PEOWWs Lemon Hunt – Another look at the lowest Metacritic games.
I’ll tell you something about this here site… we can’t help but back us a lemon. Sure, we get through our fair share of GoW and Halo matches and we’ve been known to shoot a few pricks on the various Call of Duty games but triple-A gaming isn’t the be all and end all. If this opening has already confused you, let’s put it this way. Some of us are way more excited about Two Worlds 2 than the next Halo game.
The problem with backing a lemon is that it’s hard to recommend a game of dubious technical merit or one that requires a lot of patience because gaming is usually much more immediate than that. That’s why strategy games are a dark art and why the most popular ones are dumbed-down tank rush games for people like… well, us. I know I had an enjoyable forty hours or so in Two Worlds but it’s not for everyone.
Another problem is that some games really are lemons. From dogshit film tie-ins to obscure, but cack, Japanese obscura, it’s a minefield out there. Most people will look to their favourite sites, or a reviews aggregator like Metacritic, for guidance but sometimes you just have to take a punt.
So that’s what we’ve done. Colin and myself are going to go trawling through Metacritic’s lists to find some of the lowest rated games Xbox 360 titles (anything under 60% is the qualifying mark) and then see if they’ve actually got some merit to them and, who knows, we might even find a hidden gem or two.
Metacritic Score: 29%
Our review can be found here. Other than another movie tie-in that looks over-rushed and under-prepared, what we have here is a game with a frankly bizarre combat mechanic. You look at the enemies’ feet to see from what side they will block/counter from. You have to make sure you attack from a different side.
Maybe that’s why the whole game looks quite shit, because 99% of the time you’re just staring the symbols at the attacker’s feet. I would almost applaud the developers for being that little hit different but frankly it just doesn’t work. Proceed through several levels and see how long you last. I don’t trade in that many games I own (even the bad ones), but I dropped this turd faster than I would drop aâ€¦ turd. Below average doesn’t quite describe this one. Colin Says: 20%
(It is nice to look back at an old review and see that I got it spot on. I gave it 1/10 because the game is truly awful and quite broken as well and I called Samuel L. Jackson a beige wearing motherfucker. Gosh, I was on form that day. – Rich)
Metacritic Score: 38%
After Sam Fisher’s awful outing in Double Agent, there was something kind of satisfying about Vampire Rain’s level design. It was all right-angle corners and easily read patrol patterns. However, the main reason this game got the severe panning it recieved was due to the enemy combatants in the game. Instead of half-assed Chinese guards or angry terrorists, the main baddies in this game were vampires and not the get-your-ass-kicked-by-girls Blade/Buffy type. In this game, if they see you first, you’re as good as dead. Shoot at a vamp from the top of a building, he’ll jump up and rip your face off in seconds.
However, if you get past the first level things do improve. The shotgun you get fairly early on will kill the vampires in one well-placed shot and other weapons such as UV knives also increase the odds in your favour. Plus the level design also tends to favour the player and can lead to some terrifyingly tense near-misses with the toothy bastards who are patrolling the levels.
It’s maybe a little too hard for its own good at times and it does get repetitive (a distinct lack of ‘achievement unlocked’ messages doesn’t help either) but it’s not that bad a game if you like your vampy types to be hardcore and scary. It even had a good multiplayer portion (vamps v hunters > spies v mercs) but that was deader than the inhabitants of this game unfortunately.
I’d bump this up to a five or six out of ten.
Metacritic Score: 39%
This deeply sexist hack and slasher from the makers of EDF got roundly savaged by the gaming press (presumably because of its content rather than the gameplay which was playable enough for me to complete the game comfortably twice). In my review for PEOWW I gave it 5/10 stating that it did some things brilliantly and other things less than brilliantly. The 5/10 was a pure mean average of the good and bad and I stand by it. If I was forced to adjust my score at gunpoint I’d only go up though.
The game is pure Japanese nonsense. An ultra-violent peepshow aimed squarely at scary types who like Namco but it is mindless, arcadey fun. A little like its ant-maiming stable-mate. It was released at a budget price and it’ll be even lower now and is well worth picking up if you want something unashamedly mental to play.
(I cant say I liked this game as much as Rich, but neither was I singing all the praises of EDF. I am a Dynasty Warriors fan and just couldnt find as much of the fun here. However I totally agree with 5/10 being average, and thats what the game is – Colin)
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Metacritic Score: 45%
You’ve played one action movie tie-in, you’ve played them all. This is a simplistic run through the scenes of the movie with the ability to switch between characters and use their powers.
