A Compiliation of Hilarious
April Fool Hoaxes
Brought to you by The Video Game Critic4/29/2020
It all began on March 14, 2013. Reader Mike "gleebergloben" sent me an email detailing an April Fool's review printed in an early 1980's issue of Electronics Fun with Computers and Games. The game was called Orient Express and decades passed before Mike discovered it was a joke!
He suggested I try pulling off something similar on this site, and of course I was game. After coming up with a decent premise I fired off my idea to talented artist Mark Jewell who replied with a brilliant screenshot. Mark is the kind of person you can pass a vague idea to and he'll come back with a visual representation about ten times more funny than you had in mind! He produced all the screenshots you see here.
After seven years of publishing fake reviews every April 1st I've accumulated quite a collection. I'm presenting them all here along with some insightful behind-the-scenes commentary and quotes.
Bioshock 2600 (Spiral Rift Productions 2013)|
System: Atari 2600 (and others)
Notes: In the wake of phony "Doom 2600" screenshots floating around the web and the release of Halo 2600, I felt it might be possible to pass off Bioshock 2600 as an actual game. I chose Bioshock (Xbox 360, PS3) because it was probably the visually elaborate game I had seen up until that point. The idea of porting it to the 2600 was preposterous, but Mark's blocky screenshot combined with my scathing commentary proved somewhat convincing. The degree of nitpicking in the review is outrageous, especially when I complain about it having "only one" ending! It's a 2600 game for Pete's sake!!
Gleebergoblin (email): "That is friggin' awesome! My wife was in the room when I opened up the attachment, and even she laughed. She knows Bioshock, but doesn't play video games at all. I love the little girl behind Big Daddy. Great touch. The review is spot-on. Before I read it, I was afraid of a review that might be too over-the-top, but by the end of the review I was looking for my wallet for the $70. I'd say don't change a word. Hilarious. "
The Hobbit (Atari 1983)|
System: Atari 2600 (and others)
Notes: As with my previous Bioshock 2600 review, this was meant as an example of a programmer biting off more than he could chew. The review pokes fun at two very well-known truisms of Atari 2600 games. First, their primitive graphics always belie the elaborate artwork and background story accompanying the game. In this case, an epic journey was reduced to a bunch of colored blocks. Atari 2600 fans can also relate to the idea of the title screen's graphics far exceeded those of the actual game.
Scott Z (email): "Awesome. I don't see how it can be improved upon. I start reading assuming you'd be talking about how great the game was and inadvertently tipping your hand, but by complaining about the game it makes it seem so much more authentic! Great move!! But for those forum goers already looking to see what your April Fools Day gag is going to be, I'm sure it'll fool most of your readers."
50 Shades of Grey (Dubious Software 2015)|
System: Atari 2600 (and others)
Notes: The idea of taking complex, controversial adult subject matter and boiling it down to a coarse pixelated 2600 romp is hilarious. Gotta love those gray "censorship" boxes Mark strategically positioned on the fake screenshot. The review is pretty clever, turning the tables on the reader to make it sound like I'm the one who's offended!
Mark (email): "Here's a revised screenshot. Added a coil of rope and some duct tape. Lemme know if you like the rope... This is officially the weirdest thing I have created for you. A guy with his pants around his ankles, facing a naked woman with a blindfold, rope and tape on the ground..."
Dead or Alive Backgammon (Koei 2016)|
System: Xbox One (and others)
Notes: Dead or Alive was an early-2000s fighting franchise showcasing scantily-clad ladies in environments with mesmerizing physics. The series reached the pinnacle of absurdity with Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (Xbox 360, 2006), featuring hot babes frolicking half-naked on a beach. Where could the series go from there? Mark suggested Dead or Alive Backgammon and I thought it was a brilliant idea, combining two game styles from polar opposite ends of the spectrum. This review also tapped into the myth of the "nude code", which has kept many-a-gamer up late into the night trying to get it to work (or so I have read).
