It's Halloween: a time for ghosts and goblins, a time for tricks and treats, and a time for monsters and mashing. But mainly it's a time for good, solid scares. Horror movies run on every channel, children dress as demons and beasts, and macabre decorations taunt us with our own mortality. We get chills just thinking about it.
But do you know what's really frightening? The unspeakable horrors lurking right there within your 3DS and Wii. Yes, we are referring to those downloadable titles that are so bad they're downright terrifying. And since everybody likes a good scare on Halloween, we thought we'd dig up a few of the most horrific corpses from our review graveyard for one last fright from beyond the grave.
Those with weak stomachs are advised not to read on.
Why it's horrifying: When Donkey Kong Jr. was released in 1982, it's safe to say that precisely no-one opined that it would be better if it included math problems. Nevertheless, Nintendo granted the wishes of nobody with Donkey Kong Jr. Math, a lazy reworking of the original game that saw Jr. doing basic arithmetic rather than rescuing his father, or killing enemies or, you know, having fun. This is the video game equivalent of being forced to stay after school on a Friday, and the fact that it's available on the Virtual Console, just sitting there where any innocent child could accidentally download it, chills us to the bone.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Torn apart by zombies while our friends watch helplessly from their hiding places.
Why it's horrifying: Who doesn't like fighting games? Everyone who was first exposed to them by way of Urban Champion, that's who. You control an anonymous blue-haired goon with a questionable love for wearing sweaters under t-shirts as he mindlessly assaults everyone he meets. The game takes place in the open air but it controls like the characters are wading through vats in a molasses refinery, and beating your neighbours within an inch of their lives somehow feels tedious by even the second fight. Finding this one under the Christmas tree in 1985 was scary enough, but what's even more frightening is the fact that Nintendo reissued this as a "3D Classic" last year. Classic way to waste your money, maybe.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Strangled to death by a telephone cord while attempting to call the police.
Why it's horrifying: The title of this game itself qualifies as senseless violence against the English language, but what's really scary about this game is the cost, as anything beyond "free" is clearly extortion. Fireplacing is a simple simulation of an active fireplace, but it seems to have been designed by people who didn't know what fire looks or sounds like, let alone how it works. However, Fireplacing may actually be one of the better games on this list, as — oh mercy of small mercies — you don't actually have to play it. You can simply leave it running in the background as you stare into the digital flames, imagining that you can see your hard earned money burning away.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Pierced from behind by a pruning hook...the very pruning hook with which we intended to fight our way out of the house!
Why it's horrifying: An effortless iPhone port would have been better than what we got with WarMen Tactics, as it seems as though there was deliberate effort to make the WiiWare version even worse. From its inflated price tag to its painfully ugly cut scenes to some comically awful AI that sees enemies standing stock-still as you gradually shoot them to death, this is one war that truly is Hell. In other cases a front-to-back playtime of less than 30 minutes would be a drawback, but here it's easily the game's best feature. We still have flashbacks to the painfully bad pixelated blood gushing from enemies' heads, and when we do, we wake up screaming.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Withering slowly into nothing as the result of a gypsy curse.
Why it's horrifying: Like Chuckie from the Child's Play films, Karate Phants: Gloves of Glory is a seething abomination hiding behind a cute exterior. What seems like a blandly inoffensive fighting game at first actually turns out to have some of the worst controls on Wii, and that's saying something. Additionally, there's a game-breaking quirk that tears all the possible fun out of the experience the moment you discover it: simply shaking the Wii remote around executes unblockable special moves, which means brainless flailing will always prevail over even the most refined strategy. Karate Phants is one of those games that doesn't seem to have been tested before release, and as a result it's unplayable. You'd have just as much fun shaking your Wii Remote around while watching reruns of The Simpsons. Actually...that sounds substantially more fun. Do that instead.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Face huggers in the medi-bay.
Why it's horrifying: Everyone loves Superman 64. Right? They'd better, because otherwise Dragon Master Spell Caster would feel like the spiritual sequel nobody wanted. In fact, if anything Dragon Master Spell Caster gets the camera and gameplay even worse than that legendarily awful game as you aimlessly drift around collecting orbs that could be anywhere and wondering what misdeeds you must have committed in a past life in order to deserve this. The motion controls are about on par with Karate Phants, which only qualifies as a compliment when you realize that the only way they could be worse is if the Wii Remote somehow exploded in your hand the moment you shook it, blinding you and burning down your house.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Filleted and fed to the cannibal that lives in the basement.
Why it's horrifying: A best-forgotten piece of Game Boy shame, Maru's Mission is a game that feels like it's held together with string and chewing gum, and could fall apart at any moment. A veritable buffet of glitches — ranging from head-scratching to game-ending — reduces this potentially globe-trotting adventure to a shoddily told joke, with bosses popping in and out of existence, enemies glitching through floors and ceilings, and an outright broken jumping mechanic that lets you hover over jumping puzzles uniformly. Maru's Mission is a carnival funhouse of subverted expectations, only instead of "carnival funhouse" we mean "disreputable slaughterhouse," and instead of "subverted expectations" we mean "broken garbage." Your mission is to avoid this game at all costs.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Spine severed by an axe-wielding Jack Nicholson.
Why it's horrifying: If ever you were hoping for the chance to download a low-quality recording of a grade school play about the Old West that for some reason stars adults, Mad Dog McCree is the game for you. Of course these adults are far worse actors than any confused child could have been, but that's splitting hairs. This unnecessary port from the long-dead age of Laserdisc will have you squinting at muddy visuals in the vain hopes of being able to tell a gunslinger from an innocent bystander, all while watching third-rate actors slum embarrassingly for a paycheck. The point-and-shoot control system works fine, however that's less of an accomplishment than it sounds. Mad Dog McCree takes a grand total of 15 minutes to beat, but it's guaranteed to shave at least a year of your life.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Brain taken over by evil old woman so she can inhabit our youthful, perfect body.
Why it's horrifying: You're a crocodile plowing your speedboat into towers made of candy in order to knock goats into the water so that you can rescue them and build another tower out of those goats which you will then climb in order to reach the hens that live on clouds and steal their golden eggs. Read that sentence a few more times; it's much more fun than actually enduring this trash. It controls terribly, is ruthlessly unforgiving, and is criminally unfun. There's nothing salvageable about Crazy Hunter, least of all the sanity of Ron DelVillano, who had the misfortune of reviewing it. If you'd like to offer your condolences, visiting hours are from noon to three.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Eaten alive by the beloved family pet who now eats its beloved family alive.
Why it's horrifying: What's worse than an broken pinball machine that loudly shrieks terrible music at you? How about 101 broken pinball machines that loudly shriek terrible music at you? Or, rather, 136 of them, because the developer seemingly didn't even bother to play all of these wastes of space, let alone count them. Laggy gameplay, unimaginative table design and unavoidable dead spots that trap your ball the moment you launch it are the hallmarks of 101 Pinball World, which seems to be on a mission to prove conclusively that more isn't always better. The visuals are dull and lifeless, and the soundtrack is about as musical as a multi-car pileup. The fact that it released the very same day as Zen Pinball 3D provided a very real choice to buyers of "trick or treat." For those who were unfortunate enough to download the trick, you're not alone. We were right there with you. We are brothers.
Horror movie death we'd rather face than play this: Opened the closet. Why oh why did we open the closet?
Play one of these this Halloween...if you dare! What downloadable horrors do you have the heart to face this year?