The MEDIOCRE Awards 2016

The best of the best have been celebrated, the worst of the worst received their punishment, and all that’s left is the gulf of creativity in the middle. The pedestrian. The everyday. The completely unimportant.

Such cardboard pointlessness deserves attention too!

Yes, it’s time for the second annual MEDIOCRE Awards, as we pay homage not to the spectacular, but to the truly unremarkable. These were the games of 2016 that were exemplary only in their lack of excellence. Once again we “celebrate” those games that failed to wow and succeeded in being disappointments and wastes of time.

MEDIOCRE!

No Man’s Sky
(Check out the review!)

One of 2016’s most hyped games also turned out to be one of the least interesting. Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky was undoubtedly controversial – controversial enough that many were upset to see it missing from my rundown of the year’s worst games – but the product itself is the embodiment of lackluster.

Little more than a threadbare survival game with stereotypical crafting elements, No Man’s Sky is a tedious waste of time, relying on repetitive tasks, recycled content, and a building-block approach to procedural generation that saw little variance in “story” encounters and regular repeats of animal parts and environmental details.

No Man’s Sky is so dull that it’s actually at its most fun when you’re doing nothing – there’s at least a calming, laid back experience to be had in simply cruising the skies of yet another Bruiser Bar-colored planet. The grinding drudgery of resource collection and survival meter management is just thoroughly miserable.

If we ignore all of Hello Games’ promises (and they did promise a load of bullshit, regardless of what apologists claim), we’re still left with a game that has little going for it. So many procedurally generated planets, such a vast universe, and so little to do in it. There’s no point offering a massive game world when the best it has to offer is the occasional squirrel dinosaur that you can’t even ride.

It’s a prime example of how overvalued “content” is in the game industry – nebulous, monotonous content that has no value when it comes without context, variety, or meaning. So many “open world” games are little more than gigantic unassuming maps with recycled objectives scattered around them, just so the publishers can tell you how “big” their game is.

No Man’s Sky is the logical extreme of this prevailing industry attitude. It’s so very big… and so very bloody empty.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
(Check out the review!)

It’s hard not to believe Mirror’s Edge Catalyst – an answer to intense fan demand – was developed under duress. So much about it seems to be wearily checking boxes rather than striving to provide a memorable experience. As it dawdles sluggishly from one tired plot point to the next, this sequel to a beloved cult classic was just another open world snore-fest.

Combat is the same old shit over and over again, especially once you access the “switch place” move that lets Faith get behind the identical, unvaried enemies and hit them in the back. It’s such an effective trick that it’s the only one that matters. Despite the game itself wanting players to perform all sorts of aggressive parkour attacks, the environments are poorly designed for any walljumping action so fighting boils down to a few dull stock moves.

Despite the more open world, Catalyst‘s map is restrictive and choking, forcing players back and forth down the same old pathways and desperately trying to up its running time with the usual assortment of collectibles and repetitive side missions. It’s “Open World 101” in terms of game design, and the best that can be said of any of it is that DICE made an acceptable game.

Acceptable, and far from interesting.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is so creatively bankrupt that its final battle is against two stock enemies that have been encountered loads of times before them. The big twist is that there’s two of them.

Fuck this game.

Layers of Fear
(Check out the review!)

I’m perpetually puzzled as to how Layers of Fear got both the publisher backing and illusion of credibility it received this year. An unassuming walking simulator with horror dressing, Bloober Team’s tale of a mad artist falls down the Horror Trope Tree and smacks its head against every branch on the descent.

Remember that time you walked forever through some corridors but it was a trick because the moment you turned around the exit was behind you? Remember that scary ghost lady with the twitchy head? Remember doors slamming shut and then jostling violently because OH MY GOD SOMETHING’S TRYING TO GET IN!? Remember creepy dolls? Remember wheelchairs? Remember how scary wheeeeeelchaaaaairs are in games?

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELCHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIRS!?!?!?

This is basically Layers of Fear‘s primary trick – reminding you just how trite horror games have become due to them all repeating the same obnoxious cliches.

There’s a baseline quality to the overall production – it looks decent, has some nice sound effects, and generally controls well enough – but it never rises above that baseline. Most of the game is spent wandering around a glorified amusement park haunted house, looking at the stereotypically “spooky” things.

Sometimes there’ll be a rudimentary puzzle, but that’s about it. The fact you can’t get hurt by any of the game’s “threats” becomes apparent all too soon, and with that obvious note comes the vacuuming of all possible tension. Had there been some genuine risk to the player – or at least a convincing pretense of such – then some of this game’s tricks could have been effective. Instead, it’s toothless.

Layers of Fear could only be recommended to somebody who’s never played a horror game before and could therefore be convinced by its predictable tricks. Why would you do that, however, when you could simply recommend a better game?

No, this game is only truly worth playing in a world where no other horror experience exists at all.

Super Mario Run
(Check out the review!)

