It's The Commodore Christmas Crapfest!!!
Christmas-themed video games aren't a good idea. Maybe that's why there aren't that many of them. Herein lies the problem: A yuletide video game is almost definitely going to be aimed at children. Kids lack the money to buy video games; they usually receive them as gifts. But if a kid gets a Christmas-themed game as a Christmas present, its window of usefulness has already passed. Playing a game like Merry Christmas in February is just plain pathetic. There's no real need for holiday games, especially ones that are sold commercially. In 1999, NStorm's Elf Bowling took the world by force because it was both clever and FREE. The next two sequels were also widely circulated. In 2003, a limited version of Elf Bowling 4: Super Elf Bowling was released. To get the full version, you had to pay. That decision more or less killed the franchise. I'd like to think that very few people are stupid enough to pay for a game that loses its novelty so quickly. Apparently I'm wrong though, because enough fuckheads bought it for NStorm to decide to sell Elf Bowling 5 as well. Assholes.
For whatever reason, the companies that developed games for the Commodore 64 never learned that Santa Claus is not a good foundation for a retail game. Consequently, The C64 had a ridiculous amount of Christmas games released for it. There were at least seven, which is seven more than the NES or Sega Master System had. And they're all absolutely fucking terrible. In the spirit of the season, here they are:
Special Delivery: Santa's Christmas Chaos
Oh no! It's the night before Christmas and Santa has lost all the presents! Play as Santa and make a mad dash for prewrapped gifts that fall from the sky over mountainous regions for no apparent reason. To help you find the presents, something hovers over the spots where they drop. My guess is that it's either a badly drawn angel or an arrow that's drawn even worse. If you hit a cloud, you lose one of your gifts. In real life, clouds are gaseous accumulations of water vapor. In Special Delivery, they're semi-solid objects capable of causing severe turbulence to your sleigh. It's a dark and stormy Christmas Eve, so you also have to watch out for lightning. Should you be hit by lightning, you lose one of your lives... oops, I mean "hours". As you fly over each mountain range, you have a target number of presents that you need to collect. If you fail, you'll be forced to fly over the homes of poor people. Since Santa fucking hates poor people, he throws their presents out of his sleigh in the vague hope that he might get it down the chimney. If he misses, who fucking cares? It's not like Little Timmy really needed that box of food stamps. If you reach your target number of presents, then the real "fun" begins.
Once you have a sufficient number of gifts, you're off to Mansionland where the wealthy folk live. Santa loves rich people. He takes great care in landing on top of their big expensive houses and he even makes a personal trip down the chimney. Unfortunately, rich people seem to hate Mr. Claus. These assholes leave fires burning, which makes it really fucking hard to deliver presents. If I was Santa, I'd say to hell with it. There ain't no way I'm risking my life so fucking Richie Rich can get some $500 train set. Jolly old St. Shit-For-Brains doesn't share my opinion. Down the chimney he goes, dodging fire and smoke with great determination so he can get into that mansion. This game reveals a little known fact about architecture: chimneys have a set of three metal ladders inside them designed specifically so Santa can get in. You probably could have guessed this all by yourself, but getting burned costs you an hour and places you back outside.
Once you get inside, the fireplace that you entered through is nowhere to be seen. There are, however, some idiots running around like retarded dogs and slamming doors. They're either restless children or security guards. If one catches you, your ass gets thrown back outside and you lose an hour. Your objective is to place the presents under the tree, get the house key, and get back outside. Whereas you only leave one present at each poor person's house, you dump your entire haul of goodies under the rich people's tree. Again, it's because the developers believe that the rich inherently better than the rest of us. It's almost impossible to fuck this part up. Once you've left the house, you're off to the mountains again to collect more presents. I am pretty sure this game loops ad naseum until you die. I can't say for sure though, because after 10 minutes of this shit I couldn't fucking stand it anymore.
