"This is the worst game I've ever seen."
So said Eurogamer's Oli Welsh, approximately two minutes into a multiplayer round of Golden Balls. And he's played free-to-play MMOs.
Golden Balls, for those who have jobs, is a TV gameshow presented by Jasper Carrott. The Wii game is presented by a hideous and frightening CGI Jasper Carrott who looks like what would happen if the real Jasper Carrott tried to morph into Gollum and got stuck half way. There's a terrifying bit of live-action footage before each round where the real Jasper Carrott introduces us to the Gollum-Carrott, and it feels like the end of days.
If you've seen the telly show you'll know it's all about bluff. Contestants get a set of balls picked at random. Most have cash sums hidden inside, but some are 'killer balls' which reduce the jackpot for the endgame. There are a couple of elimination rounds where contestants reveal some of their balls, and try to convince each other the hidden ones contain huge amounts of cash. They vote each other off until only two contestants remain.
At this point, each player must choose to "split" or "steal". If they both split, each gets half the money. If one player decides to steal, he or she wins the lot. If they both try to steal, they walk away empty-handed.
It's almost watchable, in a miserable-reminder-of-the-inherent-wretchedness-of-capitalism-and-its-cancerous-effect-on-the-human-soul sort of a way. The game, however, is unplayable.
For starters, there's no fun in trying to bluff a computer-controlled character. There are some automated bluffing options, but you can't banter and barter with them like the contestants do on the TV show. You could always play with real-life friends. Or rather, friend, as there's only support for two players. This means you're always playing against at least two NPCs. They are likely to vote at least one of you off within minutes. This leaves the other person to go through the rest of the rounds playing against a virtual character they care even less about than Keith Urban. Well done everyone.
The visuals are hilarious. The "cut-scenes", where Gollum-Carrott explains the rules, are the same every time and there are far too many of them. After you've started a game, you have to press A to skip 15 times before you get to make a single decision. During this process you have to look at six "loading data" screens. The words "loading data" pulse backwards and forwards like this is information is exciting. Compared to the rest of the game, it is.
I lost all vestiges of patience with Golden Balls after being voted off yet again by the computer-controlled characters, one of whom accused me of "lying in the previous round" even though I'd picked the "truth" option instead of bluffing. A jolly message scrolled across the screen informing me that, "Having got this far today has been a waste of time." If you're playing Golden Balls, having gotten up today has been a waste of time.
This is the worst game I've ever seen.
Remember the original Boogie? I ought to, because I had to review the thing last year. However, any memories of it have since been deleted from my brain to make room for more interesting things, like the middle names of the members of JLS.
Speaking of whom, EA has gone all X-Factor for Boogie Superstars. Gone are the big blobby cartoon characters and childish visuals of the original game - the sequel is much slicker, prettier and generally a bit more mature. Now you get to customise your very own wannabe pop idol and take part in a talent competition where, just like on the telly, you will be judged on talent, star quality and number of family members who are dead. Maybe not the last one.
The gameplay is still based around singing and dancing, but you can't just wave the Wii remote around however you like, as in the original game. Now there are on-screen instructions which tell you which moves to perform. They're all simple enough, but younger players and those who need a lie down after doing anything more strenuous than making a cup of tea could struggle with the faster numbers.
Once again, the karaoke bit involves singing into the USB microphone that comes bundled with the game. The scoring system is extremely forgiving. As long as you make some kind of noise the song bars will fill up, though they'll vary in colour from red to green depending on how well you're doing. At the end of your performance you'll get comments from the judges. Some of these are a bit snidey, but not enough to make anyone cry.
There are more than 40 songs to choose from, including plenty of modern classics such as Toxic, Bleeding Love and Shut Up and Drive. None are the original artists, but the cover artists do a decent enough job and frankly, aged nine, I'm not sure I'd have cared that much.
Which just about sums it up. Like the original game Boogie Superstars offers very little fun for grown-ups, even if you're spectacularly smashed. That said, it's more polished than its predecessor, the gameplay has been improved and I'm quite sure that aged nine, I'd have thought it was brilliant. But then, aged nine, I wanted to be an air hostess and I didn't know what sex was.