(16-bit induced strokes?)

A chubby man rushes toward on dank public toilet in the middle of the night. Something is coming and it’s not good. He pushes a passerby aside and kicks open the sticky door. He looks around and sees that one toilet is free. He brushes the sweat from his meaty brow, gets into the cubicle and slams the door behind him. He leans against the wall for a moment and holds his belly. “Yes, yes. Almost there. You’ll be out soon”, he moans. He quickly pulls down his trousers and plants his ass onto the seat-less toilet. He slips and slides on it for a moment but manages to hold himself in place. He lets out a mightily sickly squeal as he takes off his belt and bites onto it hard. His belly sounds as if it’s going to explode as he almost bites his way through the belt. Suddenly a large splash is heard. He quickly dips his hands between his tights, into the toilet bowl and picks out what just came from his efforts. He holds it up and cleans it off. It’s some kind of box. He looks closer and on the front it reads “Megadrive – Rise of the Robots”. He drops it and is completely confused about what just happened. Just then another belly rubble reverberates through his bones. “No. NO. Please. Please god!”, he screams. Another splash is heard. He leans down yet again, picks it up and cleans it off. “Megadrive – Back to the Future III”. He lets out a sob and tries to climb to his feet but slips on the soppy ground and falls face first into the cubicle door. He sits up, turns and slowly looks to his side. He sees the two Megadrive boxes next to each other. He leans back and sits against the cubicle door and begins to cry knowing what horrors he has brought into this world.

Ok, games aren’t made like this. However, in the case of Rise of the Robots and Back to the Future 3 there may be an exception. Gather round, get a mug of tea and witness the gaming hell that is TGL’s Gaming Horrors #1.

I remember some years ago I used to read the Official Megadrive Magazine religiously. I’d read it, re-read it and then read it some more. This is back when you could happily call it a “Mag” and not sound a little poncey. It’s when everything in gaming seemed new, fresh and the prospect of a console that used a CD seemed like something from science fiction. Surely these CD-ROM based consoles won’t become the norm, eh? Yes, they’d even have CG rendered screen shots that would apparently show of the supposed graphical potential of Segas next big console- Project Neptune (Dreamcast). In the Megadrive era a lot of games looked similar too. They’d either be a Sonic ripoff- a platforming game starring an animal that wore shoes with a smug grin across its slippy face or they’d be straight up fighting games. However, no matter what game graced the pages of the Sega mag I’d be all over it. I’d study each screen shot, take a mental note of the release date and wait for the inevitable review. However, one game caught my eye like no other. One game quite literally blew my socks off, across the room and against the wall. That game was Rise of the Robots. It’s the gaming equivalent of the actor David Spade – sticky, skin like a basketball and smells of old pennies and vinegar.

Developed by Mirage and released in 1994 Rise of the Robots was hyped beyond belief. But I think it couldn’t have been helped really. This was 1994, man. Weezer’s video of “Buddy Holly” was playing 24/7 on MTV, Oasis were moaning into their microphones with songs like “Supersonic” and Pink Floyd released The Division Bell as a weak swan song to a mostly excellent career. It was a different world for sure. There was no Internet like we have today, no youtube to show you instant gameplay footage. Nope, just cold hard screen shots. And, personally speaking, Rise of the Robots excited me so much after seeing the first released screen shots that I literally had to pee. I mean when a game itself influences your bladder you know you’re onto a winner, right?

