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Worst Video Games Ever? Superman 64

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Superman 64 Box Art

Welcome to the worst video games ever.

Monday. I had just woken up after a good night’s sleep. Downstairs. Coffee. Toast. Kitchen table. I am feeling quite at peace with my life. I recall what is on my agenda. Heart immediately sinks. I had planned to review a game. Not just any game. Possibly the worst video game ever. That game was Superman: The New Superman Adventures, otherwise known as Superman 64.

Background

Superman 64 was released in May 1999 in North America and July 1999 in Europe. It is a 3D game based around the standard trope of Superman trying to save his friends from Lex Luthor. For some unknown reason Luthor has kidnapped them and sent them to a virtual world. 

The game is based on the popular Superman animated series from the nineties, a time in which DC ruled over comics and films and had arguably one of the greatest animated TV shows of all time in Batman: The Animated Series. So as you can imagine, a game for the Nintendo 64 based off a popular cartoon and franchise had a lot riding on it.

I had never played this game until review day. However if you have ever expressed an interest in gaming you’re probably fully aware that this monstrosity exists. Critics have panned it ever since release and it is often cited in top five worst video games ever. I try to be as optimistic as possible when it comes to looking at games that I’ve never played before. However, this time round I could feel depression or anger issues before I even began. So what was the problem with the (possible) worst video game ever?

Controlling Superman

It’s immediately apparent and genuinely shocking that this passed any sort of quality control. The controls are confusing and don’t seem to follow any controller layout set up by other games. There is an option in the menu that shows you what buttons do which things. That option is also paired with a short description of the story which you have to view before going on to view the controller layout. This presents you with and even a wall of text that just confuses you even more. 

Lex Luthor’s Cunning Puzzle

Superman 64 is just a mishmash of horrible, clunky, unresponsive, delayed actions. In the time it takes to accelerate when you are flying I could have had a child, watched it start school and eventually grow into adulthood. Yet when flying I could stop almost immediately. The buttons don’t respond to what you want them to do so you have to mash them 3-4 times just to move. Turning during flight is twice as wide as the path targets you have you fly through leaving it near impossible to complete the practice course without having to turn back on yourself. 

Missing the mark

Now this is the just the best. There is an option to walk instead of fly. Because in a Superman game, walking is the first thing you would want to do right? No. And for some reason Superman walks at the same speed as an old lady out with her dog. Why can’t he walk at the same speed at which he flies at? He’s Superman! He’s meant to be a near-perfect superhero!

Stay calm. It is only the practice stage.

I can’t. The graphics are dreadful. The head on the model of Lex Luthor reminds me of Patrick from Spongebob. Characters in the game have barely any features that can be identified as a face. The world in which you are flying around in is big and has a lot of space but there is nothing in it. A few buildings, some skyscrapers, and for some reason floating paths that connect them all. There are no rich or vibrant colours used to make the background stand out, instead the developers decided to just use virtual fog. This looks horrible and makes it more Silent Hill than Metropolis. The base of the world is flat and shows roads, but there is no detail added; not even a simple 3D park bench or a couple of plants. The title of worst video games ever creeps closer.

Story Mode

I decided to try my hand at the ‘Story Mode’ to see how badly that would go and behold! I was not disappointed. As I mentioned earlier, there are target rings that Superman is supposed to fly through in order to solve Lex Luthor’s puzzle. That’s it. The puzzle is flying through some rings. 

You are under a certain amount of time to fly through all the rings, and that timer is REALLY unforgiving. I barely managed to pass the first set of rings and as soon as I did I was thrust into a mission where I had to move two cars in under ten seconds to prevent them from running over civilians. Civilians that only show up when these quick missions take place. It’s this part of the game that really frustrates me – if Lex Luthor has kidnapped only three of Superman’s friends and put them in a virtual world, where Superman has to go and save them, why does the player have to save civilians WHEN THEY AREN’T REAL CIVILIANS?? 

Superman looking not so super

Once I moved the two cars about half a metre which saved the fake civilian, I was then immediately tasked with flying through more hoops within a time limit. The game doesn’t actually state that if you miss three hoops it’s game over. So yup, I missed my third ring about four rings away from completing it. Hope was fading. 

There are more levels within the game which are more focused around mazes and puzzle-solving but I really could not be bothered to delve that deep into something that clearly should’ve been scrapped long before it reached the shelves.

Power of the Brand

What amazes me most though is that like a lot of worst video games ever it sold well. Over 500,000 copies actually. Perhaps prisons bought them to torture inmates or something because no kid in their right mind would see this game and think “oh boy, that looks like fun!”. 

The only real reason this game sold was because of that age-old technique of slapping a well-known brand on a sub-standard product. People would’ve only bought this because of DC Comics’ massive presence at the time. People obviously expected the game to be of the same quality as the animated series it is based off. Indeed, the sound bites that are in the game are taken directly from the cartoon, but I’m pretty sure the actors would’ve distanced themselves as far as possible from this project.

Why so serious?

In their defense, Titus Interactive who developed and published the game supposedly had a lot of constraints thrust upon them by DC Comics and Warner Bros. Supposedly, Warner Bros demanded that the game be set in this virtual world so that Superman did not have to fight ‘real’ people. But this could just be excuses for producing a contender for worst video game ever.

The Verdict

I hated every minute of Superman 64 and it is one of the worst video games ever. Only explicit words should be used to describe this complete and utter waste of a well-known and well-loved comic book character. Every enjoyable element of being Superman, such as flying and bashing bad guys with super strength has been stripped away. The plot is confusing, if not non existent. I’m glad DC would later redeem themselves with the ‘Batman: Arkham’ games. Superman 64 gets my vote as the worst video game ever.

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