Join us on our continuing mission to seek out and expose the worst video game advertising of all time. Over the past twenty years we've witnessed a lot of terrible advertising, and it's our job to point it out and let you know what we really think! Nobody is safe when you tune into another episode of Commercial Break, your best resource for the worst video game advertising you ever will see!
Donkey King (Tom Mix Software)
For the last 27 years gamers around the world have been entertained and confused by a gorilla named Donkey Kong. While we love his exploits, we're baffled by his confusing name. Donkey Kong? Wouldn't Monkey Kong make more sense? It's not like he's half a donkey and half King Kong. What the heck is going on here? Thankfully gamers were able to look past the perplexing name to see that Donkey Kong was
one of the best villains/heroes of all time. But wait a second, this isn't Donkey Kong ... this is Donkey King! Donkey King? Who the heck is Donkey King?
Let's get beyond the intriguingly confusing spelling error and actually look at the advertisement. This advertisement (which is paid for by Tom Mix Software, a software publisher out of Michigan) tells us that Donkey King contains real life "Arcade Action" that plays like the original Nintendo game. It features four "full graphic screens" and "exciting sound and realistic graphics." Wait a second ... realistic graphics? Donkey Kong? Donkey Kong is a lot of things, but realistic it is not. Even when the graphics were cutting edge, the game never looked realistic. Even the blind can see that Donkey Kong does not look realistic in any sense of the word.
What I like about this commercial is how threatening Donkey King is. It's as if they broke into the RKO back lot and stole the catalog of King Kong concept art. Here's this angry ape looking to rip somebody to pieces, and then to underscore his ferociousness they've decided to include the cutest little pictures I've ever seen. I'm talking about these tiny little stamp-sized pictures that claim to be "actual T.V. screen photos." Tom Mix Software clearly knows that nothing sells their "TDP-100 Color Computer" faster than teeny tiny black and white photos of an arcade port. It's enough to make you wonder what Shigeru Miyamoto would think.
Nintendo Power - Plug Into the Power
Let's be honest, Nintendo has always been an extremely popular company. The company dominated the 8-bit market and ever since then they have had one top selling console after another. Even when some of their consoles have under-delivered, Nintendo has always managed to come out looking good thanks to their strong handheld dominance. Nintendo is one of the few companies whose fans don't care what they do; in the eyes of a Nintendo fanboy the company can do no wrong. Compared to Nintendo's fanboys, Sony and Microsoft's fans look like they only have a passing interest in their favorite console. Nintendo knows and understands that they have this massive following, which is why they have never been able to come up with a good marketing campaign.
You heard me, Nintendo commercials suck. I don't care if they're advertising the Wii, DS or Virtual Boy, their commercials are always underwhelming when compared to all of the other major game publishers. This commercial for Nintendo Power (which was actually featured in an issue of Nintendo Power in the early 1990s) is a good example of Nintendo just feeding us crap and hoping that we'll accept it as art. This is a bright and colorful advertisement that features some poor sap with bad fashion sense getting electrocuted because he had the guts to play a NES. I personally think that the only way to read this commercial is to say that this picture it giving you a solid reason to upgrade to the Super NES. Nintendo may not be coming out and saying it, but this advert clearly states that you better buy the 16-bit SNES or die from electrocution.
And even if this jolt of electricity doesn't actually kill you, let's not forget that we're looking at a teenager who has two rolled up issues of Nintendo Power shoved into his brain. I'm telling you, this look is not very sexy. When was the last time some sexy young woman snuggled up against you and said, "do you have two rolled up issues of Nintendo Power shoved into your brain, or are you just happy to see me?" Never, that's when. You've never heard that because nobody has ever said that. The reason nobody has ever said that is because the idea of having two issues of Nintendo Power shoved into your brain makes about as much sense as shoving a cactus up your nose. Then again, I'm sure all of the Nintendo fanboys look at this picture and see it as a work of pure genius.
Do you remember Q*Bert? Of course you do, he was that big-nosed fur ball that jumped from level to level trying to light up blocks and dodge weird snake creatures. If you don't remember Q*Bert then you're not really missing anything; despite the fact that millions of people have the idea that this early platformer was a brilliant old school game, this Gottlieb
(yes, Gottlieb) developed game isn't really that good. Don't believe me? Well, when was the last time you were excited to play a Q*Bert sequel? You haven't been, because nobody makes Q*Bert sequels.
But for a couple of years Q*Bert was the best thing ever. Then again, it was a crazy couple of years that ultimately ended with the Great Game Crash, so the fact that Q*Bert was popular doesn't really mean that much. Regardless, Q*Bert was popular enough to spawn countless ports (well, not countless, there are 18 ports to be exact) and this commercial is nice enough to show us the difference.
Actually, that's the problem with this advertisement - there are just too many different versions to look at. Instead of making you want to run out to the store and buy Q*Bert for your console of choice, this commercial will have you nitpicking and comparing all of the versions. For such a simple game, it's interesting to see how different each of the consoles and computers looked. There are two big differences to look for in this advertisement, one of them is the amount of blocks shown on the screen (some have more than others), and the other is the camera angle. With so many different takes on Q*Bert it's actually extremely difficult pick a favorite. Who knew that the best way to get Q*Bert out of your system is to play so many different versions of the game that you'll never want to touch it again.
Castle Wolfenstein (Muse Software)
The Wolfenstein series has had a checkered past when it comes to Commercial Break. Back in episode 10 (see: Bad Advertising: Guatemala) we were the first to point out the blatant racism in the advertising, and then 17 episodes later we checked out the Super NES version of Wolfenstein 3D (see: Rockstar: Bad Advertising). Well, it's back. Except we're done (for now) bashing on Wolfenstein 3D,
instead we plan on going further back in time and taking our revenge on Castle Wolfenstein.
So this is an advertisement for Castle Wolfenstein, brought to us from Muse Software. This is the Apple II version of the game (a "sight and sound extravaganza") that takes up a whopping 48K of space. And you can tell they mean business, because Muse decided to limit the colors to white, black and blue. Apparently Muse Software decided that the Castle Wolfenstein they wanted people to get to know was the one where you tiptoe through spooky stairs. Most companies would have tried to make Castle Wolfenstein look extremely exciting (with bullets being shot and bodies piling up), Muse Software opted to go a decidedly different route.
My problem with this new direction is that it doesn't make a lot of sense. Wolfenstein has always been about fast action and shooting people. This advertisement makes it look like our "hero" is afraid of that treasure chest, which doesn't make the game look like fun at all. How could this guy be our hero? This guy is afraid of his own shadow, so what's he doing fronting an action game? Throw caution to the wind dude, because you're fighting the Nazis and they don't have time for your indecision. Straighten up your back and run out in to the fray, kill some of those bastards and show them what you're here for. Or you can just be afraid in the corner, the choice is yours. Wuss.