Remember we parked in the Itchy lot
You probably have fond memories of at least one bad game. I have a few. One that stands out is when I rented Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure. It came out a month after the GameCube. The GameCube had a pretty killer launch, but eventually you run out of big titles to try and decide to see what washed up in the gutter. So I rented it, and my mom decided to try it out while I was in school. What followed was this short period where we exchanged advice on how to get through the game.
I think it was just funny to see my mom so discouraged by a game. I’m not saying she has no taste, but I think it was the first time I saw her struggle to understand how such a terrible game could exist. I remember she gave me the tip: “You can earn points with the water world to drive. It’s just a movie.
That’s the link, right there. Trade advice and utter bewilderment with each other. And that’s the only reason I look back fondly Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure.
roller coaster designer awakened in me the love of theme parks in my youth. As an adult, I recognize them as wonderful places filled with engineering marvels but horribly infested by humans. disney world may actually be the most magical place on earth, but people mess things up and the place is constantly full of them.
Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure captures exactly that. You are placed in the Universal Studios Osaka theme park and your guide is Woody Woodpecker. I don’t know if there was ever a more irritating cartoon character than Woody Woodpecker. Bugs Bunny frustrated his enemies, but you always supported him because you knew his jokes and his antagonists were less tolerable than him. No one is less tolerable than Woody Woodpecker. He is the worst human creation ever heard. I’m not a violent person, but I feel like everything about him is a great temptation to wring his neck.
Your goal is to wander through the hellish theme park to earn stamps that will get you the fuck off. To earn them, you must play mini-games based on the rides, as well as find all the letters that litter this park.
Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure has mini-games based on Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Backdraft, Jaws, ET, as well as a quiz and one based on the Wild, Wild, Wild, West Stunt Show. They all suck, but on different levels. Let’s take a look:
Back to the future
This one is actually quite similar to the ride, but with less risk of whiplash. Biff Tannen has stolen a DeLorean time machine, and it’s up to you to chase him down in your very own time machine. The goal is not to hit the walls. Avoiding walls allows you to catch up and crash into Biff. Give his car enough folded wings and you win. As far as minigames go, this one is kind of tolerable.
I think it would be more fun if the whole minigame led to outrunning a T-Rex while Jeff Goldblum freaks out in the back seat. Instead, someone else drives while you launch homing rockets at velociraptors and any other dinosaurs with the misfortune of crossing the street. It’s ridiculously ugly. There’s more remote fog than an N64 game, and the environments have an impressive lack of detail. Just to make things more hilarious, the framerate still drops in some places. It’s a truly awful on-rails shooter and it feels like it just goes on and on.
I could have understood of Backdraft. Wikipedia suggests it might have been decent, but I never hear from anyone about it. The minigame itself is probably the most playful game in the collection. You control your silly kid character around a burning building, put out fires and save people. Things explode and you have to try not to die. Come to think of it, that was the last game I had to finish, so I think maybe I’m being nicer than I should be. The bar was just set so low at the time that nothing could have slipped below.
An interesting concept with poor execution, Jaws puts you aboard the Orca, and you’re tasked with defending it against the titular shark. You pick up barrels and trash, then watch your radar to see which direction it’s coming from. Once it spawns, you hit it with the trash to bring it back down. It wouldn’t be so bad if the radar wasn’t so unreliable and there was more time to hit the shark before it eats your boat. I often had to throw before he even surfaced, hoping I was pointed in the right direction.
My husband actually has an irrational fear of HEY and I’ve never seen the movie. The game is like the worst imaginable version of Excite the bike. Disexcited bike? Ordinary bike? Yawn Bike? You’re on a track and you have to avoid things littering the way while trying to get to the end. The worst part is trying to adjust your bike to land correctly: just like Excite the bike except you’re in the air for much less time. However, the game is ridiculously easy, so even if you drop a whole bunch, you might still end up with the buffer.
Wild, wild, wild, west
It’s a standard shooting range, but much lazier. Here’s how you win: shoot targets, then when the bonus target appears, shoot it. You win. The biggest setback to this is that the fire button is R and the GameCube’s analog shoulder buttons are horrible to fire. I don’t know how I could handle it with games like Time Separators 2. These are big, clickable marshmallows.
I really don’t know enough 90s movie trivia for that. Then every once in a while they’ll say “who realized The birds?” I actually know that one, but this game gives the impression that it was made primarily for children…which seems odd to me right now. Anyway, I had to use intuition, repetition, and my mind’s unique inability to let go of even the most mundane knowledge to succeed You can then play more minigames for extra points, but that’s focus and one of those sliding picture puzzles like you find in dentist offices and Wind Waker.
When not playing minigames that would be bothered by mario party, you explore the park, which looks like something out of an experimental indie horror game. It uses pre-rendered backgrounds, much like resident Evil, but it is impossible to determine how they correspond. If you talk to a specific person, they’ll hand you a map that’s both your only way to find your way around the park and also completely useless.
It’s not like you have a compass. Pre-rendered backgrounds don’t give any indication of the direction you’re going. They don’t even give an idea of what the outputs and inputs of each section are. Sometimes the bottom right of the screen is a transition point, and the bottom left of the screen moves you somewhere else. The map is only really good for hot/cold play. You move somewhere, check your map and see if you have moved closer to your destination or moved away from it.
Only a few activities are actually available from the jump, the rest you cannot immediately access due to queues. Line of people. Waiting lines. The lines are too long in a idealized version of a theme park. When brainstorming for ideas, someone on Universal Studios Adventure’s Theme Parks The development team suggested overloaded queues as a way to advertise the park, and no one objected. In order to bypass them, you need to save points by picking up litter and visiting water world until you can buy matching hats that let you skip the line.
I did not enter Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure thinking it would be good. I already knew it was closer to the top of ‘worst games released on GameCube’ than ‘most decent ad video games’. Really, I was just amused at how quickly I wanted to finish it. The credits lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes judging by the video evidence I recorded. I didn’t opt for the red stamps that mark the passing of a certain score threshold each game, but I really don’t want to play Jurassic Park: The Ride a second time. I just wanted to escape from the hell that is Universal Studios Osaka.
This kind of thing was already tried in the 1990s Adventures in the Magic Kingdom on NES. It had the benefit of being developed by Capcom as they flipped their Disney license with games such as duck tales and Rescue Rangers. However, even this game managed to suck, despite its prestige.
However, it was nowhere near the level of Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure. Surprisingly, the developers were credited. If you look back, it actually includes Mikio Ueyama, who designed Air zoneand Akira Sato, who worked on Mr Mosquito. Do you know what they did after A Universal Studios theme park adventure? Nothing. Well, okay, Sato-san worked on the sequel to Mr Mosquito, but also disappeared from the industry. That’s how bad this game was; it absorbed two of my heroes into its putrid mass.
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