So there I was at my favourite place to browse through retro games, the flea market closest to my house, checking out the latest selections of classic gaming. Then it came to me, that I don’t have a game to play for the upcoming Review A Bad Game Day 2014, an annual tradition celebrating the absolute worst video games imaginable. If you recall, last year I covered the lackluster Raid at Bungeling Bay, and the year before that was the annoying Athena. And I figured I needed to find that special game. One that is worse than all the other games combined, yet such a hidden gem that not many people knew the game existed. But none of the seller’s inventory stood out to be particularly crappy in the Nintendo section, and the Super Nintendo section had mostly the games already talked about by reviewers far better and more popular than I can ever be. Even the suggestions of the store owner were either not bad, or not bad enough to signify anger fueled rantings.
Then, out of nowhere, a bright spotlight came from the heavens landing on the display case, which was odd at the time seeing how the flea market was indoors. Then I hear a choir of angels singing a melody of seraphic delight, coming from that music store three stalls down that never turns down their volume. I saw it, with my own eyes. A game cartridge with artwork so lazy, and a title so frightening, there was no way it could be any good. I saw the light. YES! Jesus H. Tap Dancing Christ, I have seen the light!!!!
And it burnt my freaking retinas with the unholy fires of Satan!
I never would have believed this existed. Even after buying it, even after driving home, even after I tested it on my console, I just couldn’t believe this was real. Blues Brothers 2000, for the Nintendo 64. Saying it out loud did not make it more believable. Typing the title in my text editor for this review is even hard to do. How do you make a video game based on arguably the worst sequel to arguably one of the most entertaining comedies of all time? And yet, here it is.
For those of you who don’t know who, or what, the Blues Brothers are, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It was a film made in 1980, based on characters created on Saturday Night Live, and starred the late John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. It was about two brothers who search redemption by reuniting their old band and perform to raise money and help save their orphanage from foreclosing. It was a brilliant comedy that offered so much to the audience. It had outstanding humour, intelligent dialogue, memorable one-liners, incredible music, and one of the best car chases and car crash scenes ever put forward to the cinema. It had something for everyone. And even if you are not a fan of blues music, the songs are still wildly entertaining. The sequel was made 18 years after the first movie was made, and 16 years after Belushi’s death. Blues Brothers 2000 had no jokes, no plot, terrible rehashing of references from the first movie, bad acting, no chemistry with any cast members, and just no substance. It was an all around mess, and a borderline insult to the first movie. Blues Brothers 2000 only made 14 million back on its 28 million dollar budget, so it flopped big time. It’s so bad, that it even garnered a recent review from the famous online Nostalgia Critic.
Yet after all those failures, it still warranted a video game tie-in. But not just any company made this, oh no. This was made by a company so evil, their logo from a distance looks like a demonic pentagram. This was published by Titus Entertainment. This is the same company that produced the first awful Blues Brothers game for the Super Nintendo. But do you want to know what else this company published? Superman for the Nintendo 64. Yes, that Superman 64. The same Superman 64 debated to be the absolute worst game ever made. The same people that made the game where Superman flies through rings made a platforming game based on Blues Brothers 2000. I was in for a hell of a time.
But enough wasting time. It’s about 800 kilometers to Chicago, I have a full list of Blues Brothers’ quotes, and a half empty N64 memory card. It’s dark, and I’m wearing sunglasses. Hitting the power button.
So the first thing that you are introduced to is the opening screen, and greeting to the sounds of Aretha Franklin’s classic song, Respect, in pretty much midi format. The title screen is just Aykroyd’s character Elwood Blues, standing there waiting for you to press start. And wow, does he look stupid. It literally looks like a clip art caricature of Dan Aykroyd, complete with insanely large boxing glove hands and floppy feet. He looks less like Elwood Blues more like Pingu the Penguin in a business suit. As I stare at this marvel of craptitude, suddenly Elwood is doing backflips, and then he twirls and finishes in the Saturday Night Fever disco stance, which I assume is his idle animations. Because if there’s one thing I can associate the Blues Brothers with, it’s disco dancing. I haven’t even pressed start yet, and already I’m pretty annoyed.