Merry Christmas is a shitty adventure game that takes place at the North Pole. In it, you'll meet a noseless snowman, break into Santa's workshop, and eventually discover you're playing as the jolly old St. Nicholas himself. Oops, spoiler. This game was never actually a retail product; an Australian game company called Melbourne House gave it away through a mail-in offer in some magazine. Although free is usually good, this game isn't even worth the price of a stamp. You will need to survive a total of seven different screens to beat this game, one of which is the end screen. Another one is a fucking advertisement for other games by Melbourne House. If this game showcases the extent of their abilities, I think I'll pass. In addition to the seven useful screens, there's several screens of frozen tundra that you can wander aimlessly through. You can find the snowman's nose out there and give it to him for some extra points, but he'll drop it and lose it forever. I guess the programmers were too fucking lazy to draw a second snowman sprite. Unfortunately, that's the most exciting thing that happens in this game.
Merry Christmas has a very limited command list: NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST, DIG, LOOK, CALL, EXAMINE, FLY, GET, HELP, READ, OPEN, CLOSE, and PUT. Some words that the game doesn't understand include: SANTA, TAKE, and TALK. All in all, the game takes less than 7 minutes to beat. A good text-based adventure, like King's Quest IV, challenges you to think. This game was a waste of fucking time.
A Popples Christmas Adventure
Going into this, I had high hopes for the Popples game. It could have been one of those games that's so incredibly bad that it's fun. Unfortunately, that is not the case; it's terrible in every way imaginable. A Popple Christmas Adventure is pretty much just an electronic storybook. This isn't all that suprising, since it was published by a fucking greeting card company. What is surprising is that this game was done with 4 color CGA graphics, when the Commodore 64 is clearly capable of 16 colors. When your entire fucking product depends on graphics, it might be nice to use more colors.
There's absolutely no adventure to be had in A Popples Christmas Adventure. Had this been a Nintendo game, it probably would have been well-meaning but gay sidescrolling game. Instead you get a predictable sing-along, a half-assed maze, and a pathetic game of hide and go seek. Can you find where Puffball is hiding? Can you? SHE'S BEHIND THE FUCKING SNOWMAN! IT'S THE ONLY GODDAM OBJECT IN THE PICTURE! This game is obviously aimed at children ages 5 and under, but I can't even imagine many of them being entertained by this crap. The program finishes in less than 10 minutes and it doesn't even have the decency to loop. Maybe that's a good thing.
Santa's Grotty Christmas
By the looks of the title screen, you might think this game would be cool. The drunken Santa Claus may lead you to believe that this game was the 1980s equivalent of Conker's Bad Fur Day or perhaps a precursor to Leisure Suit Larry. Well, it's not. Despite trying to pass itself off as some sort of adult-oriented game, Santa's Grotty Christmas is nothing of the kind. This game takes one of the four boring game mechanics from the Special Delivery game and redoes it with slightly better graphics. You fly around trying to drop stockings down chimneys for points. Along the way you'll have to dodge bouncing snowballs, land-to-air Christmas trees, and six-pointed stars; there are also toilets and snowmen on the ground for decoration. Every once in a while, a dookie drops from your general vincinity. I can't figure out if it belongs to Santa or the reindeer, and I really don't want to know. You have 3 lives and a DUST timer. If you lose all your lives, it's game over. Otherwise, the game ends when you run out of magic dust. Basically, you're just playing to beat the high score, which is almost fun until you realize that you can just stop the sleigh above a chimney and keep dropping stockings in. The game has three difficulty levels: fairy, elf, and goblin. The higher the level, the faster things move. I think they should have been called fairy, gay, and cocksmoker because this game sucks big dick.
If I had made this game it would go something like this: Santa gets fucked up on Jack Daniels and decides to give his reindeer some scotch. Then they cruise around about 3 feet above the ground running over pedestrians while dodging cars and trees. To prolong his killing spree, Santa must keep picking up various bottles of liquor that appear out of nowhere. You'd also be able to throw the empty bottles at people. It would be Carmageddon meets Adventure Island. That would rock.
RANDOM FACT: Grotty is a British slang word that is synonymous with miserable. It has its roots as a variation of grotesque.
