King of Clubs
- Publisher: Oxygen Games
- Developer: Oxygen Studios
Here's one of the telltale signs that the wackiness threshold has been breached: Comedy Elvis. There are no good games that involve the use of a hilarious Elvis surrogate, going AH-HUH-HUH and thankyewverymuch. That's science.
The main character in King of Clubs? An overweight comedy Elvis impersonator.
It's also a crazy golf game, which pretty much ensures that this game will be nails on a blackboard for most people. So, as you'd expect, you chip your ball through a series of themed holes, each one obscured by ramps, divots, moving barriers and pitfalls. Successful play earns you cash, which can then be used to purchase new clubs and balls with zany properties. Use a rubber ball, for instance, and you can bounce past obstacles that you previously had to play around.
So far, so cheesy, but nothing terribly game-breaking. Simply producing a crazy golf game for the Wii suggests a certain lack of original thinking, but there's no denying that the remote makes for such an instinctive virtual club that such games were always going to be inevitable.
Except...the game rather fudges that central element. Taking a shot requires you to press the A button and raise the remote. Doing so raises the power of your shot, and you then hold down the A button again to set the power before swinging. All of which means that the swing itself is pointless - why use the remote if not to actually measure your swing?
It's not as if this system allows for a more nuanced game. Setting it at about quarter power only sends the ball a few feet. Full power wallops it into the distance. Most of your shots, therefore, rely on finding precise increments between those two extremes using the rather shaky motion sensing. The tiniest movement of your hand can result in huge power spikes on-screen, while it sometimes has trouble figuring out which way your hand is even moving, catching up with your adjustments at an irritatingly casual pace. All of this conspires to make most shots an unrewarding fuss, with short distance putts to the hole especially hard to gauge.
Even the courses and holes are dreary, all based in a rundown amusement park run by our cut-price Elvis friend. The themes are therefore realised through deliberately shoddy wooden cut-outs, which rather contradicts the point of playing a crazy golf videogame where anything should be possible. There's little pleasure in playing a prehistoric course, when the thematic backdrop is so purposefully crap.
King of Clubs doesn't play a very good game of golf, and the unlockable elements do little to counteract this rather glaring flaw. It's the sort of game that might find favour with the sort of annoying uncle who does the David Brent dance at family parties, but is otherwise utterly missable.
SEGA Bass Fishing
- Publisher: SEGA Europe
- Developer: AM1
Perhaps subconsciously, suspecting the pain that George of the Jungle and King of Clubs would inflict upon my delicate constitution, I found that I'd saved Sega Bass Fishing for last.
Despite having absolutely zero interest in fishing I spent an extremely relaxed summer glued to my Dreamcast back in 2000, thoroughly enjoying this contradictory arcade angling simulation with windows wide open and chilled beer by my side. On the one hand, it's a game that encourages you to sit back and enjoy the (rather chunky) virtual scenery. On the other, it hurries you along with typical SEGA exhortations, treating this most pastoral of pastimes with the same urgency as, say, House of the Dead. "RANK IN!" bellows the excitable commentator when you land a decent fish. "HE'S COMING NEAR!" he gasps when your bait attracts attention. It's both hilarious and strangely fitting for the world of competitive bass fishing.
The game is, of course, a natural fit on the Wii. No need for a fishing rod peripheral when you have the remote and nunchuk combo, and it's a testament to how natural the game feels in its new home that an instinctive flick of the wrist finds you casting your line and jiggling the lure without the need for any tutorial.
The game is still much as it was on the Dreamcast. Apart from some new locations, this often feels more like emulation than a remake, and the boxy graphics will certainly raise eyebrows amongst those unaware of the game's ancestry. For as long as you're dragging your hook through the virtual waters, however, it's still rather lovely. The fish are still well-animated and lifelike, while their behaviour is impressively realistic. Even so, it's not hard to start catching the tiddlers, and the challenge soon becomes how to find the right rhythm and pace to reel in the big boys.
It's a shame that SEGA opted for a simple port rather than properly updating the series, but this is still a fine game - if extremely niche in its appeal. I'm certainly happy to see it again.