Then we get to the opening story as we press start. The first stage is in Joliet Prison, where Elwood is reading a postcard about locating Buster, the kid from the movie, after he gets released from prison. But the evil warden won’t let Elwood out so he needs to escape and find his band mates. Now in those two sentences, there’s about three things wrong with this. First, Joliet Prison is only shown from the outside in the opening shot of the sequel, and even in the first movie, the only times you see the inside of the prison are the opening scene and the last scene in the movie where they play Jailhouse Rock. So making the first stage prison is a massive stretch. Second, in the movie Elwood and Buster don’t get introduced to each other until after Elwood leaves prison. Finally, and most importantly, when was the warden ever evil? In the sequel he had a quick cameo to tell Elwood that his brother died and consoled him briefly, and never was seen again. In fact the only thing the game got right about the movie, besides the characters, is the objective, where you need to collect your band mates and win a Battle Of The Bands.
I’m not even a minute into the game, and already I wanted to quit playing. This is about as faithful to the movie as casting Tom Arnold as Gordon Freeman in a Half Life movie. I haven’t hit the gameplay and I already wanted to declare it over, shut off my system, drop the cartridge from a great height and go watch Wayne’s World on Blu-Ray. But it’s not over. Nothing is over until I decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbour? Hell No! (Oh wait, wrong John Belushi film reference).
Whereas the Super Nintendo game was a horrible 2D platformer that had nothing to do with the original movie, Blues Brothers 2000 is a horrible 3D platformer that has nothing to do with the sequel. You have your jumping and you’re redirecting the jump midway through, and your slide, and a butt stomp attack with the Z trigger, so already it’s trying to be a broken clone of Super Mario 64. It even has coins to collect, and 100 coins are a free life. It makes it all the more hilarious to see a painting of Erykah Badu in the first screen and the first reaction is to try to jump in and hope it takes you to the first level. I can’t be the only one that tried that first. Then you see a musical note that needs to be collected all throughout the stage, so it’s also trying to take elements from Banjo Kazooie. The level of creativity and thought they put into this game is already staggering.
The jumping mechanic is barely functional. Using the analog stick to control Elwood midair is so sensitive that even nudging it can cause him to fly off, causing you to overshoot your landing consistently. And since the character glides on the floor while walking, like he’s wearing ice shoes, which is a classic staple of bad platforming games, making precise jumping much harder. And when they introduce pits into the mix of narrow platforms to jump on, the probability of failing a jump increase dramatically.
As I practice using the B button for punching on the opening screen that has no bad guys, something about the scenario nags the back of my head, and I don’t know why. I eventually move onward to the next screen where I’m greeted to the first enemy, and discover that combat is atrocious. The hit detection is so shaky and inconsistent you could literally hit the same area twice and hit the first time and miss the next. And with each punch, you are so wide open to attacks that if you miss, the delay from Elwood’s animation leaves you vulnerable to getting hit. And it doesn’t help you that movement is so floaty it’s next to impossible to move to the exact location you need, and with the camera issues, estimating how far you are from the danger is a wild guess. And you can’t move and punch at the same time, so you have to move to the exact spot to hopefully get a shot in before you die.
And after fighting the fourth deformed giant guard, that’s when it dawned on me why punching didn’t make sense. When did you ever see the Blues Brothers punch anything in any movie? I know, I’m still dwelling on the film rather than the game, but the first Blues Brothers is among one of my favourite movies, and seeing it bastardized angers me intently. You never saw them fight in the movies. You saw them running away, sneaking away from the people after them, driving away from their problems, and even laying traps like glue on the gas pedal. But you never see them fighting. In fact, some of the really funny moments in the movie are watching them sneak away from Illinois Nazis, or the cops, or Carrie Fisher. So not only is the combat mechanic broken and unusable, but it shouldn’t even be there. There should have been more of a stealth mechanic than anything. It’s just more proof that Titus should never have owned the license to this movie.