The biggest problem with the Commodore 64 is that its graphics generally look like total crap compared to those of the NES. Father Christmas, however, actually has some decent graphics. Also, it benefitted a good cause. Portions of proceeds from the game went to the international charity Save The Children. However, the developers also break one of the cardinal rules of video game marketing: never ever take a photograph of some random guy and use it as your cover art. If the game is based on a movie or a professional sport, fine, go for it. But when your game is Hard Hat Mack, Father Christmas, or Axe of Rage, it just seems amateurish and contrived. Anyway, the game goes something like this: Santa wakes his lazy ass up late on Christmas Eve only to find that his sleigh has been dismantled. You must guide Santa back and forth between his house and his reindeer as he reassembles his sleigh one piece at a time. There are five in all. For some bizarre reason, the elves try and fuck you over. If you run into an elf while carrying a sleigh piece, he'll steal it from you and you'll have to search your house again to find where he dropped it. This can get really frustrating. Once you get the timing down though, it's a piece of friggin' cake. But this is only phase one of the game.
The second part of the game starts with you selecting six items that you want for Christmas. Santa then attempts to grab those items as they fall from the sky in his toy grotto. The items you chose are highlighted in yellow which makes this part very easy. It takes all of ten seconds, if that. Once you complete it, Santa's off to the final round.
The third part of the game is Santa's present run. You fly through the sky and attempt to drop presents on clearly marked targets. There are five areas to get through: North America, Europe, Africa, The Antarctic, and Finland. Apparently someone didn't know that Finland is fucking part of Europe. That, or Renny Harlin produced the game. I suppose each area is supposed to be progressively more difficult than the last, but none of them are particularly hard. It would seem that you have to drop off an increasing number of presents though. There are obstacles, of course. Birds will knock gifts off course and clouds will carry them away. Meanwhile airplanes, which are much bigger and solider than clouds, have no effect on you. If you miss, you can always change direction and try again.
There's no way to die in this game, but there is a time limit of about 11-12 minutes. If you haven't finished your deliveries by then, the game ends. You still don't really lose though. You get some bullshit quasi-happy ending where your elves help out and deliver the rest of the presents. So, are these the same elves that kept stealing my goddam sleigh parts from me? They didn't seem very fucking helpful. If you deliver all the presents, you get a slightly happier ending. Neither one is particularly spectacular. This game is nowhere near as bad as the other crap that I've forced you to endure, but it's too easy and too short. Length seems to be another major problem with C64 games. Any half decent NES game would take you at least an hour or two to complete and games like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy took a lot longer. Only the very best C64 games such as Impossible Mission had any sort of length and difficulty to them.
Frosty The Snowman
Frosty The Snowman claims that it is "a two player race". That's bullshit. Basically, it's two simultaneous one player games. Players run back and forth between the elves' cave and Santa, grabbing as many presents, snowflakes, and snowballs as they can. There's no timer, so the fastest player doesn't win. Each player has three lives, then they're dead. I guess whichever player has the highest score at the end wins, but there's no congratulatory message. Each player gets a GAME OVER message on their screen when they've used up all their lives and that's it. In conclusion, this game sucks ass.
Santa's Xmas Caper
There's one game left and it could have been good. But it's not. Santa's Xmas Caper is a Life Force-style shoot 'em that lacks the fun of games like Life Force and Vanguard. The Christmas motif is somewhat entertaining, but the game lacks any sort of power-ups. This makes the game damn hard to win and damn boring to play. Enemies cut through you like butter and most of the time there's no way to dodge them without hitting something else. This game also suffers from length problems: there's only three fucking levels. If you beat them all, the game is nice enough to loop after a quick and bland congratulatory message.
The other big thing is that the bosses suck. They're nothing more than obvious sprite swaps and none of them are even vaguely interesting. If you want to play a quirky scrolling shooter than DOESN'T suck, play Konami's Parodius. Maybe if Konami had made this game it wouldn't blow so hard. But it does.
Seven different companies made these seven games and only one of them still exists. That company is American Greetings and A Popple Christmas Adventure is the first and last video game they ever made. They still sell a shitload of greeting cards though. Christmas is the greatest holiday ever, but it simply does not translate well into saleable video games. The ultimate lesson is this: If you have an insatiable desire to make a Christmas game, it should be a free flash game, a custom Doom WAD, or a Team Fortress Classic map. End of story.
Oh yeah... MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!!!
Posted by: Syd Lexia