A lot of money and work goes into making a video game, and sometimes all of it is wasted when the project gets canceled. However, here are six insane examples of how that isn't always a bad thing.
The movie Waterworld lost so many millions of dollars that it would have been cheaper and less embarrassing if Kevin Costner spent $110,000,000 hiring crowds of people to watch him cry during sex. While he was filming Waterworld, MC Hammer was holding Oakland money eating contests that were more fiscally responsible -- and more watchable.
The movie was made into a game for the Super Nintendo; a game that's historically considered less fun than playing with a small pox blanket. It was also released for the Virtual Boy, but wasn't received as well there. In fact, "Waterworld on Virtual Boy" is now how you tell a computer to fuck itself in machine language. It's the most horrible thing to ever be put inside a Virtual Boy, including Japanese robot inventors.
Finally, after making the worst movie into worst game on the worst system, someone said enough, and the Sega Genesis of Waterworld release was canceled. The game required players to kill tiny semi-harmless jet skis from their sailboat that kept coming and coming until the everyone-is-dead alarm went off. This was your signal to start your search, while an alarm sounded, for a buoy that lets you dive into the water. When your core gameplay is "go ahead and shoot until we tell you to stop," that lacks strategy or even simple urgency. Waterworld might as well ask the player to wait in the car for 20 minutes while it goes and gets its nails done. Except that if Waterworld did that, it would come back three months late, let you know the bill was way more than it expected, and ask you to pretend to be a chicken because it sold you to its Vietnamese manicurist. The only thing you can trust Waterworld to do is fuck up in every direction.
If you get to the water-diving stage, it's so dull your body will swear it's dying of old age. You slowly steer Kevin Costner through underwater ruins to collect treasures where it's impossible to tell what you will or won't get stuck on. To add to the excitement, nothing has any interest in killing you. This game is as rewarding as finding a fish in your couch. The only way you could have a more miserable Waterworld-like experience is getting a job as Dennis Hopper's condom.
Rap Basketball is hard to explain, but let me see what I can do: It was going to be a mix of rap and basketball. Now that that's over, the plan was to have rappers with no basketball experience be the stars of the game. Unfortunately, this chain of stereotypes leading from rap to black to basketball created a bizarre vortex of unlogic that only didn't sound racist if you were already a racist. I mean, don't get me wrong, I bet LL Cool J is great at basketball, but I'd never say that to his face.
Before any rappers were signed, the production company bounced all its checks to its contractors and went out of business. Rap Basketball died a hard death. The game was finished up to the point where the player could control one of four identical men, dribble a basketball, drop a basketball, and do nothing else. I can't believe they threw that much work away. Here's a couple ideas on how they could have released it exactly how it is:
So I guess we can be thankful that such a stupid idea never made it to the market. A game about rappers playing basketball? That's ... oh shit, never mind. In 1995, Mandigo made that exact thing starring such notable basketball stars as Queen Latifah, House of Pain, and Coolio. It was called Rap Jam: Volume One, if only so us future people could enjoy the told-you-so feeling of there never being a Volume Two.
No one has a worse movie-star-to-video-game ratio than Steven Seagal. Robin Williams and Tim Allen have had more video games based on their movies than Steven Seagal. That's the kind of outrageous statistic that makes me think math is calling us pussies. Steven Seagal and TecMagik tried to fix this in 1994 with Steven Seagal is The Final Option. It was cancelled, renamed Deadly Honor, then cancelled again. During that time, nine games about Power Rangers were released. My god... according to these numbers, that means there are fewer than negative eight balls on every one gamer.
Steven Seagal had a lot of input on the game, which explains why it might not have been awesome in the way they wanted it to be awesome. In the first mission you infiltrate Nanotech's underground munitions depot, an underground munitions depot populated by only two kinds of people: maintenance workers and lab technicians. The odds were ridiculous even for an action star famous for his one-sided fights. Fact: The closest a fist has ever come to Steven Seagal's face in a movie is when the script calls for his character to eat a hot dog. In fact, there's a Hollywood legend that when Steven Seagal eats a hot dog, they have to slow the film down just so you can see it.
The Nanotech lab technicians are the bravest corporate employees you'll ever see. They don't run away when a well-armed maniac bursts into their office and murders their janitor. They don't even drop their clipboards. While you threaten to sue the company every time a co-worker gets caught smelling your gym clothes, these guys walk right up to Steven Seagal and jab him with their free hand. Nanotech needs to give these guys a raise. And in honor of these kick ass scientists, I'm going to scientifically prove how they star in the perfect game:
Controls: Steven Seagal moves like time-lapse footage of a pigeon decomposing and it's a five step process for him to change directions. So in that way, this is a precise simulation of what it's like to pilot a Steven Seagal.
