The games we hate to love

Yesterday, we mercilessly tore apart your favorite games, explaining in cruel, cold detail why you have always been wrong for loving them. Today, the tables are turned. Today, we open ourselves up to ridicule.

The following games are really, honestly bad. If not, they’re hopelessly broken or offensively mediocre. At the very least, they’re extremely embarrassing to play for some unfortunate reason or another. We don’t care, though, because we absolutely adore them anyway. And we always will, no matter how many other gamers disagree with us.

So go ahead and make fun. Or, if you appreciate the secret shame of a guilty pleasure, join us in the comments below. Declare your hidden love, once and for all! You’ll feel a lot better in the end, we promise.

As far as videogames go, I only like playing shooters, role-playing games, several other types and penguin surfing games, because all other genres are stupid. But in the arena of penguin surfing games, Surf’s Up is king.

Surf’s Up is often ignored by mainstream journalism because of its easy difficulty, dated movie references, penguins for characters, kid-gamey feeling and many other flawed criticisms. Even if you could say Surf’s Up has a "reputation," it wouldn’t be a cool- young-adult-gamer reputation. So to be honest, I’ll only play it from 3:00-5:15 am, in the wee hours of the morning when nobody can see me. For those two hours and fifteen minutes, I just can’t get enough, baby.

Above: Awesome

It has something to do with the simplicity - just you, your penguin, the ocean and God. There’s no wrong way to play Surf’s Up. The entire game is an endlessly curling wave, pointing your board down it, hitting whatever button you want (they all do tricks) and trying to grab a few power-ups, but only if you’re wanting some extra power.

It’s nice, easy fun that only takes a handful of hours to beat, so I completed it in my first sitting. Then I went to reflect on whether or not I’m comfortable that I just played through a kid-centric movie-based game. When I came back, my roommate was finishing too. 

I’m not saying Surf’s Up is for everyone, but we sure liked it. It’s a silly game - a simple game - and defeating Tank the surf champ is cake when you compare it to fighting Locust and Covenant armies. But if you’re into fun, bright colors, flightless birds and takin’ it easy, I’ll surf competition with you anytime.

Or maybe I just enjoy games for babies.

Why do I like a game as cheap and shoddy as Terrorist Takedown 2? Because it's fun, that’s why. For those of you perhaps tragically unfamiliar with City Interactive's FPS masterpiece, it’s a cheap and cheerful knock-off of both Call of Duty 4 and F.E.A.R. casting you, unsurprisingly, as a soldier in the war on highly generic terror.
How cheap? Very.
How cheerful? Ebulliently so.

The creative direction isn't just shakey... it's brilliantly crap. The drama-free, badly edited, shockingly-framed cutscenes have the appearance of something thrown together in the last lunchtime before the game went gold. Animation is straight out of a 1973 Russian cartoon, and the acting is on the same level as that in the average porno. And the environments? Their blocky polygons and flat textures create a superbly accurate and vibrant evocation of a middle-eastern country made entirely out of flatly-textured, blocky polygons.
So why's it great? Because it's all one big old videogame B-movie. It's actually really hard for a game to straddle the same "so crap it's good" tightrope that cinema does. Bad movies can be enjoyed because watching them is a passive experience, but bad game mechanics kill the interactive experience from the get-go. Fortunately though, Triple-T (as I like to call it, rather embarrassingly) plays well enough on a basic level to allow you to soak up all the cheesy fun without getting annoyed.

It's pacey, it's violent, the level design isn't too bad, and the enemy AI is so inconsistent that at times its sheer randomness can fool you into thinking it's actually really good. This, intentionally or not, is blunt, visceral and silly old-school gaming of a kind hardly anyone makes on purpose any more. If you go in with a sense of humor and a fat slab of irony, you can add a good few points to our official review score. All that, and it only costs about a tenner new. Get!

No game that has a brilliantly bad Naked Gun parody in its title can be all bad. Fact. ClayFighter 63 1/3 is the most universally derided beat ‘em up on the N64... hell, probably on any console ever. It’s arthritically slow compared to Street Fighter. And the Claymation has aged as well as Keith Richards.