It’s not as good as, say, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance but it’s arguably better than the other examples of this genre and is genuinely enjoyable at times (well, the times that you play as The Thing). It’s not great though and anything over 5/10 would be too much so I guess the critics got this score more or less right.
Golden Axe: Beast Rider
Metacritic Score: 45%
Our original review is here. Going into this game, not thinking of the awesome series’ history is the best idea here. What you have is a straightforward Hack and Slash game that occasionally allows you to ride quite powerful animals and use them as weapons.
How they managed to get this game so wrong is almost unfathomable. Combat is unnaturally difficult and the counter/block system is a joke, it boils down to watching the three different enemies attacking you and anticipating what kind of attack it is and then hitting the appropriate button. I actually wish it was a QTE. The animals are fun to ride, but when the enemies steal them from you it’s a proper kick in the nuts and makes them like 50 times more invincible.
The game is playable but certainly is sub-average and I have to agree with the advice of downloading old school Golden Axe instead. Colin says: 30%
(An appalling lemon, maybe one of the worst we’ve ever reviewed. The combat was lacklustre, the enemies uninspired, the beasts were near useless and the whole thing was marginally less interesting than a game based on the MP expenses scandal. My original 2/10 feels a tad generous. – Rich)
Metacritic Score: 48%
Scoring a ludicrously high 48% thanks to a severely off-kilter 80% from Pelit and a bunch of 60s from sites that should know better (Giant Bomb tsk!), Terminator Salvation got reviewed here a few weeks back and scored 3/10 with its only saving grace being that it was better than the film.
Basically this isn’t even a lemon. It’s just a shitty, generic third-person romp through nine levels of repetitive Skynet-infested dogshit. Destined to be popular with achievement whores, this is an easy 1000GS for anyone prepared to sit through 5-7 hours of the dated gameplay, but everyone else should avoid it, and the film for that matter (film wasn’t that bad – Colin) (it fucking was! – Rich).
CSI: Hard Evidence
Metacritic Score: 48%
Another achievement whore favourite, CSI: Hard Evidence plays out as a point and click detective simulation. In reality this means a lot of trial and error as you compare DNA, fingerprint and ballistics information until you get a match that you can use to close the case you are working on.
The five cases are fairly interesting though, so fans of the show might get something out of the game. But everyone else will be bored to horrible tears and will reach for the FAQ within minutes of starting the first case.
48% seems just about right though.
Metacritic Score: 48%
Blaverage in every way and very little to say on the matter, graphics are ok, sound is ok and combat is pretty average, initially I actually thought I was having fun in the game but when combat starts getting repetitive (midway though level 2) and chore some (most of the enemies take far too long to go down) I began to get fed up.
This is a shame because unusually your AI companion is quite competent and can more than hold his own, it would have been good to have someone half decent to team up with. During many game sections it’s actually possible just to run away from the enemies and have them chase you Benny Hill style which becomes the easiest and far more entertaining option, but when you’re happy to do this surely its time to put the game down (in more ways than one). There’s no reward in killing people so you can just let them follow you all the way to the end of the level.
The levels themselves are quite poorly designed and on more than a few occasions aren’t clear on where you’ve to go next with platforms being out of view or obscured in some way. I actually was stuck like this several times and had to refer to a guide. The third time this happened I just packed it in, it was a game breaker. Bland, repetitive and unimaginative are the words of the critics â€“ I agree and add some of my own personal loathing. Colin Says 30%
Metacritic Score: 50%
Probably the most misunderstood game on the 360, Two Worlds still seems to have the ability to ensnare unsuspecting gamers with its mix of straight up RPG action and addictive-as-crack inventory management.
An absorbing eight player online mode completes the package and whilst the game suffered from severe technical issues (notably an awful frame-rate and plenty of glitches) it deserves a much higher score than it got because there is so much good stuff to see and do in this game and it has the best necromancy spells this side Snake Mountain.
If I had to review it today I’d start at maybe 7/10 and then spend 1000 words justifying reasons to bump it to an 8.
Metacritic Score: 51%
This was purchased a little while after another cult favourite of ours, Conan and I was only hoping for basic stabby fun. At its bare bones Beowulf is a hack-um slash-um where you run around, pick up weapons (a feature many games miss out) and do the deed. Beowulf tries to be a little bit different with its own spin on the good/evil morality choice many games offer. Play like a bastard â€“ pulling enemy limbs off, earns you carnal upgrades to make you more vicious. Play like a gentleman â€“ rallying your army of Thanes and using them to their fullest will earn you Heroic upgrades and make you more of a team player.