Well, maybe not. Week by week more screen shots would appear and would show images of what I soon learned was called “FMV” – Full Motion Video. I couldn’t help but feel it was futuristic or something. The game boasted FMV sequences and graphics that back in 94 looked cutting edge. There wasn’t anything to dislike about Rise of the Robots back then. Back then the hype machine was turned all the way up to eleven and no one was the wiser. The more previews that were published the more bloated the beasts belly became. And then came the reviews. As soon as my brother picked up the Sega mag I grabbed it and flipped passed the news, the previews, the letters pages, the cheats and finally onto the review pages. But I couldn’t find it on the first few pages. The first review was for something like The Story of Thor which was given a nice two page spread. But where was Rise of the Robots? Surely a hyped game like this would have had centre stage? Nope, it was one of the last games reviewed. It was kicked to the curb and given a half page review along with all the other shit games. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The review castrated the game and slapped it on the ass with a terrible score. From there it went down in history as one of the most over hyped turkeys in gaming history. Only some time after the review I got my hands on it. I couldn’t believe what I was playing. First off, the game always makes one player play as a certain character. This means that in the main mission mode you can only be one character while in 2-player mode someone must be that same character. The one on the box art, the shitty rip off of the T-100 from Terminator 2. The game basically fails on every front. There’s only three attacks – kick, punch and… wait for it… kick-punch! Classic. It’s slow, dumb, repetitive, clumsy but hey it sure looks pretty. I’d pat them on the back for manging to get an FMV sequence onto a Megadrive cartridge but I think all the devs went into hiding after making the game. But hey, I wouldn’t blame them for this game. I’m sure many of them knew they were working on a terrible game but what are they going to say? It sounds as if the publishers already knew what they were selling before development even finished. It was my first lesson in being infatuated with a game even before release and I never made that mistake since. Well maybe I did but never to that extent again. Anyway, avoid it like the plague, a plague shaped like a Megadrive cart and that smells like David Spade.

(“See my abnormal man-pecs. Bask in their blue light“)

Now onto a game that is so badly designed that it’s pretty much impossible to get passed the first level. Back to the Future III developed by Probe Software is the official videogame tie-in for the movie of the same name. The entire game consists of four levels. That’s it. As I mentioned before I haven’t be able to clear the first level without cheats as it really is that badly designed. The first levels basically skips a huge chunk of the movie and plants you at the part where Doc Brown must chase after Clara’s runaway stage coach. So, after a quick screen showing horrendously digitized faces of Michael J Fox and Christopher Lyoyd we’re plonked onto a horse in a desperate struggle to save Doc Browns future squeeze. However, unlike the movie we have to contend with bandits firing from behind, eagles that swoop down to attack and seemingly rogue tumbleweeds that all take you out with one hit. You know, it isn’t the fact that these obstacles were thrown it that annoys me. For ages games have included terrible enemies such as ice cream cones and bees but it’s the fact that they attack so quickly. What doesn’t help either is that for some reason the games screen seems to be quite dark. Check out the screen shots posted through the article. They’re not tampered with. It’s that dark which makes seeing a tiny fucking eagle flying toward you at an unbelievably fast pace next to impossible. Also, if you somehow make it closer to Clara’s stage coach and die you’ll be thrown back to an unspecified and unmarked checkpoint. You guys really have to try it out for yourselves. It’s really REALLY this bad.

Now, assuming you either get passed the first level by normal means or cheated you way past like me you’ll be rewarded with three more levels. Admittedly they aren’t as bad as the first but they sure are doing their best, dammit! From there you play a simple shooting gallery, a level in which Marty takes out Biff Tannens men by throwing plates at them and the final level in which the player, as Doc Brown, must make his way to the front of a moving train much like in the movie. However, unlike the movie whereby it’s fun, gripping and inventive the game is pretty much about jumping over poles and shooting bad guys in the face. Now there’s your problem! That’s two things Doc Brown would never do, especially the jumping over poles bit. Then ,once you’ve survived that level which in many ways resembles Chinese water torture you’ll get some scrolling text of Doc Browns speech to Marty and Jennifer about how the future hasn’t been written yet and that Marty, Jennifer and indeed the viewers should “make it a good one”. Wise words, Doc, wise words. Start by not playing this game, folks.

Now, much like how Doc Brown instructed Marty at the end of the movie to destroy the Delorean I must destroy these games. Yep. Because in many ways a time machine and bad videogames have many things in common, dear readers. Both shouldn’t be toyed around with and, most importantly, both don’t do very well against an oncoming train.

Oh and a happy new year and as we go into 2010 I have some nice surprises planned for TGL. Watch this space!

(Fighting moves conceived by a martial arts expert! Kick? Punch? Kick Punch?)

(Don’t ask me how he did the first level. It’s impossible without cheating. Try it for yourself!)

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