Let me start this by saying I hate sports games. In fact, I never play them. The closest thing to a sports game I’ve played is probably Pyre (who doesn’t love a virtual novel with purgatory football?) and Rocket League. But back when my brother and I were kids (6 and 11 respectively), this was one of the closest games we had to a competitive co-op. I’m sure our parents picked it up for $5 at the grocery store my dad worked at. And yes, before you ask, in the ‘90s they sold and rented video games at the grocery store.
The Chicago Bulls were all the rage in the ‘90s so naturally it was my team of choice and my poor brother got the leftovers. But wait…basketball is supposed to be played 5x5 right? Why is this 2x2? First weird thing. Second, where are the refs? Forget fouls, I’ll shove you six times in a row until you fall flat on your back. Now it’s 2x1 biatch. Third, their verticals were higher than the backboard, dwarfing other players with a dunk from the rafters. Gravity didn’t stand a chance as they catapulted off the court into any dunk imaginable; Double Clutch, Tomahawk, Windmill, Between the Legs, From a Distance, Alley-Oop, Baseline...add in the catchy sound effects of squeaky shoes, chimed passes, and the cheering crowd as you slam dunk to your heart’s content. Soon the announcer would exclaim, ‘he’s heating up!’ as the turbo meter filled. Keep a streak going to shatter blast the backboard. Okay so maybe this is a great game.
The one memory that’s burned into our heads is ‘He’s on Fire!’ Remember the announcer saying ‘he’s heating up’? Well, pump that turbo meter full and your dude is on fire. You could perform a flawless dunk, no problem. But that was boring. We like to take our full meter, shoot from anywhere on the court (preferably somewhere ridiculous like half-court), and rocketeer the ball like a homing missile into the basket. SWOOSH. Ball and net on fire burned to a crisp. But wait! Don’t let go of that button. If you press it the arm would stay extended and we would roll on the floor laughing about the super ‘On Fire!’ smelly armpit B.O. attack. We were kids, okay?
The Super Aquatic Games
Aquatic Games was a low-budget, poor man’s version of sea creatures enjoying the Olympic Games. My brother and I enjoyed mashing buttons for high scores, even if we had no idea how to score on a few games. It consisted of a cast of animals playing mini-games to receive either a bronze, silver, or gold medal. The music was an obnoxious 16-bit synth track on a loop that made your brain rattle.
Aquatic Games. Read that first word? Aquatic. Well, none of this was in the water. It was near water, above water, on green hills with mountains in the backdrop, in a…castle? Where’s the water?
The characters consisted of a shark, frog, seal, starfish, and the main character a…what is that thing? Certainly, the main character, the one gracing the cover art of the cartridge should be a discernible creature. This is The Aquatic Games, after all, it has to be some sort of amphibian or fish. Is this a turtle without a shell? Pond. James Pond.
The Feeding Time game was pretty fun. Play as a starfish on a dock that resembles Patrick Star and drop candy canes into the mouths of greedy fish. Better hurry! Doughnuts slowly descend from above, move too slow and your fish may chomp down and be snatched out of the water.
Kipper Watching mini-game was my favorite. Keep the bouncy balls from hitting the sleeping seals. Do this for three minutes. THREE MINUTES? In hindsight that is a long time for a round of anything this mindless. But the points keep you going along as you protect your seal friends snoozing soundly curled in a cat-like nap.
Then there is 100 Meter Splash, Bouncy Castle, Tour de Grass, and Shell Shooting before the grand finale, Relay Race. The Relay Race combined all aforementioned mini-games into one.
All in all, expect fifteen minutes of entertainment, twenty tops. We basically rotated this game in and out quickly to break up the flow of whatever else we were playing.
After all that chaos, it’s time for some zen. Sim Ant was the first simulation game I ever played and just scratched the surface of what I wanted it to be. You play as a chirpy little yellow ant (to decipher yourself from the many black ants) that sets up a colony with the queen ant. You dig tunnels and tend to her eggs, arranging them in neatly until they hatch. Once hatched, you command your drones to the surface to fetch food for the colony. With enough soldier ants, you make your way across the garden to ambush the red ant queen!
The ideas were there, but it needed polish and depth. If I could create my ideal version of a simulation game, it would resemble Sim Ant. I’d have deeper and more elaborate tunnels, ant customization and classes, a variety of resource gathering, upgraded and new environments, weather changes, predator defense, and different insect battles.
Simulation games are not only addictive, they are an immensely popular genre. Most of my mobile games are some sort of sim game. Simulation games have exploded to not only include the obviously well-known, The Sims, but a variety of everyday human jobs and activities. It may feel oversaturated at times, you could find a sim game for just about anything.
There is cooking, roller coasters, flight, space, trains, farming, trucks, dating, hospitals, cities…you know what these all have in common? Humans. Technology. Capitalism and consumption. Do you know what they don’t have? Nature. The world as it exists naturally. The vast labyrinth of winding underground insect tunnels and microscopic ecosystems, the world unseen that exists at our feet and deep in forests that go undisturbed by humanity.
Upon writing this I did find out about Bee Simulator and Fishkeeper. Both seem right up my alley! Until then, I’ll be playing my favorite three sim genres: dating, farming, and cooking!
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