Five of the Weirdest (and Worst) Christmas Themed Games EVER

Gaming Santa
With all the furore that surrounds the build up, the holiday, and the aftermath of Christmas, you would’ve thought a whole host of Christmas themed games would’ve invaded the market. If there were opportunity to do so then this would be the perfect time. But alas, they very rarely see the light of day.

Why exactly is this? Because most Christmas themed games that have been released in the past have been absolutely stinkers. There have been some great ones too, but for every Christmas Lemmings and Christmas NiGHTS, there are a thousand games like The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, which, aside from being horrifically bad, has to be a candidate for greatest pun in a games title EVER.

Anyway, here are another 5 Christmas themed games (in no particular order) which have helped do their bit in confining the idea of a great Christmas based game to just that, an idea.

James Pond II: Codename Robocod

Screenshot of James Pond 2
Admittedly, not a bad game or an obvious choice but there’s something about ALL James Pond games that make them instantly unlikeable, and seeing as James Pond II has a very Christmasy theme, it has got to go on the list.

Perhaps it’s the fact that you’re playing as a fish with limbs who also happens to be a spy, or the ridiculous pun filled title (which personally kills my soul every time I read it, meaning I will most likely be a husk before I move onto the next game on the list) but whatever it is it’s bad enough to ruin what would actually be a very good game.

Featuring some incredible tight controls and some great platform gameplay, there’s a reason the game has been released on… Ahem!.. The Amiga, DOS, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Mega Drive, SNES, Game Gear, Master System, Game Boy Advance, Amiga CD32, Playstation, Nintendo DS AND Playstation 3…. breathe…

Set in the North Pole, James Pond II: Codename Robocod features our hapless, aquatic hero infiltrating Santa’s grotto in order to thwart the evil efforts of arch nemesis Dr Maybe who has taken over Santa’s workshop, stolen everybody’s presents and captured Santa’s helpers, turning them into his own dangerous assistants (I like to think of them as assistants of death). Quite a cool take on a Christmas themed game, James Pond II sees Mr Pond armed with his own robotic suit (hence the subtitle, capping off a game title so stupid that it went to the dentist for a bluetooth) which he must utilize in order to finally defeat his foe once and for all.

In hindsight, maybe James Pond II: Codename Robocod shouldn’t really feature on this list. The story’s good, the gameplay’s fun and the control are tight. But seeing as this is MY list and I absolutely despise the name and the main character, it’s staying put. Don’t worry, I promise a truly diabolical game next..

Home Alone 2

Movie tie-in games are constantly bashed because… well… very rarely do they turn out well. But is it any wonder when all they’ve got to go off are travesties like Home Alone 2: Lost in New York? (the game, not the film).

Released in 1992 on the NES (as well as the SNES, Game Boy, Mega Drive, PC and DOS ) and particular ‘favourite’ of mine and fellow writer Gareth Lloyd (if by favourite, you mean common ground reached between us by sharing a mutual hatred for the game) it actually defies belief that I spent a full £40 on Home Alone 2 back in the days of Zool and Kirby’s Dreamland.

Loosely following the plot of the film (never a good sign for a movie tie-in game) Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is quite simply awful, not least because, even for it’s time, it was B*STARD hard.

Assuming the role of Kevin (Macaulay Culkin’s character) players were made to navigate through four different levels (that’s £10 per level if you bought the game at its recommended retail price, oh how times have changed) the Plaza Hotel, Central Park, a Town house owned by Kevin’s Uncle, and the Streets of New York. Picking up various power-ups along the way, players must escape the clutches of thieves Harry and Marv, and lay booby traps in an attempt to thwart their efforts once again.

But not even your power-ups can prevent what lies ahead. Death after death after death, all at the hands of quite possibly the most moronic video game enemies in existence, making each death undignified, degrading and incredibly frustrating. From small animals such as rats and bats to crazy hotel staff and thugs, even inanimate objects are in on the act with suitcases and rogue vacuum cleaners all spelling out your demise. EVERYTHING is out to get you in Home Alone 2 and that’s the problem, THE GAME IS TOO HARD. So hard in fact that I’ve NEVER managed to get past the first level. No less because it had not one BUT TWO end of level bosses. Talk about overkill. And this is just the first level, can you imagine what the other 3 are like?!

