Staff Top 10
Top Ten Rubbish Video Games That Feature Musicians

rom Vice City’s winning combination of shooting up ethnic minorities to the dulcet tones of Kim Wilde, to mixes made expressly to drown out the commentary on the FIFA games (“NIGERIA are playing CHILE at the GENERIC STADIUM”), it’s no surprise that video games and music mix well together. After all, video games and music are the two premier pop culture geekdoms in the modern world.

But what about those times when you’ve already bought the CD, the tee-shirt, the messenger bag and microwaveable meals? What next? It’s got to be the video games featuring your favourite popular beat combo. Metallica recently announced plans to star in their own video game, sparking all manner of hilarious “I bet the game involves lawyers and Napster lol!” japery on music and video game discussion forums. But Lars and the boys are treading a path well beaten. Many a band has appeared in their own video game. And they’ve all been rubbish. So, sit back, gather your friends round, plug in the Atari 2600 and Mega CD 32, use a joystick rather than a joypad, and get your retro-gaming on as Stylus runs down the top 10 rubbish video games that feature musicians.

Moonwalker- The Computer Game (US Gold, 1989)

For those of you too young to remember, “Moonwalker” was 80s slang for “8 Mile”, featuring Joe Pesci or Christopher Walken or James Woods or somebody trying to harsh Michael Jackson’s buzz. Anyway, US Gold were, like fellow late 80s Commy and Speccy kings Ocean Software, kings of the quick tawdry cash-in. This game was programmed by exactly the same people that gave you The Running Man video game. Without having a manual, it’s hard to know what’s going on here, quite like Jackson’s private life. There’s four levels. The first features a weirdly designed player sprite, possibly Jacko himself, goose-stepping around a maze whilst being chased by sumo wrestlers and men on trikes while you look for keys and microphones. The second level is exactly the same, except now you’re in a car, and you have to collect yellow dots. I’ve not seen Moonwalker for ages, but I’m pretty sure that it didn’t feature yellow dots in a big way. Level three, you finally get a gun, and shoot… what appear to be a series of crippled Boba Fetts. And the final level… HOLY SHIT! YOU’VE TURNED INTO A ROBOT!!!! And you shoot missiles out of the sky! Hopefully, everyone involved in the making of this game is now dead.

Beatle Quest (Number 9 Software, 1985)

Apparently the only game Number 9 Software ever released and also the only game ever programmed by Garry Marsh. It’s not hard to see why they weren’t sought out for future releases. Anyone who sweated in the saltmines of home computers in the 80s and has kissed a girl at one point in their life will have a Pavolvian reaction to text adventures, flinching as soon as one reared its ugly, inventory using head. Using one would basically result in, after five minutes, just typing “fuck” and “shit” into the program to see what’d happen (usually “I don’t understand”, but the Famous Five text adventure would scold you for use of foul language). Anyway, at a wild stab in the dark (something a certain late Beatles guitarist should be more than familiar with), Beatle Quest wasn’t licensed. What it is is a bog-standard knocked together in five minutes text adventure with lots of “cute” references to the Fab Four. When it doesn’t understand a command, it goes “goo goo g’joob”. Requests for help are answered with something about a little help from your friends. I stopped playing it after ten minutes because I feared for my sanity, but I’m guessing that you have to do something for the benefit of Mr Kite at some point, and then visit a wood in Norway where your blues help Lucy into the sky with her diamonds. This is a 1980s take on those West End musicals that are simply an excuse to crowbar lyrics by dead bands into the script without any concept of plot or entertainment. A truly abhorrent game.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood (Ocean Software, 1985)

Zzzap! Magazine, the bible of the Commodore 64, declared FGTH to be the best game ever released upon the system. They’re wrong, as the best C64 game is obviously Pirates!, followed by Microprose Soccer. This game has nothing to do with the much loved band of “Warriors of the Wasteland”, or whatever they were meant to be, which is a shame, as a game where you had to escape from the evil Mike Reed, or maybe a beat-em-up featuring those two guys from the “Two Tribes” video could have made for an interesting time. No, instead you play as a Metropolis-esque robot that is attempting to become human, by… walking through a series of doors and putting videos into televisions. Frankie Says: 4 Bit Home Computer Systems- Raise Your Standards.

