Regurgitated fast food for your PS2.
Sometimes a game comes along that justifies our role as game critics. It’s our job to herald greatness, but it is also our duty to stand guard against the forces of fiendishly bad games. We protect gamers’ souls and hearts every bit as much as we protect their wallets. As the epigraph written above the gate to hell says: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” My sentiments exactly.
[image1]Like a near-death experience, bad games can provide us with a vision of the other side, a gamer’s hell filled with E.T. games and 3DOs. A bad game serves to reminds us why good games are so good, and they cleanse the palette and bring us back to the zero-point of solid game development. If you haven’t guessed already, Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am is one of those terrible, terrible games.
As with most kitschy things, it’s difficult to tell whether or not Aqua Teen Hunger Force is serious about being bad (because it is seriously bad). While Midway may claim that they’re self-consciously making a bad game, there’s a fine line between an ironically bad game and a truly bad game. But even if the developers have succeeded in their attempt to make a deliberately bad game, that doesn’t make it any better of a game. Bad is bad, whether intentional or not. And with PS2’s growing old in so many households, Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am only makes the PS2’s expiration date seem that much closer.
It’s no surprise to anyone at this point that most licensed games suck. Knowing that this game is based on one of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim shows should tell you all you need to know. Fans of the show would be hard-pressed to feel excited about a game based on a show that already prides itself on its slacker-kitsch aesthetic. At best, this game would make sense as a web-based flash game to keep you occupied while you’re talking on the phone to that annoying friend of yours who keeps talking and talking and doesn’t seem to realize you’ve been browsing the web instead of listening to him. I suppose you could do the same thing by playing the game on your PS2, but that would require too much effort and far too much money.
[image2]“But,” you ask, “what about the game? Shut up, and just tell me about the game already!”
As I said earlier, I’m choosing to invoke my privilege as a guardian to the gates of horrifying badness. I’m protecting you. But just in case you’re still curious, I’ll give you a quick peek at what lies snarling and gnashing its teeth beyond the gate: the game follows the lackluster adventures of Frylock and Master Shake as they play golf through not-so-scenic New Jersey. That’s about all the story you’ll get. You play a crappily controlling game of golf interspersed with god-awful combat and a few pointless golf cart races. The golf mechanics are frustratingly inaccurate; the stiff combat controls are even further hampered by an unmanageable camera; and golf cart racing is made utterly thrill-less thanks to over-balanced opponents who always manage to be right behind you. Expect plenty of non-ironic framerate issues and non-ironic graphical shortcomings.
The game disc also includes four episodes from the show (one of which never aired), but these are available from the get-go, so there’s no reason to play the game to unlock them. At $30, you’d be much better off tracking down these episodes elsewhere. Also featured are the voice actors from the show, but the lines quickly get repetitive and the humor is as shoddy as the controls.
[image3]If any aspect of this game sounds appealing to you, then I’ve grievously erred somewhere. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this game provides any kind of fan service. The game isn’t funny; at least, not in a laughable, enjoyable kind of way. It might be funny if you invited some friends over and told them about this “amazing new game” you just got and that “it only seems like a bad game until you get to the end.” You’d disappear and then come back four hours later to laugh at them.
That’s about as funny as this game gets. Which is to say, not at all. In fact, the only “joke” is on gamers (and dauntless reviewers) who spent money and time on this game. Maybe with time we’ll all learn to recognize the brilliance of the joke, but for now no one’s amused. The slacker-irony of the show only works because you don’t have to do anything but passively watch it (and, let's face it, you're also stoned, just admit it). A bad game, however, forces you to actively engage in its badness, to participate in the non-fun.
Unfortunately for Aqua Teen Hunger Force, there is no audience for kitsch gaming. Other media have cult fans who fetishize badness in its full glory, basking in the warm, multi-hued glow of castoff clothing, never-run films, and untalented artistry. If this game is a sign of games to come, then the PS2 stands poised as the console of choice for the swap meet junkies and garage sale fiends of the gaming world.