Great concepts, bad games


Scribblenauts became an Internet darling after its highly successful showing at E3, and nobody could blame the Internet for being excited. 5th Cell, a studio that already had a history of amazing DS titles (Lock's Quest is a must-have), had managed to create a game where absolutely anything you could imagine is conjured simply by writing its name. The ambition was unmatched, the potential unchallenged. The final result? Unsatisfactory.

Scribblenauts wasn't terrible, but compared to its promise, it fell far below expectations. Sure, it was impressive that the game recognized so many words, but with so many re-used object renders, useless items and limited character interaction, not to mention the dreadful controls, Scribblenauts didn't work out as intended. Hopefully Super Scribblenautsl will fix all this, but it's a shame that it couldn't be done right the first time.

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

I write about Kane & Lynch a lot, and it's because the game is so very fascinating to me. In terms of its narrative, characters and inherent experiences, Kane & Lynch does some innovative and very clever stuff. Unfortunately, everything it ever did right has been constantly and forever overshadowed by the things it did wrong.

Kane & Lynch isn't very good. The shooting is mediocre, the difficulty all over the place, and the glitches abundant. Yet it's also full of truly fabulous levels that have not been done before or since in a videogame. The prison break and bank robbery stages stand out as examples of truly unique and epic game sequences, while the decision to cast two disgusting, reprehensible scumbags as main characters is something that very few games have had the balls to do. Then there are the hallucinations co-op players suffer when controlling Lynch. Outstanding stuff, and all hidden away in a bag of feces.

Area 51

Remember a PS2 game called Area 51 that starred David Duchovny and Marilyn Manson? Of course not, you're all thinking about the arcade game instead. Hardly surprising, since the PS2 version was crap. It really shouldn't have been, however, because Area 51 has a freakin' stellar first twenty minutes. Scary, challenging, and littered with waves of deadly aliens, Area 51's intro is a great way to kick off a game.

Despite this strong opening, Area 51 gets more and more dreadful as it goes on. Bit by bit, the terrifying darkness is swapped for generic sci-fi corridors, the aliens replaced by frustratingly resilient space marines, and the horror elements replaced by a boring, unfinished, inexcusable FPS semi-effort that should have been scrapped. If the game had been released as a glorified demo disc for three bucks, it would have been a wonderful experience. Shame that the full game is a load of bollocks.


The latest and greatest example of a game with outstanding narrative but miserable execution has to be Square Enix's Nier. The game's eccentric cast of characters made for some superb dialog, surprisingly affecting scenes, and more than a fair dose of humor, while the main premise of a terminally ill girl and a father who'll do anything to save her managed to be more emotionally engaging than the plastic relationship between Ethan and Shaun in Heavy Rain.

Unfortunately, the game is full to the brim with insipid minigames, dodgy combat that lacks essentials like a targeting system, and a whole host of inexcusably lazy backtracking, fetchquests and repetition that permeates the experience on a scale that could only be classified as shameless. With competent gameplay that wasn't churned out with last-generation thinking and abhorrently idle filler, Nier could well have become one of the biggest surprises of the generation. Instead, it was the disappointing game that everybody had expected it to be.

For a game to shoot itself in the foot like that is almost disgusting, really.

Sep 10, 2010

The Top 7... Disappointing games of the decade
We expected so much. They delivered so little


The Top 7... Worst parts of best games
The most criminal imperfections of all time


Eight crap games running on great technology 
Technology evolved... these games didn't


  • MyStupidUserNameWontWork - November 13, 2011 7:21 a.m.

    Can I just give a shoutout to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men it is one of the most non-stop games that ever played every level is a full pelt run to the next level... I'm actually going to liken it to one of those old side scrollers like metal slug. but the story elements do exsactly what they need to, the give you an interesting story that includes a character driven storyline though Kane (one of the coolest guys in gaming)while never intruding on gameplay. So unlike FF series which relyed on hours of cutscenes, the diologue for this game takes place in that normally empty period between when the shooting stops and the next door to get to the next level. One of the most important thinks for me was the feel, the entire game is shot over the shoulder in a gritty blair which/Cloverfield style low-fi hand held camera an effect that dosen't interfere in gameplay at all (suprisingly). Oh and if you played the first K+L dont be obligated to finish that piece of crap, that game did suck all of the way though and it bears no relation to the story in number two so no need to play it. Most improtantly K+L a flop game that most of you can find in you local Game traders bargin bin for the better side of $20 so you have no excuse not to go out and give this game a try.
  • yonderTheGreat - February 14, 2011 10:23 a.m.

    "insipid minigames, dodgy combat that lacks essentials like a targeting system, and a whole host of inexcusably lazy backtracking, fetchquests and repetition that permeates the experience" In other words, it's a Squeenix game.
  • Smeggs - December 20, 2010 10:58 p.m.

