For the Worst of the Worst of Gaming in 2009… The Crashies

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We’re in the thick of Video Game Award Season, with the IGF and GDC awards next week. Lots of deserving games will win nice shiny awards. But what about the bottom-dwellers? Where’s their recognition? Let us introduce The Crashies.

We are, of course, taking some inspiration from the Razzies. Also known as the Golden Raspberry Awards, they’ve called out the absolute worst in movies year after year for the last three decades. However, with more than 1400 releases in 2009, the gaming industry outpaced the 619 movies Hollywood released by a factor of 2. There’s bound to be a lot of crap in there, but no video game equivalent to the Razzies exists to salute that stockpile’s collective wackness. Until now. And, with that, let the Crashing begin.

Worst Remake of a Classic Game

Bionic Commando (Capcom)

So much should’ve went right here. With the way that graphics and physics technologies have evolved since the classic platformer was on the NES, the nouveau Bionic Commando should been a free-wheeling romp that let you be Spider-Man with a bad-ass gun. But a terrible story, dodgy camera and needlessly grim tone spoiled whatever lingering love you might’ve had for Super Joe and his adventures.

Rygar: The Battle of Argus

This Wii game’s a remake of a remake. In 2003, Tecmo updated its shield-slinging barbarian for the PS2 and first Xbox. Though it was a bit of a button-masher, it was somewhat fun. But adding some Wii remote-waggling to the button-mashing doesn’t count as a major upgrade. Worse yet, the last-generation graphics fall way short of today’s expectations, even on the underpowered Wii.

Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff

Fans of the classic arcade football game have been clamoring for years for an update and that’s exactly what they got. Granted, Kickoff on Nintendo DS doesn’t have the benefit of licensed athletes like the original but it makes up for that by adding special abilities for your players. But the glitchiness–special moves not triggering, out-of-bounds catches counting for completions–that was endearing in the 1980s just felt sloppy in 2009.

And the Crashie Goes to:

Bionic Commando

This game should have been the best chance of building on old-school nostalgia and bringing in the title’s core gameplay concepts into the present-day. But, 2009’s BC fell far short of that, like many of the missed jumps you had to endure while playing it.

Least Enticing Title

MLB Front Office Manager

Because every kid dreams of putting together a roster of overpaid, under-producing steroid abusers.

Puchi Puchi Virus

Here’s some advice to all you Nintendo DS game-makers: don’t give your cute and admittedly clever puzzle game a name that sounds like an anatomically specific STD. Moms everywhere will say, “Wash your hands after you finish playing Puchi Puchi Virus, dear!” Scratch that, moms everywhere won’t buy your game in the first place.

Let’s Tap

You thought it was about dancing, too, didn’t you? Nope, just poorly executed vibration-sensing minigames ‘round these parts. Put away those tap shoes.

And the Crashie Goes to:

MLB Front Office Manager

Let’s Tap and *shudder* Puchi Puchi Virus have enough weirdness to at least make folks curious. MLB Front Office Manager blandly bleats out what it is and, indeed, why you should stay the heck away.

Most Derivative Title

The Wheelman

Avowed game nerd Vin Diesel’s been part of some decent video games, but this wasn’t one of them. Wheelman tries to splice together parts of Burnout with GTA but winds up with an undriveable mess. Points for setting the game in Barcelona, though.

Ninja Blade

This nonsense about the only member of a government-run ninja task force who can stop a demonic plague must’ve sprung straight from the fever dreams of a dozen grade-school otaku. More offensive than its story was its heroin-level addiction to quicktime events. The only thing worse than fast, mindless button-mashing is slow, boring button-pressing. Thank you for showing us the way, Ninja Blade.

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

There was a slim hope that Curtis Jackson might take his second video game outing as a chance to poke a little fun at his superthug image. Not only was the game deadly serious about showing Fiddy and his G-Unit crew as action heroes, it unabashedly lifted the speed-based shooter mechanic idea from Sega’s 2008 game The Club, while relying on cover-based tactics as in Gears of War. The two ideas don’t even really work well together!

And the Crashie Goes to:

Ninja Blade

All of the above games try to mash two great tastes together but Ninja Blade aimed at the most savory of modern action franchises–Ninja Gaiden and God of War. Its complete failure to replicate anything like the fun to be had in either game makes it all the more of a failure.

Worst Movie Based on a Video Game

*These two movies haven’t yet seen wide release but they were shown at the American Film Market Festival in November 2009. We’re counting them. And, yes, someone actually bought them.

