Say you're a video game designer. A really poor video game designer. Your ideas include games that involve shooting fishtanks, and football. So either you're bringing nothing new to the table, or your ideas flat out suck. Still, you won't give up. You must see your games come to fruition. They must be mass produced, sold, and played by millions. Its your dream. So, since your games suck, what do you do? How will you get past an obstacle like that? Who can you call in to make these games fly off the shelves? The answer is clear. There's only one group of people out there who can help you realize your destiny. Its time to call in...
Oh you damn right. If life's taught us anything, its that celebrities make the world go around. We need celebrities. To look up to, to aspire to, to watch, voyeur, talk about, live vicariously through, to be entertained by...and yes, to save otherwise shitty video games.
Over the years, celebrities have snuck there way into the gaming world, from the arcades to your very own home systems. Of course, I'm using the term 'celebrity' pretty loosely, most of these people aren't the ones you ask for an autograph from. But if you saw them in a mall, you'd probably point and laugh, so its not like their star power's been thrust into complete invalidity since they stopped landing movie roles. Many of these games come to us by way of the Sega CD system, who used Hollywood's dregs on a few occassions to help justify why anyone should pay 229 dollars to play Sewer Shark. The theory was simple: there were a lot of bad games. But if given the choice between buying a bad game starring a movie star, as opposed to buying a bad game starring a wizard eggplant, most people would opt for choice A. And while most of these games had the gameplay value of Nintendo's Dance Aerobics, there's something surreal about being able to tell Debbie Harry what to do. Digressing, here's the leader of the pack, fruit smashin' comic mastermind from Mars, Gallagher.
Like something out of Greek mythology, you cut Gallagher off from his stand up routine, and he starts showing up in car commercials and video games. He's like the Hydra. In this case, we get Gallagher's Gallery, a shoot 'em up laserdisc game made by American Laser Games back in '92. The company had met big success with one of their other shoot 'em ups, Mad Dog McCree, but don't be fooled: there's no cowboys telling you to 'try another one' in this game. What you do get, however, is crazy Gallagher instructing you on the proper way to make telephones, gumball machines, and cans of spinach explode. Obviously, you need to at the very least not be one of those people who want to see Gallagher dead in order to accept him as your mentor. In actuality, making him the teacher works out great, your aim will increase tenfold when the threat of hearing Gallagher repeat anything is on the horizon.
Your wits are zapped when bonus round time rears its ugly head, because your new mission is to stop Gallagher from smashing the watermelons. So, you're going to be going through a pretty traumatic internal struggle. I mean, what else is the guy good for? You're not playing the game because he's cute, you're playing it because he's that guy who bashes watermelons. If you take that away, what's left? Plus, the dude was just teaching you how to shoot properly in the previous stages. What kind of a gracious student would you be to turn on your mentor just to rack up some more points? I'm not going to tell you whether to go down the aisle of honor or through the trenches of success, but after all Gallagher's done for you, he deserves a little more. If you win, Gallagher's a gracious loser, but in losing, you'll get to see him use his famous Sledge-O-Matic.
I might've slept through 1992, but I don't remember Gallagher being a national phenomenon large enough to warrant a video game. I can't imagine kids and teens running around gossiping about an alleged secret level where Gallagher appears smashing milk cartons in a cow suit. Then again, giving credit where its due, anyone who can formulate a career around taking a sledgehammer to groceries probably has a little Palpatine-ish ambition in him. Gallagher's day in the sun might've passed, but considering how movies like Dick Tracy ended up getting video games, I guess there's no crime in Gallagher having one.
On the downside, things get worse from here. It appears as though Gallagher did his game job so well that other big celebrities were afraid to follow suit. Why would Sly Stallone risk his career and take a chance not being able to topple Gallagher's act? Because of that, the only celebrities left to star in video games were the ones who couldn't get jobs even telling you the benefits of hemmroidal creme on 3 AM infomercials. Whether failed child stars or flat-out not stars at all, these 'celebrities' sought to jumpstart their careers using Sega as their backbone. The last person who tried to do that was Alex Kidd. And do you hear anyone talking about Alex Kidd nowadays? Exactly. Take note, and take a look...
It happened, and my, how it happened. You know me and Corey, I love to hate him and hate to love him. And if you've weeded through the archives, you know I think Blondie is dead. These two stars invade my thoughts on a nightly basis, and when I found out that they had teamed up to star in a video game together, I knew what I had to do: get Sega CD. Luckily, the info wasn't passed to me until well after people started realizing the hidden truths about Sega CD's powers, so I landed the system for around 15 bucks and the game itself for a song.
I soon realized why I was able to pick the game up so cheap. It sucks. I've read some positive reviews about the game, but almost all of them admit that you have to wait a pretty long time before anything happens, and given the nature of these types of 'movie' games, you're not doing much in the interim. So how anyone sat through three hours of Corey explaining to you how you fucked things up when you haven't pressed a damn button in 45 minutes while a copy of Sonic II is sitting on the table next to you is beyond me.
