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Commercial Break
Fun-Filled Days of Bad Advertising
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 20, 2006   |   Episode 18 (Show Archive)  

   
While digging through all of my old magazines for inspiration and reference I discovered that there are a lot of awesomely great advertisements that have been completely forgotten. Instead of keeping this gold mine to myself I decided to talk about four of these old advertisements each and every week. And so was born the Commercial Break, a place where I can really let them know what I think of their adverts! Looks like we have four of them right here ...
Super Hunchback (Super NES)
Oh great, so THIS is how we're starting off the 18th episode of Commercial Break? Introducing Super Hunchback, the Game Boy game that features you as a hunchback hero. Hunchback, eh? Hopefully this was followed up by Colorblind 64, Ultra Pigeon Toe, Extreme Paralysis, and of course, Dyslexia DS. What type of person green lights a game about a helpful Hunchback? And if this got big would we have to deal with a hero with only one hand or Super Cancer Boy? We play video games to experience new things and have fun, not be reminded that life sucks.

See the princess up there in the top right side of the advertisement? Right now she looks happy; she's excited that somebody is coming to save her. But boy will she be disappointed when the Hunchback shows up; one has to wonder if she'll even accept him as her savior. But then again, she's no prize. If she wasn't able to see Hunchy from that distance then maybe she should have her eyes checked. Or is that the gimmick, that everybody here has some kind of physical situation to deal with? And what's with her Farrah Fawcett hair? This is 1991 not 1976, how long have they kept you locked up girl?

But the real losers are the those guards who are about to get their butts kicked from a guy that stands all of 3 feet. We're talking about a guy with an awful haircut, silly clothes, and a rope doubling as a belt. Of course, this picture shows that the Hunchback is one built guy, just take a look at those guns! He's not going to take any guff; they may have swords but he's packing some Arnold Schwarzenegger muscles. But even with those guns, that damsel in distress is going to be mighty disappointed with shorty shows up.

Arch Rivals (Genesis)
Apparently a lot of people must hate one- hit wonder Bobby McFerrin a lot, how else do you explain his decision to climb up the basket? Sure, Don't Worry, Be Happy was one of the most annoying (and condescending) songs of all time, but there's no reason we need to hunt Bobby down and torture him. And on a basketball court of all places, if you're going to do something like that shouldn't it be in a dirty bathroom or some dark alley?

So this is Arch Rivals, the arcade basketball game that paved the way for games like NBA Jam and NBA Street. This early 90s advertisement makes absolutely no sense, why is everybody after this guy when he doesn't have the ball? Have they just decided to ignore the guy making three-pointers so that they can focus on this Bobby McFerrin look alike? Or are they using this guy to block the basket and make it harder? Either way, this guy is having no fun ... the amount of fun you'll have when you play Arch Rivals.

If there's one thing this advertisement wants you to know it's that Arch Rivals is a "basket brawl." You can find them saying that no fewer than four times ... including once in really large letters. I can just see the board meeting with all of these guys in suits trying to think of clever puns to use in this advertising. Suddenly somebody says, "I've got it, it's basket BRAWL." Everybody loves it, and instead of coming up with a second idea they just continued to run with "basket brawl" until it lost all of its meaning. In other words, this advertisement sucks.

Wordtris
Hey look, it's those pesky scientists who kidnapped Joel and forced him to watch really bad movies, but what does Mystery Science Theater 3000 have to do with Wordtris? Actually, this commercial is so comically bad that I debated even including it in with the rest of the adverts. I don't care how mad those scientists are, there's no reason for them to be holding a lit bomb, dynamite, an acid ... that's just not safe.

And what does all this have to do with Tetris? Wordtris is the HORRIBLE "follow up" to Tetris. The truth is, after the success of Tetris just about everybody was trying to copy the formula and turn it into a franchise (see Nintendo's Bomb-Tris for the worst of the Tetris rip-offs). But Wordtris just wasn't meant to be, mostly because it was too damn hard. The original Tetris was simple, it could be explained in only a few words ... but Wordtris involved you spelling words correctly, having the luck to get the letters you need, and being frustrated when the game's dictionary let you down. This is to Tetris what hammering a nail through your hand is to ice cream.

But you wouldn't know this game was so bad by the advertisement, after all it keeps telling you that it's "better" than Tetris. But this advertisement is all you need to know it's a bad game, it features a guy who is mere seconds away from blowing everything up ... that's never a good sign. It's advertisements like this that help people forget that these companies also tried Facetris. Why won't the torture stop? Madman, you might as well just blow us up now because none of us want to experience any second of Wordtris!

Philips CD-i
This past weekend Defunct Games introduced our first six reviews for the Philips CD-i platform. These six reviews featured genuine selling points, including Mario, Link, and of course that sexpot, Zelda! Sure these games were less than stellar (some might consider them to be the worst games ever to use Mario or Zelda characters), but at least could draw some attention to this struggling CD-based game system/movie player. But Philips decided not to use those Nintendo characters; instead opting for a half dozen full motion video games that were forgotten seconds after they were released.

The real problem with this commercial is the tag line, "This Should Open A Few Eyes." What companies like Philips forgot to take into consideration was that full-motion video games, for all their hype, were never very popular. There were a number of stand out titles that sold big numbers, but when it came right down to it most gamers didn't want to control real people. Of course, this advertisement tells you that "you've got to see them, hear them and play them to believe them," yet it's games like Space Ace and Mad Dog McCree that have almost no game play to speak of. And why is "play" in italics? Are they suggesting that "play" is sarcastic?

The only game on this list that wasn't a full-motion video game is Caesars World of Boxing, a game that was still months off when this commercial appeared in adverts. I'm all for boxing games, I don't even care if they are 2D ... but is there a reason the game cuts off 70% of the screen? These two fighters are going at it in the world's smallest screen, while this HUGE wall covers their legs. What gives? And really, are these games supposed to attract new gamers to the system? Where are the big games? The recognizable names? When Mad Dog McCree is your biggest title you know you're backing the wrong system. Is it any wonder nobody bought the Philips CD-i?
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