A half-baked runner game bolted onto a half-baked city builder, Super Mario Run could have been good if it focused on one thing. Instead, in typical Nintendo fashion, Mario’s big mobile showcase desperately attempted to be quirky and ended up lacking in every department.

It shouldn’t really be that hard to make a Mario runner, but that’s exactly Nintendo’s problem. The company can never do what’s expected and just has to add as many little twists and variances as it can. While that attitude can be noble, there’s such a thing as trying too hard, and a game that really should’ve just been “Super Mario Bros. with tapping” became an online-only game about playing recycled tracts of level over and over.

I hate writing about Super Mario Run. I hate writing about it because it’s an insipid product and the apathy it inspires in me is paradoxically aggressive.

What burns me up is how much I was actually looking forward to this one. I try not to get hyped for games because hype is a terrible thing, but I cannot overstate how much I think a Mario runner is a great idea. It really is!

It just couldn’t be allowed to stay a great idea. It had to be fucking quirky.

And that made it fucking dire.

The Tomorrow Children
(Check out the review!)

The Tomorrow Children has a lot of potential, but this satirical free-to-play game was too sterile, too robotic, too pointless to achieve much beyond making the player feel like they wasted time – and potentially money.

You’re a girl in a visually unappealing plain white world, building a “town” alongside other random players. The “town” is just a messy collection of buildings placed in the empty void by users with no mind for city planning. Gameplay mostly revolves around taking a slow-as-shit bus to various randomly generated islands and mining for resources using tools with stereotypical durability meters.

Take the bus to the island, gather stuff, take the bus back, drop stuff off, repeat. That’s most of the game. There’s some dreary combat and weird little dolls that turn into NPCs when you bring them home, but that’s about it. Most of the game is working to earn currency to buy better work gear. One of those games that exist only to perpetuate an uninspired economy.

When you “beat” the game – or rather, meet your current town’s goals – your reward is starting again in another town. The time until you meet your goals is dependent on how well the town’s doing when you get there, but the goal always leads to the same dire letdown.

A shameless waster of time, The Tomorrow Children loves making players wait around doing nothing. Wait for the bus! Wait in line to interact with an object! Wait for something fun to happen! Unless you adore gathering pointless shit for the sheer sake of gathering pointless shit, you’re going to find the F2P-by-numbers drudgery quite painful indeed.

About the only thing the game can be proud of is its player character design, but the beautifully creepy puppets primarily serve to highlight how lacking in artististry the rest of the world is.

The Tomorrow Children might not be the most boring free-to-play game I’ve suffered, but it’s up there.

The Technomancer
(Check out the review!)

More like The MEHchnomancer! Haha, I’m so funny.

The Technomancer is yet another attempted RPG from Spiders, the developer that always seems to be trying its best despite making mostly forgettable rubbish. I loved Of Orcs and Men, but the studio’s really struggled to put something together since, and The Technomancer is yet another piece of wet tissue paper.

Like the majority of Spiders’ library, The Technomancer hovers in the “explicitly not terrible” realm of videogames, resting on the fact it’s not the worst game ever made despite its relative lack of redeeming qualities. The Technomancer is explicitly not terrible. That’s really the best you can say about it.

Despite desperately wanting to be Mass Effect, this sad little RPG is such a small and constrained playpen. It pads itself out with mission after mission taking place in a handful of locations that demand excessive backtracking. Hours can be spent in the first city, but not because there’s much to explore – it’s just the poorly written quests keep taking place in said city’s pitiful assortment of alleys and caves.

There’s a surprising amount of detail in Technomancer‘s lore and backstory, leading one to believe this may once have been a much bigger project. Spiders was ambitious with this one, which serves to make the piddling end result all the more tragic.

Combat is an erratic mess, the camera is an active hindrance, and you can’t squeeze more than thirty frames-per-second out of the thing on PC.

Whether things got cut or it was simply deemed too much work to make Mass EffectThe Technomancer is a game that both tried really hard and doesn’t try at all. There are so many clues that effort and thought was present during development, yet somehow the release version treads water and plays for time to an extreme level.

And it’s just so… so very…

MEDIOCRE!

Amer1ka
Guest
Amer1ka

This is pretty close to the perfect list of “meh” games of the year. I think the TMNT game could have possibly made it. The game is just so meh and is a huge letdown by Platinum who had never fully let me down before (I even liked Korra). I guess it could also be thrown in the pile of worst games but I didn’t think it was that awful. It just didn’t give me what I was expecting with TMNT getting the Platinum action treatment. Then throw in that 30fps cap and no co-op. Ugh.

Jak
Guest
Jak

Maybe I’m greedy for more content but I expected far more mediocre games in Jim’s list.
On the other hand my heart is emotionally shrivelled and dried out like a forgotten raisin too miserable to be eaten, so most games seem mediocre to me.

