Alert the coastguard and throw me some water wings, because I'm in way out of my depth with this one. I've drifted into the murky waters of heartthrobs, hysterical screaming and relentless commercialism with Infogrames and Stunt Puppy's 2001 Game Boy Color abomination *NSYNC: Get to the Show.
Yes, that *NSYNC - the boyband that weren't as famous as The Backstreet Boys, the one that included Justin Timberlake, the pop behemoths who have a curious connection to gaming in that one of them some how ended up being Sephiroth. Someone in *NSYNC's no-doubt vast management team decided there were mountains of cash just waiting to be drained from the "idiots with Game Boy Colors" market, and so here we are.
In my youth, I railed against the scourge of the manufactured pop-band and how they were destroying real music, man: but then, so does every fourteen-year-old weirdo who listens to the Dead Kennedys and refuses to get his hair cut. Once you get older you realise that pop bands have very little to do with music and everything to do with the kind of rapacious acquisition of money that makes Scrooge McDuck look like a free-spending libertine, and if these new-fangled videogames are a way to further line some pockets then by god you're going to seeing them in stores near you real soon. Hence *NSYNC: Get to the Show. On a note that's not directly related to the game itself but which will no doubt end up colouring my judgement somewhat, just typing the hideously vapid linguistic construct that is "*NSYNC" makes me really, really angry. A terrible pun, devised by the worst people. Shameful.
Oh yeah, there's a game.
You are cast in the role of *NSYNC's (ugh) biggest fan, and the boys are about to bring you into their colourful world of fame, fortune and soul-destroyingly tedious minigames. First, you've got to enter your name and chose which of the boys will be your personal guide on this wild adventure. My name is Barry, because I'm sure as hell not going to use my real name in case this ends up being used as evidence when our alien overlords descend from space and put us on trial to judge whether we are worthy of continued existence. Obviously I chose Justin as my mentor, because he is the dreamiest and also the only one I've ever heard of. Actually that's not true, I've heard of Lance Bass due to his aforementioned Kingdom Hearts role, but Timberlake is the only one I'd recognise in the street.
What did I tell you? He's dreamy as fuck. I'd scream at him during a concert, but then again I do that to every performer I see. That's why I'm banned from every music venue in South Yorkshire.
So, now "Barry" is firmly embedded in the *NSYNC bosom and he's been given some duties to fulfill, what genre of game are we looking at here? Maybe a band management sim, like Popstar Maker and occupying roughly the same circle of Hell? A rhythm-action game where you dance along with the band? A first-person shooter?
Fuck no, this is a roadie-em-up. Your mission is to ferry *NSYNC around and perform a few tasks to keep them happy, because a happy boyband is a financially viable boyband. Sadly, you don't get to do any of the usual roadie business like scoring hookers and drugs or beating up nosy paparazzi but hey - you get to drive a limo!
Your first job is a top-down driving game where you have to get the boys from Point A to Point Wherever the Hell. Immediately the game throws you into some gameplay so boring, so grindingly dull, so completely lacking in the excitement and challenge and sense of accomplishment that a good videogame can bring that you'll wonder if it wasn't developed as a neurological test to see how long human beings can cope with sensory deprivation before they chew their own arms off.
I said it was a driving game and I suppose that's true in the sense that there's a car and it moves, but this minigame features an almost total absence of interactivity. The A button moves the car forward, and you press left or right to change lanes or take exits onto different, almost identical roads. You're not even really controlling the vehicle itself, you're just moving it from lane to lane and avoiding the one car that sometimes appears ahead of you. I say avoiding, the first time I saw another road user I drove into them as fast as possible, (i.e. not very,) hoping for a fiery explosion and a Game Over screen depicting *NSYNC's bloodied remains strewn across the highway. That didn't happen, I just bounced off. "Disappointed" doesn't really cover it.