Street Fighter: the Legend of Chun-Li

Tekken*

King of Fighters*

And the Crashie Goes to:

King of Fighters

The adaptation of the 2D fighter doesn’t even look like they’re trying to capture the bizarro vibe of SNK’s franchise smorgasbord. I mean, there’s no gender confusion in that trailer whatsoever. The Tekken movie at least has the savvy to try and put their very recognizable characters into an MMA-style environment so as to attract some drunk Pride fans on opening weekend. Even with Maggie Q and Ray Park, the KOF teaser’s got nothing going for it. We’re gonna be both retroactive and pre-emptive and give it a Crashie.

Worst Tie-in to a Movie or TV show

Watchmen: The End Is Nigh

Despite surprisingly good graphics, The End Is Nigh was a brain-dead beat-‘em-up that took blasphemous liberties with characters from one of the best graphic novels of all time.  Rorschach and Nite Owl deserved better than a one-dimensional fighting engine, irritating backtracking and lame puzzle-solving. Or, as Ernie Kovacs would say, “Hrm. Appears own game sucks like a three-dollar strumpet. Must find men responsible. Make them pay.”

James Cameron’s Avatar: the Game

If movie-goers can excuse the blockbuster 3D juggernaut’s lame plot because of its breathtaking design and vision, then its game counterpart had no chance in hell. Pandora looked lush and awe-inspiring in the theatre, but it felt incongruously confined as a game. No amount of mystical Na’Vi eco-powers could stop the game from feeling as enjoyable as watching Hometree burn.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

It’s a tie-in game for a sequel for a movie based on a cartoon based on toys. One thing that the movie adaptation of the Robots in Disguise had going for it was a ham-fisted urgency. Nothing in the ROTF game felt excting to begin with and the terrible driving and boring combat didn’t help either.  The nail in the coffin was the clunky Transforming itself. Even Michael Bay would be embarrassed by this scrap heap.

And the Crashie Goes to:

James Cameron’s Avatar: the Game

Mr. King of the World should’ve had someone who knew from quality vet this train wreck before he slapped his name on it. Its suckitude was especially egregious after Cameron came to the 2009 E3 and told the assembled that he got “it” and the game wouldn’t be as bad as every other tie-in title. You never be gamer, Jimcam Err-Ahn! Never!

Worst Sequel

King of Fighters XII

The SNK fighting franchise finally answered the pleas of its faithful and took its crazy, complex brawling online. Once there, it promptly proved to be broken. Like, badly.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

The only thing better than superhero team-up is superheroes fighting each other. The Fusion mechanics that linked separate heroes’ powers (like Storm and Wolverine’s) together was a fun element, but poor presentation and monotonous missions drained any fun out of the adaptation of the Civil War storyline. Whose side am I on? The one that doesn’t suck.

Way of the Samurai 3

The branching story paths of this ronin simulator series once captivated players in the last generation of consoles. You’re supposed to play it over and over and explore the narrative options. And while its core choose-your-own-adventure story mechanic hasn’t aged too badly, everything did. The graphics, gameplay and voicework would barely have been passable five years ago but they’re totally laughable now.

And the Crashie Goes to:

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

MUA2’s supposed to be an action/RPG hybrid but delivered stale gameplay for each genre. At its best, the Marvel Universe is a vibrant, dangerous place but the game’s missions mostly felt like chores. If there’s a sequel to this game, it’s gonna have to radically shake things up.

Biggest Disappointment:

Afro Samurai

Samuel Jackson reprising his Spike TV role as a foul-mouthed chain-smoking swordsman in a stylized future dystopia. An art style that looks just like the cartoon. Soundtrack by the RZA. Real-time slicing animations of those foolish enough to step to you. This recipe for awesome was spoiled by soul-numbing repetition, lazy level design and awful camera control. Not even topless tattooed stripper-assassins could save this one.

Aion

NCSoft’s  ambitious MMO was supposed to be the one. The game to unseat World of Warcraft with its deep world-building, sizzling visuals and soaring flight-based travel. But what users encountered was an empty, boring world and a torturous leveling-up system. Never were so many wings were clipped so quickly.

Tony Hawk Ride

The 900º legend and the Robomodo dev studio poured thousands of hours of development to create a skateboard controller that would deliver a realistic virtual ollie experience. What they wound up with was an overpriced hunk of plastic that excels at getting you to stumble awkwardly in your living room. At least booze is fun.

And the Crashie Goes to:

Aion

This was a tough call, but, with the game’s great visual sense and NCSoft’s previous success in the massively multiplayer space, Aion really did seem poised to mount a legitimate challenge to WOW. The winged avatars of the game haven’t been grounded yet but their virtual world doesn’t seem to have enough fuel to keep them in the air for much longer.

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