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Bury the Shovelware: Wiffle Ball

Today marks the first pitch in one of the United States' oldest and most cherished traditions. The World Series is a notable custom in American history, as it signifies the annual pinnacle of the nation's de facto pastime. This year, both teams have much on the line. Though similar lines are hurled about before nearly every major sporting event, it holds special weight for this year's World Series participants.

The Tampa Bay Rays have made history by being the first team in the franchise's 10-year history to win over half of the games of the regular season, let alone becoming division and league champions. And after finishing the 2007 season as the worst team in all of baseball, they've achieved a miraculous feat by propelling themselves to the top game. After defeating the Red Sox on Sunday night, they've dethroned the previous World Series champions and now have their sites set on claiming that title. With the momentum that they're carrying, it'll be difficult to slow them down. But in their way lies the Philadelphia Phillies, a team with so much tenacity that it can cause bleeding of the soul. After handily disposing of the Brewers and the Dodgers, the Phillies look to bring a World Series title home to championship-starved Philadelphia, a city which hasn't won a major sporting championship title since the Sixers swept the Los Angeles Lakers in 1983.

With so much on the line, the 2008 World Series is an event that no fan of the sport should miss. Wiffle Ball for the DS? Not so much.


Well, I could write a whole paragraph about the publisher / developer Destination Software Inc., also known as DSI Games. But I think all that needs to be said is that they were willing to publish Deal or No Deal, which is perhaps the worst game I've ever played.

While that would be fun and easy, I guess I can elaborate by stating that their catalogue is comprised of many shovelware suspects, some of which I never even knew about. Looks like I'll be doing Bury the Shovelware for a long time! (Sorry, Nick) Surprisingly, they did publish the excellent port of kill.switch for the GBA.

The Critics Said

What the critics said was inarguably brutal. It's currently holding the third-lowest Metacritic composite score, right behind two friends of ours.

Rap Sheet

  • STRIKE 1: When selecting a character, I'm presented with 8 different options. All of the generic teenagers have varying degrees of skill in fielding, hitting, and pitching. That's par for the course. But one of the characters has near-perfect stats in all categories and is even described as "the best player in the neighborhood." Why would that option be available right from the start? Shouldn't you start with a character and level them up? Oh, wait, leveling up is likely way above Wiffle Ball.

  • STRIKE 2: So the game starts. I'm at bat, and the pitcher is standing in front of me. I take a few practice swings, waiting for him to pitch. I take a few more. And another. Around my 10th swing, I start to wonder if the 16-second rule applies to wiffle ball. I press the screen. I shout at the microphone. NOTHING IS HAPPENING. The game isn't frozen. No, no, the music is still playing, and I can still move my character. This is actually worse than a freeze. At least during a complete crash, you get a feeling that the developers were trying too hard and recklessly pushed too much at once. Yet with an expected event not firing, it just feels like someone may have seen this and said "meh, it's only Wiffle Ball." My shovelware-senses are tingling.

  • STRIKE 3: Everyone makes mistakes. I'll never forget buying an Xbox just so that I could play Grand Theft Auto III & Vice City (I only owned a GameCube at the time). It was the first time I had bought a game system using my own hard-earned dollars, so there was a certain level of pride associated with the transaction. I took the system home, connected it to my television, and started beating up hookers (as I was told was the entire purpose of the game). But tragedy struck only 5 minutes in when the game froze. I was mortified. "Oh no, I've been ripped off!" and other non-PG thoughts flew through my head. Once I stopped hyperventilating, I simply reset the system and the game never froze again. So while game crashes are annoying and should be removed at all costs, they're simply a part of life. Perhaps we can say that every game gets one free crash. Moving past strike 2, I went to try again. Same thing. No pitching. I tried a different venue. Nope. Maybe Season Mode will work? Uh-uh. They're all busted. Wiffle Ball, YOU'RE OUT!

Silver Lining


Our Deduction

Normally, I can find one or two nice things to say about any game, even one that is totally lacking. But a game that continuously fails coupled with a publisher showing no signs of a rebate? That's unforgivable. Even Codemasters were willing to acknowledge the bugs in Bubble Bobble Revolution by offering a mail-in fix and threw in a free (but admittedly forgettable) game as a gesture of good faith. Rather than lash out at DSI Games, however, one can take a different route by questioning why Nintendo approved this abomination. All console-makers are needed to approve a product before its commercial release on a platform. In fact, Nintendo was notorious in the 1980s for being very stringent about what made its way onto the console. Pre-Mortal Kombat II, the company was known for censoring or outright banning games from being officially published that didn't meet their own personal measure of quality. While I'm all about freedom of speech and expression, it seems strange that the same policies that would ignore and forbid most homebrew projects will not only allow Wiffle Ball to exist, but will license it.

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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Gaming to Go!

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