The only thing complicating your sedate drive is that *NSYNC are a demanding bunch of so-and-sos, and they frequently request that you stop so they can perform an errand. One of them "gotta mail a card", so you stop at the post office. One of them wants donuts, (probably the porky one: there's one in every boyband,) and so, as pictured above, you stop at the DONUTS shop. Strangely, one of the most common requests is that on their way towards their next engagement *NSYNC absolutely, positively and without argument must stop to get a bunch of flowers, or sometimes several bunches. I can only assume that "flowers" is slang for class A narcotics.
Eventually you reach your destination and your chosen "boy" announces that they're plum tuckered out and need some sleep. No sleep for Barry, though, because it's his job to stay up all night and make sure the boys aren't disturbed.
To make sure *NSYNC get the rest they need, you're forced to participate in cursor-based shooting gallery event. You move your star-shaped cursor over each of the items that appear in the windows and press a button to get rid of them. It's just like the shooting sections in Snatcher and I'm sorry, I can't go any further in comparing this to Snatcher. That way madness lies.
However, things are not as simple as they appear. You see, there are two separate buttons for getting rid of things. You press A to shut up noisy items like TVs, cats and women - and please don't mistake that for misogyny on my part, because the only time you see any women in this game is when you're telling them to be quiet - but you have to press B to "put *NSYNC back to sleep" when they appear. That's fine on a technical level, but there's a problem: I don't have the slightest clue what the members of *NSYNC look like, and you're penalised for pressing the wrong button on the wrong item. I mean, sure, a ringing telephone is unlikely to be a member of *NSYNC. Old woman with her hair in rollers? Probably not gonna be exciting too many pre-teen girls. But what about this guy?
Maybe *NSYNC had a rockabilly phase that passed me by. Hey, it could happen! For all I know, this could be one of the founding members of the band and not just some Fifties throwback causing trouble in a hotel window. He's not being particularly noisy, I noticed. So, I tried to put him back to bed with the rest of *NSYNC and as it turns out no, this guy is not in the band. Lose one point, Barry.
This guy, on the other hand:
This eyebrow-waggling weirdo is not, as I first suspected, a sex offender who gets his jollies by peering into the windows of sleeping men - he is actually a bona-fide member of *NSYNC. I think the rest of the boys should be keeping an eye on this one.
And that's all there is to minigame number two. Move your cursor to the correct location, press the corresponding button, make sure you reach the quota of items so that you can progress up the roadie ladder. Easy as pie, dull as a wallpaper-paste sandwich. I've performed my task admirably, and that task was making sure no women got anywhere near *NSYNC's bedrooms. I'll leave you to interpret that one.
Oh good, everyone's back in the limo. It's identical to the first stage, except now there are cacti. Oh how I envy those cacti. No eyes, no hands, no compulsion to play games like *NSYNC: Get to the Show.
This trip through the desert has made *NSYNC hungry, and it's down to you to fix 'em up some delicious burgers.
Ahh, this is more like the real personal assistant experience: your scrawny, malnourished body buckling under both the pressure and the weight of a giant tray while your employers pelt you with food. Still *NSYNC's biggest fan, Barry? I bet you wish they'd left you where they found you: trying to evade the police by hiding in the toilet of a roadside florist.
In what turns out to be an even shallower version of Yoshi's Egg, this minigame has you shuffling left and right to catch burger ingredients as they fall from the sky, all in order to meet the dietary demands of your five well-choreographed overlords. Catch the right ingredients as indicated on the bottom-left of the screen and the boys will be happy, even going so far as to compliment you on your "tight work".
Yep, that's definitely one tight-looking burger. Barry's face wears a rictus grin, but his true feelings of impotent despair are captured in the way he's repeatedly punching himself in the dick.
Of course, if you collect just one wrong ingredient then *NSYNC boys show their true prima donna natures, forcing you to build them an entirely new burger at the smallest splash of the wrong condiment. These boys didn't spend years practising their puppy-dog eyes and gelling their hair just to have to pick the gherkins off their own food, that's what schlubs like Barry are for.