Tubular Bells (Computer Rentals Limited, 1986)

Believe it or not (I choose not to), Mike Oldfield was a massive pop star for over ten years. He decided to make the leap into the technological era with this. It’s not a game per se, rather a early attempt at an enhanced CD, as the SID chip of the C64 gets pushed to its absolute limit by digitising the entire of “Tubular Bells” for the mid 80s computer. It is literally painful. It’s accompanied by those crappy visuals you get when you put a CD into a Playstation, except being 15 years early, consisting of about four colours and lagging badly. Music “done” by a guy called Bob Hartshorne, who also did the music for the Rocky Horror and Blade Runner video games. Renaissance man, huh?

Thompson Twins Adventure (Quicksilva, 1984)

To think that in the same year Quicksilva also deliver Trashman, which is one of the all time gaming classics, they found time to give us… a video game based on the Thompson Twins. This is a “graphical adventure”, which is like a text adventure, except with some really really badly drawn graphics slapped on the top of it. In this game, the useless 80s pop cretins are represented by three hat stands that have Chia heads attached to the top of them. The game appears to have no plot at all. Doctor doctor, can’t you see you fucking suck?

Crue Ball (Electronic Arts, 1992)

A pinball game based on Motley Crue. Bonus games include giving your girlfriend hepatitis, and continuing to claim some sort of rock authenticity whilst simultaneously writing rejected singles for the Backstreet Boys. Actually, no they don’t, because that’d be actually interesting. The board would have been basic for a pinball table even in 1992, with the minimum of specials, all that’s there to do is attack those known enemies of Motley Crue, hedgehogs and caterpillars, who wander across the board indiscriminately, whilst you attempt to kill off the letters that spell “rock” and “roll”, possibly implying that the “Crue” themselves are killing off said genre. Also, you have to destroy the letters “HEADS”, perhaps a reflection of that Sixx/Tina Weymouth beef that so plagued the 80s. Of course, this is accompanied by badly synthesised versions of all your favourite Motley Crue singles. It’s the most fun you can have with a pinball table without having your face repeatedly smashed against the broken glass of one.

Aural Quest (Star Games, 1984)

The Stranglers! Now they were punk. When they weren’t treating women as sexual objects or using racial slurs in their lyrics, they were appearing in, yep you guessed it, a text adventure. This may be the worst of the bunch actually, the design of the game is dreadful. You play as the Stranglers’ tour manager: you can die from the first move in the game, problems involve spilling paint on people’s shoes, and the room layout means that your living room is directly adjacent to the departure lounge of Heathrow Airport. This is from the most offensive band in the world at one point, remember? Hopeless.

Rapjam Volume 1 (Mandingo Entertainment, 1994)

In 1994, the Super Nintendo was about ready for death. Some may say that this was because of the launch of Sony’s Playstation. They’d be wrong, because Rapjam Volume 1 was an exercise in video gaming so bad that Nintendo still hasn’t recovered from it. It features… none of your favourite rappers. Naughty By Nature? House of Pain? Queen Latifah? Warren fucking G? Someone called Yoyo who appears to be the world’s first cross-eyed rapper? Anyway, all of the mid 90s gang are here, and they be “ballin’”. Remember this is around the same time of the awesome NBA Jam series, where you could control Bill Clinton and Michael Jackson and other such notables. After you’ve shot hoops with the president, DJ Lethal is always going to be somewhat of a comedown. Mandingo Entertainment put in every effort to ensure the game was a complete comedown though. Because you get to play against non-rappers as well, or more accurately “children”, as the opposition sprites are about half the size of you. Ever wanted to see Sticky Fingaz push a seven year old child over and shoot a ball the size of a ball bearing into a hoop that it goes into every time? Here’s your game. Complemented with a soundtrack that sounds like a Snow instrumental album.

