Don’t believe the hype

All mouth and no trousers - which computer games completely failed to live up to their pre-release hype? (Other than Assassin's Creed, that is.)

Assassin's Creed

In the wake of Ubisoft’s less-than-stunning Assassin’s Creed, here’s a quick look back at some other games that didn’t quite match their pre-release marketing hype…

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (Atari 2600, 1982)

An early example of a movie tie-in rushed into production, legend has it that E.T.’s reception and sales figures were so dreadful that Atari had to bury the millions of unsold copies in the desert…

The Great Space Race (ZX Spectrum, C64 1984)

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Released in a colossal box with an equally hefty price tag, TGSR was utterly appalling. Despite adverts shouting about the game’s ‘Movisoft2’ animation, it quickly became obvious that the whole thing was programmed almost entirely in BASIC and, if left to its own devices, would play all by itself. Most worryingly of all, Legend spent £250,000 (at that time, a huge sum of money) writing it. Complete pants.

Bandersnatch/Psycalypse (ZX Spectrum, 1984)

A bit of a cheat this, because they were never actually released – but Bandersnatch and Psycalypse make the list for their pre-release hype alone.

Expensive, full-page teaser adverts for them appeared throughout the gaming press in 1984, describing them as ‘the two most exciting releases ever’. So exciting, the games would have cost an estimated £40 (around five times the average retail price of the time), or the equivalent of about £150 in today’s money.

Sadly – or luckily, depending on how you look at it – Imagine Software went bust after a rather embarrassing BBC documentary (with some unintentionally comic moments on a par with Spinal Tap) revealed the company’s growing money problems, leaving Bandersnatch and Psycalypse unreleased.

Jet Set Willy 2 (ZX Spectrum/Various, 1985)

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Flushed with the runaway success of the platform games Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy, Software Projects spent months building up public expectation over its sequel. But there was one small problem – Matthew Smith, programmer of the original games, unexpectedly quit. Software Projects’ solution? Release Jet Set Willy 1 again, with a few extra rooms added in, and call it a sequel. Disgraceful.

Double Dragon (ZX Spectrum version, 1988)

When Melbourne House announced a port of the popular arcade fighting game to the ZX Spectrum, many said it couldn’t be done. Unsurprisingly, the naysayers were right; even by Speccy standards, the graphics were awful – knives looked like carrots, everyone wore the same trousers to save memory – and the dodgy collision detection meant you could punch enemies even when you weren’t standing anywhere near them.

Shadow of the Beast (Amiga/Various, 1989)

Stunning box artwork. Beautifully drawn sprite-based graphics. Atmospheric sound. A free T-Shirt. But where was the game? Buried beneath the hype, there was an average platformer in there somewhere, not even trying to get out.

Rise of the Robots (CD32/Various, 1994)

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Released with the kind of media coverage you’d usually associate with a Hollywood summer blockbuster, Mirage’s Rise of the Robots eventually emerged from the marketing smoke as a particularly dull fighting game with hardly any decent moves – indeed, it was possible to beat every character with a simple flying kick.

Goldeneye: Rogue Agent (GameCube/Various, 2004)

Rare’s legendary N64 FPS, Goldeneye 007, was quite simply a stunning game, worthy of all the plaudits, praise, medals and gongs thrown at it by press and fans. Years later, Electronic Arts bought the rights to the Goldeneye name and released Rogue Agent, a name-only sequel that entirely lacked the innovation, creative design and sheer magic of its predecessor. A horrible exercise in cynicism, Rogue Agent was rightly pilloried by all who played it.

Read more by Ryan Lambie at his wonderful blog, here.