Necros Says: Today's Rantoid is a topic that I've been meaning to cover since March, but never had the time to do justice. I hope you enjoy it, because I seriously broke my psyche in order to properly research this experience.
Is it possible for a game to be so bad, so irredeemably dreadful, that it deconstructs your psyche enough to give you some great insight into life? Could such a game be listed with other, more illegal mind-expanders? Is inept design really a statement on the world on behalf of the developer?
Now that I have you thinking, allow me to illustrate a scenario. The setting is March, a little over a week until the release of the blockbuster Super Smash Bros. Brawl. At this time, one dvddesign posts a cblog concerning his monthly Xbox 360 achievement contest. Unbeknownst to the participants, this month's tasks are about to get...deplorable. For one of this month's challenges is none other than Backbone Entertainment's masterpiece, Yaris. As February's challenge was the superb delicacy that is The Orange Box, this came as quite a shock. It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror - and kept crying.
The goal was, relatively, simple. If contestants wanted to double their points for the month, they would need to clear seven of the twelve achievements found in Yaris. Most of the achievements were actually glitched in some way, usually in favor of the gamer, so the only challenge was forcing yourself to play the game. I, personally, did not want any of the achievements, but if that's what it took to keep me in the race, I would submit to this month's ghastly trial. Fortunately, I had a partner in misery, Conrad Zimmerman. We pledged to endure this nightmare together, since many of the achievements were only achievable with the assistance of a friend.
As I analyzed the list of achievements, I became puzzled. Normally, achievements are an incentive to keep playing a game you enjoy. However, a few races assured me that no gamer should ever have standards low enough to take pleasure in this garbage. I wondered how many gamers had actually gained all 200 points from this blatant advertisement. For that matter, what did it take to unlock it all? It was then that I decided: for the sake of science, I would play Yaris as long as it took, and with luck find some sort of answer. I hoped I would live to tell the experience.
Conrad and I began by knocking off a few easy achievements, the first of which stated you merely had to play one online race. Simple...if not for the fact that Yaris has amazing difficulty syncing up connections. When you do connect, you always run the risk of randomly separating, resulting in the game telling you the other player did not finish and not having anything count. No wonder there was almost no one else online when we played. This allowed us to easily gain another achievement for winning a ranked match; it's quite easy to abuse a match when you're almost guaranteed to be matched with a friend you've set it up with.
Two more achievements came easy. The first was one in which the racer must cross the finish line at top speed. Let me illustrate how ridiculous this one is. Acceleration is a complete joke. The car will drive forward no matter what you do; you can adjust how fast that constant motion is by pushing up or down. When you reach your top speed, all that's required of you is to steer. And yet...is this even a horrible thing? In other racing games, I found myself holding down the A button pretty much no matter what. As poor as it was in implementation, I could easily see myself enjoying a situation in which my thumb was free to press other buttons.
The other early achievement was also easy: collect 1000 coins. In Yaris, the goal of singleplayer is simply to cross the finish line. As a result, the developer throws in enemies to distract you and coins for you to collect. When you shoot an enemy, they usually drop coins or a new weapon. Pretty simple...except for the fact that your car will glide right over pick-ups as you attempt to not suck. It's amazingly difficult to pin-point exactly where you want to be on a track, leading to many missed bonuses and intense frustration on the part of the player.
Moving on, Conrad and I plowed through most of the singleplayer, beating all eight tracks in multiplayer. Let me just say this: God bless Conrad, because he was somehow able to make sense of the on-screen action enough to make it to the eighth level, allowing both of us to play the entire game in multiplayer. (I only made it to the seventh.) It is no exaggeration to say that this game is designed for autistic people. That is not an insult to mentally handicapped people, it's just that they are likely the only ones who will be able to keep track of the endless barrage of enemy attacks after level 6. Prior to this, enemies weren't too much of a problem; sure, your aiming sucked, but you still had enough time to aim the twitchy sensor onto your foe. However, the sheer amount of enemies later on renders the game's miniscule amount of auto-lock useless, leaving you free to shoot repeatedly into thin air as enemies from the entirety of the course continue to pile up on your screen, firing their poorly rendered death lasers. Thankfully, multiplayer matches allow as many levels as the farthest player has unlocked, and if you die, all you lose are a small amount of coins, allowing the race to continue no matter how ridiculous it is. Furthermore, if you're in second place, good job! You get to cruise and collect money while the player in front deals with the endless swarm of enemies. Because hey, balanced gameplay is for suckers.
Anyway, Conrad and I managed to finish eleven of the achievements, leaving only one left: an achievement for collecting 1 million coins. To give you a point of reference, completing the first lap well nets you about 1,500 coins. By this point, I could give a flying fuck about spending my money in the game's store. The available merchandise: two slightly different model cars, different colors for each car, tricked out wheels, weapon slots, and more shields. All that's needed to play the game efficiently is maxed out wheels, weapons, and shields, which didn't take much money at all. Still, having completed the other eleven achievements, I found myself approximately 950,000 coins short. It was going to be a long week.
The only thing to do was to run one course over and over again, picking up as many coins as you could. While the first track was the shortest, Conrad pointed out the coin:time ratio was slightly better on the third track, having a "good" mix of enemies and obstacles to shoot for money, without becoming utterly ludicrous like the game's later levels. And so I began, racing the same track over and over again while I attempted to distract myself by listening to podcasts or chatting in Vent. For an entire night, I played the game, boring myself to tears, hoping to make this nightmare end. But no, I was doing this to see what it would take to complete this trainwreck. I would see it through to the end.