The level design is just dull. Most of the rooms in each stage have been just a cube with a black hole door that leads to another cube room. It’s like the movie Cube, only not exciting or thrilling. There are several stages where they try to fix the camera to a 2-D perspective, and I assume it’s to shake up the gameplay, but it makes it harder to see the hazards you’re trying to dodge. And item placement is just bizarre. They have jukeboxes to use as checkpoints in the game for those long stages, but they have two in the same room that’s so close to each other, it makes one obsolete. They also have one at the end of the stage, and since you automatically checkpoint in a new room, it makes the jukebox utterly useless.
By the way, there’s only 4 stages in the game, Joliet Prison, the streets of Chicago, Graveyard and Swamp. All these levels are just very loose tie-ins to locations in the movie. Hell, Aykroyd and Goodman spend more time at the Mercedes Benz dealership in the sequel than all 4 level locations combined.
The music and the sound effects are so bad, it’s borderline criminal. There are only 6 songs licensed from the movie, at least that’s what’s credited in the opening cinematic, and they use them as stage music over and over again. One of them is that midi version of Respect you heard on the title screen. And one of them is so faint you can’t hear it. It’s just a soft percussion beat with random sounds of female scat singing. I almost flipped my lid thinking there was stages in a Blues Brothers video game that had no music. I understand there are software limitations to what they can put into a cartridge, but give us some music that is recognizable and catchy to play along with. At least with Blues Brothers 2000 the movie, the music was a saving grace for a bad film. If you think that’s bad, you should hear the special effect sounds. It’s mind boggling. There are so many cartoon sounds, even Bugs Bunny would call an intervention. Jumping is this spring sound and punching is this woosh sound. And every hit, miss, movement, and even alerting the enemy makes some kind of childish noises. It’s like sitting on one of those keychains with buttons that make odd noises when you press them. And the sound mixing is even worse. During one boss battle with the cafeteria lady, I swear I thought I heard my sister in the other room talking. It turns out it was the boss talking and taunting me. I barely heard what she said, let alone realized it was her talking all along.
The graphics are just bad, and not just the characters, but overall layout and proportions. The colours are just dull, and the consistent use of the same bricks and tiles on every floor and wall just screams laziness. And the animation is so choppy and poorly made, you can tell they didn’t bother to make them pleasant. For example, in the first puzzle you have to enter an air duct to be launched into the air to land on a series of buttons, which you need to Z-Stomp in order. But it literally skips straight to the flying animation once you enter, and doesn’t give you anything like timing or perspective of what’s going on. The character models are even worse. Some of them don’t look human. Proportion wise, they look worse than cartoonish, with arms larger than their bodies, or just weirdly lanky legs. They also have missing eyelids and have those eyes that stare into your soul. Also, why is it that they can’t get sizes of anyone right? Every NPC character in the game, except the actual band members, from the guards to the women on the street stand taller than my character, who is supposed to be a six foot tall Dan Aykroyd. By that comparison, the guards must be 8 feet tall. And the first mini-boss is the cafeteria lady, who must be 20 feet tall based on where she was compared to me.
Speaking of which, the bosses are a joke. They act more like mini games. To fight the cafeteria lady, you have to do a memory game. I’m not kidding. The objective is to use the stomp attack on a collection of lunch trays to reveal the Batman like Pow! icons to hurt the boss. It’s so easy of a battle, it’s downright insulting. At least the next one has some combat with it, but the pattern to inflict damage is also so easy, it’s just embarrassing. There’s no challenge to the game, combat or platforming, outside of battling the controls. The game difficulty feels like it’s meant to be for children with its simple layouts and dumb AI. The end result, however, is one of those games where the difficulty doesn’t lie in a truly challenging puzzles or tricky platforming, but in terrible controls.
The biggest crime in this entire game is the camera. It’s so awful. Using C-left and C-right pans it left and right, but it won’t go through a wall. Ever. This forces you to make leaps of faith in some of the platforming sections because the camera refuses to show you where you need to go. There’s even a command to reset the camera back behind Elwood, but it won’t work if you’re near a wall. It makes this beep sound effect every time you hit a wall, like you just cursed or something, which is fitting since you’ll swear each time you need to move the camera. Also, it makes this weird motion when you jump straight down off a cliff where the camera points down at your head. And it did it again when I ran towards the wall and the camera hit the box I needed to stand on and pointed again to above the character. Granted, it at least gives you a first person view button, but even that is limited to what’s in front of you.
