In between the bus duels and dirtbike wilding of last night’s XBL Grand Theft Auto IV gaming and bullshit session, cure Mike Sterling, my brother and I had an informal chat about the 2600 Era of gaming. It centered mostly around the Great Crash of 1984 (as these conversations tend to do), an event that decimated the console gaming industry while dumping a shitload of deeply discounted game cartridges within reach of youngsters who couldn’t otherwise afford to buy them.
Most of the games were utter drek, of course, but the concept of quality is fundamentally alien to the psyche of a ten year old. Novelty, affordability, and the persistance of a creature with a surplus of free time can mitigate a host of sins, and it took an exceptional level of cruddiness to penetrate those blinders.
As a result, my curiosity was piqued when Mike mentioned a 2600 game so horrible that he made the effort to return it to the store and demand a refund of the one dollar sale price. I asked him which game it was, and his answer triggered a simultaneous “Wait, that sounds so familar” response from my brother and me.
Goaded by long suppressed memories and the need to experience a game deemed too awful to play by a man who sincerely enjoyed the 2600 E.T. game, I sought out the game in question…and it is indeed a stinker of the highest magnitude.
Sorcerer was one of three games released by Mythicon on the cusp of the Great Videogame Crash, and it epitomizes the in-it-for-a-quick-buck philosophy that characterized most of the efforts from that period. Atari’s hubris regarding market share and sales prospects for high profile, undercooked titles didn’t help the industry’s fortunes, but it was the flood of low-grade shovelware from fly-by-night developers like Mythicon that really killed the golden goose.
Sorcerer isn’t so much a game as it is a hastily programmed collection of elements smooshed together into something vaguely gamelike. As the titual spellcaster, the player mounts up on his trusty magic carpet and proceeds through a series of visually underwhelming screens to battle with what appears to be a French acapella group…
…and the most patriotic hellspawn ever.
Though the enemies appear in clusters of three, they actually constitute a single object when it comes to dispatching them with the sorcerer’s slow-firing, one-shot-at-a-time energy bolt. They also lack anything resembling a pattern, preferring instead to simply move about in the throes of a virtual spaz attack.
Progress far enough, and the game will treat you to a “dodge the lightning bolt” level, which is as bland and pointless as everything else in the game.
After spending an hour attempting to come to grips with Sorcerer‘s gameplay, I began to wonder if it would be better to approach the title not as an ineptly made shoot ‘em up, but rather as a pixelated treatise on existentialism — progress and accomplishment are meaningless concepts, perseverance will inevitably be rewarded with an ignominious death, and the only logical course of action is to hit the kill switch and be done with it all forever.