After playing for hours, I looked at my total: I had managed to get my total up to about 150,000 coins. I was indignant. How utterly vain of the developers! They set an achievement at an astonishingly high threshold, expecting gamers to play this rubbish to its completion? Bah! Some fans may play a game this long for an achievement, but only if they're enjoying themselves. This was not pleasure! This was suffering! And the haughty developers are too proud to know what an injustice this achievement is!
"I spit upon your highfalutin ways, Backbone, and hope you are ripped apart by rats."
I pressed on in the days ahead. I began to grow mechanical, making the same movements time and time and time and time and time again. I had easily hit the point at which I would grow tired of a game for playing so much in so short a time period. However, it dawned on me that such a statement could only apply to games that weren't tiring to begin with. Nothing was good in the Yaris world of endless open pipes and sound blaster cannons installed in the hoods of hybrids.
It was around the 250,000 mark that I began looking closely at the game and its failings. How could such an awesome concept have been so poorly executed? Picture this: in the future, one sport reigns above all else: YARIS CLASH. A 250 MPH (max) race to the finish...against yourself. In space. But the evil corporations of...non-hybrid car makers are out to stop you. To this end, they have sent an onslaught of...flying MP3 players and dogs on skateboards. Hover skateboards. With lasers! Pew pew! And then...the Asian Crime Syndicate wants in on the business, so they send...um...sumo wrestlers on bikes to knock you into the toasters on roller skates. Oh, and since you're in space, you have to contend with Astro Bunny spaceships! All while driving in high gear. In the fast lane. TO THE MAX.
How could this not have been totally awesome? Sure, it sounds like something that a drunkard would pitch after getting wasted out of his mind, but come on. It's got psychic space babies! This should be the most bad-ass racing game ever! I realized that the absurdity of the premise almost matched one of gaming's most tripped-out franchises: Katamari Damacy. I'm curious: if this game was released for budget price as a Japanese import, would the horrible gameplay be overlooked in favor of the bizarre premise by fans of quirky Japanese games? It could have happened, and it seemed only a few steps away.
"Under different circumstances, this could be a serious contender."
I soon realized that I was attempting to rationalize some good qualities in an otherwise abysmal game. I felt dirty. People saw me playing the game and wondered how I could be putting myself through such an ordeal. But no, I kept pulling late nights, dumping as much of my free time as I possibly could into reaching my goal. I soon wondered: was I addicted? I was so weary from lack of sleep and constant exposure to hazardous game design that I was beginning to consider the fact. Or was I, in fact, masochistic? Was I punishing myself for not doing as well in my university classes as I might have hoped? In that case, this was a very sick game indeed, preying upon my hidden weaknesses. I wasn't necessarily hurting myself. Yaris was making me hurt myself.
"Why you gotta be like that, baby? I only want to see what makes you tick."
A strange thing soon occurred: I began getting good at the game. Like, really really good. Better at Yaris than anyone else should ever be. No, I still wasn't touching the final levels, but I knew the early tracks like the back of my hand. I was confident no one could hope to touch my mastery of their intricacies. (Intricacies? Dear lord.) I felt...proud. Every time I finished the track well, gaining my miniscule amount of coins, I felt happy, happy in a sick, twisted way. Like if, persay, a dying piece of roadkill, bruised and bloody, reached over to you and planted a kiss on your cheek before scratching you with a rabies-infected claw. That was my relationship with Yaris.
"Yaris and I are a rabid piece of roadkill, stewing in our own innards."
I was clearly going off the deep end. After five days of the game, if you could call it that, only taking breaks for food and classes, my eyes had become blurry, throbbing tomatoes. Time had clearly gone out the window, and outside noise had been drowned out by absence. I zoned out whatever I was hearing. There was an eerie quiet that filled the room, even as my roommate watched another episode of Law and Order in an endless marathon that lasted all semester. And then...silence. It was just me and the space babies. Nothing hurt anymore. There was no pain, no love, no sorrow. Within my mind, I looked around. What was this transcendence? Had I found inner peace through an atrocious game? It was around this time that I collected my millionth coin.
Ding. Achievement unlocked. It was done, and I felt a calm wave of relief. The nightmare was over, and I wondered if I wasn't a better person for it. Before I turned it off for what was sure to be the last time, I decided to take one last look in the store. All this money, I might as well spend it on the rest of the cars and colors.
Reality came crashing back as I realized that, including the things I had already purchased, the total amount of coins you need to buy everything in the shop is only about 150,000. What. The. Hell. Why the fuck would anyone need to collect one million coins? There's no point to it at all! It's just the developer getting full of themselves! I realized that somewhere out there, the person who designed these achievements was probably laughing at me and all my wasted time.
I hate you, Backbone. If there is a God, none of you will ever make a game again. I hate you, Toyota. All this game made me want to do is blow up any Yaris I see with death charges from a rocket-propelled hoverboard dog. I hate you, God. You should have struck me dead. I hate you, Me. You actually thought there was something worthwhile to say about this game. And in a way, I hate you, Reader. You actually took the time to read this over 2,300-word article, longer than most of my college papers. Did you think there was going to be some big pay-off? Well, the joke's on all of us.
tl;dr - This shit sucks. Don't play it.
Necros is an extremely bitter man who has time to write unnecessarily long articles about reprehensible games now that classes are over at Syracuse University. He's usually on Failcast when he's not coming up with ways to waste your time.