Saturday, 10 July 2010

Good ideas that turn sour

I love it when a good idea remains good all the way through production until it ends up on the shelves, remaining the brilliant brain fart that spawned its creation months or even years prior. Half-life, The Legend of Zelda and chainsaw bayonets are all fantastic concepts that made the transition to virtual reality perfectly.

Unfortunately this train of thought, like many others, does have a polar opposite effect that can make me more hateful than a bag full of convicted murderers given time in prison to plot their revenge. When a really good idea goes into the machine beautiful at one end, but comes out the other horrifically warped and covered in hair from multiple donors, it makes me want to scream in anguish.

The latest game I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing was Artificial Mind and Movement’s demented hack and slasher Naughty Bear. I really wanted to like it, but the repetitive gameplay and complete lack of variety made it about as fun as eating a Jammy Dodger that has been trodden into the carpet.

I wrote a very similar blog back in 2008, explaining my dismay at another game that had displayed brilliance in the concept but had an appeal very similar to wrapping a wet towel around your face to see how well you could cope at drowning. Ninjabread Man for the Wii had a great, original idea about a deadly biscuit trained in the ancient art of fighting evil. Why did it have to fail?

Both of these games were ones that I really wanted to love, where I forced myself to play on in an almost sadistic manner, just to see if they could possibly redeem themselves. To give Naughty Bear credit, I did find it genuinely funny, and it kept the smile on my face for a little while, but this just added to the insult that it was a complete flop to play.

I suppose there are many reasons why a game might end up being bad, whether it is time restraints, budget cuts, staff reductions, or perhaps the project simply runs out of spark. I just find it a real shame that such things happen. You can understand if a movie game tie-in seems rushed and half arsed, as it will be able to shift units by the basket load due to the license it’s riding on. These titles which seem completely off the wall and original however stand very little chance of seeing a second attempt if the first one sold as well as belly button fluff chutney.

I can accept that bad games happen, but the last couple of years have felt so sequel heavy within the seasonal blockbusters, possibly due to the safety net of them being ideas that people already know and love. I’m not saying that there haven’t been any truly imaginative gems released either, it just seems that there have been a lot of numbers and new subtitles adorning some very familiar game franchises, and not necessarily completely new casts to fall in love with.

It is simply a statistical fact that not all ideas will take off and be great, but both Ninjabread Man and Naughty Bear were enough to grab my attention with a single sentence description. They were mountains of imagination that turned out to be ice cream cones of sadness. I really hope that the next title to grab me by the gentleman handle with a single line will turn out to be the belter that breaks the trend.

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