If you've been reading Bury the Shovelware regularly (as I hope you do!), you've noticed that a common trait amongst the shovelware titles we've examined are licenses. In fact, anyone who vaguely follows gaming knows that licensed games have higher-than-average odds of being awful. But what's almost guaranteed to be awful is a license which has little-to-no relevance to a video game. Sure, Superman Returns, Peter Jackson's King Kong, and Jackass: The Game may have not been great, but at least they had the potential. I mean, who wouldn't want to fly around defeating enemies, swat down airplanes as you scaled the Empire State Building, or be gored by an angry Bull? Even other types of entertainment such as sports and game shows work just fine as the basis for a video game (well, for the most part).

Then, of course, there's the IP that has no business being involved in a video game. Not too long ago, a symphony of forehead smacks was heard throughout the gaming press when GameSpot reported (in error) that a video game based on the successful film Juno was being planned. And rightfully so. Television shows and movies grounded in reality have no business being the basis for a video game. Are there any successful video games about washing the dishes? About paying late fees for overdue books at the library? About going to the convenience store and finding that they're all out of Nantucket Nectars? The majority of situations we find ourselves in during the course of a regular day does not translate well to video games. So neither should a television show that doesn't involve robotic children. Here's an exemplar piece: Drake & Josh: Talent Showdown.


00:00:08 - One of the intro screens say Nick Arcade! Aww, nuts. It's unrelated.

00:00:15 - Hmm ... this title screen music does not fit at all. I'm no Drake & Josh connoisseur, but I have watched a few episodes before. This music feels more like a show where Drake is a strung-out junkie and Josh is a small-time hustler. I had my suspicions before, but I'm already getting the impression that the developers had little to no familiarity with the IP.

00:00:34 - WOAH! Bad cartoon likeness of what I assume is Josh, being accompanied by even worse music, informs me that "It all started with the Regional Talent Competition being held at our own Belleview High School!" OOOH, they used the correct name. My faith is restored.

00:00:52 - Josh: "So naturally I entered. My magic tricks sure [sic] to dazzle the judges." Somewhere, an English Major is crying.

00:01:00 - Drake: "Travis, that loser from Lincoln High, decided to bring along some muscle to sabotage the competition." Oooh, the anonymously evil Lincoln High!

00:03:14 - The gameplay is somewhat Zombies Ate My Neighbors-esque ... minus zombies ... oh, and minus fun. Well, it's not hideous or anything. It's just not very good.

00:04:02 - ARGH! One of my pet peeves in DS games is present here: games which require you to control the character using both the d-pad and the face buttons AS WELL as the stylus. I hate fumbling around to get the stylus out in time. Here, when accosted by a random bully character, you must scratch the stylus back and forth in order to shake the bully loose. Why couldn't that have been designated by button presses?

00:06:12 - So, I'm searching for Drake's band members who were "grabbed" (that's an awfully questionable word choice) by the Lincoln High muscle. This is really monotonous. To give the game credit, you are required to switch between Drake and Josh, each with their own special abilities and areas to access. But it's nothing to write home about.

00:08:37 - There's absolutely nothing here that's keeping me entertained. Done!


In the past, the definition of a tragic hero was one who started from nobility and success but suffered from a debilitating downfall. Arthur Miller's 1949 play Death of a Salesman radically altered this definition to include someone who was never in a position of happiness and has always suffered. Similarly, I wonder what the worse game is: the one that shows potential but fails to deliver on it, or the game that was loathed from its announcement and didn't fail to meet expectations. For example, should the critically slammed game based on the critically applauded film Iron Man be despised any more or less than Drake & Josh: Talent Showdown? Is Iron Man more tragic due to is potential, or is Drake & Josh since it never had a chance?

I would lean towards the latter. Imagine that you're a developer on one of those two games. Even if you mess up, the idea of creating an action romp based on an awesome movie would keep you highly pumped throughout its development. But if you're stuck trying to make sense out of a Drake & Josh video game, that's going to hang over your head throughout the entire development. And no one can work well with failure constantly on the mind.

In gaming, the term shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit. Bury the Shovelware takes a closer look at these titles, typically those that inhabit the lower end of metascores. It attempts to: 1) find out where and how the developer went wrong 2) identify common traits present in most shovelware 3) measure how long the game can be suffered.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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