They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But since I've never heard that expression used against video games I figure that it's open season on the box art you see every day. This is The Cover Critic, your guide to what's good and bad in the world of video game boxes. In this episode of The Cover Critic we look at a bunch of religious games for your NES, a shirtless guy who is part of the Lords of Thunder, golf, and Farrah Fawcett in The Great Giana Sisters! This is going to be yet another controversial episode of The Cover Critic, so sit back and get ready for our take on five of the worst examples of box art we could find. Prepare yourself, this next corner's tough!
This cover for Lords of Thunder isn't as bad as some we've reviewed in the past few episodes (I'm looking at you, Frantic), but it is perplexing on a number of levels. Chief among them is that while this guy says he is one of the Lords of Thunder, he appears to also have an in with the Lord of Fire, Lightning, Wind and Water. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer my Lords to be good at only one thing, not a whole host of things. Kind of cheapens the name, if you ask me. But there he is, holding everything but thunder. He has lightning in his right hand, fire in his right, a wind storm all around him and he's standing in rushing water. And while we're talking about these elements, how destructive can thunder really be? At least with fire and lightning you can cause structural damage and kill a lot of non-believers, but what's he supposed to do with thunder? Oh look at me, I can make loud noises. And seriously, do we really need more than one Lord of Thunder? C'mon now, how hard of a job can it really be?
But this cover is more than just a guy holding everything but thunder (not that you can hold thunder, but you get the point), it's also a perfect example of how men are made to look in video games. Women can complain all they want about how they are turned into unrealistic sex objects (with huge breasts, bikini armor and beautiful long flowing hair), but men have the same problems when it comes to video game heroes. Just look at this guy, what man actually looks like this? Not only is he sporting a 12 pack, but he's wearing a loin cloth that looks like it's going to get blown away by the Lords of Wind. And what man is going to wear a mask that not only covers up their entire face, but features horns that are at least three feet long? And what's the cape supposed to do? Outside of Batman, Superman and Dracula, have you ever seen a man wearing a cape? Talk about a fashion disaster, this guy needs to give up his title and head down to his local Lords of Bad Fashion Sense superstore.
Okay, I admit that it might be a little unfair for me (a devout non-Christian) to ridicule something called Bible Buffet. But I feel I have earned the right, after all, I was the only media to actually attend the first ever Christian Game Developers Conference. But I don't think you need to be a Christian to see how ridiculous this NES cover is. Bible Buffet is one of those non-licensed NES carts that made a minor splash in the 1980s. But Bible Buffet is more than just a way to teach you about the stories in the Great Book; it's a way of teaching you about Noah's Ark and making you hungry at the same time. Just take a look at this cover; it features happy kids with food in the title and a pizza, hotdog and ice cream cone all having a good time. This is not just a creepy cover, it's also extremely confusing.
While I know the story about turning water to wine and the Last Supper, I don't remember anything about marathon running food in the Bible. Whose brilliant idea was to get kids excited about the Bible by using food? And not just food, but fast food. No wonder this country has such a problem with child obesity. The idea that this game, with its gratuitous use of fatty foods, has a sticker claiming that it's "Family Approved" is both shocking and a little distressing. If I were a young kid I would probably be more disturbed by seeing my favorite junk foods with human characteristics, there's just something kind of freaky about watching a giant hotdog do anything. And what's going on with that grass? I can only wonder how many children looked at the French fries growing in the grass and went on a taste test in their own back yard. Perhaps I'm looking at this all wrong, the fact that these three foods are getting along so well can only be taken as inspiring. And at the end of the day isn't that what the Bible is all about, making sure that a hot dog, pizza and ice cream cone can get a long?
