Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, 1993
Know a terrible ROM? Email me!
Story: You are a dog! A family dog! Except the family hates you and enjoys subjecting you to various forms of physical and mental punishment! Cool! Everyone hates animals and wants to see them get screamed at! Let's make a tv show about it! In fact, we should make a whole channel about "animals" but just play shows about puppies dying for over six hours! Great idea! Maybe we can even make a breakfast cereal out of that idea! Stellar.
Gameplay: Family Dog purports to be a platformer, but I doubt its claims would hold up in a court of law. I wouldn't usually get up in arms about the abuse of a virtual dog, but Old Fido's been beaten up so much it's made his game almost unplayable, and I can't satisfy my overwhelming journalistic integrity without hacking my way through at least the first few levels of a game with my Machete of Truth. Anyway, I don't know if they tied the poor dog (he doesn't even have a name) up in a sack and took a nine iron to all four paws, or maybe they just bought him an Eve Online account; but whatever the cause, mobility is not Dog's forte. His "walk" is an excruciatingly slow belly-crawl, his jumps are pitiful lurches, and yet he is expected to traverse a bunch of semi-functional platforms and dodge a universe full of hostile objects that apparently hate him almost as much as his alleged family.
Graphics: Although you do see some clever frames of animation which show there were some actual artists on the team, the jaggedy scrawl of Family Dog's abhorrent pixel art makes me think they had no idea what the fuck they were doing with the medium of video game graphics, sort of like if you gave a caveman a set of oil paints and expected anything better than Jackson Pollock. They have a terrible time syncing up where the platforms are drawn and where the game will actually let you stand, meaning that poor Dog's already-maimed body often plummets 30 feet to the earth.
Enemies: Things that want to kill you include: Books, cats, spinning tops, more books, rubber balls (although some actually give you power ups; go figure), water droplets, plates, and toast -although nothing is as lethal as when your beloved owners go after you. In the face of so many enemies the game gives you comparatively few health power-ups, but it allows you to regain health by slaying your foes with your bark. Unfortunately your owners' reign of terror is enough to render your bark
shitty almost useless, requiring 3 - 4 feeble woofs to kill a foe. Oh did we mention you have a limited number of barks? And all the bad guys are super agile, while you're basically as mobile as a wrinkled pair of amputated dog nuts? There is a line between "challenging" and "fucking stupid," and Family Dog lifts its leg and pisses all over it.
Fun: "Slow and methodical" are not terms I'd ideally use to describe a fun platformer, but of course I can't actually review a fun platformer; if I tried it, Lowtax would summon a legion of wild boars to gouge my laptop into scrap metal and poop on my nice floor. I appreciate that they tried to fix the obscene amount of damage Dog takes by making it "easy" to regain health, but they could've solved it a lot more easily by LETTING THE DOG FUCKING MOVE. Actually, the game reminds me a bit of Toy Story for the Genesis, or it would have if your dog had the ability to fight back. If they'd fixed the mobility flaw rather than just dicking around with the health system, you might actually have a fun platformer based on skill. Instead, it feels more like one of those Russian experiments where they hack critters apart and keep them alive through blood transfusions. Awoooo!!
Defining moment: Look I don't really give a shit about cartoon violence, but everyone in this game seems to really hate this goddamn dog. Like Little Joey (kids named Joey were always creepy and awful) who chases you around as a "boss" in various levels with some sort of horrifying death-delivering implement. The strategy to beat him is especially cruel, as it's the one thing that poor Worthless No-Name will never be able to accomplish with his tortured body: jump repeatedly and pray. Yet despite the instant death he deals to you on multiple occasions, you are encouraged to play a rousing game of fetch with him, an insipid grin frozen onto your complacent, numbed features.
Dammit I've changed my mind. Fuck all dogs who aren't my dog. They're dumb.
Each category in the rating system is based out of a possible -10 score (-10 being the worst). The overall score is based out of a possible -50 score (-50 being the worst)