The Eight we love to Hate
We love videogames. If there were a church dedicated to gaming (and there should be), we'd be up there in the pulpit, preaching like a madman about how much we love them and the unadulterated joy they've brought into our otherwise hollow and miserable lives. But now and again, we play a game that stretches our unwavering faith to the limit, with flawed design, badly pitched learning curves, irritating glitches or glaring faults that render the experience unpalatable. Over the years, we'd like to think that we've grown fairly adept at weeding out the rubbish games from the good ones, but then we all make mistakes. The games listed here aren't necessarily bad, just examples that we remember more for their ability to incite flailing fits of fury than provoking whoops of delight.
So now without further ado, the eight most frustrating games that we've encountered during our twenty years of gaming, in no particular order.
1. Stuntman (2002, PlayStation 2)
Reflections' stunt driver game sounded great on paper. Live the life of a movie stuntman performing daring, thrilling, seat-of-the-pants exploits in explosive, fabricated films reminiscent of iconic action-packed flicks. In reality it was one of the most unforgiving games imaginable, punishing you for even the slightest mistake or ill-judged turn. As the levels dragged on, the requirements for successfully completing a take gradually became more demanding until nothing but absolute perfection was good enough. By the time we'd made it to the pseudo-James Bond stages, we'd had enough and vowed never to play the game ever again. We hate the director's stupid voice telling us what to do, we hate that damn tuk-tuk that rolls over at the mere sight of a corner and we hate that this game was so bloody, impenetrably hard when it should have been a blast.
A rare example of a developer taking a great idea and sucking the life out of it by making it maddeningly tough, Stuntman will live on in infamy as one of the most irritating games we've ever had the misfortune of playing. Suffice to say, we steered clear of the 2007 sequel, despite the mostly positive reviews it garnered upon release. We don't want any more of Stuntman's repetitive, trial and error gameplay, thankyouverymuch.
2. Driver 2 (2000, PlayStation)
Newcastle-based developer Reflections Interactive again, peddling their unique brand of hair-tearingly difficult motoring in the sequel to the equally frustrating but nonetheless rather playable, Driver. This holds a personal place in my heart for being the only game annoying enough to drive me into snatching the game disc from the console's drive and flinging it across the room, snapping a big chunk out of it as it hit the wall in the process. Apparently, Driver 2 was supposed to be a vast improvement upon its predecessor allowing lead character Tanner to get out of the car and roam about before GTA III came along a year later and did it properly. As horrible as they were, it wasn't the on-foot portion of the game that pushed us over the edge, but rather the choppy frame rate, flaky graphics and even more decisively, the Everest-steep difficulty curve that saw pads hurled and the eventual final destruction of the game itself. Chasing a car for a solid twenty minutes only to clip an object and instantly fail does not a fun game make. The End.
Honourable mention to Reflections then for producing some of the most frustrating driving games ever. We're looking at you Destruction Derby 1&2, Stuntman and the entire Driver series! We hate you all.
3. The Ninja (1987, Sega Master System)
An early low point from our younger gaming days, The Ninja doesn't conjure up the same kind of halcyon, rose-hued memories as say, Street Fighter II or Sonic the Hedgehog. Instead, it invokes recollections of bleary-eyed frustration and outrage at how thoroughly unjust the game was. A run-and-gun shooter cum fighter, The Ninja's sole objective was to reach the top of the level, collecting scrolls and dispatching enemies with slow, floaty shuriken stars. Your inept ninja avatar moved like a drunken idiot too, making it a challenge to avoid even one or two wayward throwing knives tossed in your general direction. And momentarily being able to turn invisible didn't particularly help matters either, what with bouncing boulders cascading down the screen at speed by only the second stage.
A short-lived and thoroughly unpleasant gaming experience, The Ninja stands out as being the most hateful little game to ever feature a ninja as its protagonist. Its only saving grace was its innate ability to induce howls of laughter at how absurdly poor it was. A misguided 9.99 GBP squandered when I originally purchased it in 1989, The Ninja serves as a reminder of how naïve I was when I was a goofy seven-year old. The shame.