I realized I was an optimist after I noticed I could sort the selection of video games offered on Steam by user reviews. Steam offers a selection of around 6,400 games, and a couple of them are pretty good. Most are forgettable. A whole lot of them are catastrophes. But are the catastrophic failures really that bad? Yes. Yes, they are. I just wonder if any of these tragically terrible games have any redeeming qualities.
That's what I hope to discover in this new series that I'm starting today. Every so often (aka whenever I feel like it), I'm going to scrape the bottom of Steam's barrel and play the worst games in the store, with the intent of finding the good buried in the refuse.
We will begin this journey with a fighting game titled Final Slam 2. It's not very good.
It currently has 448 reviews on Steam. Of those, 366 are negative. Here are some of them:
Conversely, there are 82 positive reviews. Here's an example:
18.2 hours in, and still no clue what's going on.
First, a little history and context. The first Final Slam was a free-to-play Flash game. It's okay for a free fighting game that's uncomfortably controlled with a keyboard, features the graphic style of a shitty aspiring anime artist's DeviantArt page, and has a menu screen that is an interactive cocktail napkin sketch. There was a sequel which eventually made the triumphant leap from free-to-play browser game to being available for purchase on Steam for $4.00.
Making the leap from free Flash game to paid Steam game was contextual shift that the Final Slam series was unprepared to make. The bar a Flash game has to shimmy beneath to be considered good is low compared to the standards of some games on Steam. On a Flash game site, the competition is mostly the initial offerings from aspiring game developers. They're still working out the kinks. On Steam, it's video games that air commercials during Monday Night Football. (So international readers can get a sense of scale: The full trailer for The Force Awakens premiered during Monday Night Football.)
Slapping a price on it also added a context. Exceptions rise with every dollar charged. On Steam, Final Slam 2 had to accomplish two goals:
1) It had to feel like it's worth $4.00.
2) It had to feel like it belongs beside mega-hits like the Fallout series, the Batman Arkham series, and even fantastic little indie games like Papers, Please.
It fails both goals spectacularly.
$4.00 is a gross overestimate of its value. I wouldn't pay that for a good smartphone game. I got paid to play Final Slam 2. That's the way it should be. People should get a direct deposit of $4.00 every time they launch the game.
Final Slam 2 let me to put two characters in a level and have the AI control both of them.
It turns the game into an exhibition of what the AI was trained to do: fight. By chance, the two characters I randomly selected both shot Street Fighter-style energy blasts as one of their main offensive weapons. I began the simulation, and for the next four minutes, the characters stood at opposite ends of the stage firing energy blasts at each other which would ineffectively collide in the center.
They were dead set on making this tactic work. That's what people who suck at fighting games do when they play fighting games. The AI did not have the confidence or skill to play the game it was programmed to play. They just kept doing it, even when they were within striking distance of each other.
They could pluck each other's nose hairs from that distance, but they're going to keep launching magic at each other.
So the A.I. is less than perfect. Maybe the story mode makes up for it?
The plot is a combination of Bloodsport and Avatar: The Last Airbender, with some professional wrestlers thrown in. That combo is primed to be a hit with the kids at the lower end of the high school popularity totem pole. There are elemental spirit things which possess the bodies of martial arts masters, and then there's a karate tournament, and there's also an evil corporation that makes Kung-Fu robots, and there are natural disasters that kill millions (but we never see them), and of course there's time travel. Time travel is the sprinkling of parmesan cheese atop the shit spaghetti that is every terrible sci-fi/fantasy story.
When I try to picture the person who wrote this, I can't decide if I want to imagine them as an eight-year-old with a snot bubble pulsing from their nostril with every breath, or as an adult who has been kicked in the head by a horse.
My money's on the snotty eight-year-old.
Both seem valid. How else could dialogue like this have been written, if it didn't come from the unstoppable creative tag team of a snot-covered child and a man with a patch of hair permanently missing in the shape of a horseshoe:
As expected, the game was not good. But there has to be a silver lining, right?
I can't guarantee that by the end of my exploration of Final Slam 2's silver lining, you'll be convinced it in any way makes up for the horrors mentioned earlier. I'm just trying to find something redeeming -- anything. And the only thing I've got for Final Slam 2 is its character creation system.
*Triumphant trumpets fade into the pathetic*
I don't get why fighting games never fully embraced character creation systems. Wrestling games are the only consistent exception. The genre's character rosters celebrate diversity and the uniqueness of people and fucked-up monsters alike. I would assume they'd be all for letting players add some more dangerously deranged violent perverts into the cast of characters. Guess not. But Final Slam 2 aims to change that with its extensive character creator.
I took full advantage by creating a badass wrecking crew of warriors. Allow me to introduce you to Master Grundelfunk, a member of Anonymous who maybe isn't as anonymous as she thinks.
Meet Toots McNamara -- who, believe it or not, is not a real king.
Meet Barforia, the renowned mistress of stench:
And then, there's the leader, Ron:
Ron's a lover and a fighter in equal measure. When he's not telling jabronis to back away from his '78 Firebird, he's dishing hot fists of punishment to the foolish.
The character creator is much deeper and more comprehensive system than this game deserves, and it still doesn't make Final Slam 2 worth $4.00.
I don't know what made the creators of the game think it was successful enough to get ported to PC. If you average the scores from the Flash sites it originated from, it's a solid D+. Video games are an artistic medium. Anybody who considers themselves an artist has created work so bad they would have to kill anyone who sees it, especially when they're first starting out. I was 22 and had just broken up with a girl when I wrote a screenplay about how a guy (me, basically) found a girl better than his ex, and they would be happy together and it would be rad. The script is terrible and embarrassing. I still have a physical copy of it somewhere in my home. For me, it's the beating heart beneath the floorboards from The Tell-Tale Heart. I hate it.
I also love it. it was the first time I tried writing something big. I took action. It sucked, but I made it from scratch, with my own hands. I'm proud of the attempt, even if I'm not proud of its quality or content. There will never be a point at which I think that script needs immediate release on the widest platform possible, and that people should pay me $4.00 for the privilege to read it. I'm not an asshole.
I can blab on and on about how bad the game was and you still won't understand it half as well as Turner, the first playable character in the story mode. Turner's post-fight victory celebration says it all:
Final Slam 2 has its faults, but it's no "Bible Adventures" for the NES. See the worst of the worst in The 20 Worst NES Games Of All Time. And check out a game based on a movie based on a game in The 6 Worst Games Ever Farted Out By Beloved Franchises.
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