Xirbtt
Guest
Xirbtt

You forgot Titanfall 2. ;D

diamond
Guest
diamond

I disagree on Catalyst, I think it’s a really solid game overall, it didn’t feel “creatively bankrupt” to me in the least, same with Technomancer.

BornFlunky
Guest
BornFlunky

“Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky was undoubtedly controversial – controversial enough that many were upset to see it missing from my rundown of the year’s worst games – but the product itself is the embodiment of lackluster.” Like, I get that, but then I remember Jim describing Mighty No. 9’s reception in The Mighty Has Fallen as “the game itself has been judged by fan and critic alike as basically medicore at best — a rare consensus…” And Mighty No. 9 made the Worst list. I can understand if that’s largely attributed to MN9’s negative impact on the general opinion… Read more »

Surf Orich
Guest
Surf Orich

I knew exactly what No Man’s Sky was going to be when it was first announced way back in 2013. They said “procedural generation” and “trillions of planets” and my first thought was “ok, so you’re going to go around a trillion barren planets that all look the same.” That’s what procedural generation is; we’ve already been through this before. Look at things like the SLIGE map generator for Doom; this crap been around forever. Everyone should have caught on by now. The fact that Hello Games didn’t talk about the gameplay with any specificity should have tipped people off… Read more »

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

This list is soooo last year

Benj
Guest
Benj

You should have put Dishonored 2 on her just so you’ve got one of Laura and one of Gavin’s top 10 games of the year in your mediocre list.

I want CONFLICT!

trn
Guest
trn

I hope you had an ok Christmas, thanks for last year, I guess. Here’s hoping 2017 isn’t too bad.

mrhair
Guest
mrhair

Regarding Layers of Fear, I said in the review thread that “No doubt this is fair, but I have an idea that I’ll enjoy it for all that.” I can now say, that you were right and I was wrong. What a relentlessly tedious experience that was. “Dolls are scare, right? Here’s a doll! Please be scared!”

7_13
Guest
7_13

I am totally ok with that list.
When I looked up this year’s releases list I was amazed by what games didn’t even get a mention here (or anywhere else I would’ve noticed). Like FarCry Primal a.s.o.

Fallen Prime
Guest
Fallen Prime

I don’t even think I was aware of two or three of these games, and excepting No Man’s Sky, I definitely forgot the others ever happened.

So yeah. Fitting list.

XionEternum
Guest
XionEternum

Meh…

Dave Dogge
Guest
Dave Dogge

Like this comment if you emailed Sony UK for your money back for No Man’s Sky digital download after playing it less than 5 hours and they just replied 4/5 days later telling you to piss off.

ShinAkuma
Guest
ShinAkuma

I tried Mirrors Edge Catalyst. The cinematic parts ran at 7 fps and in-engine around 30 fps… on a GTX 1070… Got a refund and never touched that game again. . Turns out this problem was common on the PC port. If the developers aren’t giving two shits about their game running even decent on a PC then why should I even give two shits about their game? What an immense piece of shit

Zephir
Guest
Zephir

It’s incredible how quickly I forgot The Tomorrow Children despite having its logo in front of my face everytime I turn on my PS4…I forgot that almost as quickly as Lost Reavers on Wii U…

Sperium3000
Guest
Sperium3000

UGH! GROSSLY INADEQUATE FOR THE TASK AT HAND!

Fistfullofjam
Guest
Fistfullofjam

Hang on, what’s No Man’s Sky? never heard of it

Sned
Guest
Sned

Super Mario Run isn’t an endless runner: it’s an auto runner, but the levels end.

Vohaul86
Guest
Vohaul86

Not worth a video of its own?

Clavus
Guest
Clavus

I enjoyed Mirror’s Edge Catalyst quite a bit though. It’s not particularly outstanding, but once I got into the flow of things there was plenty to enjoy in simply exploring paths, fetching collectables or doing races. Beautiful world design too.

backtoklondike
Guest
backtoklondike

ME: Catalyst was the only game from EA that I’ve been interested since Mass effect 3. And when I played it it felt like I was playing an Ubisoft game and what I mean is that it’s presented so lackluster that you could hate it but it has so many good things that instead you feel disappointed instead.
I (and many others) thought that Mirrors Edge would be perfect for open world and what we get is this. And the worse part is that might be the last Mirrors edge we might get.

Watchmedance
Guest
Watchmedance

Wait, so Layers of Fear has no threats in it? Why the fuck is it so highly praised?

I saw the header image and thought Mad Max was on this list. Now I’m wondering if it came out this year. Despite playing it, I can’t remember. It was that mediocre that it made that little of an impression on me.

EuanG
Guest
EuanG

Honestly, Mirrors Edge Catalyst is worse than mediocre: it is an open world platformer where it’s impossible to platform in a broken world. Not to mention the “unlockable moves” that restrict basic moves for no positive reason.

Landusk79
Guest
Landusk79

MEDIOCRE INDEED!!

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