Revolution X (Acclaim, 1995)

OK, ten-a-penny shoot-em-ups are the lifeblood of any console. You have a guy with a gun, he shoots waves of enemies… this has basically kept out of ideas video game designers in projects since Space Invaders. This is what happens when people try to do something “original”. The original aspect here is that it’s the first video game to feature a song by Aerosmith. That’s just one song, the oh-so-cleverly named “Music Is The Weapon”. The plot of the game… oh, something about youth culture being banned, and the only way you can save it is by getting to Aerosmith’s dressing room. You have to get to their dressing room by shooting helicopters and dogs and, I kid you not, dustbins which then fire CDs into the air smashing a wall. It’s as good as a video game featuring Aerosmith deserves to be.

The Shaky Game (Olympic Soft, 1983)

OK, The Shaky Game. To fit this in, I’ve had to miss a lot out. I’ve had to miss out Wu Tang: Bring The Pain, which achieved a level of disappointment from a beat-em-up not equally since you realised the only good thing about Eternal Champions was the boobage on the cat burglar character. I’ve had to miss out the Journey arcade game, which isn’t so much a game as an item designed solo for the kitsch value it would accumulate 20 years later. I’ve had to miss out Def Jam Vendetta and the Backyard Wrestling with the Insane Clown Posse… what a shame. I’ve missed out Fred Durst appearing on the Smackdown games and that one boxing game where Huey fucking Morgan, of all people, was a hidden character. I’ve even missed out the latest craze, promotional online games featuring indie bands, such as the Razorlight game (Track and Field rip-off), The Delays (Sensi Soccer style antics with unmanageable control system), and Belle and Sebastian (darts game with Isobel Campbell as the board). I’m missing them all so we could finish with this. The Shaky Game. A video game based on Shakin’ Stevens, the Welsh Elvis. You know how now they have the Elephantitis Man Elvis? The Welsh Elvis was more impressive. Elephantitis Elvis never had his own video game… that had nothing to do with him. It was the b-side to “This Ole House”, which is about corpse discovery, but the game… you drive a car, around a maze, to avoid bats… just look at the screenshots. If Metallica can top this, I’ll be very surprised.

By: Dom Passantino

Log In to Post Comments
Posted 07/23/2004 - 09:24:28 AM by edwardo:
 The Frankie game was one of my very, very favourites growing up. I would dearly love to complete it one day, but all I can get up to is 99% even after beating all the subgames. Ah well.
Posted 07/23/2004 - 11:10:20 AM by P_Parrish:
 In a slightly related way, did Captain Sensible write the original theme tune for the most-definitely-not-rubbish Sensible Soccer? Or was that just some kind of freakish recurring dream of mine.
Posted 07/23/2004 - 01:21:20 PM by SebastianSS:
 The Wu-Tang playstation game was Shaolin Style, and while the controls were pretty much useless, having four people play as ODB was always rewarding because then we were guaranteed to see his "rip the head off and scream 'DON'T FUCK WITH BIG BABY JESUS!'" finishing move.
Posted 07/23/2004 - 06:27:47 PM by WBSwygart:
 No, if I'm remembering right the Sensi theme tunes were all composed by Jon Hare, the head programmer and yet another great thing from Norwich.
Posted 07/23/2004 - 08:34:35 PM by P_Parrish:
 This is probably the point at which I should declare my undying love for the "War.. has never been so much fun!" theme from Cannon Fodder. Superb stuff.
Posted 07/24/2004 - 10:56:45 AM by DeSandro:
 You either completely forgot the Journey (as in Steve Perry) arcade platformer, or conceded that it was not rubbish. Either way, its a huge mistake.
Posted 07/26/2004 - 09:20:28 AM by MacGee:
 Dom It looks like you were spared Paul McCartney's 'Give My Regards to Broadstreet'. Lucky you.
Posted 07/27/2004 - 03:44:21 PM by gloden:
 Great idea for a list! I was amazed by the amount of games I haven't heard of! I thought for sure I was going to see Marky Mark, Kris Kross or C&C; Music Factory on this list for their career ending appearances in the SEGA CD's Make My Video series... probably the worst concept-to-playability blunder in video game history. Also, Eternal Champions was, and still is, one of the greatest fighting games for a console system.
Posted 07/28/2004 - 01:28:01 PM by Ralzey:
 The only time rock celebrity worked well with a video game is when NIN mastermind Trent Reznor provided the soundtrack for Quake. That\'s my opinion though... and I\'ve yet to play a game featuring the Flava Flava Flav...
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