This is a game I really should hate, too. In the winter of 1997, I paid 70 of the Queen’s finest notes to buy it. For some reason, though, I don’t. In its own totally deluded way, there’s a certain charm in just how bad the last proper ClayFighter game is. It knows it's shit. I know it's shit. But I tolerate it.

I don’t mind the game stealing ideas from every other beat ‘em up in history. It lifts its Claytalities straight from Mortal Kombat. And the dual health bar system has been taken from the almost equally rubbish Killer Instinct. It should feel hopelessly derivative. But, somehow, it doesn’t.

Above: What they should have done with Street Fighter IV

Maybe my baffling love is tainted by the enduring image of unwrapping my very first console in 1993 - a pre-owned SNES - with a copy of Super Mario All Stars and the original ClayFighter sitting snugly beside it. It could be the retina-confusing charm of those stop motion-style, plasticine pugilists. Who knows, maybe I’ve just suffered a slight stroke that’s paralysing the critic in me while writing this.

All I know is I like Clayfighter 63 1/3. It exists in a world where the developers are idealistic enough to think that the seven people who bought it wanted a limited edition "Sculptor’s Cut." It’s different. And, above everything else, it lets me twat Earthworm Jim in the face with an unwholesome Santa Claus.

Most fighting games can only truly be appreciated by the dedicated enthusiast who’s willing to put in countless hours prying nuances and strategies from the intricate depths of the fighting system. Take Street Fighter IV - for the hardcore, it’s as deep and rewarding as a fighting game could be. But for a button masher, the gameplay seems completely shallow.

The antithesis of SF IV, Tao Feng is a fighting game for casual fans of the genre - like me. I enjoy a fighting game now and then (big fan of Tekken Tag), but I’m generally content to pick a few characters that I like and just play, without worrying too much about strategy, beyond maybe learning a few combos and special moves. Tao Feng is absolutely perfect for people with this level of commitment, because it has tons of cool bells and whistles that you can enjoy right off the bat. Such as:

Dynamic limb damage: Probably my favorite feature in Tao Feng. If a player blocks too much or sustains a lot of damage to either his arms or legs, his attacks drop to 50% power for that limb. If you sustain leg damage, your movement will also slow a bit.  I like this because it makes sense to me realistically, and it adds a unique dynamic that I haven’t seen in any other fighting game.

Totally interactive environments: You can vault off a wall if you’re trapped in a corner, or use various objects in the environment to propel yourself at your opponent for more powerful attacks. Simply as backgrounds the environments are already top-notch; our favorite is the arcade stage with a bunch of arcade units that are actually running various fictional games.  More importantly though, the level of interactivity available in the various stages actually adds a sense of exploration to the game that’s unmatched in any other fighting game. 

One round with three life bars instead of three rounds: The possibility of an extreme comeback against all odds adds excitement that’s totally missing from the traditional three round system.

Chi meter! There’s a cool chi meter than can be used to unleash special attacks, or heal damaged limbs.

And, finally, I happen to really like the box art too.

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  • YourOldPalD - December 29, 2009 8:20 a.m.

    It's funny how sometimes something so shithouse to many people (aka. Kung Pow) turns out to be hilarious only to you. (aka. Kung Pow in my case) yet even though it's sad and lonely sometimes you can't help but feel anger the people who cling to something so ridiculously shit (aka. little britain) and yet the whole of society loves it. Lol, ya gotta love the human mind. :) (Seriously. LITTLE BRITAIN! They stuff a cross dresser JOKE IN EVERY BLOODY SEGMENT HOW IS THAT FUNNY OR ORIGINAL?!?!?!?)
  • scbyfn4evr - November 20, 2009 7:30 p.m.

    The original Monster Hunter. Not perfect, but perfect for me.
  • Japanjack - November 20, 2009 6:12 a.m.

    Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 is my guilty pleasure. I hate Dynasty Warriors, so damn repetitive and such; Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 has robots and Char Aznable... Awesome.
  • sprog - April 15, 2009 10:51 a.m.

