System: Gameboy Advance
For as much as I dismiss these games as transparent exploitations of the children of the world's insatiable passion for Pink Panther merchandise, I take my job seriously. I have journalistic ethics-- these games get played. I even fought my way through the advanced stage of this month's Mary Kate and Ashley game where I had to identify upwards of nine letters of the alphabet. But when I saw the box for Karnaaj Rally, I refused to play it.
This thing came packaged inside a picture what is so obviously just some guy from around the Karnaaj Rally office making a face like his dong is being eaten off by insects. His hair has been clumsily painted blue in Photoshop, making it safe to say that this game has "attitude," and I assume it's a racing game because he's screaming by a blurry pink car. So if you like things that are probably about crotch attacks that happen nearby what might be car racing with attitude, check it out!
This was probably as controversial as a column about bad video games can get. We got so many fucking emails and letters about this. People were so pissed. Here's one that we were going to print from some grumpy nerd named Synical X:
"Seanbaby should be SHOT. He called Karnaaj Rally an "amazingly bad game" without even playing the damn game!!! It's people like him that make me sick and it's ignorant comments like that that keep an underrated game like this even more underappreciated. I'll admit that the packaging and characters for the game are horrible, but the game itself is excellent. So if someone could please maim, bludgeon, slaughter, disfigure, or at the very least slap Seanbaby repeatedly for me, that would be great, and thanks in advance."
They asked me if I wanted to respond in the letters section, so I mailed this back:
"I know my theories on how much things probably suck have already gotten me sentenced to Synical X's imaginary firing squad, but even so, I have a new one: when this kid wrote this, he was probably firmly sucking on his or her own asshole."
I don't think they printed it. But it didn't stop there. Since it got decent reviews from the press outlets that did bother to play it, we got shit from the people who made the game. They demanded that I REALLY review it. Here was the review I turned in:
"When I decided to review the box art of the game instead of the game itself, I not only found a brilliant way for me to hate video games without actually playing them, I built a bridge out of my own vision that other avant garde video game postmodernists may one day walk upon. This led to some hate mail about my lack of ethics or something about how great an idea it was... I don't know. To be honest, I just sort of skimmed them since I had to get to work on reviewing the glance I took at the cover of a rhythm dancing game about traffic safety. If they're anything like the normal email I get, they're probably detailed descriptions of how they're going to beat me to death once we're all transported to the world of make-believe where people who pick fights over Gameboy games are capable of something like that without the help of a Fritos-dispensing robot suit.
But now we're getting demands for a rewrite from the actual people who made Karnaaj Rally? My review is done: the box isn't very good. If I knew how to review a game based on gameplay mechanics or whatever, me and my Gamecube wouldn't be forced to watch puppets shit every month. So if the creators don't like how I reviewed the box of their game, suck it. They should take it up with the second grade arts and crafts group they hired as marketers, not the guy blessed with the eagle eye for spotting screaming heads next to blurry pink racecars. Here's a true story, though: I did eventually try the game, and wasn't THAT surprised when it wasn't as bad as it looked like it'd be. So if the people responsible for Karnaaj Rally wanted a congratulations for tricking me into not playing it, they can have it: You did it!"
They didn't print that either. I kind of got the idea I was the only one who thought we should be arguing from a position of power. The way I look at it-- someone put their game in THAT box. Fuck them.
Originally appeared in issue #167