    Infalible Scribblenauts Strategy: 1. Summon Cthulhu. 2. Drag and drop him on the other side of the map until all enemies are dead. 3. Summon Wings/Pegasus or a submarine or w/e you need to summon to reach the other side of the map. 4. Drag Cthulhu to tash can. 5. Grab Starite. It's kinda ironic how Call of Cthulhu comes right after Scribblenauts. Also even if Nier is supposedly that bad I still have to rent it to see for myself. If it's Square Enix then it can't be complete garbage. even the worst Final Fantasy games had their shining moments.
  • doczoidberg - September 13, 2010 8:40 p.m.

    You are so right about Fragile Dreams.... I just finished it, and it's a darn shame that the gameplay was so clunky. Fragile Dreams was almost brilliant.
  • CH3BURASHKA - September 13, 2010 8:33 a.m.

    I think that good story is worth trudging through bad gameplay for. All you gots to do is put on some music during the grind, and turn it down for the story. I'll be going back to play Fragile Dreams and Nier based on this.
  • sethcruz - September 12, 2010 3:46 p.m.

    Tom Clancy Endwar was a intresting idea, too bad its full of so many glitches and bugs that it falls through the crack of the floor.
  • FauxFurry - September 12, 2010 3:09 p.m.

    @GermanMafia94-The game you're looking for to compare Area 51 to is FarCry,a game which begins with a normal man surrounded by highly trained mercenaries on an isolated tropical island but ends with him as a genetically altered super soldiers tearing them apart with the greatest of ease with his claws and shrugging off machine gun rounds with his heightened endurance and accelerated cellular regeneration. @gamingfreak-Nier was more of a game that caused more of a split between critics than anything,not some universally loathed title. Take this game critcs review,for example. Can't get more positive than that! Still,this list could use more JRPG,a sub-genre that is chock full of games with great stories or concepts but fall down on their big eyed,pointy nosed faces trying to run with those concepts while hefting about great big pointy objects. reCAPTC: storede Review I'm going to have to use that new randomly generated adjective in a sentence ASAP! That was a storede article,Sterling! I mean it!
  • philipshaw - September 12, 2010 12:32 p.m.

    Great article,I would have to add Dark Void which is such a average game but the idea of vertical combat and switching between flight and on the ground combat should have been so much better
  • AuthorityFigure - September 12, 2010 1:56 a.m.

    Anyone with any mid-term memory would never have expected Scribblenaughts to be all that great - it is just too ambitious for a single studio to make. It needs a community.
  • farsided - September 11, 2010 10:13 p.m.

    yeah...APB should have been listed as the number one "awesome concept, terrible game". It had everything needed to be great, amazing customization, freedom of design, and strategic, yet frantic pvp. Everyone I told about it was immediately fascinated the second they heard "cops and robbers mmo by one of the founders of GTA". Yet when the beta hit, EVERYONE wised up fast. I went back to all the people who I'd hyped the game to, and told them to ignore it. And what happened? The game tanked so bad RTW almost shut down. If that doesn't define great concept, bad game, I don't know what does.
  • lovinmyps3 - September 11, 2010 9:55 p.m.

    I enjoyed Kane & Lynch despite it's flaws. I didn't hold on to it, but I didn't think it was absolutely awful. And I remember enjoying Area 51, but that's about it. It was a good rental.
  • Helios - September 11, 2010 5:38 p.m.

    I have Area 51 for PC, and it isn't that bad. It's actually pretty fun. However, I was kind of hoping Iron Storm would be on this list, and Too Human.
  • vigilant - September 11, 2010 5:20 p.m.

    Very Disapointed in the fact you didn't add Naughty Bear on here. I'd have rather bought ET the game, because at least that had collectors value. Naughty Bear was an absoloute disgrace.
  • NearNRiver - September 11, 2010 4:50 p.m.

    I think Mirror's Edge could have been on this list, even though the game din't Suck, it defiantly wasn't half what it could have, and should have, been.
  • jollyroger50 - September 11, 2010 10:38 a.m.

    area 51 was nowhere near as bad as area 51:blacksite
  • 2cute2Bcruel - September 11, 2010 6:14 a.m.

    Oh, boy. I have to agree about Scribblenauts. On top of its frustrating puzzles, I think that I may have bought it under false pretenses. I heard "Scribblenauts" and my brain interpreted "Sketchnauts".
  • jmcgrotty - September 11, 2010 6:12 a.m.

    You forgot FPS'es, as a group.
  • quincytheodore - September 11, 2010 5:03 a.m.

    I can't agree with you more on Nier. The game that could have been. It's like the story writer and OST composer tried so hard to make the game work, but gameplay and graph department were sabotaging them. Poor shame.
  • elpurplemonkey - September 11, 2010 4:38 a.m.

    I actually played Area 51. It was extremely ok, just ok- nothing more, nothing less. Very interesting article, I checked out the chase scene in Call of Cthulhu, it makes it look like the game was very, very good.
  • garnsr - September 11, 2010 4:35 a.m.

    These are the games that we hear about so much in previews, praised for months, then they come out and get a 6 or 7. It's not hard to understand why, with all the people and technology and everything that goes into a modern game, but it's disappointing when something you've been really into for a while just fizzles out.

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