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Bury the Shovelware: Homie Rollerz

Bury the Shovelware is a new weekly feature in which DS Fanboy dives deep into the mounds of gaming abominations dumped upon the unsuspecting public by various developers. Like a stool sample collected from a heap of animal dung in order to learn more about its creator, we'll be dissecting, studying and testing our subjects. We will record our findings, and mark how long the title can be endured. Every Wednesday, we'll take a closer look at the proletariat of the DS's vast library.

For this first installment, I sought something that epitomizes shovelware: a game that shows too little inspiration (or too much from one blockbuster title) and/or is virtually unplayable. These attributes are all well represented in Homie Rollerz. In an attempt to feed off the momentum of the "Homies" craze (of many years ago), developer Webfoot Technologies created a racing title that aspired to capture the invigorating frenzy of Mario Kart DS, but instead leaves the user bored, frustrated, and robbed of their time. How long could I stand Homie Rollerz? Roll on to find out.

Gallery: Homie Rollerz

0:19 - The title screen appears, and I'm welcomed to Homie Rollerz by unattractive art and a painfully generic MIDI composition. Proceeding to the single-player mode, I'm asked to choose a racer. Nearly all of the characters are stale clichés, ranging from the inane to the appalling. How bad are they? Well, as an example, one character is a chili pepper driving a burrito. I end up going with the chili pepper, whose name is "El Chilote." After choosing my character, I'm prompted to select a game type. "Wizard Circuit" sounds interesting. This appears to be similar to Mario Kart's Grand Prix.

0:24 - With the other courses currently locked, the only available option is "Fiesta Village" ... sigh. I'm treated to an awkwardly placed cut scene. The first line of dialogue in the game, spoken by El Chilote: "It's time for the chili peppers to rise up against the oppressor! But how can I, just one pepper, start a revolution?" Rest assured that the revolutionaries who gave their lives in the Mexican War of Independence would be proud to see a talking chili pepper echoing their cause.

1:14 - The race begins! I immediately descend to last place, as I'm too busy wincing at the painful frame rate and unwieldy controls. There's virtually no sense of speed or acceleration. The feeling I'm experiencing is not that of cruising along a race track; it's more like I'm clumsily scanning a crudely designed three-dimensional field with some sort of map editor. The course continues to lay the Hispanic stereotypes on thick. The only thing that's missing is the piñata.

1:23 - Right on cue, I run into a gigantic spinning piñata, which causes my racer to spin out of control. Confusion pours over me as I can't tell whether I've stumbled upon a short cut or unintentionally exploited a glitch that lets me skip over half of the entire track. It's irrelevant; I'm still in 8th place. Each passing sight reaffirms just how awful the graphics are. In screenshots, they would be merely substandard. In motion, it's apparent that the visual quality is somewhere between a first generation PS1 game and a demo you see on those "go to college to create video games" commercials.

2:26 - Mercifully, the first race is over, and I'm rewarded with "0 respect." Wow. This isn't gaming. This is something that would appear on Mind of Mencia as a Hispanic parody of Mario Kart, and would be just as unentertaining there as it is here.

3:05 - It appears that no additional courses are unlocked if you place last. Fair enough. I start the race again and somehow, through powers outside of my understanding, I slide into 1st place. Hooray!

3:40 - My success is short-lived. At the beginning of the third lap, my burrito car runs directly into a wall. Back to 8th / last place. The icing on the cake: the word "LEAN" is now stuck on the screen, even though I let go of the lean button a long time ago. The glitch remains active until I cross the finish line in last place. To proceed, I must redo Fiesta Village... again.

3:54 - Okay, third time's the charm. Wrestling the controls the entire way, I manage to fight my way into the crowd, crossing the finish line in 4th place. Okay, I'm in the upper 50%. Maybe now I can try a new track? WRONG. Respect is still at 0. Homie Rollerz, the feeling is mutual.

4:59 - I bear the unbearable once again and my persistence is rewarded with a 2nd place finish! I've earned 2,500 "respect" ... whatever that means! Certainly I should have unlocked an additional course. Forget common sense; I'm playing Homie Rollerz. Still just Fiesta Village. Screw the wizard and his circuit. Back at the main menu, I decide to try the "challenge." Once there, I'm prompted to indicate the amount of "respect" I would like to wager. Yeah, as if respect is a clearly quantifiable unit of measurement. "When I found out that Bob plays Homie Rollerz, I lost 217 units of respect for him." Well, at least we're racing on a different course. This appears as to be some sort of generic Aztec temple. Looks like I'm just racing one guy.

5:40 - The same problems that plagued Fiesta Village are present here as well. There's no sense of speed or acceleration, and it's highlighted even more through the many ramps, jumps, and quick turns present. My opponent drops a brick wall directly in front of me, but I somehow pass through it without any incident.

6:14 - This is a buggy, poorly-constructed mess. I can take no more.

Like most shovelware, there's no single trait that makes Homie Rollerz worthy of the label. Instead, it's the serialized lack of effort. Concept, design, playability: none of these areas show any evidence of substantial care. As the name implies, Webfoot Technologies stuck their shovel into fragments of a substandard license, came up with a hackneyed caricature of a game, and heaved it onto the overflowing pile of retail DS titles.

In gaming, the term shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit. Bury the Shovelware takes a closer look at these titles, typically those that inhabit the lower end of metascores. It attempts to: 1) find out where and how the developer went wrong 2) identify common traits present in most shovelware 3) measure how long the game can be suffered.

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