Your goal is to locate some hidden treasure in an old mansion. Or to protect it from burglars. Or to protect the mansion's tenants from burglars. I'm not really sure, I was too busy admiring Corey's glasses. To do this, you must survive the various criminals walking about, not to mention have the patience of a corpse. I make no claims to be a video game afficianado, but even in a game where friggin' Blondie is Corey Haim's mother, something I dream about at night...this was pretty brutal. You'd think a game that sticks Debbie Harry in a Cleopatra costume would leave some merit behind it, but its just lost on me. On the plus side, for what its worth, its got a pretty good background score done by Thomas Dolby, and if you're a fan of full-motion movies in your games, there's over 60 minutes of it to weed through here. By the way, if you've played the game Night Trap, this is essentially the same scenario in a different setting.
Speaking of Night Trap, here's a game that stars someone who I unfortunately can't make fun of, because she's dead. And we're not allowed to make fun of people once their dead. Its classless. So get in all the jokes about Reagan while you can.
If my fingers had tongues, they'd be biting them in unison right now. Dana Plato. Dead Dana Plato...Dana Dana Dana. Gotta get through this without making light of poor Dana Plato. I'm not sure if I have it in me, but on the plus side, this game ain't too bad. Shot B-movie style, you get the full opportunity to get your rocks off at the expense of beautiful teenagers alone in a spooky house.
Dana Plato's road to video games was a long one, but virtually inevitable. Think about it...Dana's name certainly isn't synomous with a good movie or television show. People have been trained to ignore anything with her name on the cast. Now, video games...these are more or less geared towards kids, right? And kids are illiterate, right? They sorta know what spells out Sega, but they get totally lost when it comes to words like Plato. Sneak in the fallen celeb, games get sold. And besides all that, there had to be at least, oh, fourteen people who wondered what Dana was up to since her bout with bulemia on Diff'rent Strokes.
Dana and her band of merry teenagers have no idea that they're surrounded by blood sucking vampires, so as you can guess, that's the plot. In terms of gameplay, we'd have to consitute negative numbers as being legal on the chart, because if you thought Double Switch was bad, get a load of a game that rehashes the same clips 400 times, and just when you're about to fall asleep or crush your system, begs you to hit 'A' or 'B'. Then the process repeats itself.
For a game so shitty, its not without its share of controversy. Aside from being heralded by critics as a big piece of crap, Senator Joe Liberman was so distraught over the game's content that it would ultimately lead to the new rating known as 'ESRB'. To think that its Dana Plato's fault that 12 year olds would later have problems buying Mortal Kombat releases. And speaking of Mortal Kombat, here's our final celebrity tie-in...
Playboy playmate Kerri Hoskins might not be a household name, but she's a dormroom pair of tits. But aside from that, she's Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat 3-4. When Mortal Kombat first came out, people were already clamoring to kick the shit out of each other in Street Fighter II. But these games really took things up a notch...you didn't just win a fight. You won a fight and then ripped your opponent's spine out. If that's not a reason to pump in the quarters and master a game, I don't know what is. Our primal instincts surfaced, and we know its true: Mario can save all the princesses he wants, we'd still rather see Shang Tsung steal Sub-Zero's soul.
At one point, Kerri worked on some exercise videos. Her color choice would later dictate her fate, and its pretty clear she'd make a great Sonya. I mean, its right in front of your face, don't be blind. Sonya wore green. Kerri wore green. And they're both female. Plus, Kerri was limber enough to hit those high kicks, so the transition into rendered video game art was a smooth one. How far could she milk the role? Well, she had a lot more luck than Blondie did...but then again, Double Switch wasn't accompanied by its very own live show...
All the glitz and glamour of a broadway play dolled up with ninja action and a dash of Kano. It's Mortal Kombat Live! The legacy didn't last long, but it probably should never have started to begin with. Take a lesson from TMNT. Remember when they went on ice? Turtles on Ice? The very title makes no sense, and Mortal Kombat fell into the same web of despair with this one. Come 1996, nobody cared. New fads were starting. Rugrats were going live. Nobody had any need for Liu Kang.
Celebrities and video games rarely mix. Only our friends over in the NBA and the WWF have been able to pull it off successfully. The big companies seem have finally understood this, so fortunately there's no huge chance that Kim Fields is going to cameo in the next Mario game. Its something we should be thankful for, and while we're on the topic of video games, here's something else we should be thankful for...even though they're nowhere to be found nowadays...
Pac-Man might not have any celebrities, but the guy's got enough star power on his own. Some of you may recall these cocktail table editions of the game, they were pretty popular at bars in the early 80s, and can still be found today if you look hard enough. No more wasted energy standing on your feet...with this game, you could sit down, relax, even have the thing hold your drink while you played. Because of all that, it shouldn't be a surprise to know that buying one of these now can run you up to and over 2000 bucks.
PS - before I go, I want to illustrate the two worst things in the world a person can go through. The first? Spending five hours locked in a room, covered in olive oil, with Rhea Pearlman. The second? Dealing with the brutal side effects of a DNS server switch. You probably noticed that the site was down since Thursday night. Our little sentinent site tried to take a vacation. Isn't it cute? It wants to be a person. Well, half a bottle of wine and about 50 phone calls later, we're back up. Notwithstanding that, its been an incredibly stressful and annoying weekend. Yesterday, I had no special purpose. Nothing. No site to update, no axes to grind. I mean, fuck, I actually left the house. It was awful. And I never want it to happen again. There's a point to all this, and that point is that our e-mail fwd'ers are down - so send all e-mail for the time being to firstname.lastname@example.org, and fwd. any e-mail you sent to me since Thursday night to that address to. Even if it just says 'hey, where's X-E?'.