Author: John Legendoffzelda
A bad THQ game from the early 1990s is a soulless, turgid mess designed without any sense of individuality. It looks and sounds awful, marred by crude graphics and tuneless music. It plays like the development team wasn’t done with it yet, and licenses an outside property not to make a proper adaptation, but to display the team’s tattered gameplay. The most dispiriting component to this description is how it can apply to so many other games the company made. So much of their Super Nintendo library is composed of these games that they coalesce into a loathsome aesthetic for the company overall. No other game company of the fourth generation invokes Hanlon’s razor like THQ because of this issue alone; the quandaries it raises about their skill level has driven more than a few players to ignore their whole output.
Or at least it’s driven them away from Wayne’s World, perhaps their most infamous low point and an absolutely terrible adaptation. Working with Gray Matter, they craft an action-platformer around the youth-culture duo Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, whose musings about rock music and stuff entertained Saturday Night Live audiences and inspired a successful Paramount picture. This disaster of a video game which shares the name of their movie has none of the movie’s charm, and in fact could feature any two-bit original characters in their place. But it’s a specific reworking of the movie, and its fanbase is all the unhappier for the association.
On an episode of their public-access TV show, Wayne and Garth retell a story about a game called “Zantar the Gelatinous Cube”. One of many video games featured at Noah’s Arcade, along with “Sputnik the Boll Weevil” and a game adaptation of the Harrison Ford drama Regarding Henry, the two discuss how they played Zantar a few days previous and hated it. The title character reacted by pulling them into the game and abducting Garth, leaving Wayne to navigate a fantasyland based on familiar locations and rescue him. Wayne faces a jumble of enemies, armed only with an electric guitar that shoots blue visible soundwaves. He can collect power-ups that increase the size of those waves and let him strum more frequently, but these enhancements routinely go away when he loses a hit point and are dumbly hard to come across. They’re the only things that make the main form of defense in this game even close to satisfactory, because Wayne obviously can’t do that on his own. He can’t aim his axe properly while jumping or fire while crouching, or even aim the neck in more than two directions. The only significant thing Wayne can do is a Pete Townshend imitation when airborne; if cliches are what the game wants to show off, why doesn’t he learn the duck-walk while he’s at it?
His only other weapons are arrow icons he can use to blow up all enemies on the screen, but all enemies that are out of sight are unharmed, saved by the ponderous level design. The game wants the player to think there are four levels, but one level played four times is closer to the truth. They’re all sprawling mazes, cluttered with the exact same assets; obstacles, power-ups, and even bouncy things Wayne can use to ascend or get past a barrier. The so-called distinction between all of them is that they’re warped variations on places from the film, including the coffee shop and the music equipment store where Wayne is forbidden to play Led Zeppelin. On the matter of those bouncy things, Wayne is a lousy jumper; he’s so stiff and hard to control when in the air. His jump physics don’t even feel finished – pressing the jump button twice makes him complete his arc of motion, which gives the same result as just holding it. The levels likely take this into consideration, and work against him as much as they can. They place enemies well out of visibility until it’s too late and space certain ledges so close together that too strong a jump will completely alter the player’s path. They form hazardous gaps that punish even the least imprecise jump, and they just take so long to finish. The levels are divided into three sections with a fourth section reserved for a boss battle. And they’re so awfully planned out, not even mentioning that losing a life makes the player restart the entire section. Players might lose their desire to continue after thirty seconds.
They’ll certainly grow sick of Wayne and Garth, who are the only reason anyone would play this game at all. The way they’re presented here, they’ve been turned into the protagonists of a shrill cartoon spin-off. Between levels, Wayne and Garth are on their show, talking about the plot in past tense while showing off stills from the film and doing poorly-paced versions of their cheesy banter. Within levels, Wayne goes through a surprising amount of character degeneration: his pleasant catchphrases are reduced to nagging soundbites, which he utters when anything happens to him. His naturally pleasant dialogue from the film and the TV sketches becomes a cacophony of “Excellent!”, “Not!”, etc., which is how he reacts to everything that happens to him in the game and makes the already-bad audio worse. Those soundbites are accompanied by negligible sound effects and awful backing music – beeping renditions of such tunes as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Foxey Lady” or, worse, banged-out guitar drivel that doesn’t even loop properly.
The segments with Wayne and Garth are made to look like overly pixelated photographs, and in the game proper, Wayne’s head is placed on a rubbery stick body that shows no consistency with how Wayne holds his guitar. The enemies are made with equally lazy drawings, and the backgrounds are awash with ugly colors. At least one level, the music store, goes the extra mile by being a disorienting and offensive muddle of brick walls, scaffolding, and recording equipment. All of these flaws combined – the awful gameplay, ugly cartoon graphics and repetitious catchphrases – they somehow turn Wayne’s World into its source material’s evil twin. It doesn’t like the people who play it, especially if they’re fans of Wayne or Garth, and in most ways makes them feel bad about it as they play.
THQ may not have held ill feelings toward its consumers, but the bad games they created did, and even without their creator they still exist. Wayne’s World in particular has nothing for fans of either the movie, the Saturday Night Live sketches, or good Super Nintendo games. It’s in no way excellent, it certainly does suck, and it’s not worthy of anyone’s time.
One out of five stars.
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