Little Red Hood
So, not a game about the childhood years of the Batman villain, then? No, it’s about Little Red Riding Hood. It’s a cover made from clip-art, said clip-art being carefully composed to make it look like Red Riding Hood is kicking a goblin right up the arse. She looks like she’s having a rare old time, too. Are we seeing the origin story of B.B. Hood from Darkstalkers here? It’s a short step from kicking goblins to mowing down werewolves with an uzi, or at least it will be when I finally make my own RPG. Joke's on Red, that goblin behind her is about to get her with his invisible garotte.
Also, don’t overlook that weird neckless dog in the background, biting another goblin on the rump. The backside is a goblin’s weak point, apparently. Speaking of rear ends, cover the front end of that dog up and tell me you’re not now looking at the back end of a horse.
“Who is this year’s champion plumber” asks the game’s tagline… except there’s no question mark, so I guess it’s not a question and we’re being told that someone called Who is this year’s champion plumber. Congratulations, Who. I hope you’ve got a nice spot in your house to display your Golden U-Bend trophy. I’m going to assume that the deformed homunculus on the left of the screen isn’t Who, because there’s no way he’s a good enough plumber to win a championship. His oversized apron is a tripping hazard, his spanners are too small and all the pipes in the background are spraying water everywhere. No, he’s the regular, normal kind of useless plumber.
This is the same game as Pipe V, but renamed for the Australian market and given a new piece of cover of art. So, now we get to see the lost Mario Brother slowly drowning to death. Now, I’m not marketing executive – I have a soul, for starters – but I have to think that this image will do little to lure in prospective players. If my kid saw Pipemania and said “daddy, that’s the game I want!” I’d get the phone book out and start circling a few numbers for child therapists.
If you’re going to have your box art be a big picture of a man’s face, what’s the best angle to draw them from? Why, so you can see right up their nose, of course! It really hammers home the feeling that you’re looking at someone laying in a field, staring up at a nearby air show while he waits for the peyote to kick in.
Oh good, here comes the peyote now. What the bloody hell is going on here? Are these thing fighting? Are they even made of metal? That thing at the bottom appears to have seas anemones for hands, and they’re not made of metal. The top, erm, thing is presumably the metal fighter of the title, looking as it does like T-Bob from M.A.S.K. who was at least made of metal even if he wasn’t much of a fighter. I short, I don’t have a sodding clue what’s going on here apart from very poorly placed typography.
Hey, this one’s not too bad! I could see it being the cover of an officially licensed game, and unlike Metal Fighter the picture of a female pharaoh actually has something to do with the title of the game. I mean, it’s not a good picture. It looks too much like the décor in a shabby casino for that, but it’s appropriate and when it comes to the covers of Sachen games that really is the best you can hope for.
It doesn’t looks very silent. Bombs tend to be quite loud.
I’ve written all about Silent Assault, and it might sound scarcely believable but this cover art is somehow less ugly than the game itself. You wouldn’t think much could be worse than a life-sized version of those shitty Chinese action figures from Poundland, the ones with names like “USA GI HERO FORCE,” but at least this artwork isn’t composed entirely in garish neon tones. Plus, I like that the soldier is going into battle with his medals pinned to his chest. He single-handedly repulsed the Glorganoid invasion fleet to get that medal, dammit, and he’s going to wear it all the god damned time. I bet he sleeps with it pinned to his pyjamas. Its presence comforts him, distracting the soldier from from the horror that is his own messed-up face. His head looks like a carrot with human features crudely carved into it, an effect heightened by the foliage growing on his helmet. However, if you think this face looks bad, check out the alternate cover to Silent Assault.
Ha ha ha. Hahahaha! Incredible! He’s part human killing machine, part gurning champion and, if his independently-swivelling eyeballs are anything to go by, part chameleon. His sergeant ordered him to put on his war face, but he misunderstood and tried to capture the full horror, savagery and pointless waste of human life of war in one facial expression. He failed, clearly. The last time I saw a facial expression like that was when I tried to explain the plot of the entire Metal Gear series to a friend.
I haven’t got a clue what “Tagin’ Dragon” is supposed to mean. Maybe he’s really into Moroccan cooking and it’s supposed to be Tagine Dragon.
Most videogames are pretty odd when you stop and think about them, but while “Italian plumber jumps on mushrooms” and “blue hedgehog runs fast, fights Teddy Roosevelt” are no more conceptually bizarre than “lounging dragon nibbles the tail of another, transparent dragon” there’s something about Tagin’ Dragon’s cover that’s weirding me out. Perhaps it’s the somewhat sensual way the dragon is acting, the way it’s gently tickling its mouth with the other dragon’s tail while staring directly at the viewer. He likes it when you watch.
Well, okay, green is a colour, I guess? I think it’s more likely to mean “colourful” in the same way you might say someone has a “colourful past.” This dragon is a wrong ‘un, is what I mean. He’s probably been arrested a few time, did a bit of low-level dealing, that kind of thing. As punishment, he’s been trapped inside an Alchemy Gothic picture frame.
It would be a damned sight easier to believe this was a jovial race if you hadn’t drawn this car with a grille that looks like razor-sharp teeth, Sachen. Stephen King’s Christine didn’t undergo the same inappropriate transition from adult material to kid-friendly cartoon that RoboCop and Rambo did, but thanks to this cover we now know what it’d look like if it had.