Some video game covers make me work extremely hard to find something funny and out of place, they require me to do a lot of searching and spend my valuable time making them work in the confines of The Cover Critic. The Great Giana Sisters is not one of those games. This box art is so bad that I don't have to worry too much about finding things to say; instead I can just point out the obvious. But then, that's part of the problem I have with this cover, it's almost too easy to make fun of. This is low-lying fruit, the type that is just too obvious and probably not worth talking about in a show like this. But being the constant professional that I am, I have opted to leave The Great Giana Sisters in the mix just to bring us some balance from all these religious video games.
Instead of the Bible and Lords of something or other, The Great Giana Sisters is about a flying woman and her battle against dragons, lobsters, one-eyed blobs, those weird Goomba creatures from Super Mario Brothers, and something called a Time Warp that is either floating in the air or is attached to those mountains in the distance. All these things would seem completely unconnected if it weren't for one important part of this cover ... those mushrooms! This cover is clearly inspired by drugs, I mean, why else would she be doing disco moves in the middle of the air? And is that a glow stick in her hand? This is a game called The Great Giana Sisters, yet there's only one woman on the cover? What did Farrah Fawcett do with her sisters? Oh Farrah, I have a hunch you're going to feel real bad when you come down from that mushroom high you're on.
I'm sure that I'm going to get a lot of email complaining that I am picking on the Christians in this episode of The Cover Critic, but with box art like this can you really blame me? The truth is, if it wasn't for the Jesus Fish on the bottom of the skateboard I may not have even put the two things together and realized that this is yet another non-licensed Bible-themed NES cartridge. Sunday Funday: The Ride is published by the same people that released Bible Buffet, thankfully this time around they opted against teaching the various stories by using fast food. Instead they give us a game with a kid on a skateboard that appears to be getting away from jocks, bullies and ... flying fish? Look, the Bible has a lot of stories that would probably make for an interesting video game. It's full of violence, overcoming obstacles and bigger than life characters (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally), yet none of the Bible-based games tackle these aspects of the Bible. What gives? Instead we get some fun-loving kid and his Jesus Fish skateboard?
But enough picking on the kid and his fashion sense, the real tragedy of this game has nothing to do with the jocks, bullies, skateboard or even those damn flying fish. Instead I take issue with that terrible name. Sunday Funday? It just goes to show that nothing good comes from a video game named after a rhyme. And not even a good rhyme at that. I can think of a lot of fun things to do on Sunday and learning about Hell and the Holy Spirit is definitely not at the top of the list. The name Sunday Funday is bad enough, but the geniuses behind this game have decided to go one step further and add "The Ride" to the end of the name. The Ride? For a company with a name like Wisdom Tree you would think that they would be bright enough not to combine "The Ride" with "Sunday Funday". They should just be honest and call the game what it is: Another Crappy Bible-Based Game that Has No Chance of Being Licensed by Nintendo: The Ride!
Perhaps it's time to switch from the Bible to another thing people take entirely too seriously, Golf. Over the past 60 episodes of The Cover Critic I have had incredible restraint when it comes to bitching about all of the golf games. It's not like I haven't had the opportunity, let's not forget such gems as Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf or Ninja Golf. I could probably do an entire episode of The Cover Critic based entirely on silly (read: stupid) golf games. But I've held back, every time I wanted to lay into some uptight golf simulator I have stopped myself. People take their golf very seriously; people even jokingly consider it a religion. So now that we've alienated all of our religious readers I figured it's about time to piss off the golfer, too. FORE!
So get this, I actually like the Links series. To be fair, I've never actually played this Sega CD version of Links, but if it's anything like the PC versions then I have no doubt that it's a solid sports game with a lot of courses and great graphics. But what's with this cover? I look at Links: The Challenge of Golf and I wonder if I had too much to drink. I can't even see the ball; it's all blurry and multicolored. The Challenge of Golf indeed, I can only imagine how much more difficult this already frustrating sport is when you're plastered. Even the sky is changing colors ... that can't be a good sign. At least the grass doesn't have French fries growing out of it. Oh, after looking at this box art I think I'm going to be sick. Maybe it's time to wrap this up so that I can run to the bathroom before I make a mess all over my keyboard.