PANEL TO PIXELS: Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis (2003 video games)

Posted: August 18, 2015 in Aquaman, DC
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**Andrew Prenger wrote this article about his favorite worst game ever made. Of course one of DC’s worst video games was based on Aquaman. If they won’t take him seriously, how do they expect us to? Anyway, enjoy!**

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   Seriously…

It is generally held that the worst video game is E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. It is also a popular opinion that Superman 64 is the worst superhero-based video game. I submit that both of these opinions are wrong. Completely wrong. The worst video game, superhero or otherwise, is Aquaman: Battle For Atlantis. It’s a game so bad that it inspired an annual “worst of” game award ceremony, The Golden Mullets.

As soon as the game begins, it’s a disappointment. While it was released on both the Gamecube and X-Box in 2003 there is no voice acting or full-motion videos to move the plot along. The story is presented as comic-book-style panels with word balloons that slowly appear for the player to read.

Not even voice actors? Really?

Not even voice actors? Really?

After that the player is thrown into the game. The gameplay consists almost entirely of Aquaman swimming through the ocean, following an arrow, until he runs into a group of enemies. It switches to a combat mode where Aquaman targets an enemy and the player mashes buttons until the enemy dies. Then the next combatant gets targeted, button mashing commences, the player questions life. This isn’t spectacle-fighting like in God of War or Devil May Cry where the main character could chain together combos, switch weapons or leap from enemy to enemy. Nope. One at a time. The other enemies, if they are not engaged, simply float around in the background until it is their time to get pummeled like a bad 80s kung-fu movie.

There are combos for the player to utilize which are largely superfluous. Simply mashing the attack button repeatedly will take care of most enemies. The only slightly fun part of combat, if the character has enough power, is that Aquaman can summon a random sea creature like a shark or dolphin to dispatch one of the enemies immediately. Speaking of the enemies, prepare for more boredom as the game promises on the back of the game case “11 enemy types.” That’s right. This game has 21 levels and only 11 enemies.
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This game seems to have been made by developers who hated their audience. Objectives are unclear in most of the levels. Sometimes the player is supposed to simply defeat all enemies, other times Aquaman is required to destroy bombs placed around Atlantis. There is no prompt at what to do when you stumble upon these bombs. Most players seem to flail at them with useless punches until accidentally hitting the correct button which causes Aquaman to pick up the bomb. After that the player can either immediately drop the bomb, destroying it, or use it as an opening attack on one of the eleven enemies to cause negligible damage.

Oops! Different game.

Oops! Different/better game.

Power-ups exist and the developer hopes the player is smart enough to figure out how they work. That is laid out in the manual. Oh, one problem though: like the actual game, they cheaped out and included zero pictures of the items you will come across during the game! The player will scramble around fruitlessly for health in certain levels, unable to determine if a dropped power-up will actually do anything beneficial due to the complete lack of identification of items.

All of these terrible elements come together in the four submarine levels (another selling point highlighted on the back of the game case). As one would expect, these find Aquaman piloting a submarine. The manual claims that there are different submarine classes in the different levels, but there is no difference. Here the unhelpfulness of the game truly shines. One submarine level simply presents the player with a giant submarine to destroy and lets the player have at it. No hint is given that certain pods are to be destroyed before you can progress. Other Atlanteans are deployed to help Aquaman, but all they do is clutter up the view, making it impossible to tell the difference between friend and foe. The difficulty of the level actually comes from the boredom of completing it. The enemies aren’t particularly difficult, but will wear down Aquaman’s armor forcing the player to hopefully find a health upgrade so they don’t explode uselessly and have to restart the whole mission all over again.

But what a glorious mullet!

But what a glorious mullet!

So, not only is the game boring, but also remains highly difficult. Some levels will fly by while others can take literally hours to complete if the player is dedicated (read: stubborn) enough to defeat it. In one case a level took over four hours to complete, while the next level, a boss fight with Black Manta, took less than a minute. Overall there is no joy to be found at all. Even a drunken, ironic playing of the game will completely peter out, dragging the entire party down.

There is a sticker on the cellophane wrapper which gave it a four-star rating by “Gaming Magazine.” I’m fairly certain that’s not even a real publication. In short, the only reason that this game should be purchased for spiteful gifting purposes.

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Priced to own!

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