VGC (forum): "I have several versions of video game backgammon, but this is probably my favorite. It may be due to the intuitive controls and intelligent CPU opponent, or perhaps because it has half-naked chicks...? Yep, that's it"
Strip Poker II (Amsterdam Software 1996)|
System: Virtual Boy (and others)
Notes: This was the first year I hashed out my April Fool's review in the moderator forums, and all sorts of crazy ideas were being bantered about. Mark initially offered two candidate screenshots: Doom AR (think Doom in a grocery store) and Strip Poker for Virtual Boy. The Doom idea fizzled out but the Strip Poker review really took off (literally). Moderators kept coming up with new ideas and funny lines, building up to what might just be the funniest review I have ever written. The fact that this game was allegedly released on the Virtual Boy (which many consider a joke in of itself) puts this review well over the top.
Scotland (forum): "When you mentioned eye damage, I laughingly thought of that particular activity associated with pictures of unclad ladies and warnings of going blind. Doing that while using the Virtual Boy must be like solar eclipse level damaging to your eyes."
Distracted Driver (Forged Monix 2018)|
System: Playstation 4 (and others)
Notes: The previous few April Fool reviews were somewhat raunchy so I decide to take a different route so people wouldn't think I was a total pervert. I loved the idea of a fake driving game, especially in an era when commuters were becoming increasingly fed up fellow drivers messing with their phones instead of paying attention to the road. Mark's chaotic screenshot is packed with humor but it's the old lady in the walker that sends me over the edge.
ESauce (forum): "I would think it’s a race against the clock where you have to also perform quick time events (QTEs) to respond to texts, drink your coffee, eat your hamburger, even shave. You lose if you fail to get from point A to B in time, or if you fail enough QTEs but you’re not penalized for any mayhem you cause. Heck hitting the grandma hardly slows you down at all. Can someone please make this game for real?"
Sid Meier's Civilization: Flat Earth Edition (Planar Games 2019)|
System: Xbox One (and others)
Notes: After a half-dozen false starts and dead ends I decided to go with an idea my friend Brent came up with early on. I was reluctant because I hadn't been familiar with the whole flat earth phenomenon. Brent assured me it would cause a stir and his instincts were right! The initial draft was a bit dry however, and there was worry people might not even bother reading it. Then Brent came up with the brilliant opening line: "Sid Meier has lost his mind!" That was all we really needed. Notice how I begin the review as a complete skeptic, gradually come around over the course of the review, and appear to be converted by the end. Both Mark and Brent had created screenshots, and not wanting to waste any I included Brent's as a link in the review, which contains some fun Easter Eggs.
RetroStrife (forum): "I’m still a bit hung up on the name too. Civilization 6 just came out in February. If the Civ name is used, I think it would be better as a subtitled game, rather than a mainline number (i.e. “Civilization: Outer Continents”)- especially since a real Civ8 will come out someday. I think Sid is very hands off with the Civ series these day— so maybe you could spin it as this being the side project he’s been working on instead (i.e. implying, between the lines, that Sid has gotten a bit crazy in his old age). Or spin it to imply that you’re the crazy one and believe all this stuff. Something to spice it up a bit."
Bob Ross Going Ape S--t (Sega 1995)|
System: Genesis (and others)
Notes: I had this idea in my back pocket for the last year or two, and thought this was the year to use it. I always thought Bob was great, and the idea of this gentle soul being in a chaotic video game seemed hilarious. The craziest real video game title I could think of was "Toki Goes Apespit" (Genesis) so that was the basis for the fake game. Unfortunately my initial draft wasn't getting much traction and for a while I didn't think I was even going to have an April Fools review this year. But then my friend Brent (who really liked the idea) began cranking out sample screenshots, and after a lot of back-and-forth it all came together.
RetroStrife (forum): "I think the idea is a winner, of having a game built around Bob Ross. Would it be a retro game? That would seem to work best. Bob Ross's show ended in 1994 and he died in 1995, so I'd imagine it as an early to mid 90s game released when he was still on TV and alive. I think you're more likely to fool people with the concept that way, whereas they'd see it as more of a joke if it was a newer game."
You can read more about the April Fools Outtakes at Video Game Critic on Patreon.
and especially Mark Jewell.