Crap Shoot: Wrecked: A Psychedelic Adventure
Richard Cobbett gets high just thinking about one of the silliest edutainment games in the history of mankind. Remember: winners don't play Wrecked. They're too busy snorting coke off hookers.
Wrecked actually exists. This is important. This isn't a joke post. It's not a game we made up. It's not some dodgy Newgrounds thing. It appeared on a PC Zone (RIP) coverdisk back in the 90s, and promptly became one of the rarest, most sought-after PC games in history - not because it's any good, it's really not, but just so those of us who remembered it could convince the world it wasn't a dream. Wrecked. An edutainment platform game about the dangers of drugs. This isn't just a Crap Shoot. This is Vindication.
Wrecked was released as shareware by a group called Healthwise, promising... and I'm quoting the Readme file directly here... "5 levels, 12 drugs and hours of Stoned action!!!!!!!" That's 10ccs of something just for the exclamation marks. It encourages everyone to pass it on, so feel free to grab it. I've never seen a full version, or even finished the one-level demo, but believe me, that's enough of a toke on the crap pipe for anyone. It's one of the worst platformers you'll ever encounter, made unforgettable by its central gimmick - if you want to win the game, you have to get high. Yes. Really. The gameworld is sprinkled with drugs from caffeine to crack, and they're your power-ups. Some simply mess up the screen. Others let you shrink down to get through small gaps. Others just make you look cool in front of your peers, whatever The Man says, yo.
Not surprisingly, Wrecked earned itself a little controversy over this when it launched, although nothing on a par with the likes of Carmageddon and GTA. Maybe if it had had a full commercial release, anyone had played it, and there was even the slightest chance of it affecting peoples' behaviour...
You may be wondering what lesson you're meant to take from this, other than "Taking drugs gives you handy superpowers that help solve problems in your life". If you play it, you'll likely be just as confused about where the hell a game that lists Timothy Leary and Jimmy Hendrix in its High Score table gets off even trying to teach lessons. Well, don't worry. When it remembers, Wrecked has an Important Message For The Young.
"Wrecked is a game about drugs," the intro warns. "Lots of young people take drugs these days. Most of them don't come to serious harm, but some do, and some die. The best way to avoid the risks of drugs is not to use them. So don't use drugs! But if you do - play Wrecked." Presumably as some kind of shock therapy.
You can see the basic idea, to try and engage with kids on their own level, but it's a dismal failure. The demo at least teaches nothing, says nothing, and is just a confusing mess, while the idea that kids who do drugs would spend their pocket money on this instead of, well, actual drugs, is plain adorable. The best bit is when you die, not just because it means you don't have to play any more, but for the sheer comedy of its attempted stinger. As well as giving you your score (no pun intended), it sternly sits you down and lists everything you took in the course of the game, before warning you that... well... just look at its final screen...
(That Info it mentions is awesome in its own way, describing the dangers of amphetamines as purely 'a come down in which the user feels very tired and may be irritable' in much the same way as it talks about coffee, and claiming that magic mushrooms have 'very enjoyable' effects, which may be true, but isn't exactly on message for a game set in a hideous drug-induced educational hell dimension. Ecstasy meanwhile is merely described as 'very popular in clubs, pubs and raves'. That sound you can hear is the fear of god not being instilled.)
The learn-by-doing idea is an old one, seen most recently in Zombie Cow's Privates, and infamously in the diabetes themed Captain Novolin. Platformers probably aren't ever the right genre for it, but the idea that kids will remember details better if presented in a game than in a patronising cartoon or grave lesson is fair enough. Wrecked's approach to it... just isn't smart. If it stops anyone so much as having a single spliff, it can only be because the memory of the controls summons up such revulsion that not even snorting Keith Richards' entire corpse could hope to cancel it out. It does however still serve to remind us all of two very valuable lessons: that edutainment isn't a genre, it's a minefield, and when someone tells you about a game so ridiculous that it couldn't possibly exist, there's at least a slight chance they're not completely full of it.