5 Unintentionally Hilarious Live-Action Video Games
Around the early 1990s, some video game developers decided that the future of game technology was filming a bunch of no-name actors for peanuts and having them act out a game that looked and played like a late night infomercial. These were known as full-motion video (FMV) games, and, by and large, they were expensive and terrible.
But there was a silver lining to the video game industry's attempt to emulate Hollywood -- FMV games were a gold mine of unintentional comedy. Here are five of the weirdest FMV titles ever made.
Crime Patrol: Bad Acting and a Cruelly Deterministic Universe
Laugh all you want, but in an era when most games looked like grainy cartoons (at best), gamers shit their pants when they saw a game that, holy crap, guys, looked like a real movie! Of course, that's until they inserted the game and realized they had just spent a month's allowance on what was essentially just an interactive video of somebody shooting unemployed community theater actors.
Like they weren't doing that already in real life.
See, there were two main types of FMV game back in the day: games where they digitized real people and turned them into spasmodic androids who owned time shares in the Uncanny Valley, and games like Crime Patrol, an early 1990s shooter that used pre-filmed scenes of actors (local drama students?) that the player had to interact with. (For a historically significant example of the latter, see Dana Plato's star turn in the Sega CD game Night Trap.)
Here's one of the game's earlier stages, where a gunfight erupts in a strip club. Do note the gangsters' entirely bloodless death pantomimes. It's like Martin Scorsese was hired to direct an episode of Who's Line Is It Anyway?
Because these games were basically just a string of digitized video clips, they had to keep things simple. So in Crime Patrol, 99 percent of being a police officer amounts to killing criminals who leap out from behind objects. There's no paperwork, no due process, and no Miranda rights -- only drug dealers dawdling just out of eyeshot, ripe for a-murdering. For example, in another level, the player had to shoot a bunch of hippie drug dealers -- armed with Uzis and a half-semester of Improv 101 -- at the exact same spot.
"Great job, actor No. 1228. You can pick up your payment of McDonald's coupons at the front desk."
So yeah, Crime Patrol was essentially a game of nothing but glorified quick-time events, or maybe a hell dimension where nobody has free will (and everybody has painfully 1990s haircuts).
It Came from the Desert: Ants Devour Regenerating People
It Came from the Desert was a reasonably well-received game that came out on the defunct Amiga system back in 1989 and was re-released in 1991 on the similarly not-around-anymore TurboGrafx-CD. On the surface, it seems like it should be corny fun -- it's a tribute to 1950s sci-fi flicks in which a meteor lands near a desert town and releases a swarm of mutated ants.
But then you realize that much of the action involves watching the townspeople get slowly eaten to death, one chunk of flesh at a time, as they lay helpless in the desert. Throughout the game, townspeople are telepathically controlled by the ant queen, who psychically incapacitates them so that ant drones can munch on their supine bodies. The ants slowly strip away skin and muscle, leaving exposed bones behind as the victims' live-action faces writhe and scream in horror.
This plays out as a mini-game where the player must shoot the ants off the screaming victims as their flesh is rapidly torn from their pixelated bones. This occurs a shitload of times throughout the game, most notably (and disturbingly) when a crying little girl is consumed right down to her skeleton.
As bloody as this mini-game gets, the victims all survive as long as they have at least a square inch of skin left on their bodies. The townspeople can be reduced to shrieking heads surrounded by a puddle of bone and viscera, but they recover from these grievous injuries seconds later in cut scenes. And to make matters even crazier, the player goes through this gory shebang with the same exact characters multiple times in the course of the game, the townspeople reliving this hellish nightmare again and again.
"Thank you for doctoring us with your gun!"
Fortunately, the game knew how to lighten the mood: a sudden appearance from a sax-sporting jazz man!
