Embracing bad games

I'm enjoying Balan Wonderworld, which is a terrible game.

The level design is bad, and the controls are horrible, and it frequently punishes the player for trying to engage with the controls. Nevertheless I love the dream-like structure, and the bollywood dreamlike staging with dancing creatures all around the world. It has the least combat and dialogue of a platformer I've seen since the Mega Drive, which is a massive breath of fresh air. The single action button controls are not well realised, but the concept is really solid, and I love that you can play much of the game just by using the left stick and trigger. The whole game is incredibly earnest and clearly misguided, and I love that it was somehow allowed to be made.

This made me think about Ninpen Manmaru Ninja Penguin on Sega Saturn, which I played for the first time last year. The controls in this game are pretty bad and the early stages are tedious, but I really enjoy the naivety of the level design. As you play it you can almost feel the lack of confidence in the hardware and choice of platform. There's an intimacy and vulnerability when something is made under duress.

I expect that my tolerance of crappy games was hardened as a child because I bought the ZX Spectrum by choice and loved it, despite me already owning a Commodore 64. I also lived through plenty of horrible Amiga games, and played more of Alfred Chicken on CD32 than anyone ought to have. In many cases, I would prefer to play a 'bad game' than a popular game. Green Dog is good, actually.

What do you enjoy about the games that people tell you are bad?

i like my game worlds to not feel contrived for me. some really good games pull off a trick in being contrived for me while allowing me to believe they aren‘t, but a lot of “bad” games just actually aren’t. the forces that caused them to not be very polished also cause them to feel indifferent to me, impartial, like a world for itself and not “the truman show.”

and you kind of hint at this idea, but there's also an element of being generous to the creators, looking for what's good about it, and that attitude usually makes for a better experience, regardless of medium.

I just bought Shadow the Hedgehog the other day. I‘ve never played it before and my wife asked why I would play, much less purchase, such an awful game. I told her that, yes, almost everything about it is horrible and awful and it should never have been made but I’ll be darned if it isn‘t just plain fun as heck. And I realized that I can enjoy a bad game if I’m having fun. It's got the same sonic heroes game play (which is also a meh, but fun game) but with guns! It just works somehow, but the story, writing and concept are so hamfisted and over the top that I throw up a little every time somebody talks.

I felt the same about Balan while I was playing the demo. Everyone was shitting on it and I'm like... You're not wrong, but I'm having fun! I havent bought it yet cause, honestly, it's not worth $60 IMHO but it does what it wants and it has its own special charm to it.

come, ye lovers of games generally considered “”“”“bad”“”"

@pasquinelli#30147 It‘s a really interesting point to consider ’well designed environments‘ as contrived, and you’re quite right. There‘s a push for games to feel like a streamlined experience layered with Disneyland style ’weenies‘ to drag you down a critical path, but real environments aren’t like this. The awkwardness of a naively designed environment forces players to wake up and realise that content won't be paced in such a conventional way. Procedural generation has been used to reintroduce irregularities into level design, but there is nothing more honest than something hand placed awkwardly.

Using the kitchen in someone else's house is the real life equivalent of disruptive level design.

I tend to fall back on some advice I got from a lit professor many years ago re “difficult” and “unfriendly” texts, which was to approach them as aesthetic objects rather than things you’re supposed to “get” or to have expectations about (to be met or disappointed)

Have personally found this point of view expands the range of good times I’ve had with weird/“bad” games. El Viento for example as a floppy weird game that is nevertheless a rich experience in my opinion


@Thanatos#30258 The more I listen to game devs the more it sounds like any credit giving for not having the smoothest gameplay is too much credit though lol.

you're not wrong, but i'm not really interested in the question of who gets credit. people underestimate how different video games are from other media, instead treating them as kind of movies with a twist. i don't reckon anyone knows what they're doing when making video games. we're at the level of homo erectus and their use of fire when it comes to video games.

Real Life experiences affect what kind of game experiences we enjoy. I’ve had a hard life, so I do have a lot more patience and tolerance (virtues) for something in a game that may be there test me, the player, longer than someone who has, say, had complete control over everything in their life thus far. Life is messy and the world is full of surprises.

Bumping my thread because I recently completed Balan!! I even went back to play more.

More often than any other game I felt myself thinking “wow this is poorly made” or “what a missed level design opportunity”. Despite this I kept on playing!! I didn't collect all the costumes but I definitely checked some guides to help me find some things. I have huge respect for the Youtubers that make 100% guide videos for the worst games.

I have since moved onto to some other 3D-ish platformers like Yooka Laylee and the Crash Bandicoot remakes, and Spongebob Squarepants is probably the best. I'm currently really enjoying the Castle of Illusion remake from 2013!! I played the best version of original Castle of Illusion on Game Gear in 1990, so I guess 23 years was 'too recent' for me last time.

Xbox Series S backwards compatibility is helping me lots here!

I'm here to talk briefly about Planet Joker, an extremely pedestrian and occasionally annoying 3D shooter for the Saturn. I just found this quote, translated by GDRI, which makes me love it even more. I had heard that rumor that it was done by students, which would make sense if you played it. It has a very “my first game” kind of feel. but in reality:

"It was once revealed on some site that Planet Joker was the work of technical students, but that was a lie. It was a game created by a middle-aged team called IMP, who came to Naxat from the Kansai region with a lot of fanfare, claiming they would sell a million copies! The original development team was so discouraged by the game that they all resigned."


This makes me like the game even more. Here's a little playthrough I did back when I was streaming. I'd like to stream again! But what I don't want to do more than anything is set up OBS and get everything working, so... the end

@“exodus”#p52886 Planet Joker was really interesting to hear about!! I love seeing the results of fraught development, especially as I’ve seen this from developer and production sides. With a difficult platform like the Saturn it struck me that the team was especially at the mercy of a few key dev staff, and the demands placed upon them.