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Electronic Gaming Monthly's Worst Reviewed Games of 1989
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on June 14, 2017   |   Episode 103 (Show Archive)  

The year is 1989 and Tom Hanks is co-starring with a dog. It was the year when Richard Marx was "Right Here Waiting," Rue McClanahan was getting some in The Golden Girls and P.J. Sparkles was, um, sparkling. But we're not here to talk about the doll that will love you back, because today we're counting down Electronic Gaming Monthly's worst reviewed games of 1989.

China Warrior
You know the old adage, "bigger is better"? Well, that perfectly exemplifies how people thought coming out of the 8-bit era. After several years of playing small, squat characters like Mega Man and Super Mario, gamers were understandably looking to the 16-bit consoles to deliver large, detailed heroes. But is it possible to make characters that are too big? If you've played China Warrior on the TurboGrafx-16, then chances are you already know the answer to that burning question.

"China Warrior is probably one of the worst Turbo games to come along yet," starts Steve, who ended up giving it a 4 out of 10. "The intentions are good, but the execution of the game is poor, with very large characters that move with badly animated jerkiness and barely adequate graphics." This was an opinion echoed by all of the EGM critics. Ed noted that "the 1/2 screen-sized characters are a refreshing change from the normal action contest, but this game is far too predictable with hazards approaching from only one direction."

Even the two critics that gave it 5s had nothing but negative points to bring up. Jim complained that "China Warrior is much too simple" and David argued that it's "little more than a large-scale kung-fu game." When it came right down to it, this was a game that looked incredible in the print ads, but told a whole different story once you saw it in motion. Electronic Gaming Monthly ended up giving China Warrior an average of 4.5 out of 10.
Stealth ATF
If you want to see the difference between Nintendo Power and Electronic Gaming Monthly, look no further than Stealth ATF on the Nintendo Entertainment System. When Nintendo Power reviewed it, they gushed over the gameplay and challenge. Electronic Gaming Monthly, on the other hand, wasn't as ready to overlook the game's many problems, which landed it at the number 4 spot on our list of the worst reviewed games of 1989.

"Stealth doesn't require you to do much more than keep your plane in the air and shoot," notes Donn. "There's not much strategy and not a lot of game play." Steve was a little more charitable, starting his review by saying that "Stealth ATF is not a bad game," but rather "it simply has too many rough edges." Both critics gave it a 4 out of 10. Jim, on the other hand, absolutely hated the game. Not only did he give the game the lowest score yet in his brief history at EGM, but also complained that "the sounds are not much better than 2600 beeps and whines and the 'Stealth' mode hardly affects the game at all." Ouch.

To be fair to Konami's shooter, Ed thought it was slightly above average. While he warned that it's for "hardcore flyboys only," he did say that it "contains After Burner-like 360 degree rolls for excitement and a 'through the cockpit' view." There might not be a whole lot of variety, but he concluded that "it's the best one available now." Be that as it may, his six didn't do much to offset the other pitiful scores. Stealth ATF averaged a terrible 4.25 out of 10.
Cloud Master
I think it's safe to say that the Sega Genesis played host to some of the greatest 2D shoot-em-ups of all time. The Sega Master System, on the other hand, had Cloud Master. Okay, so maybe that's not fair and Sega's 8-bitter was home to a number of incredible shooters, but it took a while for gamers and critics to get the taste of this 1989 dud out of their mouth.

"There's not a lot of substance to this bland shooting game that has few power-up alternatives and not a lot of variety," begins David. The rest of the staff agreed with him, with Ed calling it "a dull game that, because of its difficulty, becomes more frustrating than enjoyable." Steve agreed, noting that "as a shooter it's just average, and the difficulty doesn't adjust well between levels." The game was simply too straight-forward and frustrating for the EGM editors, who all gave it a 4 out of 10. You're better off sticking with R-Type or Fantasy Zone.
Acclaim had a window of four years to release a game starring an action hero and his kick-butt helicopter. It was the perfect premise for a simple 8-bit action game, so capitalizing on the show's success should have been a cinch. But that's not what Acclaim did. Instead of striking while the iron was hot, they opted to release this stinker two full years after the show crashed and burned on its second home network. This was a bad move that left the critics at Electronic Gaming Monthly more than a little disappointed.

Ed sums it up this way: "What a disappointment! Level after level of the same exact thing." Steve agreed, but went one step further. "Airwolf tries to give something to everyone and, in the process, comes out looking a little bit tired." For what it's worth, Donn notes that he liked "this one better than Stealth ATF," but ultimately gave it the exact same score. Perhaps the most damning review came from Jim, who said that "the game opens with some cool still pictures that explain the story, but there's not much else to rave about after that." With the EGM editors in agreement, Airwolf averaged a pitiful 4 out of 10.
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th has the distinction of not only being a terrible game that received nothing but horrible scores, but also being the first game Electronic Gaming Monthly scored a 2 out of 10. Up until this point, their lowest score had been a 3, and even that was fairly rare. But in their very third issue, the magazine decided to make a point and warn their readers that Friday the 13th really was the very worst game of the year.

"A very poor game that displays little of what an action/adventure game should contain," starts Ed. "The action portions of play are sparse, the adventure offers little challenge, and the whole thing is topped off with graphics that are just plain bad." Donn may have doubled Ed's score, but that doesn't mean he had anything good to say about it. "They've got to be kidding. The graphics are sub-par and the game play is average at best." Steve gave the game a 3 and concluded that "this game could turn even Jason's stomach."

In the almost thirty years since this game slowly chased the Nintendo Entertainment System, some gamers have tried their hardest to make the argument that Friday the 13th is a misunderstood classic. They say that it's really a graphic adventure in disguise, rewarding players for figuring out the proper route to take in order to win. Whether or not they are right is up to you, but one thing is clear: With an average of 3.75 out of 10, Friday the 13th is easily Electronic Gaming Monthly's worst reviewed game of 1989.


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