When it comes right down to it I'm not afraid to review the really bad games that come out from time to time. The truth is, it's significantly easier to review something with absolutely no redeeming qualities than it is to play another average ho-hum action game that is exactly like the three dozen before it. But every so often a game comes around that is so bad and so offensive to my sensibilities that I have to wonder if this is all a joke. Am I being "Punk'd" by my PR contacts?
That was the reaction I had when I unwrapped Destineer's newest Mario Kart rip-off, Homie Rollerz. Based on the two inch figurines you can pick up at grocery stores, Homie Rollerz is perhaps the most outrageously offensive racing game I have ever had the pleasure (yes, I said "pleasure") to review. Let me just say from the get-go that Homie Rollerz is not a good game. In fact, it may just be a contender for being the worst game of the year. However, that doesn't mean that you can't have a good time being completely mortified by everything that is popping up on your Nintendo DS screen.
So here's the pitch: In Homie Rollerz you take one of the Homies characters (which are, in case you don't already know, all based on different Hispanic stereotypes), jump in your own custom car and, well, race until you get first. In a lot of ways this game is no different from the Super Mario Kart series, only without the cast of loveable characters and a control scheme that makes driving practically impossible. Even if this game wasn't the most racially insensitive game since Kung Fu Chaos, it would still be a mediocre racing game that is far too difficult for its own good.
But the one thing that continues to shock and amaze me is how utterly racist the whole game is. To be fair, these "Homies" characters were created by artist David Gonzales, a popular Mexican-American cartoonist who has had a lot of luck drawing comics about these Latin American characters. I refuse to prescribe motives to Mr. Gonzales, but I have to believe that when he originally developed these individual characters they were not intended to be lame caricatures of offensive stereotypes. But that's exactly what we get in this game, from the mid-game intermissions to the characters themselves, this whole game feels like a 24 episode Mind of Mencia marathon.
But I can get over the ugly stereotypes, what I can't get over is the extreme difficulty and the terrible gameplay. Don't be fooled by the cutesy look, Homie Rollerz hates your guts. It's the kind of game that will make you never want to play another game ever again. It's the type of game that could potentially turn you against every single person that develops, publishes or thinks about video games. It's a savagely difficult game that is dead set against you actually getting anywhere.
The basic problem with the difficulty is that the game requires you to come in first in order to advance. Unfortunately it's going to take you dozens of tries just to get out of last place. To add insult to injury, when you finally do start to inch close to first place somebody will almost always use a power-up that sends you right back to last place. I consider myself to be pretty good at racing games, I've certainly played and reviewed my fair share of racers in my life, yet it took me hours before I could even advance past the first race.
Couple the extreme difficulty with an unruly control scheme. You would think that programming a kart racer's controls would be second nature; after all, there are literally dozens of examples of the genre at your fingertips. But Homie Rollerz can't even get that right. The steering in the game is so touchy that you'll be convinced that your character is drunk. Too often you'll find yourself accidentally missing shortcuts and running right into the wall, which is the kiss of death for this kind of racing game. Worse yet, the levels throw out all sorts of obstacles that are nearly impossible for you to dodge using the oversensitive controls. Homie Rollerz is the kind of game that actually makes me appreciate the gameplay in WWE Crush Hour ... and trust me, the last thing I want to do is appreciate anything about a kart racing game starring professional wrestlers.
The game does offer a few different game modes and some rudimentary car customization, but with the control so bad it's hard to understand why anybody would care about these things. That goes for the various multiplayer modes. Then again, at least you have a fair shot at winning when you play against a friend. Of course, the very notion that your friends would want to play this over, say, watching paint dry or doing chores is simply ludicrous.
The game's presentation fares a bit better than the controls, difficulty, story, and, well, everything else. The graphics, while not amazing, get the job done and some nice details here and there. The levels are also pretty good, even if they are wildly inconsistent. The game shines whenever David's hand-drawn visuals pop up; unfortunately there isn't enough of that featured in the game.
Make no mistake about it; Homie Rollerz is every bit as bad as it sounds. Then again I'm more than willing to accept that this is one game that is not aimed at my demographic. I've never considered buying, playing or collecting Homies figures, yet there must be a market given their staying power. Of course, I doubt that even the most die-hard Homies fan will walk away from this disappointed and offended. Yes the game is terribly racist, but the most offensive part is that the developers couldn't even get the tried and true Mario Kart recipe right.
But as bad as this game is (and trust me, this game is one of the worst games I have ever experienced), part of me is really happy that I own this train wreck. Yes it's terrible, but it's also ground breaking in its horribleness. Never have I seen a game so full of stereotypes; it's the kind of thing you just have to see to believe. At the end of the day there is no way that I can recommend this game in good conscience, but this is the kind of bad game that everybody should play at least once in their life.