Every day, a Chuck E. Cheese singbot goes "haywire" and tears the arms off a birthday party attendee. We as a people are forced to allow this because the animatronic monster holds our pizza and fun hostage, but Battlebots are just plain irresponsible. As if robots don't hate us enough for putting them in charge of flushing our public toilets and beeping out the comic relief on our space missions, now we're attaching chainsaws to them and forcing them to maim each other our amusement? Are we TRYING to start the robopocalypse? I consider myself lucky every time my Gameboy doesn't try to kill me, and I don't want this game giving it any ideas, like "pick up hydraulic axe and ram human target into spinning floor blades." There's no need to worry, though. This clumsy shit plays like a battle between two inpatients adjusting their beds towards each other as hard as they can.
Hellboy - Asylum Seeker
1: The game begins with a four line conversation between Hellboy and his friend. You can't skip this, and it will take longer than you can possibly imagine. Try using this time to earn your degree at home. You can major in business management or gun repair.
2: Time it carefully to look at the TV again when Hellboy's friend walks away, as it's forty of the best seconds you'll see in an unskippable cutscene of someone slowly and silently walking away this year.
3: After the loading screen appears and finishes, you should now be well on your way to a second career. Meanwhile, Hellboy will spend a few minutes picking up a lighter. You can hit buttons at this point *SPOILERS* if you'd like the scene to be set to the sound of clicking sounds.
4: Time passes as time does.
5: You are now in control of Hellboy! Try any of the doors in the area to begin a lengthy but fun sequence of Hellboy trying the door, pausing, assuring you it's locked, then pausing again.
6: When you do find the door that works, use the loading screen to reflect on what waiting for Hellboy has cost you in your life. Before you know it, you'll find Hellboy in a tiny room with nothing except four walls and a giant button. And what Hellboy does next... is up to you!
If Aquaman's colleagues weren't all famous super heroes, he might be more impressive. Like if we held him to the standards of jugglers or TV repairmen, then wow, his brain speaks fish. Unfortunately, there he was with his stupid grin and his shaved legs, answering distress calls with Superman and Green Lantern. Wait, wouldn't a Green Lantern video game cost about the same to license and not be gay? I knew this game wasn't worth playing by the time I read all the way through the word "Aquaman." The designers would have been safe naming it Aquaman: Battle for my PIN Number is 2762.
The game's star doesn't even get to use his unique fish communication abilities. I would have really felt like Aquaman if they put in a puzzle or two where a dolphin just needs someone to talk to or a group of crabs need a soprano and the big concert is tonight! Instead, you stiffly swim around like they recorded their motion capture by flushing a hot dog down the toilet.
Masters of the Universe Interactive - He-Man: Power of Grayskull
In this game, which is awful by the way, the monsters are just as observant as He-Man's friends. Unless you are literally rubbing the blocky pixels of your cockhole face against theirs, they won't recognize you. You can even hit them in the head a few times and there's a good chance they still wander away, evidently mistaking an open field for the man who recently cut chunks of them off. I was surprised how small this made me feel.
When I mailed this column in, I included a bonus joke for Aquaman that my ex girlfriend Joyce wrote. She played it for a few minutes, I assume to help understand why I hate my life, and ended up saving an Atlantean prisoner. With a flourish, he said "Thank you, Aquaman!" and swam off. She replied, "You're welcome, fellow underwater homo!" Then a beat. And then, "This sucks."
Months later, I had to review Aquaman again for the now extinct XBOX Nation. When I redescribed the stiff controls, I said, "[Aquaman's swimming] is exactly what it'll be like when it's culturally possible to grab a saddle and pilot Michael J. Fox through the ocean by throwing medicine in the direction you want to go." It got changed, probably to something like, "Controls could use fine-tuning aplenty. And what's up with all that airplane food?"
When I was in the middle of my column for this issue, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera of CNBC came to my apartment in Portland to interview me about how outrageous my job was. Here's how the interview started. I was Mr. SEANBABY in the closed captioning transcription, so I kept it like that.
CARUSO-CABRERA: And who do you write for?
Mr. SEANBABY: Electronic Gaming Monthly.
CARUSO-CABRERA: Electronic Gaming Monthly. There's an entire magazine for people who play video games.
Mr. SEANBABY: There's, like, 30 magazines for people who play video games.
Mr. SEANBABY: Yeah.
You can't really tell unless you were there and heard my brain screech to a halt behind my eyeballs, but it was right exactly then I realized that she and her producers thought the entire concept of a video game consumer advice market was insane, not the fact that I personally specialized in bad ones. In fact, it was only through a miracle of coincidence that the person they chose to interview happened to have an unusual aspect to what would have been a very ordinary job.
I can't remember the burn that came to my head-- it was something like "Maybe next week you can interview someone who makes his living mowing lawns, THAT AREN'T HIS OWN!!!" I felt like a food critic explaining my job to a child minutes from starvation death. The more she understood, the more confused she got. So I just grabbed the stack of crap games I was in the middle of and started talking. On top was Battlebots Beyond the Battlebox:
Mr. SEANBABY: Say for example, I got these. This is an example of a game I might not even play, just because, well, this is a game about monsters--or monster robots--hitting each other with saws and things. And I don't trust robots. So I would fake this review.
CARUSO-CABRERA: You would just completely lie?
Mr. SEANBABY: I would probably just joke about the whole concept of robots, rather than actually try to review the game. And Disney Princess.
CARUSO-CABRERA: Oh, this is trouble!
Mr. SEANBABY: I would like this in my personal life, because I am a princess-- a pretty pony princess*. OK.
CARUSO-CABRERA: Would you play it?
Mr. SEANBABY: Yes, I would play that. I would have a good time playing that.
CARUSO-CABRERA: But you would make fun of it.
Mr. SEANBABY: Right, because I'm a little girl. This is a game based loosely on the majesty of Jesus Christ.
CARUSO-CABRERA: Would you play that one?
Mr. SEANBABY: No.
*Ethically, I should let you know that I corrected this transcription. I told the reporter that I was a pretty PONY princess yet their closed captioning had it as pretty TONEY princess. I don't even know what the hell a pretty toney princess is. Deaf people must think I'm a fucking idiot.
Michelle and I played through E.T. and Dinotopia while she tried to emptathize with all the people who failed so hard to bring us E.T. and Dinotopia. I was unmoved. Here's how they threw the segment back to their anchor:
CARUSO-CABRERA: You can catch Seanbaby's monthly column. It is called 'The Rest of the Crap,' in Electronic Gaming Monthly. And tomorrow you can catch the next 'You Get Paid to Do That?' right here on POWER LUNCH at 1: 50 Eastern Time. Tomorrow, it's a guy who gets paid to take care of the ducks at a hotel.
GRIFFETH: Oh, yeah, I can't wait to see that one... He makes some of them up.
CARUSO-CABRERA: He just, yes, admits it.
I was excited that to a pedestrian sense of crazy, me and a guy who cares for hotel ducks get listed in the same category of wacky. Their anchor almost got me in trouble, though. Every non-me reviewer at EGM works so many boring, frustrating hours to beat every game they review, and there's our magazine on national TV getting its editorial integrity summed up with, "He makes some of them up!" Luckily, this aired in 2003, and any CNBC viewers who saw it are long since dead.
Originally appeared in issue #172