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Posts with tag shovelware

Bury the Shovelware: Cake Mania

Welcome to the first edition of the new Bury the Shovelware. We're going to shake things up a bit in the interest of keeping it fresh. Instead of simply timing the games, we're going to explore the titles in five specific areas. They are:
  1. Pedigree - The background of the developer, publisher, and franchise.
  2. The Critics Said - A brief overview of what the critics said.
  3. Rap Sheet - The main glaring flaws of the game.
  4. Silver Lining - Redeemable qualities found (if any).
  5. Our Deduction - The final word on the title.
We hope you enjoy this new approach. Let us know what you think in the comment section. Our first swing at this new format will take a look at Cake Mania.


Cake Mania is a restaurant simulation based around baking -- you guessed it -- cakes. The franchise is relatively new but is featured on several other systems, including the PS2 and PC. It's published by Majesco Games, a company which walks a thin line between quality titles (Nanostray, Cooking Mama) and shovelware (Nacho Libre, Fish Tycoon). Plus, we're totally angry at Majesco for canceling the remake of A Boy and His Blob. Developer Digital Embryo is relatively green in terms of games produced, as Cake Mania makes up 25% of its entire catalog. Other games developed include the shudder-inducing titled Puppy Luv Adventures.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Cake Mania

Bury the Shovelware: N+

Man, it must feel like I'm just trying to pick fights this week. Allow me to explain myself: I love n+. It's incredibly fun, elegant, and well-made. JC gave the game a 9.5 / 10, and I'd say that's a pretty fair score. So how on earth does a good game get picked for Bury the Shovelware?

Throughout the duration of this column, we've learned a lot about shovelware. We've examined the sharing of blame between the publisher and developer, the curse of a license, the effects of critics' perception, and much more. Our top priority has been determining common attributes. One might ask what is the single, definitive trait common throughout all shovelware. The easy answer would be "it sucks." But to who? You? Me? Everyone? If you were to wander through the graveyard of the DS's library, even the loneliest tombstone will have a sympathizer or two. Particularly for younger gamers who might not know any better, cognizance is everything.

Thus, we must focus on the objective. As the swipe for this series states, "shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit." Theoretically, any game which shows compromise in any area for the benefit of time and/or money might be considered shovelware. Even if the game is a critical success, one can still identify flaws in its design. Without labeling n+ as shovelware, let's examine how its existence relates to the bottom-feeders of the DS.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: N+

Bury the Shovelware: Tenchu Dark Secret

The fall from grace. Unless your heart is nothing more than a cold, shriveled lump, you probably don't like to witness a once-respectable series slowly degrade. It's happened to many franchises. Often the decay is gradual, with gamers slowly noticing a decline in quality and is correlated with slumping sales. Other times a single misstep can throw an entire series against the ropes and nearly into submission. Either way, it's never pleasant to witness failure. Well, almost never.

What was once a prominent pillar in the stealth world has been slowly regressing into mediocrity. The Tenchu series was one of the first and most successful entries in the emerging stealth-based genre of the late 1990's. Though games involving evasive maneuvering over combat had been around for awhile, they truly flourished in 3D. From the onset, Tenchu was there. Peered with and rivaled against other top-notch franchises such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, the word "Tenchu" was synonymous with heart-thumping, adrenaline-pumping sneaky gameplay. But everything eventually dies. And the Tenchu series received a terminal illness in the form of Tenchu: Dark Secret. Unless somebody steps in and performs some sort of miracle, we might have to talk to Tenchu fans about video game heaven. It's where all game franchises go when they pass away. All of Tenchu's friends are there, like Golden Axe, ToeJam & Earl, and Ecco the Dolphin (Sega, please prove me wrong on these).

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Tenchu Dark Secret

Bury the Shovelware: Myst

Ports are tricky. Indeed, the DS's big brother gets a lot of flak for hosting PS2 ports with tacked-on waggle. Yet, if the original game is good and a reasonable amount of bonus content is added, we generally give the game a pass.

But things get even trickier when discussing the retro-port. I touched on this at the end of the Petz Dogz Fashion post, but it's worth restating: would you pay full retail price for an exact copy of your favorite retro game? As the Super Mario Advance series proved: yes, you will. Apparently, identical or near-identical copies of older games at standard market prices can still sell extremely well. It'll be interesting to see how successful the Chrono Trigger port will be (my prediction: very). It'd be especially nice if we could determine how many of those purchasing the game have never played it before (my second prediction: not very many). Information such as this would allow us to determine what effect -- if any -- retro-ports have on the current state of gaming.

