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Reviews: Truly Awful Video Games

No one sets out to make a bad video game, right?

Even the worst games start off with fairly lofty expectations, only to be undermined by lack of money, lack of time or lack of talent.

Still, some games are so atrocious that you can't help thinking their awfulness was deliberate.

Take the Nintendo DS version of "Deal or No Deal," a hideous tie-in that doesn't even deliver the basic mechanics of the simplistic TV show that spawned it. And it costs $30!

The only way it could be more of a rip-off would be if the publisher tricked you into buying an empty box.

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Then again, any savvy gamer probably has the common sense to avoid "Deal or No Deal." More often, bad games come in deceptive packages. And typically, a bad game has the germ of a good idea, even if it's obscured by incompetent design and programming.

The games reviewed here all sounded promising when they were announced, but something went terribly wrong on the way to store shelves. Avoid them at all costs.

—"Escape from Bug Island!" (Eidos, for the Wii, $29.99): This game's title sounds like something out of "Mystery Science Theater 3000." If only it was one-tenth as much fun.

The premise is classic B-movie, involving three dopes who decide to explore an island filled with giant insects.

Unfortunately, only one of the characters (not the one you control) thought to bring a weapon, so you're forced to fight the monsters with ... a stick.

You use the Wii remote to poke the bugs, but the onscreen actions are always a few seconds behind your physical movements, making it hard to get any momentum going. Still, the bugs aren't particularly hard to kill, even though they're human size.

I was also delighted to learn that you can kill a giant gorilla by throwing rocks at it, something that could come in handy on my next African safari.

With its stiff controls, drab graphics, annoying characters and inane plot, "Escape from Bug Island!" is the Wii's worst game yet.

No stars out of four.

—"Vampire Rain" (Microsoft, for the Xbox 360, $59.99): Here's another not-bad idea: combining a stealth-action game like "Splinter Cell" with survival horror a la "Resident Evil."

You play a special-forces operative whose mission is to infiltrate a city filled with "nightwalkers" and ... well, I'm not entirely sure what you're supposed to do to them.

You can't kill them; a head shot just gets a vampire's attention, and before you know it he's tearing out your jugular vein. So the high-tech weaponry you're assigned is pretty much useless.

All you can do is sneak past them — which isn't particularly difficult, but there's usually only one safe way through a level, so there's a lot of trial-and-error.

After you've been slaughtered a few dozen times by sloppily animated bloodsuckers, you may start to wonder if "Vampire Rain" is worth all the agita. It isn't.

No stars.

—"Hour of Victory" (Midway, for the Xbox 360, $59.99): The one emotion that comes across in "Hour of Victory" is boredom. Not just your own, but the evident boredom felt by the programmers who got assigned to this cynically conceived project.

Midway promises a journey through the war's "pivotal" battles, but you won't recognize anything from The History Channel.

If it wasn't for the swastikas worn by the bad guys, you could very well be playing on Mars. And if the Nazis were as stupid as this game makes them out to be — enemies will often stand still while you walk up to them shooting — World War II would have been over in a week.

"HoV" lets you play each mission as a covert operative, a sniper or a commando, but there's not much difference in how the characters work. And any game in which it's more effective to punch a guy than to shoot him is seriously broken.

No stars.