Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System, 1990
Know a terrible ROM? Email me!
Story: Princess Tomato's plot is as innovative as it is unique. You play as Sir Cucumber, a noble vegetable working together with your diaper-clad sidekick to maintain an art museum. You must lovingly cultivate your museum by pleasing attendants, obtaining new works, and generally enculturing the kingdom of Saladaria via a series of engaging mini-games.
Tee hee! Just bludgeoning you over the head with a bit of my comedic genius there! Your real quest is, of course, to rescue the goddamn Princess, although they try spruce it up a bit with a decent translation and a shockingly intricate storyline. Mind you, it's not shocking because it's any good; much of it makes about as much sense as the gameplay (none, but I'll get to that in a minute), and the rest is your standard RPG pseudo-political bullshit. But it's pretty intense when you consider it's about vegetables, who frequently gather together and wail about their eminent deaths at the hands of the corrupt bureaucracy. I couldn't shake the unpleasant feeling that the writers expected me to take this dead seriously. I mean, I've seen homoerotic Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction written with the same solemnity as a funeral oration.
Gameplay: Princess Tomato is a graphic adventure game. These are titles wherein you interact with the world, represented by one grainy screen per area, by solving puzzles. You accomplish this via entering various problem-commands such as LOOK, TOUCH, BECOME HAN SOLO, ETC. No worries though, because the puzzles are so intuitive and logical that even your average, everyday Majestic Sorcerer from the 14th Plane of Ethereal Might could solve them. And they wonder why video games stayed such a niche market for so long! No I'm not reliving some bitter childhood memory, why do you ask?
But in most adventure games, even I can tell which hairbrained jumbles of logic were supposed to be puzzles. Not so in Princess Tomato! As far as I can figure, the object of the game is to randomly assault the fourteen fucking command buttons on every screen and hope you punch out a Morse code message that's pleasing to the sociopathic demons living inside of the game cartridge. The "solutions" -and I use this term very loosely- are not exactly brimming with logic. I guess some are supposed to be "secrets," but oftentimes the inanity encompasses pretty straightforward actions. For example, there's a conversation that won't end until you hit the LOOK button, even though you've already TALKed and CHECKed the guy five times. As far as "challenging gameplay elements" go, it's about as much of a show of skill as smashing your controller with a sledgehammer. Not that I'm ever tempted to do such a thing.
Graphics: Once I wiped the foamy spittle from my monitor, I discovered that the graphics are actually pretty decent. Granted, the "animation" tends to consist of two frames or possibly less, so you could probably get the same art quality from any reasonably well-paid placental mammal. Still, everything looks about as engrossing as a tossed salad is ever going to be. I wouldn't complain, if everything didn't also look abso-pants-shittingly terrifying.
Creepiness Factor: Don't get me wrong; it's nice to see something that's creepy from Japan that involves less polemic issues than, you know, child rape. But I, like any good Internet fat person, am terrified of vegetables. It's obvious to any child that meat is produced in a safe, uniform format, probably in a sanitized factory somewhere. But vegetables are Jesus-scorned lumps that grew out of the dirt and have mysterious gooey parts which often conceal themselves stealthily until it's too late. Awful shit grows inside of vegetables, such as bugs and arsenic, and Tomato features a kingdomful of them, nasty, rotten, and STARING AT YOU.
I cannot stress enough how queasifyingly abhorrant this is. Why would you do this humanity? Were a couple of World Wars and the extinction of the Dodo not enough for you? You just had to cause more shit. My only theory is that Princess Tomato is meant to to break one's spirit, so that when you see a smiling college student with supple breasts and the head of a peach, your boner may pop majestically and without remorse.
Fun: Oldschool adventure games have their place, but only you can type in commands rather than wasting time scrolling through a bunch of buttons. Oh and also when they aren't bullshit. Even though the art and story are both decent, there are so many frustrating gameplay flaws -far too many to mention, although believe me I fucking would if I thought the Internet had the attention span to read anything longer than a condom wrapper- that I wonder if this game was made purely to screw with people's heads. At least I learned I could hate a game because too little was happening, a nice change of pace from having projectiles lobbed at my skull all day.
Defining Moment: At one point, everything in the game and also my pet cat sitting on the monitor seemed to be telling me to go do some Ye Olde Shopping. When I went to the shops, however, everyone tells me that they don't take the goddamn currency they put in the game SO WHY DID YOU PUT IT IN THE GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE OH MY GOD.
I discovered I was supposed to swap currency, but I couldn't get this to happen even when I resorted to cheating. Obviously someone's gotten it to work, because there are droves of people just lapping up this game's leafy ballsack. But I, personally, spent about an hour trying to figure out the necessary blood sacrifice to the "puzzle" demons before deciding I have better things to do with my life.
Which I don't, really, but a game this awful is pretty convincing.
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). Yes, I'm aware the Internet will never see a condom wrapper in its sad, lonely life. But it worked.