Ever since Steam opened the floodgates of its Greenlight program, you can find mountains and mountains of shovelware piled up at the bottom of the Steam rankings list. But for all the lazy cash-in FPS’s and RPG Maker turds, there are games that give a whole new meaning to the idea of being rubbish. These are the white elephant games you buy for your best friend/worst enemy.
These rats are bad not because they stole some cheese, but because they’ve tied up cats at the end of Rube Goldberg torture machines that need your help to run. Animal mutilation is one of the first signs of psychopathy, so Bad Rats would be a great test to give your friend who you’ve always had suspicions about. But then what does that say about the developers of the game? Maybe they are really sadistically torturing the player by making physics puzzles that break as soon as one of the elements flies out of the 2D plane.
While the game’s art looks cute in screenshots, the character animation is the laziest this side of a Newgrounds flash diversion, looking like flying paper puppets on wires. It has a sort of artsy-‘fairy tale’ story that is told in interminable text scroll. You’ll fight dumb enemies with a jump button that only works a quarter of the time on levels that offer no direction beyond maybe moving to the right. Eternity’s Child was a passion project for artist Luc Bernard, who couldn’t take the negative reception and has gone on to work in graphic novels. Probably for the best.
In the midst of development, the publisher of Rogue Warrior decided that the real problem with the game was not its by-the-numbers stealth mechanics or incredibly short length, but rather that it didn’t have enough of real-world protagonist Dick Marcinko’s personality, who is apparently defined primarily by his extremely dirty mouth. If it seems strange to complain about potty language in a game that consists otherwise of mass-murdering soldiers, that should just tell you how awful the dialogue in this game really is: ie. you’ll come away learning far more than you ever needed to know about Dick Marcinko’s genitals.
Your average art-game is usually immediately criticized for lacking interaction, but that’s a little unfair to the many “walking simulators” that at least provide you something interesting to look at. That’s not the case for this early effort, whose plot is the deliberately mundane event of being stood up for dinner. You’re glued to your seat, so you can stare at the empty table and the things in your tiny apartment, listening to your character gripe about their life. The real awfulness of this game comes from the protagonist’s incredible self-absorption and unlikeability. It might be a clever idea for an anti-game if there was any other redeeming value to it.
A classic tale of horrible game development gone even more horribly wrong, the game originally titled The War Z tried to take advantage of the buzz around ARMA mod DayZ (later released as a standalone) and Steam’s permissive Alpha release policies to promise the moon to zombie-crazed gamers. Players who purchased a game that promised multiple maps, hundred-player matches, and levelling instead found piles of pay-to-win microtransactions. It was pulled from Steam and re-released under its current title, but is still awful.
German studios are well-known for producing fantastically-detailed and strangely-compelling simulators of what most folks would consider mundane tasks like truck driving and farming. Airport Simulator is neither detailed nor compelling, yet is somehow the third in a series of equally dull games. It is not the high-stakes world of air traffic control you enter, but the zero-stakes world of delivering suitcases to airplanes, waiting while they are unloaded, and then driving back across a flat, gray, open tarmac, going home to your empty studio apartment and drowning yourself in schnapps. I’m just kidding about that last part. That would be much more fun than this game.
Uwe Boll is famous for taking popular if not critically-acclaimed video games and, via German tax-law voodoo, turning them into some of the worst movies ever made. But did you know this also works the other way around? Tunnel Rats adapts one of Boll’s relatively more-accomplished serious films into an utterly inept and tasteless video game. In this FPS, the player is a US soldier attempting to root out Viet Cong from a network of tunnels, which basically means a lot of identical levels filled with impossible-to-detect booby traps. What’s more, you can recover health by cutting the ears off the enemies you kill. Because, naturally, corpse mutilation is what would restore the will to live for a soldier trapped underground.
On release, Aliens: Colonial Marines was well-derided for catastrophically failing to live up to the pre-release hype, with ugly, dated graphics that looked nothing like preview videos. Moreover, the game was buggy and had ridiculous alien AI that would charge you like a dog learning how to walk on its hind legs, then suddenly duck behind a crate to hide. A modder later discovered that the reason for the alien AI’s psychosis was a single typo in the .ini file that totally unmoored the aliens from any goals they might have had. An incredibly simple fix that moved the game one notch up from unplayable to simply bad.
If something is deliberately made to be shovelware, is it still shovelware?
How about if we read Bible verses at you?
How about if we interrupt the game for real videos of people criticizing the game?
How about if we made an equally monstrous sequel?
This is the game that was made to answer all of these questions. It’s a so-called space shooter that looks like the fever dream of a Commodore 64. If you don’t have enough money for drugs, just wait for Uriel’s Chasm to go on sale for fifty cents.