The game is a little more difficult than some other roaming hackers but it’s a consistent difficulty that you adapt to. Annoyances come in the form of the Parappa-the-rapper style rhythm sections (seriously), like cheering the lads on and steering a boat or taunting Grendel with a Viking (well Danish) ballad, the sections can be quite tricky but are for the most part few and far between. I will agree with the critics complains of gloomy/foggy levels and muddy graphics but Beowulf offers plenty of hacking fun and will keep you entertained if this genre appeals. Colin’s Score: 7/10
Metacritic Score: 51%
Any game where you play is as the man of steel is bound to be flawed. You should be able to do everything he can do as well as he can, but a game where it takes you a good few minutes to fly from one mission to the other is not off to a good start in my books. I’m being really pedantic here, the flying is actually the best I’ve seen in any Superman game despite being slow.
The game doesn’t follow much (or is that any) of the movie’s plot (a good thing), despite having the voice talent and plenty of CGI cut scenes from the movie, but it does offer some comic book fun. In this very under-detailed Metropolis side missions are the order of the day and must be completed (a la Saints Row) to allow story progression, whether your playing as Bizarro blowing shit up, racing Mr. Mxyzptlk or stopping Metallo’s minions causing mayhem. The game is average through and through but it may even capture your attention all the way through to the end (spoilers: the last boss is a tornado). This score is spot on average.
Transformers: The Game
Metacritic Score: 52%
Well this is just ludicrous. Transformers might not be the greatest game ever but it doesn’t do a whole lot wrong. The combat is reasonably enjoyable, the game world is mostly destructible and even the driving isn’t too bad. It throws in some decent content for Transformers fans, so I can’t really see the problem.
The complaints about the ‘clunky’ controls are particularly laughable given that you control, you know, a giant fucking robot and graphically everything is fairly well put together. The missions are nice and short also so the game never seems to overstay its welcome although some of the bosses are multi-staged which gets choresome (Megatron takes four beatings before he’s actually beaten).
The overall score is wildly off, I’d have put this firmly in the 70-75% bracket. Edge’s 2/10 seems a little Hollywood really and OXM’s 3/10 is yet another example of them marking harshly to counterbalance the overly glowing reviews they give to the publishers who pay them more money.
Metacritic Score: 53%
This Duke Nukem-flavoured videogaming parody combines some tired gameplay with some hit and miss humour to produce a game that is occasionally amusing but never really enjoyable. It’s not particularly well made and some of the boss battles are particularly choreish.
That said, it’s not all bad and is worth a playthrough if you see it cheap (mainly for the jokes that do work) and to be fair, my opinion of the game has gone up since Terminator Salvation came along and showed me just how bad a third-person shooter can be.
The 5/10 that we gave the game still stands.
X-Men: The Official Game
Metacritic Score: 53%
Acting as a prequel to the third X-men movie (shite) this game actually had a few good ideas to it and even (slightly) improves upon the movie by giving, back-story and some more screen time to certain characters, such as Multiple-man, and even adds in why Nightcrawler (awesome) didn’t appear in the movie (lame).
You progress though three separate paths, playing as Wolverine (meh), Iceman (cool) and Nightcrawler (awesome), unfortunately you can’t just play all the levels of your favourite character i.e. you have to play a Wolverine level to unlock one or two Iceman/Nightcrawler levels. Nightcrawler’s levels have you leaping about the place acrobatically, completing objectives and attacking enemies brilliantly with this teleportation powers â€“ great levels and I honestly can’t convey how fun his powers are to use. Iceman’s levels have you flying (well moving on his ice slide) in a big arena/island/city level defending structures, destroying flying enemies and competing objectives â€“ Again quite a fun and unique way to play. Wolverine’s levels unfortunately are Grade D roaming hacking slashing and a true chore to get through.
If they just went with a less shit hero with better powers like Cyclops, Colossus or even Professor X, the levels would have been so much better. The Wolverine is the only awful thing about the game (the comic book cutscenes are a bit crude) but knowing that after trudging though one of his levels you’d get a chance at the other characters’ actually makes it worth while. The game deserves a much better score (70-80%) and certainly shouldn’t be criticised just because the game looks samey on each of the platforms it was released on.
