cosmicrace1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column covers Cosmic Race for the Sony PlayStation, published by Neorex and released in Japan in January 1995.]

All hail Gazuga!

Bad games are an inevitability for every console, but only a few stand out as being among the worst of all time. Bad games are fleeting; their life span is determined by however long the possibility for a cheap laugh exists. For a game to be considered as one of the worst of all time, however, it has to have impact. The worst games have legends attached to them, are universally loathed, and eventually become ingrained in gaming culture.

Cosmic Race is a title that is legendary for its many failures, all of which were highlighted in a review printed in a 1996 issue of Game Players. The game's infamous review was one characterized by disbelief, and Game Players' editors maintained that there could never be a game worse than Cosmic Race. The magazine even made Cosmic Race a semi-permanent part of its ratings system: 100% was "perfect"; 0% was "Cosmic Race."

Obviously, I was overjoyed when I was finally able to track down a copy.

cosmicrace2.jpgTo The Box with you.

Playing Cosmic Race for the first time is a bewildering experience, as its gameplay seemingly strives to be as counterintuitive as possible. Start a race and as soon as you hear the word "Go", your ship will immediately sink under the track and become stuck in the ground. Your time will then likely run out before you can escape, ending the game well before you'll be able to figure out what went wrong.

So what happened? Well, like some kind of idiot, you probably expected the accelerate function to be mapped to the X button. That's just what they wanted you to think! According to Cosmic Race, the best place for the accelerator is obviously the R1 shoulder button. Duh. This only becomes apparent after a few more experimental plays, however, after which the next big challenge is figuring out how to turn your ship. If you think that merely pressing left and right on the directional pad will navigate you through turns, you're not ready for Cosmic Race.

I'M BOREDNot quite as good as Rocket Dogs.

Once the controls are understood (under no circumstances can they ever be "mastered"), it becomes easier to concentrate on Cosmic Race's many other flaws. As Game Players noted in its review, much of the game's graphics seem to have been cribbed directly from clipart found in early PlayStation devkits.

This lends the game a kind of patchwork quality -- Cosmic Race's graphics are the visual equivalent of a song constructed using only Casio keyboard demo loops. The non-stolen artwork doesn't fare much better, as much of it leans toward the scary side of anthropomorphism. The gameplay really isn't so bad, however...that is, if you can look past the fact that collision detection is essentially random.

In the end, though, Cosmic Race left me a little disappointed. It's bad, sure, but there are far worse games out there. The inexplicably awesome soundtrack alone keeps it out of 0% range, and the simple race-to-the-finish gameplay is compelling precisely because the game's programmers botched it so badly. It's more fair to call Cosmic Race the stupidest game of all time, rather than one of the worst. As for whether it's worth tracking down just to see this stupidity in action, that's another matter entirely.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]