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Joystiq presents

Bury the Shovelware: Jackass the Game

Licenses can be lethal. But as in all facets of life, prejudice shouldn't rule our thoughts. Every title should be given a fair chance. And yes, the same ought to apply to a game based on a television program in which Johnny Knoxville artificially inseminates a cow.

To be honest, I was really hoping to be pleasantly surprised by this game. While Jackass was never the Jeopardy! of its time, it has swiped at least a chuckle or two from nearly all who bear witness to its inane displays of consenting human mutilation. This kind of brainless nihilism could easily lend itself to an arcade-style video game: small challenges with cheap thrills. Maybe Sensory Sweep could deliver a unique collage of pain and amusement. Perhaps it could be a truly unique experience, going against the grain of nearly every other game in history and rewarding the player for injury and humiliation, not sustainment or style: the true anti-parkour. But I might be expecting too much from something titled Jackass the Game. Yes folks, you guessed it ... we've got shovelware.

Gallery: Jackass

00:00:01 - Not surprisingly, MTV is involved. If they have plans to consume gaming the way they consumed popular music, we'll all have to find a new hobby.

00:00:10 - After choosing a profile, I'm provided with a character to control. His attributes include "Skill," "Bone Breaking," "Agility," and "Balance." It's amazingly subtle how they slipped "Bone Breaking" into that list.

00:00:26 - My character is customizable, and the process starts with a body type. The first two options available are "average," which is a male, followed by "female." Yikes. Good thing no one played this game. Are the developers implying that females are below average? Or maybe they're part of a separatist feminism movement and believe that women are above average? Perhaps they've never talked to a female and consider them to be abnormal? To be fair, the overwhelming majority of Jackass stunts involved men. Yet, you'd think someone might have said "hey, you know, maybe male works better than average." Moving along, the other two body types available are "dwarf" and "fat man." We know who they're referring to with these descriptions, so one can only assume that the licensing rights to Preston Lacy and Wee Man are extremely exclusive and near impossible to obtain. I digress; the customization is actually a nice touch. It won't make the game, but it never hurts to allow the player to express themselves as they see fit.

00:01:20 - After finishing my character, I'm prompted to choose an area to conduct mischief. "Mianus Gorge" is the first option. HA HA HA, woah boy, that's a knee-slapper if I ever heard one. The original "Mianus" bit was only kinda funny. Self-referencing aside, originality is always appreciated.

00:02:14 - "Your skill attribute represents how gnarly you look while doing a stunt." Funny, I thought "gnarly" had been retired in 1993.

00:03:57 - A cutscene begins: "Hi, this is Jeff Tremaine." The Jeff Tremaine?! As in, the Executive Producer of Rob and Big?! They sure pulled out all the stops on this one. All right, I take it back. It actually fits in with the story: my character is apparently interning for Jackass, which was created and directed by Tremaine. That still doesn't make up for the embarrassing artwork.

00:04:27 - "The point of this game is to do wicked stunts." Funny, I thought "wicked" had been safely quarantined to the New England area.

00:04:31 - "When [the stunt meter] gets full you have the potential to break all 206 bones!" Serious injury and excruciating pain never sounded so appealing.

00:05:03 - Geez, that was a lengthy series of instructions. The game finally starts. We begin in some sort of suburb. While getting acclimated with the jumpy controls, I accidentally stumble into the beginning of a stunt. I immediately fall off and break 14 bones ... but apparently that's a good thing.

00:09:50 - Getting back up to where I started, I notice a man standing around. As I approach him, a cutscene starts. The character is clearly trying to represent Johnny Knoxville, but he's not explicitly mentioned by name. He informs me that I should cruise down the hill at a high speed and then slam into the SUV located at the bottom. Who could refuse an offer like that?! I hop into the same small vehicle I hurt myself in before. The feeling of motion isn't very good, but nowhere near as bad as some other games. "You broke 15 bones!" Huh, that's it? I feel like an under-achiever.

00:11:37 - As I make my way to the next mission, I stumble into a catapult of some sort. It launches me high into the air, where fog and pop-up is quite noticeable. It's kind of refreshing, actually. Reminds me of the N64.

00:12:22 - Walking around in this game is a chore. I understand that 3D movement using a directional-pad isn't quite optimal, but something like turning left or right shouldn't be so darn difficult.

00:14:48 - A Wee Man lookalike discusses my previous mission with me. Without much explanation, I'm soon fired from a garbage truck (your guess is as good as mine) into a billboard. I really nail this one, and am rewarded with a medal that looks suspiciously like dog doo. Tremaine finds me and asks me to "get to the top of the mall to find the ninja mask that someone tossed up there." I see that Jackass the Game had just as much writing bravado as did Jackass the television show.

00:17:19 - After trying a few more random stunts, I think I've seen enough.

It's admirable to try and find good in the bad, and that's not at all impossible in this case. There's mild fun to be had here. After all, who doesn't like ragdoll physics? The main flaw with Jackass the Game is not a lack of care, but rather a lack of polish. On their website, developer Sensory Sweep Studios uses a slightly troubling statement to describe their attitude towards creating games: "Believing in the principal that good games could be developed on-time and within budget, Sensory Sweep set out to prove themselves." This leads one to believe that sacrifices were made in the name of time and money. And if true, then this is nearly the exact definition of shovelware.

If the controls were a little more responsive, if the physics were a little more robust, if the gameplay was a little more fleshed out, and if the graphics were just maybe a bit tightened up, this may have escaped the umbrella of shovelware. Yet as it stands, Jackass the Game lurks in the lower end of the DS's library. Perhaps the developer and/or publisher felt that the Jackass license was enough to sell a game and thus didn't provide adequate resources to support the project. I honestly believe that there could be an acceptable Jackass game. Similar to some of the Tony Hawk titles, there's a fairly decent stunt chain to work with. The catapulting stunts are mildly enjoyable. If the engine were a bit tighter, then the general layout of the game could have worked fairly well. Overall, the game isn't quite a travesty ... it's simply mediocre. Unfortunately for Jackass the Game, a good game will never settle for "mediocre."

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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