Bikini Karate Babes: Sexy Ladies Become Ghoulish Marionettes
Ostensibly released as a satire of scantily clad women in games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, the 2002 computer game Bikini Karate Babes filmed 19 mostly nude women engaging in fisticuffs. And at first blush, this formula of pugilism + jiggling sounds potent indeed. Just check out the game's intro -- what a fun-looking game about a mob of swimsuit models looking confused in a state park!
But when you get to Bikini Karate Babes gameplay, the limits of the FMV format become apparent. The beach bunnies promised in the opening are transformed into a bunch of meat puppets who shudder fore and aft like tiny skull aliens test driving their new woman suits.
For every single cut scene of buxom antics, there were nine moments of herky-jerky, inhuman skittering.
Bikini Karate Babes eventually received a sequel years later, despite the original's convulsing cast and general unplayableness. So, yes, enough people bought and enjoyed the original to make a sequel a sound business decision. You've got to admit, gaming has at least progressed a little since then.
"Cut! Do it again! I need you to really drive your heel into her vagina, Candi."
Critical Path: For Players Who Found Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Novels Too Hard
The 1993 computer game Critical Path kicks off with an info dump explaining how future Earth will be devastated by a plague that drives most of the world's population insane. This sounds extremely exciting, until you realize that Critical Path was nothing more than a shitty 30-minute TV movie that required the player to click the mouse once in a while (21 times in the course of the game).
Of course, Critical Path was hailed as a high-tech groundbreaking novelty in its day, a distinction that provided no comfort to those thousands of players who shelled out $60 or so for what they thought was a real-ass video game. This "interactive movie" starred a soldier named Kat who gets marooned on a crazy dictator's island. The player's options throughout Critical Path are limited to "click mouse and help Kat" or "do nothing and let her die a painful death."
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking!"
In fact, the scope of Critical Path's gameplay was so limited that people have recreated the entire game on YouTube. You could give that simulator a whirl, or simply imagine you're playing a train simulator where you were repeatedly presented with two options: A) go forward or B) go flying off the rails into a canyon. Neither option gives you your money back.
Soldier Boyz: Me So Horny, The Video Game
This 1997 PC game uses a bunch of footage from a 1995 B-movie of the same name that only the cast members' mothers remember. In Soldier Boyz, the U.S. military recruits six wayward youths from a California juvenile detention center to rescue a billionaire's daughter from guerrillas in Southeast Asia (the candidates are basically selected on how grumpy they are during their interviews).
"Lefteye. Uncle Sweater. Glad you could make it."
Like all of the aforementioned FMV games, Soldier Boyz is teeming with stinky video editing and odious acting (such as a scene of a guerrilla tying a live snake into a noose, and a minefield puzzle that must be navigated by flailing your mouse left or right).
We're positive there's a fetish site for this somewhere.
But Soldier Boyz hits its high point with a sequence that requires the player to play the shell game with the madam of a whorehouse. If you discover the condom hidden under the proper cup, she applauds you for practicing responsible intercourse with impoverished sex workers and then offers you your pick of the brothel's working girls.
"Wait, we're really doing this? Sorry, I thought you were joking."
Spoiler alert: Only one of the prostitutes will reward you with consequence-free, G-rated sex under a blanket.
Surely there couldn't be much of a brain trust behind a video game that turns the player into a gleeful sex tourist, right? Well, let's take a look at the game's credits ...
Well, holy shit. The end credits reveal that Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky -- of Black Swan and The Wrestler fame -- served as one of Soldier Boyz's directors and game designers before his 1998 math-thriller Pi became the darling of the Sundance Film Festival. Readers, please be aware that any future home video collections of Aronofsky's oeuvre will be woefully incomplete without copies of Soldier Boyz. Oh, and the seminal 1996 Coolio comedy, Phat Beach.
For more fictional awful live-action video games, check out The 5 Most Pathetic Video Game Acting Performances. Or read about 6 Video Game Endings That Are Clearly F#@%ing With Us.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Details From the Saddest Government Auction Ever.