I can’t fault the game’s title, though. It’s like Mario Kart in an alternate universe where blue shells were never added to the game. Jovial Race is a name that’s almost as endearingly daft as Worm Visitor, and as such it deserves to be on a better game.
Hell Fighter is another game I’ve written all about before, so I already know that despite the promises of this cover art it’s not the story of a male stripper whose hand spontaneously transforms into a ghostly skull. I know, I know, I’m just as disappointed as you are. It’s a story that writes itself, too: stripper accidentally reads aloud from a foul grimoire of forbidden magic while researching sweet new dance moves and the spirit of a long-dead necromancer attaches itself to his hand. The stripper worries that this will ruin his career because his audience wants to see oily pecs and not grim reminders of their own mortality. The necromancer is furious that he cannot continue his sinister designs on the world of the living. But then, the skull and the stripper find that their different strengths make them a great team! The stripper helps the necromancer loosen up and have a good time, the necromancer teaches the stripper how to use black magic to increase his tips, and they become the best of friends. It’s the Magic Mike sequel the world is crying out for, so it’s with a heavy heart that I must reiterate that’s not what Hell Fighter is about.
2-in-1 Tough Cop / Super Tough Cop
Hey, I recognise this art style: it’s clearly a rip-off of Susumu Matsushita, the artist probably best known for their Famitsu magazine covers and the artwork for Capcom’s Maximo games. Whether this is merely a stylistic copy or a poor tracing of a Matsushita original is something I have been unable to determine.
I’ve never played Chinese checkers, and now that I know it involves novelty condoms I probably never will.
Ah yes, Strategist: the game where you pick a side in the war between the military and the Formula 1 drivers and lead your chosen faction to victory! The F1 drivers have speed on their side, but the military have the guns and tanks and vast numbers of infantry. Unless the war is being fought over lap times at Silverstone, I think this is going to be a fairly one-sided conflict.
Okay, not really. Strategist is actually a bundle of two poker games, one war-themed and one racing-themed. Still, the cover provides us with a fine selection of bizarre attempts at drawing a human face. The racers get off lightly because they’re mostly wearing helmets, but the soldiers? Not so much. You’ve got a soldier in the middle who’s been issued a rifle despite having no eyes. Immediately to the right of him is a man with the face of a puppet from an “edgy” off-Broadway show, but best of all is the bloke in the officer’s hat, his face a cubist nightmare of nonsensical anatomy. Go on, try to figure out the placement of his eyes if that’s where his sunglasses sit.
More art theft on the cover of the fighting game Street Heroes, with the central hero being traced directly from Boris Vallejo’s picture “The Eternal Champion.” He’s by far the least interesting of the Street Heroes, mind you. Who wants to hear about the adventures of Generic Cape-Wearing Hero when the Tinfoil Crusader and Egyptian Vega are much more exciting prospects? They appear to have the same face, so maybe they’re twin brothers forced into gladiatorial combat against their will. How thrilling! Other than that, the lady in the bikini’s fairly dull, but it’s nice to see a Scooby Doo villain appearing in the background.
Thunder Blaster Man
Now for a cover that combines copyright infringement with graphic design so brutally unappealing that the addition of Comic Sans could only improve it with Thunder Blaster Man, a game that stars an unlicensed version of a beloved videogame hero. If you can’t figure out who that hero is, I’ll give you a clue: this game is also known by the impressively ballsy title of Rocman X.
Yes, it’s X from the Megaman X series, but in a different timeline where his body was damaged in his latest battle with Sigma but the only replacement parts he could find were Lego Bionicle pieces and coloured craft paper. Also he blasts thunder, I guess, all while trapped in what seems to be a swirling vortex of existential misery. That said, I don't think this is even the most garish outfit that X has ever worn.
“Seal clubbing” is transformed into “seal, clubbing” in Arctic Adventure, and I don’t mean the Kiss From a Rose singer is dancing the night away at a trendy discotheque. No, the seals have risen up and turned the very instruments of their destruction again any who would encroach upon their domain, although sadly they have been consumed by their bloodlust and are attacking innocent penguins. Unless the penguin stole that huge diamond and large seals are what passes for the local constabulary in the Arctic. And yes, I know they look more like walruses but the back of Arctic Adventure’s box definitively states that they’re seals, and if you can’t trust the box blurb on an unlicensed Taiwanese NES game then we are in a very sorry state as a society.
Rolling around at the speed of sound and displaying a now scientifically-inaccurate lack of feathers, it’s Sonic the Hedgehog if he was was a pink dinosaur. Yeah, sure, why not. It makes about as much sense as a blue hedgehog. More so, even. Surely dinosaurs are faster than hedgehogs? I mean, I’ve never heard of a dinosaur being run over by a car while trying to cross the road, have you? I rest my case.
Finally for today, something that immediately became one of my favourite ever covers the second I laid eyes on it. I feel enriched in body and soul just for having seen it. Is this what they mean when they say something’s beyond parody? There isn’t really anything you can say about a bingo game being promoted by a robotic donkey with a police siren on its head vomiting out a stream of number sevens. Well, there are phrases like “wow” and “incredible” and “find me the number for a tattoo parlour, I need to make an urgent appointment,” but nothing that can make the insanity of the piece any more apparent. Bless you, Chrome Donkey, for providing a shining light amidst the darkness of the world. I’m still not going to play an unlicensed NES bingo game, though.