There’s even a mini game during the story mode that has you pressing the arrows and buttons with the beat of a 4-beat setup. It’s just a rip off of the casual game Bust-A-Groove. And once again, it barely works. You have to use the analog stick to hit the arrows, and it’s hit or miss whether they register you getting it correct. And the music and the beat never change, so it gets boring and repetitive really fast. And the best part, it’s actually what you get when you select Multiplayer on the opening screen. Yes, you can challenge your friends to a Dance Dance Revolution like battle with horrendous controls and boring music. So take solace knowing that the only thing they did right is give you a crappy mini game for multiplayer instead of split screen combat.
While doing this review up, I decided to do a little thought experiment to see what I would do to improve this game. You know, besides taking the cartridge and driving over it with my car. And that’s when I had my epiphany. Why haven’t they ever made a Blues Brothers game that’s a driving game? Think about it, you would play as Elwood, and drive from destination to destination, being chased by cops,dodging obstacles and avoiding getting shot, all while picking up band mates and arriving at gigs. It would work similar to Crusin’ USA or something similar, only you control the Bluesmobile. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Driving around on the streets of Chicago, controlling the Bluesmobile, plowing through strip malls, praying to Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration to not fail you now? I mean, come on, it’s the Nintendo 64. This is the same system that gave us Diddy Kong Racing, Mario Kart 64 and Wave Race 64 and other fantastic, popular driving games. Hell, with reemerging titles getting the modern twist, like Back to the Future’s point and click adventure, why can’t we make a Grand Theft Auto clone with the Blues Brothers license? I’d buy that game in a heartbeat. It makes a thousand times more sense than a platformer. Before you answer that most movie-based video games are bad, just remember that the Nintendo 64 also gave us Goldeneye. And what do you remember more, the movie Goldeneye, or the video game Goldeneye?
This game is a sin; just an abomination of gaming. The graphics are hideous, the sound is blasphemous, the sound effects are childish, the controls are a mess, and the camera is a joke. Using Aretha Franklin’s Respect in the opening title screen is a fitting antithesis of this game, because the programmers and designers had no respect for the movie it was based on, which is saying something considering the sequel was itself a horrible extension to a fantastic movie. If there was one word to describe this video game, it would be lazy. The level design is lazy. The combat is lazy. The overall look and feel is lazy. Just everything about this seems like the game was rushed out the door without a care to make the game good.
Now for a movie tie-in game, most would give this a pass because you want the video game to be released at the same time the movie is hot in theatres, so you usually get a rushed, uninspired mess of a game. But Blues Brothers 2000 the video game was released two YEARS after Blues Brothers 2000 the movie bombed in theatres, so they had lots of time to make at least a functional game. And the fact that this game is barely playable is inexcusable. I mean, what was the programmer’s excuse for making such an insult of a game? Did you run out of gas? A flat tire? Didn’t have enough money for cab fare? Your tux didn’t come back from the cleaners? An old friend came in from out of town? Someone stole your car? Was there an earthquake? A terrible flood? Locusts?
Remember in my Godzilla Review when I said that in order to avoid the “worst ever” moniker, you had to have at least something enjoyable? Well, I can’t think of a single thing to like in this game. I was on a mission from God to find some redeemable quality, and I failed. Now, I have had my moments of frustration in gaming, I’ve thrown controllers, I’ve yelled at the television, and I’ve even rage quit. But this is completely different. I can’t think of another time when a video game made me genuinely angry, and I mean borderline offended that this game was made the way it was. This may be one of the worst experiences I have ever had with a video game. I managed to get past the first stage and I felt like I accomplished nothing. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic for dramatic or entertaining purposes. I hate this game, and consider it one of the worst games ever made. Stay away from this game at all costs. It’s not worth your time or effort.
My advice, instead of playing this, do what I plan on doing to wash myself of this wretched shame of a game. Order four fried chickens and a coke, and watch the original Blues Brothers movie on infinite loop, until I am fully cleansed.