Examining Myst for the DS has been on my queue for quite some time. The reason for the delay was simply because I was unsure if it was fair to put it under the spotlight since I never played the original. But upon deliberating the sentiments above, I realized the DS port of the 1993 graphic adventure would be the perfect opportunity to put the question to a litmus test.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Myst

Bury the Shovelware: Peter Jackson's King Kong

They say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but who'd expect it to plummet far away from its source, carried far by strong winds and subsequently rolled down a series of steep hills, and later to be picked up by a curious passer-by who takes it home as a souvenir ... overseas. Well, that might be a bit strong. While some felt that Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong was too long or used too many distracting CGI effects, it was generally well-received. The critical reception of the home console games based on the film were also fairly positive. I personally didn't play any of the other versions of the game, all of which looked to have that big-budget feel. Lacking access to the DS version's development financial reports, I'm not sure about the amount of resources that went into creating it. But whether it was an honest effort that encountered flaws along the way or it was simply lacking from the start, there's no denying that it's shovelware once you've gotten your hands on it.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Peter Jackson's King Kong

Bury the Shovelware: Petz Dogz Fashion

This title seemed to be doomed from the beginning: it's made by Ubisoft, it's a pet simulator, and it uses Z's where there should be S's. But you may be surprised to learn that this actually isn't quite a terrible game. Yet it's still shovelware. So how does one achieve this seemingly contradictory state? Last week, we discussed imitation. While Best of Tests DS was clearly trying to bite off some of the Brain Age momentum, its limited content and awful design made it a lackluster game. Thus, it was easily identified as shovelware. But what does one do when a seemingly good game is, at its core, nothing more than a simple clone of an existing title (albeit a well done clone)? Here's my take on things.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Petz Dogz Fashion

Bury the Shovelware: Best of Tests DS

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the world of gaming it often comes across as a slap in the face. Let us distinguish between inspiration and outright mimicry. It's not at all uncommon for a good game to have strong roots in a previously-released title. Descendants of popular titles are acceptable and standard, as many early popular arcade games including Galaxian and Centipede were heavily based on the groundbreaking Space Invaders. Even the industry-revolutionizing Super Mario Bros can be seen as the prototype for nearly every side-scrolling game since, itself having traces of Pitfall.

But in order to avoid being a cheap imitation, the inspired game must expand upon or branch the formula in a new direction. Before its release, the excellent Banjo-Kazooie was seen by some gaming journalists as nothing more than a Super Mario 64 clone. In hindsight, that's an amazingly foolish indictment. But there's the trick: while they do share similarities, they are very different games. Banjo-Kazooie did what a good game inspired by another should do: use a solid foundation and build upon it. Some titles, like Best of Tests DS, takes the solid Brain Age foundation, but instead cuts it open and squeezes lemon juice inside.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Best of Tests DS

Bury the Shovelware: Superman Returns

Opinion leadership. It's quite a scary concept. When planning the waves of advertisement for a product, marketers will implement what they describe as "opinion leaders": those who are viewed with respect by the potential market and will help persuade "lower-level consumers" to purchase their product. In other words, we're too stupid to know what we want and so they're going to pay someone we think is legitimate to tell us what we like. I wouldn't dare point fingers, but perhaps you've seen this before: a large gaming news source suddenly seems to be hot for a certain upcoming game. (Don't look at us.)

As discomforting as this sounds, it's actually a very common and natural occurrence. Certainly we've all been persuaded by friends, family, and respectable gaming news sources. Additionally, the influence isn't restricted towards the positive. Indeed, in the wake of anti-French sentiments and boycotts following France's denouncement of the Iraq war, French's Mustard (unrelated to the country) felt the need to release a press statement assuring consumers that "the only thing French about French's Mustard is the name." As you can see, unrelated negativity can percolate into that which is only similar in the letters used to identify it.

