Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Offroad Extreme and Being Special

Offroad Extreme! Special Edition
System: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Data Design Interactive
NA Release: November 2007

[NOTE: This post is part of the first Review a Bad Game Day. Witness others endure the horrors of gaming's mistakes at]

Mr. Rogers made it a point to say that everyone is special, and I'm certainly not going to argue with the legend. I will posit, however, that “special” does not always mean a grand thing. The Titanic was a special voyage, Ed Wood was a special director and Offroad Extreme! Special Edition is certainly a special gaming experience.

Even the cars look depressed to be in this game.

From what I've been able to find, Offroad Extreme! is a “special edition” because it's a port of a 2004 PS2 game updated with Wii remote tilt controls—for some reason at the expense of the original button controls. This is highly unfortunate as the motion controls are outright horrendous and almost seem selectively sensitive, choosing not to overreact to your tilting only when you're heading straight toward a yawning chasm. It's difficult to see why they couldn't have included both control schemes, but I like to imagine the discussion went something like this:

LACKEYS: Boss, we really need to put the button controls back in the game.
BOSS: But the motion controls are what make it special!
LACKEYS: That is technically true, sir. But, well, the motion controls are terrible!
BOSS: You're not understanding me, here. If we return the button controls, we give players the option to use them, yes?
BOSS: And if the motion controls are bad, players will use the button controls instead, yes?
BOSS: But the motion controls are what make it special!

The sad part is that Offroad Extreme! feels so lazily constructed as to have so little merit to deserve the moniker “special”... that it somehow manages to go full circle and madly becomes “special” again. A few more ways in which the game shines:

  • Your rival cars sounding like bees in a dryer at the starting line, which is about the only time you'll ever hear them as they eventually leave you to your wiggly-driving stupor—oh, except for the one or three that always relentlessly slam into you at the beginning and pin you mindlessly to the wall. It's like the developers could make AI for these cars, so they just programmed a brick onto their accelerators.
  • The apparent love of using a rain effect over the dull, brown, N64-quality courses, even though you never actually see the rain hit the ground, the sky often looks blue and sparsely clouded, and it does not stop raining when you enter a cave.
  • The way the announcer tells you to “Start your engines!” with just enough of a threatening tone as though he knows you're thinking of running.

  • How the camera will reverse angle when you try to back up from yet another slam into the wall but wont always return to facing frontward when you hit the gas again, often turning the simplest of maneuvers into that underground tunnel cart scene from Austin Powers.
  • The collectable dollar signs that litter the tracks like a poor rapper's Geocities page and are all worth exactly one dollar. What did you get for fighting busted controls, crappy physics and broken cameras for three laps? $27! Extreme!
  • If you take too much damage, which is nigh guaranteed, your vehicle explodes into an cheaply overlayed fireball animation of Birdemic-caliber laughability—twice. I can't actually cite this one as a fault, though. I could never find myself able to change one poorly rendered piece of this glory.

It is bad enough to face the cheap, unplayable pile of shame that is Offroad Extreme! Special Edition, but it's especially egregious to know this was all part of the now defunct Data Design Interactive's (DDI) business model. Wanting to take advantage of the growing family and casual markets, the company squeezed out as many abominations of gaming as it could, sacrificing any semblance of quality in an apparent attempt to take advantage of novice gamers' ignorance. They even copied and pasted large swaths of code in what they called their GODS engine to speed the process, making their games figuratively inbred.

But do you know what the worst part of this sordid legacy is for me? It's not that DDI helped pox the reputation of the Wii as a shovelware system, nor even the fact a bunch of kids got screwed over on birthdays and Christmases by well-meaning family members who were suckered into buying malfunctioning dreck. Those are certainly bad, but what outright haunts me is that Mr. Rogers was right: everyone is special, dammit, and there could have been some specially talented designers working for DDI.

We laugh at and pan shovelware, and that's often healthy. But there could've been people just trying to find a foothold to get noticed who ended up strapped down by the paltry budgets and push-it-out-the-door timetables of a company that was in too much of a hurry to milk another buck out of an unsuspecting grandma to take the time to make sure IT STOPS RAINING IN CAVES. These people's time and talents could have been wasted, and now they have pangs of hesitation and regret every time they think of writing “Data Design Interactive” on their resumes.

It is my great hope that, if this rings true for anyone, they are working at a place where the true meaning of “special” is known and acknowledged.


  1. Can't say that I've ever played this one either. (I'm noticing a trend with all these horrible games today...) Thanks for saving me from what would've been an otherwise waste of time!

  2. Terrible graphics, bad sound, completely useless handling? Sounds terrible, glad I never had the misfortune to play it!

    Review a bad game day has been excellent, here's ours;

  3. Well between being able to see rain in caves and earning money $1 at a time, this clearly is a must have for any true gamer. Controlling the vehicle properly is so overrated.