Unless you’re some sort of sadomasochist (or someone that actively hates their own hair and enjoys pulling it out in rage) avoid like the bloody plague because Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is one of the worst.

Clayfighter 63

Screenshot of Clayfighter 63
Technically not a Christmas themed game, but it does have some Christmassy characters in it, and I’m sorry but I cannot pass on the opportunity to bash one of the worst beat-em up games ever made.

Containing Christmas characters such as Bad Mr. Frosty The Fighting Snowman and Sumo Santa, Clayfighter 63 is quite simply terrible.

Despite the game’s unique stop motion clay animation graphical style and transforming arena system, everything else about Clayfighter 63 stinks. Its controls are incredibly clunky and cumbrous, and the story is incredibly complicated and uninteresting. But Clayfighter 63′s biggest problem is that as much as it tries to be funny (and believe me, it’s VERY trying) it fails… miserably.

From puns within the character names (Dr Kiln.. game with a clay graphical style, get it?) to poking fun at the N64 naming conventions, despite how much it tries, Clayfighter 63 is about as funny as a fart in a space suit. Displaying the comedic qualities of a joke on the back of a Penguin Biscuit wrapper, Clayfighter 63 MUST be named and shamed on this very list.

Elf Bowling

screenshot of Elf Bowling
Without a doubt one of the most bizarre gaming concepts ever to see the light of day, Elf Bowling is an obvious yet definitive addition to the list. From its title, Elf Bowling sounds like a quirky, Christmasy, casual bowling game for the masses, but actually there’s a far more sinister edge to proceedings.

Rather than assuming the role of one of Santa’s little helpers, players play as St Nicholas himself who is hell bent on punishing his Elves for the strike action they’ve taken against him by launching bowling balls at them – not so saintly now is he?

Of course, at its core Elf Bowling is essentially just a bowling game with tenpins being replaced by Elves, a little outlandish but nothing complex or innovative in terms of gameplay. Which makes it surprising that the Elf Bowling franchise (if you can possibly call it that) has been milked dry. People complain that franchises like Call of Duty and Halo are milked to death, but Elf Bowling really takes the biscuit. Not including re-releases and ports, Elf Bowling has had a staggering EIGHT instalments AND even a movie! You could not make it up could you?

How that many sequels and even a movie has been spawned from a game which features poor graphics, bare bones gameplay and incredibly crude audio and controls is beyond me. Not to mention the frankly absurd story!

Definitely one of the worst and most bizarre of all the entries on this list.

Daze Before Christmas

screenshot of Daze Before Christmas
And lastly we have Daze Before Christmas which shares quite a few comparison with previous entry, James Pond II: Codename Robocod in that actually both are quite fun action, platformers.

Originally released in 1994 for the Sega Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (or as most normal people call it, the SNES) Daze Before Christmas is a lovely little platforming game full of a variety of weapons and power ups. It’s graphics are nice, the controls are fairly tight… actually as a game it functions rather well. However, it features a plot and a gameplay mechanic straight out of the Elf Bowling book of strange ideas.

Revolving around the exploits of Santa (AGAIN) Daze Before Christmas charts Santa’s endeavour to rescue his beloved Elves and Reindeer who have been imprisoned by an evil snowman with a heart literally made of ice. Along the way Santa must vanquish giant rats, evil toys and snowmen with a variety of different weapons and power-ups, one which bizarrely enough turn you into Santa’s evil twin – this is the bit where it starts getting weird. Apparently Santa has a long lost evil twin called “Anti-Claus” which he can turn into (making him invincible) after drinking of all Christmas themed beverages… a cup of coffee – like I said, very strange. This alongside the ability to breathe fire like a dragon and drop bombs like an expert in demolition, leads me to believe that quite frankly Santa’s  current role as a glorified delivery driver is a bit of a waste of talent.

Overall Daze Before Christmas is a pretty solid, retro platformer, but its inclusion of characters like “Anti-Claus” make this one of the most strange Christmas themed games of all time.

And there you have it kids. Five of the strangest and frankly diabolical Christmas themed games to have ever existed. Lets hope we don’t wake up on Christmas day with one of those bad boys sitting under our tree hey? Unless of course you are genuinely interested in one of these games now I’ve talked about them. In which case, you’re a mental.

-Kieran Roycroft

Wed, December 7 2011 » Articles, List Articles

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