NAME: Johnny Barnstorm
AGE: Sometime in the late twenties.
LOCATION: British Columbia
PREFERRED GENRES: Anything where a sassy she spy blows things up. Adventure games. Racing games. Fighting games, too, to some degree. Side-scrolling hit-those-guys games.
KOOBERT'S SYSTEMS: Turbografx-16, PlayStation, Sega Nomad, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation2, XBox, Nintendo DS, XBox 360, PSP, Sega Saturn, PlayStation3.
GAMES WHICH MAKE KOOBERT WAX NOSTALGIC: Manhunter: New York, Star Control 2, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Police Quest 2, Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire, Phantasy Star I & IV, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, Shining Force, Driver, Metropolis Street Racer, Bushido Blade. Yeah... and that Smashing Brothers game. Fine.
CURRENTLY PLAYING: Braid, Penny Arcade Adventures, The Strong Bad Game for Cool and Attractive People: Episode One, Final Fantasy XI, Ys Books I & II, StarFox 64, Chrono Trigger.
You know you hate them. The little things that designers feel they must throw into games. Frequently it's because everyone else is doing it. Because PR people or focus testers ask for them. Or because their games are too damn short and need artificial lengthening. Either way, I am writing a short series of articles covering what I feel are some of the most annoying elements of game design out there.
Sometimes it's great to mix and match, right? Some of the best games out there are hybrids of established genres, like action/RPG or driving/dating simulation. On the other hand, sometimes these, shall we say, melanges stop an entertaining game in its tracks, like the metaphorical raisin in an otherwise enjoyable oatmeal muffin. So you spit out these metaphorical raisins, but sometimes you can't get the metaphorical taste out of your mouth, and throw the rest of the muffin away and buy some Smarties.
Right. Games. Right. So as an inaugural "you know you hate them" article, I'm going to have a look at when designers dump a rhythm game in the middle of your delicious action game or RPG. Warning: the results are raisin-tastic.
4. Rayman Raving Rabbids
What the hell is a rhythm minigame doing here? Compared with the rest of these games, Raving Rabbids has the most justification for its inclusion of a rhythm minigame. It's a game composed of various minigames, so it makes enough sense, I guess. Get some cheaply licensed tat from the seventies, throw in some button pushing... there, you got yourself a game.
What's so wrong with this? The mechanics of this game are the best in the lot, for single player. The choice of songs is of the "generic music game" variety, that is to say, songs that you'll hear in just about everything from Grand Theft Auto to Taiko Drum Master's American version. That's not what's wrong. What's busted about this is the multiplayer. Sequential multiplayer. Of the same song. For four players. Most have only tried it once. Few have finished it. Yes, you have to sit through the entire song four times as each player hammers it out. No, they weren't thinking when they made this. Yes, it's been fixed in the sequel, a surprisingly efficient Rock Band rip-off.
3. Kingdom Hearts 2
What the hell is a rhythm music game doing here? I figure the train of thought for the designers went something like this: "Okay, now who wants to play a game which crosses the most multi-belted girlish whiners of Final Fantasy with Disney? Yes, yes, ultra-effeminate teenage boys. And what do they love? The Little Mermaid! And musicals! And DDR!" It really makes sense if you think of the target market. (Alright, I don't like the Kingdom Hearts games, I must admit.)
What's so bad about this? Even I am not gay enough for... that. That's just monstrous. While the actual play mechanics aren't so bad, compared with the worst two offenders, the music is... something else. I've heard rumor that heterosexual men somehow justified playing this game by its Final Fantasy tie in, or something. How they must have felt when an already kinda girly game took a plunge into Magical Princessville, I don't know. Maybe it's just something they play through and push deep, deep back into their subconscious, like that one time after football practice.
2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
What the hell is a rhythm minigame doing here? Rockstar includes just about everything in their Grand Theft Auto games. Pizza delivery, classic arcade game knockoffs, sex, RC plane simulations. So why not some dancing? Though there are some other instances where CJ has to dance, the primary offender is when CJ is trying to take his girl out on a date, as pictured above. Rockstar figured, well, the kids love the DDR, right? And our game has everything, right? So let's let CJ dance! Dance with his girlfriend! We'll add voices in the background heckling you if you're bad, and cheering you on if you are good. And if you win, you can have sex. Wait. No. Not have sex. You can wait outside the damn house while something - and we're not going to say what - happens.
What's so bad about this? Go to the middle of the video above. That's what's so bad about it. You like the song "Brickhouse"? Well, you won't after this game is done with you. Dance with your girlfriend, huh? Through the whole song? Five minutes of slooooowlly scrolling button prompts? So then your girlfriend asks you to dance again. And then it's the same damn song. Again. And the whole canned responses from a crowd idea would have come off a lot better if they didn't torture you with the same hoots or heckles, over and over, while you have to randomly churn through buttons that don't relate to the music and oh my dear lord I hate brickhouse and why are you doing this to me rockstar why god I hate my life.
1. Stubbs the Zombie
What the hell is a rhythm minigame doing here? According to an interview in Gamasutra, the designers thought it would be fricking hilarious to include a dancing game in the middle of Stubbs the Zombie. They were wrong. Then again, the designers Stubbs the Zombie did a lot of things wrong. The sad part was, the game started off great. Really great. Who the hell doesn't want to play as a zombie and run around biting people? But the developers ran out of steam about a third of the way through, and somehow got it in their heads that they were hilarious. And what could be funnier... than a midget? Dancing? With a zombie? So they take a break from third person action/mauling and take a turn for the worse. The chief of police, said midget, challenges you to a dance off. Afterwards, he dies or something. It isn't really coherent or clear. Let's just say if you are at all interested in the game, you're better off sticking to the early levels and just murdering people. It gets old, yep, but it's a hell of a lot more fun than anything that happens later.
What's so bad about this? Let's just say it right here: if you feel absolutely, without a doubt, compelled to include a rhythm minigame in your game, keep it short. Really short. Preferably under ten seconds. Here, however, it's a good ten to twenty minutes of mind-numbing awfulness. It's slow. It controls poorly. It's dull. The animation of the zombie and the midget dancing are both jerky and ugly. But here is the clincher: it's so wretchedly not funny that the very concept of funny saw this one day, and then killed itself out of grief. Humour caught a glance of it and was hospitalized for severe depression. I kept having to play this part over and over until either I won, or the game took pity on me and let me continue. Either way. Ugh. The worst music / rhythm minigame I've ever played.
I'm sure there are more... me and Rooo were trying to figure out some other prime targets without luck. I've heard Zack & Wiki has an awful rhythm section, but I've never played it. What's the worst rhythm mini game you've encountered?
Just so you know, this is what a good rhythm minigame looks like:
Next time: They got stealth in my RPG! They got RPG in my stealth! That's right, I'm going to have a look at the crappiness that are stealth portions of non-stealth games. The Getaway: Black Monday? I'm looking at you.