    Sorry everyone but I too am one of those responsible for the churning out of Dynasty Warriors year after year. I would stop if I weren't brainwashed by the eerie trances one goes into whilst ploughing through dozens of of the same character models at a time. It's strangely therapeutic in the way only simple and repetitive tasks can be...
  • somerandomchap - April 1, 2009 1:54 a.m.

    haha i have true crime: new york city it is terrible but i love it, there is something about cutting off someones head and using it as a weapon that makes me happy
  • xXgodlypunkXx - March 30, 2009 3:15 a.m.

    im not afraid to say it, i really liked sonic heros. in my opinion, its the only good 3-D sonic game. thanks justin, i thought i was alone on that one
  • Moleman42 - March 29, 2009 7:26 p.m.

    Planet Side! I loved that game, i played it when it first came out for a couple years. I have always wanted to get back into it. It was crazy how big the fights could get.
  • noobeater - March 29, 2009 4:57 p.m.

    i liked true crime streets of la that sais it never compared to gta but breaking peoples limbs was fun
  • Octaviux - March 29, 2009 3:39 p.m.

    omg True Crime, that was the last schatsoft I ever bought. That was the final straw that made me stalwart in never impulse buying again. I was pining for a GTA and got a total asian tird. I beta tested Planet side, not terrible but nothing special.
  • SteveOP - March 29, 2009 2:49 p.m.

    Sonic Heroes was unbelieveable! So fast and fun to play with friends... Ah those were the days...
  • Silentboy - March 29, 2009 2:01 p.m.

    Saints Row 1 and 2 are definately games i hate to love. Sure they're GTA clones, but fine good ones.
  • Teh_Ty - March 28, 2009 6:27 p.m.

    I'm suprised, I thougt I was the only person that liked Sonic Heros.
  • sadowolf - March 28, 2009 8:24 a.m.

    haha i loved clayfighter 63 1/3 too! i totally knew it was bad and ripped off other fighters, but i think the crazy (and large) cast of characters and the slapstick comedy won me over. it was flawed but i still had a blast playing it, and i actually did dive into what little nuances the game had. tao feng, on the other hand, was a different story. i loved the graphics, the interactive environments, and the limb and visible body damage (which, given who was behind it, i kind of expected that). but i just couldnt get into it. i just found it too clunky and not fun. i wanted to like it before i played it, but playing it made that impossible and i have no shame in admitting to being a wrestling fan, or a sd vs raw fan. the madden effect it has suffered lately has kept me from actually purchasing the games every year tho oh, and when i was younger i actually purchased shaq fu, and didnt it was that bad a game. of course as i got more into fighters i realize its garbage, but still dont think its quite as bad as people make it out to be. whew, glad to get that off my chest haha
  • Stabby_Joe - March 27, 2009 10:38 p.m.

    Haven't played any of them. Games that were thrashed but I liked (not great but alright) include Legendary, Godzilla Unleashed and Two Worlds. Two Worlds on the 360 was better when patched but you wouldn't know that when reading the initial release reviews where there were a ton of problems and a poor ass demo.
  • game-thugsta - March 27, 2009 10:23 p.m.

    i actually love true crime: streets of new york, despite how much people hate it
  • SaulFidgeonGuy - March 27, 2009 8:26 p.m.

    totally agree with harry potter games and msackdown vs raw games! just so much fun!
  • Bronzus - March 27, 2009 1:58 p.m.

    SONIC HEROES? Puh! (thank christ, I thought I was the only one) Brownlow, beloved (reCatared)
  • tmorgan - March 27, 2009 1:05 p.m.

    You aren't the only person. Even though the Harry Potter games keep getting worse and worse I still love them and have to keep playing them every time a new one comes out !! I have them all.
  • Cernunnos - March 27, 2009 11:23 a.m.

    the harry potter games are equally bad compared to the movies, as the movies are compared to the books. a lot. which makes sense really.
  • super-saint - March 27, 2009 5:34 a.m.

    hehehe... none of those are as bad as me... i had a moral battale over wether i should get sonic riders of shadow the headgehog... i then got both, played them to death, and now cant bare to look at them... okay i still play riders, sue me