Well, there's your problem
Almost any premise can be the basis for an entertaining video game. Undesirable tasks like waiting tables or mopping up icky fluids are made strangely satisfying by Diner Dash and Viscera Cleanup Detail, respectively. Euro Truck Simulator 2, which might sound like prescription-grade sleep medication to some people, is consistently among the most-played games on Steam. No matter how peculiar the concept, clever game design can turn even the most ordinary real-world activity into virtual fun.
Except when it can't. Some game ideas should never make it past the spit-balling phase, as any attempt to turn them into digitized amusement can only end in tears. That hasn't stopped some developers from trying, God bless 'em, but the results pretty much validate every cynical thought that pops into your head when you hear the quick pitch. These seven games (on seven different systems, no less) tried to make the best of an idea that some boardroom executive miraculously green-lit. But right from the start, these core concepts were doomed to fail.
7. Self-Defense Training Camp (Xbox 360)
If packing a can of pepper-spray doesn't feel like enough, learning how to physically defend yourself from an attacker is a great way to walk more confidently through the world. Usually, this involves learning from a trained instructor, who can show you exactly how to deflect incoming strikes and protect yourself from harm. What you shouldn't do is expect to feel prepared to fend off an assault when your instructor is an unfeeling game disc and a Kinect sensor that can vaguely detect how you're moving.
Calling Self-Defense Training Camp a game feels like a misnomer, since the situation it's attempting to prepare you for is deadly serious. But in a real-world scenario, the basic, methodical movements you have to make for the Kinect to register them won't dissuade an attacker, unless they have a deathly fear of artistic expression and mistake you for an interpretive dancer. Here's a better idea: Leave the comfort of your living room and spend some extra money so you can attend a real self-defense class and get some actual training.
6. Where's Waldo (NES)
The eye-straining search for Waldo (or Wally, as you UK readers will know him) has always delighted children, because the imagery in these picture books borders on sensory overload. Picking out the striped-shirted explorer from a massive crowd of people is only half of the fun, because no matter where you look at Waldo's surroundings, there's some kind of goofy spectacle or visual pun to take in. You could spend hours gazing at the same two-page spread and not see everything it has to offer.
Unfortunately, trying to recreate such jam-packed pictures on an 8-bit system just doesn't work. Finding the NES version of Waldo takes about two seconds, since all those colorful background characters have been replaced by pixelated stick figures. That could be construed as a good thing, since the default mode slaps you with a time limit, but the scenes are so visually bland that you'll want to be whisked away from them long before your ten minutes are up.
5. Dance Dance Revolution GB (Game Boy Color)
Dance Dance Revolution, whether it's in arcades or at home on a dance pad, is great. It's light, physically active fun when you're first starting out, and a rigorous workout once you're ready to crank up the difficulty. Its total focus on lower-body footwork might not make you the world's greatest dancer, but tapping arrows in time to catchy J-Pop songs is a blast. Yet somehow, porting an experience where your feet are stomping and jumping onto a giant controller just doesn't translate all that well to a handheld.
DDR on GBC at least tries to make the most out of a less-than-optimal situation. The chiptune arrangements of existing songs might be harsher on the ears, but at least they're familiar to fans. Your groovin' avatar is limited to a few basic animations, but it's better than empty space. And if you want to make your fingers feel like legs, a clip-on arrow pad peripheral is included. But it begs the same question as wearing shoes for gloves: Why take an experience based on feet and try to make it work for your hands?
4. Fighter Within (Xbox One)
When the Xbox One first launched, fans of fighting game had to make a choice. They could go with Killer Instinct, a nostalgia-packed reboot that delivers bone-crunching brawls while still maintaining a firm grip on fundamentals like spacing and combo execution, or they could choose Fighter Within, a Kinect 2.0 game that forgoes time-tested inputs like 'arcade sticks' or 'buttons' for unreliable motion controls. You can probably guess which one did better.
The idea of a motion-controlled fighting game is sound, since it'd be great to physically throw a punch and see the on-screen character react accordingly. But because that level of motion-detecting tech doesn't exist in the world of gaming just yet, Fighter Within opts to link moves to completely incongruent poses, like crossing your arms to initiate a throw. Fighter Within might fail its ambitious intent, but I'll give it this: despite some uninspired character designs, it certainly looks fantastic.
3. Walk It Out (Wii)
I feel for Konami on this one. When you're trying to devise ways to sell more DDR dance pads for the Wii, there's not a whole lot to go with besides tiring track and field events or the simple act of walking in place. Regrettably, Walk It Out chooses to go with the latter. By marching in time to generic music, you can do such riveting things as taking a stroll around a nondescript neighborhood, or moseying through a polygonal park.
Whether you're using a WiiFit board, a DDR pad, or just the Wiimote/Nunchuk combo, the result is the same: you, walking in place, wondering if this was the best thing you could've done with your money. There's no demo for Walk It Out on the Wii Shop Channel, but if you want an idea of how it plays, simply stand up, turn on some music, and start moving your legs up and down. You're now doing for free what Walk It Out charges $29.99 for.
2. Beer Pong! (PS3)
Setting up beer pong is pretty straightforward. All you need is a long, flat surface, some cups, a few cans of beer, and people to play with. Beer Pong: the video game has none of these things, attempting to recreate them with a PlayStation Move controller and a TV. If you try to make this substitution at a social gathering, you've just committed the biggest party foul of them all. Now, if it was just a matter of finicky, unreliable motion controls failing to simulate the simple aim-and-toss, that would be one thing. But it gets so much worse.
Since there isn't a Sony-approved peripheral for administering alcohol to the player's bloodstream, Beer Pong! tries to simulate inebriation by adding a brownish tinge and nausea-inducing camera movement to the festivities. And because this is a game aimed at those wild and crazy college kids, your plastic-looking avatar can attempt to 'distract' opponents by adjusting their bikini top or squeezing their crotch. Playing Beer Pong! defeats the purpose of beer pong: You won't get drunk, you won't make friends, and you won't have fun.
1. Toilet Tycoon (PC)
Think about all the times you've had to reluctantly use a seedy public restroom. The putrid smells, the abrasive toilet paper, the indecipherable (yet somehow threatening) graffiti. Is that an experience you'd want to simulate? Toilet Tycoon hopes the answer is 'Yes', because every aspect of this sim that no one asked for involves filthy lavatories in some form. Your primary goal is to rise to the top of a toilet empire (I wasn't aware such things existed) by beating out your many rivals (again, I had no idea) with the optimal lids, flushers, and bowls in each stall.
As with any spreadsheet simulation game, you'll have to weigh costs and benefits in your careful selection of loos and latrines if you hope to succeed. You can also pay poor slobs to go and messily vomit all over the competition's facilities, or research upgrades in what can only be described as an alchemy outhouse. But in the end, all the bells and whistles just come back to the core concept of playing a game full of grody bathrooms.
Back to the drawing board
Those seven games seemingly prove the old adage about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Have you had the misfortune of playing any of 'em? Or maybe you'd prefer a rousing game of Pet Pals: Animal Doctors (pictured above), which asks you to zoom way, way too close to the problem areas of injured, suffering, sometimes bloodied animals. Sound off in the comments below!
And if you're looking for more, check out Raising your hand, rat battles, and 9 more preposterous QTEs and Top 7... Incredible scenes that got cut from your favorite games.