Graphics: In Steven Seagal is the Final Option, you look exactly like Steven Seagal from Hard to Kill. Which is easily the nicest thing anyone has ever said about anything. They never finished Seagal's running animation which is a shame because I'm sure it would have involved motion capturing a fat woman waking up in bathtub full of snakes.
Realism: Steven Seagal has proven many, many times that if he has a knife and a gun and he goes up against a scientist carrying papers, he wins. It's the main reason science has no explanation for Steven Seagal-- no one has ever returned from studying him.
Baby's Day Out was a film about a baby crawling through a city on its own. It was a schizophrenic mess that couldn't decide whether it was a movie, a cartoon, or a snuff film for toddlers. Despite the delicate issue of infant safety, the film bravely attacked the subject of killing babies with the humorlessness of a plastic bag warning label. The licensed game had a lot to live up to. It had to be categorically insane, have no idea what the hell it wanted to be, and simulate a 5th trimester abortion. It succeeded.
In the game version of Baby's Day Out, you don't play the baby. The baby has been left alone to crawl. Instead, you play a poltergeist in charge of helping it reach its goal. At the start of every level, the baby is safely confined in an enclosed area and it's your job to ruin that. You open gates for it, lure it up ladders, and let it fall off ledges until it succeeds. It's the kind of fucked up game that Chinese mothers would describe as "Normal Everyday Baby Raise."
The baby takes so many 30 foot falls in this game that it doesn't really matter where you lead it to, it's going to end the day in a dumpster. You are absolutely the bad guy in Baby's Day Out. And to add to the creepy mood, the graphics make a bizarre, half-assed attempt at realism. It looks like they animated it with photocopies of a baby doll, which is coincidentally the exact way a dog speaking in the tongue of man would tell you to do it. The only whimsical thing in this game is your ghost's cartoon eyes, at least until they detach from your head. They should have released this game simply to have marketing statistics on which video game consumers also own headless teen runaways.
Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill was a game based on President Clinton's cat keeping the nuclear launch codes out of the hands of evil ex-presidents. It was developed and never released by Kaneko, because the Japanese are who you go to when you want American political satire and nice light-hearted nuclear weapon comedy.
I don't want my political views to slant this video game review too much, but I always thought a cat was a strange pet for Clinton to have. When you're the most powerful man on the planet and you're stuffing cigars into fours, you're at least a sex addict and shouldn't own a pet that vibrates on your lap. Think about an average day for Socks the Cat. Not since Prince of Persia have gamers controlled a character that has spent so much of his or her life rubbing against boners.
Even Nintendo Power couldn't get excited about this game, and that was the kind of magazine that could do an 8 page feature on Care Bears Care Quest. Nintendo Power reviewed games the same way Helen Keller masturbated-- indiscriminately and with an unbreakable positive spirit. For example, the only criticism they had for Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball was that the label came off after a single six hour kiss. Yet when they previewed Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill they panned it. They panned it on the same page as an excited sneak peek at Rex Ronan: Experimental Surgeon, an educational game about lung cancer awareness. This shit was so bad that Nintendo Power seemed to be going out of its way to say it loved literally everything except Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill.
Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors was made entirely out of minigames designed to fuck with your friends and perform magic tricks. For example, Mofo the Psychic Gorilla is a game about convincing a second player that an on-screen gorilla can read his or her mind. You do this by first studying 6 pages of the manual, practicing basic sleight-of-hand and misdirection, and then asking your friend to select a card from a deck (sold separately). The trick requires you to actually get a look at the card they picked and then press a bunch of buttons on their controller under the guise of "helping" them. If done properly, this causes the gorilla to guess their card! This isn't exactly kill-that-sorcerer magic. Your friend will probably figure it had something to do with that time you peeked at their card and then pressed all those buttons. It's so absurd that this would impress anyone that I think Penn and Teller are operating under the assumption that gamers are god damn idiots. Damn, a group of people buys 9.8 million copies of Shaq-Fu and all of a sudden they're marked as suckers.
It was never released, probably because the people who had a Sega CD and the people who had a friend lived in two very different Venn diagrams. Plus, I think punched is the best-case-scenario when tricking your friend with a video game.
Smoke and Mirrors is most famous for a minigame called Desert Bus, a sarcastic response to Janet Reno and the anti-violent video game legislation at the time. You play a bus driver that has to drive, under 45 mph, from Tucson to Vegas. The trip takes 8 hours in real time and the poorly-aligned bus drifts off the road if you aren't paying attention. If that happens you're towed, in real time, back to the starting point. If you finish the soul-crushing trip, you are rewarded with 00000001 point and the opportunity to drive back to Tucson. But you know, even without the wit, it's still more fun than Waterworld.