Superman for the N64 -- commonly referred to as Superman 64 -- is widely regarded as one of the worst games of all-time. So when I discovered Superman Returns for the DS floating around the very bottom of the system's metascores, I was truly puzzled. "Could they really have messed up Superman this bad twice?" Read on to find out.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Superman Returns

Bury the Shovelware: Deal or No Deal

To learn all there is about something, you sometimes need to go to the extremes. For shovelware, we are about to boldly trek into the eye of the storm. Deal or No Deal has the lowest aggregate score according to Metacritic, narrowly edging out Homie Rollerz. But we need to give it a fair chance. We can't succumb to the self-fulfilling prophecy. And besides, as a poster hanging in my high school English teacher's classroom profoundly stated, "what is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right." Indeed, just because one nerd hates Castlevania 2 doesn't mean you should automatically define it as a bad game. Okay, I can't fluff this anymore: Deal or No Deal for the DS isn't as crappy as you expected. It's crappier.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Deal or No Deal

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

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Jackass the Game

Bury The Shovelware: Pokemon Dash

Nintendo's big E3 press conference has come and gone. While the mainstream media outlets will praise titles such as Wii Music and Wii Sports Resort, the hardcore gamer has reason to feel underwhelmed. Whenever the Big N fails to please its base, one might wonder how the seemingly impervious Nintendo could fail to deliver on expectations. However, like all that is human, the house Miyamoto built is not without its blemishes. When "mistake" and "Nintendo" are mentioned in the same sentence, those who aren't hurling bricks at the heretic are known to immediately think of the Virtual Boy. Nonetheless, Nintendo has had its fair share of publishing misfires involving some of its biggest licenses.

Often, the company will allow its intellectual properties to be used in games developed by second or even third parties. Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, and Metroid have all had titles outsourced. Like a mother bear protecting her cubs, Nintendo tends to insist on quality development. They will publish these games themselves in part to assure the consumer that the title is worthy of its featured IP (otherwise, things can get ugly). Nintendo is a business, however, and businesses need to make money. And what's one of the quickest ways to turn a profit? That's right: slap a well-known franchise onto a subpar piece of shovelware. The exemplar piece can be found in Pokémon Dash, a disastrous "scratch-your-DS-into-submission" racer.

Continue reading Bury The Shovelware: Pokemon Dash

Bury the Shovelware: Ping Pals

While the response to last week's inaugural column was universally appreciated, the very first comment was particularly intriguing. The reader brought up an excellent point: definitively labeling a developer as poor because of one bad game is very narrow-minded. After all, good developers and bad games are not always mutually exclusive. In order to prove this idea, one should start with an incredible game. Fortunately, the DS has plenty of those. Then, the developer's catalog should be searched for any traces of shovelware.

And when talking about good games on the DS, one need not look further than the only title to receive a perfect 10 from DS Fanboy: Contra 4. It is awesome. For any other game, that wouldn't be enough for a "review," but with Contra 4, nothing else is necessary. WayForward Technologies' 2007 masterpiece was about as close to perfect as a game can be. Thus, the California-based developer was a perfect candidate for closet searching. And was there ever a skeleton to be found inside! Ping Pals, which is well known as being one of the DS's earliest atrocities, was the first game WayForward developed for the DS. At face value, the tween-focused chat utility appears to be nothing more than a glitter-coated PictoChat used to discuss iCarly and Webkinz. Released mere weeks after the launch of the DS, it was universally censured by both critics and love-to-hate gamers. Electronic Gaming Monthly called it "An abysmal failure," and IGN -- who employs Mark Bozon, brother of WayForward's creative director Matt Bozon -- pulled no punches when stating that "Ping Pals is easily the most unnecessary product for the system." Ouch. Clearly, somewhere between Ping Pals and Contra 4 lies the purest definition of shovelware.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Ping Pals

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

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: Homie Rollerz

Phoenix plans twelve games to avoid this year

Generally, when it comes to the DS, we tend to associate the name "Phoenix" with good things. European publisher Phoenix Games, though, is determined to break the mold, tainting the name we've come to know and love on our handhelds. The company is bringing twelve games to the DS this year (with twelve Wii titles to match), none of which sound fun unless you like the sound of Jungle Crew, Love Heart, and Dalmatians 4.

Grabbed from the bowels of the "rejected game ideas" pile, these twelve games probably never even had a chance. Of course, if they're developed with care, we'd be able to overlook some bad concept decisions. Seeing how Phoenix is popping them out faster than an over-sexed rabbit, though, we doubt this is the case.

Even though these games are budget titles and obviously marketed to kids, we don't think we're being too harsh. Phoenix has a track record for releasing awful titles, and we wouldn't recommend subjecting children to these horrors.

For a list of what games to expect from Phoenix, check out the company's website here.

[Via GoNintendo]

Gaming to Go!We debate the hot topics!

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