(While I fully agree that Nightcrawler’s sections were the best in the game his targeting felt a little random at times and I eventually lost patience with the game. I’m inclined to agree with the Metacritic average here. It’s a game that neither excels or appals. – Rich)
Rise of the Argonauts
Metacritic Score: 54%
I seem to be in the minority with how wonderful I thought this game was. Playing as Jason as he assembles his band of Argonauts and seeking a cure for his wife’sâ€¦ death, was pretty damn fun. Looking at the games on this list will show how common scrolling hack-um slash-um games are but RotA has more in common with adventure games or dare I say, an RPG. Running back and forth with some killing in the middle, all the while completing quests definitely brings memories of Mass Effect or Knights of the Old Republic.
The islands you travel to are, for the most part, very open ended in which you will have a main objective and also plenty of opportunities to stop and help the little people along the way. Unfortunately also like KotOR there were times where you may prefer to be knee deep in combat, but have to settle for conversing with the locals. The game has its own mini achievement system that’s fun to complete â€“ making sure you kill your enemies in a variety of different ways and complete every quest possible in the game. If you can handle talking to NPC’s and not 100% â€œall the timeâ€ combat I’m sure you will appreciate this game as much as I â€“ Seeing some of the reviews of this game does question my own opinions, but I had fun â€“ what more can I say? Colin says: 80%
(I just don’t see it, Colin. The game was reasonably well made and had a fairly epic feel to it but it still came way behind Conan in the action stakes and the story was a bit blaverage. In my original review I said ‘personally I’m bored to tears even writing about Rise of the Argonauts’ and I can see why. – Rich)
Metacritic Score: 55%
So, the assorted gaming journos who reviewed this somehow saw fit to give it an extra 13% over Vampire Rain (by the same developers) and quite where they got these extra marks I’ll never know.
Sure, there are some reasonably good bits in the intro movie but once you get out of there, you’re stuck with a rubbish-looking third-person action game with a rubbish camera angle and distressingly dull levels.
This is topped off nicely with an infamously bad achievement that gives you a measly 1G for completing the game on the hardest setting. It is certainly no better than Vampire Rain and I’d go as far as to say this game would struggle to score more than 2/10 here at PEOWW.
Lord of the Rings: Conquest
Metacritic Score: 55%
Star Wars: Battlefront meets Middle-Earth. Anyone that has plated a BF game can guess the drill, choose a class (warrior, archer, stealth, wizard/healer), join your army and run about trying to nab control points. Each level will have several objectives be it â€œHold the court yardâ€, â€œStop the demolitionists getting throughâ€, â€œDestroy the siege machinesâ€ but it pretty much boils down to â€“ Kill guys â€“ run on â€“ Kill Guys.
The game started off pretty enjoyable and if you play for long enough you get to play as heroes like Sauron or Gandalf which was fun but before long comes a difficulty cure that could only be describes and unfair and erratic. I managed to complete the game but the difficulty stopped me having fun long before the end. Online was as broken as the Xbox SW:BF games were, if not cripplingly worse and as such I never made it through a full match.
There were some fun moments I had with this game, and it was a nice change to get to play as the baddies in the â€œWhat if Frodo failedâ€ scenario but I don’t think the average gamer has the patience necessary here. The concept was good although poorly implemented. Why didn’t they just make Battlefront 3? The average Metacritic score is far too generous. Colin says: 30%
NBA Ballers: Chosen One
Metacritic Score: 55%
Not having played a B-Ball game since the good ol SNES NBA: JAM or NBA: yearly FIFA type update I gave this one a bash. What is basically a street basketball game (one on one, two on two, one on one on one etc) has you competing in a contest to find the new â€œChosen Oneâ€ and very simply you win games and rise through the rankings.
Pretty much the game-killer here is a severe lack of tutorial mode. The game talks about pulling off super and trick moves and the AI readily does so, but without anywhere to walk you through how to play the game you are left feeling somewhat impotent while the AI holds you down and has their way with you. On the few rare occasions where I managed the pull of some cool moves (by referring to the unhelpful manual) it was great to see and game me a fighting chance against the AI (extra points the cooler you look), but just picking up the game and hoping for the best will result in one steep difficulty curve. One thing you do learn to do is initiate a QTE (that’s a right a QTE in the middle of the court in a basketball game) which if successful increases the points you get when you score, this was pretty much the only way I managed to win any games, and it didn’t last for long.
