moment, but equally if you just want a 3D platformer and are a Looney Tunes fan, this is a really fun time!
Also, the movie Looney Tunes: Back In Action is incredibly underrated for my money and deserves another chance. Maybe it isn’t Space Jam levels of brilliance but I still love it and laugh whenever I watch it to this day. Watch the movie and, more importantly, play the game. Both great. Fun video game. Fun time. Games should be fun. This is fun.
Rogue Warrior – PS3, XBOX 360, Windows (2009)
Whenever the discussion of the worst games of all time arises, Rogue Warrior is often bandied about. Sitting at a paltry 29/100 on Metacritic, it hasn’t garnered with players or critics since it released in 2009.
Would I dispute that it’s not very good? No, no one could. Would I argue that it’s still a lot of fun? You bet your cock-breath commie motherfucking ass!
Based very loosely on the real life exploits of former Navy SEAL Dick Marcinko, you act as a one man army dropped behind enemy lines during the height of the Cold War. Ostensibly a ‘by the numbers’ FPS, you have to take out foreign threats like the grizzled American hero you are. And while your methods might be extreme, they pale in comparison to your language. I’m fairly certain Mickey Rourke, who voices Marcinko, stubbed his toe in the recording booth, as he managed to reel off every expletive-laden sentence he could muster. I tried to share a video compilation of his best lines, but YouTube deems it too rude to be embedded. You can view it here, if you’re feeling brave enough.
But while the language is painfully juvenile, and the gameplay is short and mindless, the sum of Rogue Warrior’s parts is probably the closest we’ve ever come to a faithful recreation of an 80s action film in gaming.
Much like the films of Schwarzenegger and Stallone (as well as Rourke himself), you’re not meant to go into the game looking for anything of substance. You play it for over the top action, ridiculous dialogue and machismo that borders on the homoerotic.
Heck, I’m about as red as Lenin’s left pinkie toe, but even I enjoy playing as the jingoistic protagonist. Not because I agree with him, far from it, but because he serves as a parody of that mindset, and the silliness of it all is just as fun to watch as it is to play. That’s why it’s no surprise that many comedy gaming YouTube channels still break out Rogue Warrior to have a good laugh and a good time.
And that’s just it. A game doesn’t have to be technically or philosophically advanced to be enjoyable. I love a thought provoking experience like Gris or Night in the Woods, but I also like to blow up baddies as an over the top action hero.
And if you finish a game with a big cheesy grin on your face, regardless of what anyone else thinks, it’s a good game.
Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death – PS2, Xbox, PC & Gamecube (2003)
Right, this one hurts. Last year, I included Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death in our list of The Best Licensed Video Games, which is why it was particularly painful to find out it only has 55/100 on Metacritic.
Despite being 17 years old, it remains the franchise’s most recent video game release, and is definitely worth a replay in 2021. Taking control of the titular protagonist, you explore various locations within Mega City One to complete objectives such as stamping out crime, defeating the supernatural Dark Judges and stamping out an infestation of vampires, just to name a few.
In an era of fairly generic FPS games, Dredd vs. Death made a real effort to innovate. Expansive maps allowed you to tackle combat from various angles, and the fact you could arrest almost all NPCs for crimes ranging from murder to owning a hamster without a license made the world feel lived in and organic. What’s more, Dredd’s Lawgiver pistol has to be one of the best weapons in video game history; with ammo types ranging from explosive, bouncing, person-seeking, armour piercing and highly explosive, it’s the closest we’ll ever be to actually being a Street Judge.
People have been waxing lyrical about Halo for nearly 2 decades, but if you haven’t tried its grungier, more violent and arguably superior counterpart, you’re missing out.
The Simpsons Wrestling – PlayStation (2001)
The Simpsons Wrestling, much like Rogue Warrior, is often brought up in conversations about the worst games ever. Heck, our Craig featured it in his list of The Worst Simpsons Video Games. With a Metacritic score of 32/100, it would appear critics agree, but I still have fond memories of enjoying many hours duking it out as the residents of Springfield. So why would I call it a ‘good’ game?
Well, for this most part it’s the show’s humour that the game adopts pretty well. Each character has a moveset that’s faithful to their character; Barney burps noxious clouds of beer gas, and Ned Flanders is, as he is in the show, an unstoppable killing machine (seriously, he’s so OP).
While the mechanics are simple, and even then horrifically clunky, there’s still a lot of fun to be had for fans of The Simpsons. Each arena features settings from the show, and with a roster of 12 fighters, you can control characters seldom seen in other games. Being able to play as Bumblebee Man should be worthy of a 50+ Metacritic score by default.
Again, much like the violent exploits of ‘Demo Dick’ Marcincko, it’s what you make of it. Not everything about the game has to be technically sound to find enjoyment, and as long as there’s enjoyment, there’s a good game.