Double Dribble

Publisher: Konami
Year: 1987
Genre: Sports

“The thing about video game basketball is that the computer decides whether or not the ball goes in when you shoot. So say you’re playing against the computer team, you’re down by one and let’s say you take a last-second shot to win the game. It’s the same program you’re playing against that decides whether or not the digital ball goes through the digital hoop on that final shot. So it can arbitrarily make you lose or arbitrarily let you win.” – John Dies at the End

A sports game named after a rules violation. That's promising.
A sports game named after a rules violation. That’s promising.

While the above is obviously applicable to a wide variety of video games (essentially any game with a random element), it is especially true of basketball video games in a peculiarly infuriating way. Yes, there is a significant element of skill involved – you do, after all, have to control your little basketball player man as he runs down the court and make sure you don’t accidentally commit offensive charging or some other foul. At the end of that court, though, you leap up to shoot a basket or make a dunk and the game decides, completely on its whims, whether your shot is successful or not. That isn’t to say that some shots aren’t more or less likely to go in the basket, which, of course, gives you the illusion of control. In the end, though, I’ve had a series of seven or more dunks fail in a row while a single half-court shot sinks instantly.

(Although, if you enjoy exploiting coding errors, you can take a shot jumping out of bounds in the upper corner next to the basket, and the shot will go in every time. Every. Single. Time.)

The exception appears to be free throws – when you shoot a free throw, there’s an indicator that shows you when you should hit the button to successfully take the shot. Why isn’t there a timing based element to every shot? Hell if I know.

If your sportsball team gets more goal-ins than the other one, a winnar is you!
If your sportsball team gets more goal-ins than the other one, a winnar is you!

John’s Rating: 2.0 out of 5. It’s not an unplayable game, it just doesn’t have any enduring element of fun. Once you’re proficient at moving on the court, the game has one of two outcomes – you beat the computer consistently, thoroughly and viciously, or you lose completely on the computer’s whims. Why? Because it gets to decide.



Publisher: Data East
Year: 1987
Genre: Action

“In a world without sanitation regulations, one man stands ready to give the people what they want: delicious piping hot burgers. This master chef prepares his creations the only way he knows how: through the power of stepping on food. But when a group of rogue hot dogs and fried eggs threaten to put him on the grill, will he be able to turn the tables on the food rebellion, or will BurgerTime be seasoned… with death?”
-The back of the BurgerTime box, except not actually.

Alternately, this could be "Upton Sinclair's The Jungle: The Game"
Alternately, this could be “Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle: The Game”

Continue reading “BurgerTime”

Balloon Fight

Year: 1986
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Platform

Remember when you were a kid and balloons, powered by your imagination, could hoist you off the ground and into the stratosphere? Well, screw you, kid! That requires about a fafrillion balloons because physics, bitch! But you know where one can frequently take refuge from the doldrums of everyday physical reality? Video games, that’s where!

Moar liek physics atrocity, amiright?
Moar liek physics atrocity, amiright?

Continue reading “Balloon Fight”

10-Yard Fight

Year: 1985
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Sports – Football 

Let’s start this at the beginning (well, the beginning here in the Americas, anyway). The year is 1985, and the NES has finally been released in the United States. With it comes what will be remembered as one of the most hit and miss selection of release titles in history. The first game alphabetically on that list? 10-Yard Fight.

I won’t fault them for their tastefully minimalist title screen.