Reality television is really beginning to make me ill.
Fear Factor: Unleashed is one of those games whose existence begs a series of questions. Who would purchase this game? Who agreed to this? Why does this game exist? I only have a preliminary hypothesis, but I am coming to the conclusion that Fear Factor: Unleashed was created so that gamers would stop playing video games and start watching TV.
I will not go down a laundry list comparing this game’s strengths and weaknesses. That would imply that this game has strengths. I am doing you, the reader, absolutely no service by telling you how bad this game is. You are already avoiding it. I can wager with assured confidence that you are not in this game’s target audience, that being the casual game player who likes “reality” television while at the same time wishing to play “fake” games about “reality” TV. And if you are, there is not a word I can possibly say to deter you from either this game or reality TV. The rest of us can debate on the message boards over which one is more “real.” While Fear Factor has “real” people and the “characters” in this GBA game are not, it can be argued that the show is nothing but broadcast signals and the game is a much more substantial, solid product.
For those fortunate enough to not already know, Fear Factor is an NBC reality television program that is actually some kind of mutant Double Dare inspired game show. And apparently they have tricked some poor developer into thinking this would be a lucrative market to exploit. This game is bad, folks. Just dreadfully, awfully, appallingly, horribly… There are not enough words in the thesaurus. You know what? Instead of just saying how bad this game is, how about I document a playthrough that I will conduct, right here, in front of my computer. The study begins.
Start-up: As I start the game, I enter the Legalese and Logo Hell that has become a standard for all of these licensed games. And then a humorous warning advising me to not attempt the stunts these fake people are performing (more on this later). After all this silence, a rather loud movie expresses that three men and three women will be competing in this game for $50,000. $50,000?! Hot damn! I hope I win! I get to edit my “profile.” As in, I get to change my skin color and stuff. Nuts on that.
I should note that Fear Factor looks a lot better on the DS than it does on the GBASP, although that is akin to saying an eviction notice looks better on parchment than on cardboard.
Play: Time to play the game. Just in case you missed that cutscene before, it plays again. Joy. The game’s structure is that you and five other contestants play some mini-games, eliminating each other until some form of showdown. Missing from the game is all the drama that goes with it on the show, like “confrontations,” “betrayals,” and “appearing on talk shows the next day after you are eliminated as if you are important.” Even Jeopardy! winners never get on any talk shows (Ken Jennings notwithstanding). Anyway, I start up the first game.
Game #1: Oh look, another cutscene that shows a factory… I think. “The Pit and the Pendulum.” I remember that Poe story, what with the slow blade descending and all that. Well, it isn’t my turn, so I can either watch *Snake (I am not making this guy’s name up. Most AI contestants have “*Something” as their name.) play the game or skip it. Skip. Oh he lost. Such a shame. My turn? Damn. Guess not. *Juno’s turn. Skip. *Peaches turn. Skip. *Sassy’s turn. Skip. *Steel’s turn. Skip. My turn. Yay. This particular mini-game is played by picking locks while a sword-pendulum-thing descends menacingly. But there is a twist! You remember that “Test of Fear” from Star Fox Adventures? You have to do that with the L and R buttons while doing the inane things in each mini-game. Great, huh? I thought not.
Game #2: That was easy. Time for the next game, “Fright Train”. The remaining contestants and I are tied to a railroad track. We must escape by picking locks and… HEY! This is the exact same mini-game as the last one! Pixel per pixel, except a train is coming instead of slicy death. I should note that the control responsiveness would ruin the game if it were not so mind-numbingly easy. It is like playing golf with a bowling ball but a hole the size of the Grand Canyon. No matter how hard and clunky it is, you can’t lose. The announcer also enjoys annoying you with several cries of “Yeah!” and “You can do it!” and other various random outbursts.
Game #3: “Verti-Go Cart.” The description from the game is: “You must race around a go-cart track, suspended three hundred feet above the desert floor.” Three hundred feet in the air?! How did they do that? I don’t see any wires. I guess that safety warning before is completely inapplicable now. I could not attempt this stunt at all, ever. As in, I do not know of any deserts that have go-cart tracks suspended 300 feet above them. Amusingly I drove off the side just for kicks and the game reminded me that I had “1 lives remaining.” I guess the stunts on Fear Factor truly are dangerous, but it seems the producers of the show also have ready-made clones just in case you die.
Game #4: Something about jumping across a canyon with an eagle attacking you. I made the mistake of jumping at the same time the bird attacked me. Fatal error. And… well… you know… I am really getting tired of this game.
I think Fear Factor is sinister and devious in nature. Most licensed games try to take a popular movie or something else like that and try to sell another product with that. And while some licensed games are hideous and terrible, they never seem to damage the core intellectual property or the industry of video games either. That’s not the case with Fear Factor. I feel compelled to put the game down and not play video games anymore. If this were the first game I had ever played, I would never play video games again. I might watch some TV though. And I might happen upon Fear Factor on TV. In a sense, this is the first time I ever encountered a video game made with the intention of drawing me away from video games to something else.