Lately, it seems that many people, including my good friend on YouTube Owlflame, have been saying good things about the recently released Mortal Kombat X. Now, I’ve made my case before that I don’t care either way how gory a game is as long as it’s fun and functional.
But, do you know what I DO care about? Ending up with a quality product. It’s bad enough to hop on a trend just because it’s “the thing” at the time, but to copy a trend so superficially with no quality control is unacceptable.
I remember how, when the MK series first showed up in the 90’s, everyone was quick to ride on the game’s coattails to success. And while imitation may be the greatest form of flattery, PALE imitation is the quickest route to creative bankruptcy. As evidenced by…
As is tradition here at The Archive, let’s knock out the most obvious example first so we can get to the interesting stuff.
Every gamer knows that Kasumi Ninja is bad. Of course it’s bad; it has all of the warning signs.
As if it wasn’t bad enough being a shameless clone of Mortal Kombat with it’s focus on gore and digitized graphics – the now abandoned practice of recording real actors and using still photos as sprite art, the game suffers from bad sound design that fails to add weight to the action, uninspired finishing moves, and even mild to extreme racism (two of the playable characters include a Scotsman that shoots fire from his kilt and a Native American that finishes matches by scalping his opponent).
But the biggest kiss-of-death for Kasumi Ninja was the fact that you could only play it on the Atari Jaguar, a platform often ranked by the gaming community among some of the worst consoles ever made and such a commercial failure that it forced Atari out of the home console market.
I debated putting this one in for a number of reasons.
For one, this game was technically never released. Developed by Data East as their answer to Mortal Kombat‘s Success, the only reason we know about it today is because a few prototype arcade cabinets found their way out to the public.
Secondly, it’s often hard to tell who was ripping off who. While it’s obvious that Data East wanted an MK of their own, it seems that several finishing moves from this game were later adopted by Midway for future Mortal Kombat games; namely in the incorporation of the then new “Animalities.”
But, at the end of the day, it was still a bad MK knock-off. It’s shameless attempt to one-up Midway by featuring “2196 fatalities” – including several that humiliated your opponent by magically making them nude – meant that things like story, character design, audio engineering, art direction, and gameplay became an afterthought.
Oh, and there’s a Native American stereotype in this game, too (seriously, what’s the deal with fighting games and indigenous peoples?).
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the worst of the worst; a knock-off so bad that not even Wikipedia has an entry on it. It is the MK clone that time forgot.
Everything about Timeslaughter is a chore to sit through. It’s an ugly as sin DOS game that manages to fail at every level of game design. Art direction, voice acting, original design – you name it; this game screws it up.
Oh, and you know the (totally unintentional) theme of racial and cultural insensitivity that we’re building up here? This game doubles down on that by making everyone with an obvious ethnicity a terrible stereotype; the French, the Scots, the Chinese, and tribal Africans specifically.
Now, you could argue that one shouldn’t expect much from a game that had a dev team of only two dorks from high school – Ethan Petty and Icer Addis – and that I, as a lover of indie talent, should be more supportive of people whose clear motivation was to rally against digital censorship.
However, I would argue that their situation was no excuse for bad art.
Let me put it this way: you how some gamers will say, “I could make a better game than that,” when faced with garbage titles? Well, guess what? I HAVE made better games than this! One of my first tasks in my college graphic design classes was to code basic games and animations in Adobe Flash that looked, sounded, and functioned better than Timeslaughter. And for someone with no professional game design experience, that should not be possible.
But don’t take my word for it. This game is freeware now. So you can download it at no cost and experience the shrieking terror that is Timeslaughter yourself.