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Cover Critic
The Cover Critic Falls in Love
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on November 09, 2007   |   Episode 66 (Show Archive)  

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 we take a look at five of the worst covers of all time ... and they all come from either the Commodore 64 or the Amiga. Don't think these covers are as bad as what we put up with on the NES, Genesis and TurboGrafx-16? Think again. Just wait until you witness the horror of Steg the Slug, Mad TV, Lure of the Temptress and Tower of Babel! We have some truly horrific covers for you, so get relaxed and prepared to be put off of gaming all together when you witness these atrocities against nature!
Mad TV (Amiga)
No, not THAT Mad TV. While the name implies that this Amiga title is nothing more than a video game based on the terribly unfunny (yet long-running) Fox sketch comedy show, Mad TV has nothing to do with Alfred E. Newman, Spy vs. Spy or Stuart Douglas Larkin. I'm not entirely sure what the game is, but I assure you that Ms. Bunny Swan does not make an appearance in this 1991 game. Instead I would guess that this game has something to do with running your own TV station ... which is to say, it's probably nothing more than a boring 2D platformer.

Or maybe this game really does have something to do with the terrible Saturday Night Live rip-off that would be unleashed on the masses some four years later. The main character doesn't seem too worried about working on the show; instead he has fallen in love with a reel of film. And there's the bald guy from the network who is worried about the low ratings, much like the real MADtv. And I can't forget the alcohol on the desk, because when it comes right down to it you have to be pretty smashed to laugh at any of the jokes in this Fox sketch show. But even if I'm right and this show has nothing to do with the MADtv that everybody thinks of when they hear the name, that still doesn't make this game look very interesting. In fact, I would argue that based on the cover this game looks downright boring. The problem is that there's nothing especially "mad" about this cover, it just looks like your average no-nothing who just so happens to have a job running a TV station. As far as I'm concerned this could be real life ... have you seen the sitcoms CBS is running these days?
Lure of the Temptress (Amiga)
Lure of the Temptress (Amiga)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Lure of the Temptress, the sexiest thing about this episode of The Cover Critic. At first glance this cover doesn't look so bad, the artwork is well done and the logo is definitely unique. I'm not sure I like the name much, but if the game is fun then I can forgive a silly name. If I saw this on a box while browsing my local game store I would probably pick it up and check out the back to see if it was something I could get into. The whole box is certainly well done ... this is one cover I actually like.

So, if the cover is so good, then why are we featuring it in an episode of The Cover Critic? Simple, because no matter how good the artwork is, I still can't get over how ridiculous the whole situation is. Let me explain, the job of a temptress is to, well, tempt you to do something that will ultimately lead to bad things. It's a simple goal, really, all she needs to do is rub those perky breasts on your face and before you know it you're cheating on your wife and have a one-way ticket to Hell. But you would have to be pretty stupid to be tempted by a woman standing next to a throne holding what looks like a fireball. And even if you can get over the fact that her hair is standing on end (kind of like the Bride of Frankenstein) and she's holding a large ball of flame, you still be tipped off by the decapitated heads that are held up by large poles. And let's not forget that in the distance there's lightning hitting a creepy castle ... that's certainly not a good sign. And what about those naked demons that are tied up against their will? Certainly that's not a good sign. Actually, if you're the kind of guy who can still be tempted by a woman even with all these scary (and disgusting) things happening in the background then you deserve what you get. I think I'll just settle for that fat girl I sang karaoke with at the bar last week ... at least she's not going to chop my head off and put it on a large pole. Or will she?
Dynamite Dux (Commodore 64)
What a long, strange journey it's been for Activision. Recently Activision surpassed Electronic Arts to become the world's largest video game publisher, a feat that just a few years ago nobody thought was possible. Thanks to games like Call of Duty 4 and Guitar Hero III, Activision has been forced to hire more people just to count all the money they have pouring in. But you would never know it based on Dynamite Dux, this bizarre Commodore 64 game from the late 1980s. One look at this cover and you would feel confident that this is one company that is going nowhere.

Dynamite Dux is so ridiculous that I almost didn't use it in this episode of The Cover Critic. For one thing the whole box is horribly drawn; it's as if they just had some random guy in the office draw a rough sketch and they decided that was good enough. While the current generation has some truly horrific cover art, none of it is as bad as this amateurish drawing. But even if this cover had the most amazing artwork you had ever seen, it would still feature two ducks punching dog heads with lit sticks of dynamite. Forgetting for a moment that they are punching dog heads ... actually, no, let's not forget that. I'm sorry, but I can't get over the fact that we're looking at two ducks punching decapitated dog heads. And apparently that's not the only kind of animal these ducks don't mind killing, they are literally standing on a pile of dead animal carcasses, including what looks like a pig, an alligator and a cat. And again, they are fighting it out with lit sticks of dynamite. That's dynamite, people. The same dynamite that goes boom and blows everything up. It's not much of a game if both of you are going to die because the dynamite wick just isn't long enough. Activision, you have a lot of explaining to do!
Tower of Babel (Amiga/Commodore)
Mutation Nation (Neo Geo CD)

According to Genesis Chapter 11 of the Bible, the Tower of Babel was a tower built to reach the heavens by a united humanity, all speaking a single language. God saw that humans would be able to do whatever they set their minds to, so he confused their unified language and scattered them. What a jerk. But then, I suppose the world is a more interesting place with all of those different languages to learn. And best of all, the internet (and Rosetta Stone) makes understanding foreigners easier than ever.

Apparently Rainbird decided that instead of giving the world different languages, this Tower of Babel would shoot flying dreidels out of the air with a violent laser beam. But then again, maybe Rainbird may be on to something. Perhaps they knew that the universal language wasn't music or laughing ... it was war and violence. Just look at the world of the 21st century, no matter what language or accent you have, you definitely understand what it means when somebody shoots a gun at you or blows up one of your buildings. It's not funny, but I think I've deciphered this tortured metaphor. Oddly enough it's not the violence that bugs me, instead it's the complete lack of any towers on this cover. There is that tallish building in the distance, but I don't think anybody would consider that to be a tower, especially when we're comparing it to the Tower of Babel (which "was built to reach the heavens by a united humanity). But even if this is some amazing Biblical metaphor I'll never play it, there's just too much dark blue on the cover. And as we all know, I'm deathly allergic to dark blue.
Steg the Slug (Commodore 64)
Steg the Slug (Commodore 64)

I think it's safe to say that Code Masters really knew what their audience wanted. While other companies were busy making their games go as fast as possible thanks to "blast processing," Code Masters decided to go the exact opposite direction. Instead of developing a platformer that was faster than anything on Earth, Amiga owners got the slowest animal on the planet - the slug. Not only are slugs slow and boring, but they are also extremely disgusting and leave a trail of slime wherever they go. If it wasn't for the convincing cover art to your left you would probably never believe that somebody was stupid enough to create a game starring a slug, but there it is for the world to see. Steg the Slug is proof that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

After I got over my distaste for the very idea of a slug-based action game, I started to look at this cover and see it for what it is. Based on the cover art alone it looks like this game is all about a slow moving character fighting other small (and gross) characters with guns. Wait a second, those aren't just small characters ... those are gun wielding maggots! Oh goodness, can this cover get any more disgusting? Yes, yes it can. Maybe it's just my imagination, but it looks like our hero (the slug) is going to slowly move over what appears to be ... um ... human ejaculate. Hmm, that can't be right. But what else would it be? Oh man, just salt this guy and get the embarrassment over with. I know I should be moving on and doing my best to get this cover out of my head, but can somebody explain to me what exactly the scuba gear is for? No really, what does a slug need with scuba gear?


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