A title like 10 Amazingly Awful Games Volume 2 has to be a marketing ploy. I never played the original 10 Amazingly Awful Games because I had enough faith in its self-assessment to save my time, but I’ve heard that they weren’t actually bad. On that flimsy basis, I thought it was worth taking a chance on the sequel, Volume 2.
The game’s developer said recently that his aim was to parody old low-grade game collections such as the infamous Action 52. I’ll admit I was a little curious as to whether this worked as a parody or merely retrod the same ill-advised path.
As it turned out, the contents of 10 Amazingly Awful Games Volume 2 were quite variable in quality. In the interests of clarity and satisfying my neurotic leanings, here is a blow-by-blow account of what I found lurking within. Buckle up; it’s a rollercoaster ride. One of those rickety old rollercoasters that you find in dilapidated, windswept coastal resorts that are decades past their prime.
In the order that they occur in the menu:
Blobby Blobby is a very basic one-hit-death platformer with clumsy controls, unclear hit detection and bursts of unreasonable difficulty that seem to be designed to catch you out. Platformers live or die by their controls, and Blobby Blobby controls like trying to balance a blancmange on a tennis ball.
Fruit Defender has you pressing the face buttons to pop fruit that approaches from the corresponding four directions. It’s executed perfectly soundly but feels depressingly pointless. There’s just no incentive to keep going.
Grid Warrior is basically a monochrome Space Invaders. A few negligible additions, such as enemy turrets at the sides and the ability to move up and down the screen, fail to enhance the experience.
I Madez a Clone Wiv Zombies Innit is one of the better offerings in this package. It’s a vertically scrolling twin-stick shooter with a few weapon pick-ups. Its title parody of I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1 gave me a chuckle but after that the experience went downhill. It functions adequately, and when I was seven years old this would have seemed like the best game ever. If you’ve ever played a twin-stick shooter before, though, this low-rent, entry-level attempt will just remind you that you could be playing better versions. As a rule, a game that parodies another game has to be either at least as good as the original, or amusing enough to compensate. The gameplay here is very basic at best, and the only humour to be found is in the title. The eye-scouringly horrible visuals don’t help, with primary school character sprites and backgrounds that look like the contents of a dinosaur’s stomach.
Lame Defenders 2 is a side-scrolling space shooter. You shoot things. It’s more challenging than it seems and, like the zombie/clone game above, could be fun for a child who’s never played anything like it. I had flashbacks to my dad’s Atari 2600, in gameplay style if not in aesthetic. It’s still sinfully ugly though, and your spacecraft moves woodenly enough that it can be needlessly frustrating to manoeuvre.
Nastyroids is the classic Asteroids with weapon power-ups, a larger arena and occasional targets that fight back. If you’re someone who still longs to play Asteroids, you might enjoy this. I never really liked Asteroids that much, but this take on the formula does the job perfectly well. It gave me some simple fun for a little while. The expanded arena helps the classic clunky control scheme (rotate your ship with the left stick, then propel it forward with the right trigger) feel less frustrating, and its basic visuals are an upgrade over the wireframe graphics of its predecessor. Probably the best of the whole batch, by virtue of being a decent enough example of its type.
Seeker is a 2D explorer/shooter. I don’t know if it’s based on an old template like many of the other games here, but the game it reminds me of most is the dreadful Bit Crunch. Fortunately Seeker isn’t that bad. You roam around a randomly generated maze of rooms, dodging obstacles and shooting enemies, looking for keycards and the route to a computer that must be destroyed. Your health (or ‘power’ here) depletes over time as well as when you take hits, so the pressure is on. Seeker actually has some potential to be fun. If it wasn’t for a couple of glaring problems, it could be something I’d choose to play, at least for a little while. Firstly, it’s very easy to get stuck on corners. When leaving a room, I got stuck more often than I didn’t, particularly if I was hastily fleeing a group of enemies. Secondly, you can only shoot left or right, despite the manifest need to at least add up and down to the range of fire. It’s infuriating losing valuable points from my power meter just because an enemy approached from above and I had to manoeuvre across the entire room to be in a position to open fire. I think the lesson here is that the developer should give up on making batches of ten lazy, poorly designed games and focus on making one decent game. If he’d devoted the effort from the other nine games in this collection solely to Seeker, it might have been worth playing.
Stormwheel is a driving/shooting hybrid that reminds me very much of Action Fighter on the Sega Master System. The objective is to get to the finish line within the time limit while dodging hazards, shooting other cars and making blind jumps that require trial and error. As an Action Fighter clone, it’s fine. It does pretty much what that game did. The problem is that Action Fighter wasn’t much fun 25 years ago, and age hasn’t improved it. It isn’t offensively terrible but there’s really no reason to play it. It’s just not a fun way to spend your free time.
Terror Tunnel is a watered down Missile Command. Use a reticle to direct your fire against falling stuff. Hold the right trigger and move the left stick around. At one point I realised I was daydreaming about walking to the supermarket to buy lunch, but still successfully playing the game. Skip it like a flat rock on a tepid sea.
Viper Wing is a vertically scrolling space shooter. Hold the right trigger while weaving around. So bland that even its own description of itself uses the word ‘generic’. Presumably that’s a chortling display of the art of high parody but, as I said about I Cloned a Clone with Clones In It above, a parody still has to be a good game if you expect anyone to play it, or else be funny enough that people will forgive the mediocre gameplay. Going ‘ho ho, my game is intentionally generic’ at the beginning doesn’t qualify.
All in all, 10 Amazingly Awful Games Volume 2 neither follows through on the grim threat of its title, nor really works as a fun parody. A couple of the games within are simple fun for brief periods, but there’s nothing here that can’t be found better elsewhere, usually very cheap. Admittedly you’re effectively paying a measly 8 Microsoft points for each game in the collection, but that doesn’t make it right. I wouldn’t forgo my lunchtime BLT in favour of munching down on eight boxes of toothpicks just because the price is the same, and you shouldn’t be tempted to buy ten games that occasionally manage to reach up and tug at the ankles of mediocrity. If you want all these games, it’s worth paying ten times the price for ten better versions.
10 Amazingly Awful Games Volume 2 isn’t amazingly, astonishingly, tourist-enticingly hideous. It’s just bad. I’d take one competent game over ten half-hearted ones any day.
[Originally written for The Indie Mine, using a review copy supplied by them.]