Monday, August 8, 2011

Bad Game Night: "Transformers: The Game" and "Superman Returns"

Some games are abysmally horrible. Poor production values, they look like arse, they play like arse, they control like arse... just shit, shit, shit, from development to disc. Most of these take the form movie tie-in games, for the longest time a blight on the videogame industry's ability to advertise and sell great games - good games like L.A. Noire have to share the shelves with equally popular and clamoured-for atrocities like Green Lantern and Thor.

But hold on, I think to myself one night in a daze. Bad movies have a place in cinematic history. Movies like Troll 2 and Plan 9 From Outer Space live on in our collective memories because, despite being fucking awful, are entertaining for exactly those reasons. People group together for entertaining schlock and dedicate time to watching these films in "bad movie nights". So, why not games? Cannot morbid curiosity power the enjoyment required not to smash horrible tie-in games with a hammer within ten minutes of play? That's what this new segment is dedicated to. I'm going to review bad games (albeit, without an overall score at the end, because the idea is they're all terrible), and maybe even shed light on why just because they're fucking atrocious, it doesn't make them unenjoyable. This is Bad Game Night.

This week, I'll be looking at some movie tie-ins I acquired from a friend who was in a rush to get rid of them - Superman Returns, and Transformers: The Movie: The Game. Both based on their respective films, both open-world sandboxes with terrible, muddy graphics and control schemes that just don't work, yet both quaintly charming in a "so bad it's good" kind of way. In no particular order, let's dive in to these total train wrecks of games and scour the crashsites for valuables...

Transformers looks really good on paper. You play as a fucking Transformer. At all times, you are but a one-button switch away from transforming and rolling out. I didn't finish the game (obviously), but for the few hours I played, I controlled the iconic Transformer, Bumblebee, a mute yet definitely bad-ass alien mech who turns into a Camaro - complete with rolling machine gun barrels under the hood and a top speed of fast. It's neat. For about five minutes.

Bumblebee is an Autobot, see, and not a Decepticon. Autobots are basically space-Jesus, and as such, are sworn to protect humanity. Which wouldn't be so bad if humanity wasn't so pathetic and lifeless in this game. Y'see, Transformers: The Movie: The Game is based on, well, the Michael Bay Transformers movie, which is bu all accounts a filmmaking atrocity, and Bay's horrific sense of storytelling dignity carries on to the interactive experience. Bumblebee kicked a lot of ass in the sections I played, and despite crusty controls and dated graphics, it played alright. It was a mission in which I was told I had to save Sam Witwicky, Shia LaBeouf's character from the film and probably the worst protagonist of any cartoon/comic book big-screen adaption ever, that I threw my controller down in rage and had no choice but to pack it in.

I think Transformers: The Movie: The Game could have not been bad if they removed the "the Movie" bit from the title. The controls are absolute crap, and the open-world aspects are phoned in - not to mentioned other "shitty tie-in game" tropes like unimaginative and repeated enemy types, repetitive mission structure, and uninspired art design. But the Transformers themselves - Megatron and Optimus Prime especially - should be unsullied for this videogame exploitation. The fact of the matter is, it feels like a really average game - not a bad game, just average, maybe even slight above-average - wrapped inside the stinking garbage of the Michael Bay film. The game had all the ingredients to make an open world robot-brawling diversion worthy ofRampage. But as long as the film's story is intact, pushing the Transformers to the sidelines; becoming the B-story, a slave to following around Shia LeBeouf, making sure his punchable face stays intact as unimaginative robot drones try and steal his girlfriend or whatever - it's insulting. It's also disappointing. Like a kick to the sloppily-rendered robo-balls.

For all it's flaws, Transformers provides solid schlock entertainment. The action is suitably frantic and loud and the sandbox of toys is large enough to be satisfying to traverse. It only really gets bogged down because it follows in the footsteps of Michael Bay's film - that the game pulls itself out of that muck at all and provides a few hours of decent enough robot-punching hyper-action is an achievement all in itself. If you're undiscerning or curious, definitely check this out if you get the chance.

While Transformers followed perhaps too closely its source material, Superman Returns throws all but the bare bones of the plot of the film its tied to out the window. Instead of the slightly-realistic, emotionally-charged and somewhat unimaginative depiction of the man of steel seen in the Bryan Singer film, in the game you control a Superman who beats up aliens and robots. Okay, you've got my attention, Returns.

Every single aspect is objectively a disaster. The open-world is small, poorly-rendered, and empty. The controls are confusing and ineffectual. Superman's move list is pathetic, and the game falls at almost every conceivable hurdle. It is a shitty tie-in game, the kind that should be passed out with Happy Meals - not sold at full price as a "game". It's barely a game - it's a toybox of Superman action figures. And not even a very good kind.

But strike me down and call me a liar if Superman Returns isn't a metric fuckton of fun. Why? Because it's awful. It is the videogame equivalent of "so bad it's good." The plot especially is hilarious - at one point, on his way back to Earth from Kypton, Superman is stopped by some aliens who are holding a galaxy-wide fighting championship. Sweet! Superman is taken in as a newcomer and forced to fight three bosses in a row. Awesome! Cheesy, is a good word - it's silly while taking itself completely seriously, and the sheer unintentional humour of the situations makes playing and watching the game a blast.

It's a horrible game, don't get me wrong. But dark, brooding, serious Superman from the Bryan Singer film is punching trashcan robots in the face. Also throwing cars into the river. Also, the flying mechanics work incredibly well - much better than anything else - and there's a legitimate exhilarating thrill to zooming through the city at the speed of sound, or flying into the stratosphere to beat up asteroids. The game is completely horrible, a failure on almost every level - but that makes it a spectacle to behold. I wouldn't recommend Superman Returns unless you're capable of interpreting ironic entertainment, but if you need to piss about for five minutes in a superbly hilarious yet terribly made game, Superman Returns will put a smile on your face - even if it's all for the wrong reasons.

Andy is a gamer who has a surprisingly high tolerance for steaming piles of bullshit. I mean, he gave Duke Nukem Forever a bloody 8/10 for God's sake. Anyway, keep in mind that Bad Game Night articles are not intended to be review columns - rather, humorous recollections of times spent in bad games. Do not let these articles influence your purchasing decisions. If Andy says "it's worth a shot," don't actually go out and buy the game he says is worth a shot. That would be fucking stupid.


  1. 8/10 for Duke Nukem Forever?!! That just sounds like pure desperation - I wanted so badly to pretend like that game wasn't terrible. Fail.

  2. Duke Nukem Forever WAS pretty terrible, I just enjoyed it so much that I kind of glazed over its faults. You can hardly blame me for enjoying it, it had a lot of really interesting and enjoyable sections and I found it quite funny (even when it didn't want me too), and thought it deserved an 8/10.

    That doesn't make it "fail" that I liked the game - I had fun with it, what can I say. Read my Top 10 to get an idea of my taste in games, and then ask yourself if my taste is terrible, or if DNF was actually genuinely fun. It's one or the other.

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