The Metacritic score is generous for a game that doesn’t let a basketball novice like me get very far. Colin says: 20%
(I’ve not played this, but if it’s anything like NBA Street it can fuck off – Rich)
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Metacritic Score: 56%
Prince Caspian on the surface looks like Lord of the Rings (or is that Dynasty Warriors?) lite, where in fact it has more in common with one of the Lego games. At any one time you have a party of 2 to 5 characters and you switch between them on the fly, all the while utilising their skills, be it for combat, accessing different areas or puzzle solving. There is certainly an emphasis on playing co-op (notably the dodgy uncontrollable camera) but is quite acceptable to play through solo.
The graphics are fairly solid, cut scenes are a bit ropey (mixed in with footage from the movie) but the orchestral score is quite epic. Combat is one button simplistic and downright easy and oddly enough, despite the fact that you can be travelling around with minotaur’s in your party, your AI team mates are remarkably ineffective – enemies can pretty much only be killed when you stab them. Despite the ease of and simplistic gameplay I fond this game to be remarkably charming.
It’s certainly designed with children in mind â€“ make no mistake, but it kept me going for a lot longer than many other games on my list.Colin says: 70%
Metacritic Score: 56%
I’m sure we can all agree that the first Tenchu game was brilliant and nothing in the series since has ever come to close to it (although Tenchu 2’s level creator was great fun). The further into the series you get, the less good the games get as they break away from the simplicity of the first game (particularly when it comes to the level design) and add more and more useless power-ups and abilities.
At first Tenchu Z seems to be more of the same with a whole heap of new things to unlock and learn but when it comes down to the basics (running around and executing chumps) it gets everything just about right. So at its heart, Tenchu Z is a very enjoyable addition to the series.
However, it lets it self down with repetition of levels (50 levels based on 10 or so actual level designs that you have to complete on three different difficulties) which is a shame as the game overstays its welcome when it should have focused on a dozen or so challenges, like the first game did.
An extra ten or so percent on this score seems about right.
(The levels were wholly lazy – like Rich says it’s the fact they just put different enemy placements about the place, but the game was very fun – I imported this bad boy and never regretted it. Proper up close executions is what stealth is all about. 70% is the absolute minimum for this. – Colin)
Alone in the Dark
Metacritic Score: 58%
Okay, the camera in this game is sketchy as fuck, the control system occasionally hurts, the driving sections would test the patience of dead person and the inventory system is a little too hardcore for some (mixing up weapons in real time whilst getting attacked by dead people doesn’t seem like cricket for more sedate gamers) but that list of indescretions is more than made up for by other aspects of the game.
For example, some of the sections in this game are EPIC. Seeing a city crumble as a subterrainian demon beast chases you is pretty special for a start. The fact that people only really die when you burn them adds a tactical edge to the combat (which is far more satisfying than any Silent Hill game) and the excellent fire modelling and physics engine mean that you’ve got a lot of ways to dispatch your foes.
Get used to the controls and camera and you’ve got an above average survival horror game here. Personally, I loved it. I didn’t expect much and I thoroughly enjoyed finishing the game (apart from the driving bits after a while). Another 20% on the score is justifiable but you could only recommend this to the most patient of gaming friends.
(Forget how the game was designed to be episodic – i.e. you can jump straight to the last level if you wanted – the adventure game genre just doesnt seem to be about that much any more and Alone in the Dark is a fine addition. I know theres a lot of frustration and gun combat became so innacurate that I resorted to just using firey baseball bats, but the open ended sense of the game (practically sandbox) made wandering (or driving) around Central Park lots of fun. Its good to hear that even Alan Wake will be borrowing the ‘Previously on Alone in the Dark’ story recap everytime you boot up the game which helped to add more to the games atmosphere and charm. – Colin)
WarTech: Senko no Ronde
Metacritic Score: 59%
Fuck me, this was the crowning lemon in PEOWW history. This 1v1 shoot ’em up (you know, the kind of bad idea you’d occasionally see on the Dreamcast) promised lots of strategy and depth and ended up being absolute pants. Sure, it’ll have it’s hardcore fanbase but pretty much everyone I know who tried it had lashed the game back after a week or so’s play.
The confusing visuals mixed with unsatisfyingly random combat, and awfully slippery controls, made this unnecessarily frustrating. I took a £40 hit when I traded it back in, which makes me a moron. But I’ll happily bite that bullet, and accept the ghost on my gamercard, as long as I never have to play it again.
Anything over 20% is ridiculously generous and when PEOWW’s master of all things Japanese, Danny, trades this shit in, you know it’s a fucking lemon.