Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom might be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.

If being a game critic teaches you one thing, it’s that there’s wisdom in that old philosophy that there’s always someone with better skills than you. However bad the games you’ve played are, there is always one that’s worse. I thought it was Goolin or House of Cockroach or some other dire black hole of quality and credibility that my memory has suppressed for my own safety. But I guarantee you, I have never felt such a potent sensation of despair and loathing as I did while playing Rock Bottom. This game is the final conclusive proof atheists have been searching for; no cosmic creator could sit back and consider his work done while this monstrosity exists. It is the severed testicular vessels of a leprous yak, baked until decomposure and then served on a bed of dried vomit in the shape of Shia LaBeouf’s face.

Give me a second to wipe the bitter tears from my eyes. For a second there, I began to think that when I next looked at my Xbox I might see that scrotum-vomit-LaBeouf cornucopia in place of Rock Bottom. I know, I shouldn’t have got my hopes up.

Seriously now, I have played some shitty, atrocious games that have made me angry, confused and afraid. But never, never, have I felt a sense of such abject impotent horror. I dread the prospect of future archaeologists finding this and realising humans made it. They will write us off as more backward than the most gorilla-featured Neanderthal. I’m embarrassed for our species.

Okay, okay, I should tell you why.

Where do I start? I could start by mentioning that even though it’s a point-and-click game, and therefore facing stiff competition in the Uneventfulness Relay and the Excessive Dialogue Marathon, Rock Bottom manages to be one of the most boring things I’ve ever experienced. And this is coming from someone who’s spent five hours in a hospital lobby waiting for an x-ray, with nothing to entertain him but the sight of pensioners shuffling to the bathroom.

I don’t mind the inherent dullness of point-and-click games. I quite like them. But this… There’s basically no game in this thing. There’s almost nothing you can interact with in the entire game. You click on exits from rooms, and then on whichever person is in the next room. This subjects you to conversations the length of the entire Shakespeare canon, composed entirely of strained jokes and gruesomely forced attempts at ‘zany’ humour. Your ‘character’, Wilson, starts off in prison searching for a toilet roll that he calls his ‘scroll’, which has been taken by his cellmate who wants to trade it for some glitter because glitter is the prison currency.

The dialogue is some of the worst I’ve ever heard or read or suspected might exist. I’ve seen shopping lists that had better dialogue. And it just goes on and on and on. Clearly the ‘developer’ (for want of a more appropriate term) wants to write a sitcom, film, play, comic or satirical pamphlet but couldn’t break into the industry and decided to unleash a grisly salvo of his resplendently fecal gifts upon the unsuspecting innocents of the Xbox Live indie community. Honestly, I would have been less offended if he had just taken a shit on my head. At least that’s a compulsory bodily function; there’s no excuse for choosing to excrete this.

The miserable dialogue is dragged from the ditch in which it was languishing and thrown into a landfill crammed with used sanitary products by the diabolical voice acting. One or two of the performances are merely bad. The voice of Sweepy is a revelation by virtue of being almost mediocre for a total amateur who’s never spoken before. The main character, though, is high school drama bad. He’s failing high school drama bad. Worse than Who’s the Daddy? if you can believe that. The performances aren’t helped by being recorded on bargain bin microphones that pop, crackle and slur even worse than mine. This is the final, refined, edited and polished version? It’s abysmal.

Did I mention that the dialogue is really long? I did? Well just for emphasis: the horrific dialogue is really fucking long. Jesus goddamn Christ, I could have given birth in the time it takes for one conversation to finish. And I’m male.

On the bright side, the art is pretty bad. Um…yeah…that’s the highest compliment I can think of.

Rock Bottom is, without hyperbole or histrionics, probably the worst thing I have ever played in 25 years of video gaming. OTT metaphors aside, every single moment I spent with it took an effort of will to resist quitting to the dashboard. This game is atrocious, and if I never see its name, screenshot or cover art ever again it will be centuries too soon. If the developer ever bumps into me in the street and lets slip that he made this, I will punch him right in the fucking mouth with every ounce of strength I possess.

I will not forgive this. Silver Dollar Games have lost their crown as worst XBLIG developers, and playing Goolin for a year sounds like a Caribbean holiday right now. Get away from me, Rock Bottom. Just fuck off.

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(Don’t) Keep Goolin, Goolin, Goolin, Goolin

Fuck Goolin.

Sorry, I lost my composure for a moment there.

What I meant to say was Goolin is a– fuck Goolin in the face.

To its credit, Goolin does things that I’ve never experienced in any other game. It scores a few points for that. Unfortunately it loses all those points and more by being so devoid of all fun that it would have to go for in vitro funtilisation, or even buy a questionable batch of lab-grown test tube fun on the black market. Unusual ideas are all well and good, but what’s the point if the game is less enjoyable than slamming your own head in a pub door? While drinking Bud Light. Yes, Bud Light.

In fact, ‘what’s the point?’ is a good all-round sentiment for the experience of playing Goolin. It’s not an abrasively horrible ordeal like Who’s the Daddy?, a non-functional demo like Bit Crunch or a sob-wrenchingly unplayable sedative like Old School Destruction. It’s just…there, doing nothing, going nowhere, leering smugly at everyone as it slumps in its absinthe-soaked armchair in the corner, its head cocooned in cloying strands of roll-up smoke, B.O. and flatulence. It’s a pretentious, arty waste of space that studied Avant Garde Journalism With Interpretive Dance for seven years of resits before dropping out to live in a permanent bong haze in its friend’s cousin’s neighbour’s uncle’s squat.

Goolin is a dick.

Try not to be too intimidated by its awesome presentation.

I suppose you want to know why. Alright. Allow me to walk you through playing Goolin.

‘Press A’, the game informs you. Poised with your thumb over the little green nub, you wait. A large headless robot appears, and an acrobat runs at its feet. You press A. The acrobat leaps. You fail. Restart. Press A. Fail. Press A. Fail.

Try to time your press so that the acrobat will land in the robot. Fail. Fail fail fail.

Experiment. Press A, then press it again once airborn. The acrobat descends towards a capsule on the other side of the screen. Feel satisfied that you figured it out…fail. Do it again and again, and fail fail fail.

This is Goolin. You have no idea what your objective is, how to go about attempting it, or what pressing A actually does. By chance, I read a review that mentioned the key: it’s all about the number of times you press A. There’s no way of knowing what that number is; you just have to launch your acrobat into the air, try to get him on target (no mean feat in itself) and press A at random. If it fails, try again with more presses. Unless you miss the capsule’s vicinity entirely, as you probably will.

Looks pretty similar to the last pic, right? Yeah, it's just that good.

When you do, through sheer luck, land the acrobat in the capsule, it will immediately fly up towards the top of the robot…and the stupid ‘press A’ game enters round two.

It’s intolerable, but the worst part is the way the game comports itself makes it clear that it thinks it’s really clever. I could send it on its way with only a disapproving frown if it was an innocent. But it’s too knowing; too smug. Goolin thinks it’s art or an innovative, mould-breaking indie gem. It reality it’s a marginally innovative, patience-breaking heap of balls.

Damn you, Goolin. How many times do I have to press A to somersault you out of my life entirely?