Once you've crafted their burgers to their exact specifications, *NSYNC allow you a brief respite with another limousine trip.
The pine trees would indicate that we're moving into a more temperate climate, which makes sense. Each summer, all the boybands migrate north to partake of the natural bounty of the woodlands, preparing for the long winter by eating their fill and challenging lesser pop groups such as 5ive for dominance over the pack.
It's exactly the same as the other two limo stages, of course. What next?
I switched from Justin to Lance, by the way. I can't help it; they're all so dreamy that I can't stay loyal to just one. Anyway, we've arrived at the concert venue, but before the boys can go on stage they have a "special luck thing" that they do. A ritual, a team-bonding exercise that knits the boys together and brings them alive with the spirit of music and you, Barry: you're one of the chosen few from outside the popstar dimension who gets to take part in this ancient and sacred ritual. So, what does this "special luck thing" entail?
You heard the man, Barry. Now drop your trousers.
Never mind, pull 'em back up. This is actually a friendly game of hackeysack, which for any non-Americans out there is (as far as I can tell) like keepie-uppies but with a beanbag instead of a football. This minigame is a digital recreation of the "sport" and it is one of the very worst videogame experiences I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. To pass, you kick the ball to each of your band-mates and don't let the sack touch the floor for 30 seconds. The ball comes near you, you press a button to kick it to someone else, and that's it. It's Pong but without the complication of having to move the paddle, and somehow with worse graphics. It's mind-erasingly simplistic, insultingly so, and for someone to have created this and to have had it released as part of an honest-to-God videogame cartridge boggles the mind. It wouldn't pass muster as a minigame from an Atari 2600 title, and what's worse you have to go though it five bloody times before the game decides you have suffered enough and sets you free.
Funny, I don't feel awesome. I mostly just feel really sad.
Your reward for helping *NSYNC with their day-to-day bullshit is the chance to watch them perform live on your Game Boy. Oh, what fun!
Yup, that's *NSYNC alright. I'd recognise that collection of multi-coloured trousers anywhere. Not only do you get to see the show, but you can interact with it, too! Well, kind of. You can cycle through four or five music tracks, change the colour of the background and best of all you can chose what dance routines the guys will perform. Do you want to see them in action? Tough, here they are.
Good lord. Well, at least I got a good laugh out of the background "dancing". They look like a group of pensioners who are contemplating whether to break into a Cossack dance or not.
The concert scrolls on for two minutes before the game ends. That's it, go home, *NSYNC have got a lot of bouquets to deliver and they mustn't be bothered. Still, your chosen band member gives you a special shout-out so I guess that makes everything worthwhile.
In summary, to call *NSYNC: Get to the Show a videogame is a slap in the face to anyone who has ever worked hard to make a game that excites or entertains. This thing is a wafer-thing piece of garbage designed solely to fleece money from gullible pop fans, and as such it draws comparisons to Hooters Road Trip. In fact, I think *NSYNC: Get to the Show is worse than Hooters, or at the very least more morally reprehensible. Both titles consist of a worthless "gaming" experience dripping with a thick coat of marketing bullshit designed to lure in casual buyers - tits in the case of Hooters, tits who can dance for Get to the Show - but where at least Hooters was sort-of targeted at people who might be old enough to know better, *NSYNC was aimed at kids, the poor little buggers. I know I'm well outside the target demographic on this one, but that doesn't stop it being a deeply awful game that even the youngest of children, and most hardcore of *NSYNC fans, will be bored of almost instantly.
So, congratulations to Infogrames and Stunt Puppy - it looks like they've set a new record for the worst game I've ever played. Lucky for them that I play so many bad games, because one day even this piece of crap is likely to be out-awfuled. Lookin' forward to that one, folks.
Thanks to Vectropia on Tumblr for posting the box art for the dreck and unknowingly setting into motion a chain of events that can never be undone. He's got a good Tumblr, you should check it out.