I don’t think it’s really possible to quantify the “worst game of all time” or even compare kusoge that well. There are so many ways that a game can be deficient, and it’s hard to say what the worst way is.

A game could be disappointing. It could be technically deficient for its era or mechanically lacking compared to others in its genre. For my money, the worst kind of kusoge is the boring kind. A broken game is at least fun to analyze, but an uninteresting game is just exhausting. As excruciating as it is, I would rather play Hoshi wo Miru Hito than, say, Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum.

But then there are the games which you just can’t believe anyone tried to charge money for. 1994’s Club Drive for the Atari Jaguar is one such title. It’s just not… anything. It is a college student’s Introduction to 3D Design mid-semester project submission that someone stuck a price sticker on. Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

Club Drive That's supposed to be a cat
Screenshot by Destructoid

Cat loaf

The Atari Jaguar was a spectacular failure during a period of spectacular failures in the console market. Many people in North America like to neatly believe the ‘90s were largely the SNES vs. Sega Genesis followed by the PS1 vs N64 (and the Sega Saturn, if you’re being charitable). However, the early ‘90s saw a lot of consoles try to break into the market and fail, such as the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, Phillips CD-I, Amiga CD32, or the Neo Geo CD.

Atari was still trying to bank on the name recognition it built in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, and the struggles of the Atari Lynx had taught them nothing. In late 1993, they trundled out the Jaguar, which they marketed as the first 64-bit console, inadvertently making themselves another casualty of the “Bit Wars.” A laughable 50 cartridge games came out for the console before it was discontinued in 1996. As bad as the library was, there were some unfortunate casualties, like Rebellion’s Alien vs. Predator.

Club Drive was not an unfortunate casualty. In fact, its inclusion in the Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration means it isn’t even a casualty at all. It was, by some accounts, supposed to demonstrate the console’s 3D capabilities, and it failed substantially.

Club Drive Driving down what looks like a Hot Wheels track
Screenshot by Destructoid

A game, I guess

It’s kind of hard to describe Club Drive as a game. There are three modes: collect, race, and tag, with the latter being relegated to 2-players. Collect has you collecting, uh, Everlasting Gobstoppers or maybe Koosh balls. Or, y’know, I guess they could be unstable molecules. In any case, you drive around four environments picking up some of these… things.

Race is pretty self-explanatory. You drive around a track and try to cross checkpoints as quickly as possible. In single-player, you’re going for the best time. There are no AI opponents. In multiplayer, it’s actually a race, which is the closest Club Drive gets to being an actual game. However, the tracks themselves are really just suggestions. One track has you driving around a big house. It tells you the route you’re supposed to take exactly once and then lets you loose. I became instantly lost but eventually blundered over the finish line.

The last mode is tag, which is a mode, I guess.

It doesn’t matter what you pick. You’re mostly just left to drive an ugly car (that has several color options) around mostly flat-shaded environments. The cars control like lobotomized shopping carts, the physics and collision detection are mere suggestions, and the levels are small and painful to look at. Thankfully, you can see all of it in less than an hour. If you have a friend, you rented the game, and it’s still 1994, you might be able to trick yourself into enjoying it for a weekend, but otherwise, I’m sorry for your luck.

Club Drive desert canyon
Screenshot by Destructoid

Sedative

The fact that positive-ish reviews for the game exist is pretty staggering. Although, a writer at GameFan said, “Some nice static screens and smooth play help, but besides cruising around the house, this cart is the equivelent [sic] of a sleeping pil [sic],” before adding, “zzzzz.” That’s what I look for in my games, “static screens.” Yet despite those hurtful words, the writer gave the game 69/100.

At the time, some critics seemed impressed with the 3D graphics, which might just be them trying to soften their criticism. 1994 was the year that Stunt Racer FX hit the SNES. To be fair, Club Drive does run reasonably smoothly, and it outputs at 640×480 resolution, which was quite high at the time. These are both things that Stunt Racer FX can’t claim. Yet, the framerate still tanks when you add another player.

However, Stunt Racer FX is actually a game. It also has multiple modes beyond just racing, but these are actually designed well enough that I can recognize it as a finished product. Yet the SNES wasn’t as powerful as the Atari Jaguar. The game was just better designed.

That, in itself, is pretty unfortunate. Club Drive was designed in-house at Atari where the developers should have been the most familiar with the hardware. If that was the case, they didn’t really put it in a good light. 

Club Drive Atari Factory
Screenshot by Destructoid

Deck chairs, etc.

There’s really little else to say about Club Drive. It feels like one of those E3 demos that console makers put out to try and demonstrate what their new hardware can do. Something like Nintendo’s Super Mario 128, which highlighted the Gamecube’s horsepower, but wasn’t actually a game that was intended to ship. But not only did Club Drive make it into stores, it doesn’t really feel like a good representation of what the Jaguar is capable of. I’m not certain there was ever a game that fully took advantage of the hardware.

I have to wonder what working for Atari was like in those days. The company had been in decline for about a decade, and it seemed like there was no escape. As Paul Rose put it, “Between 1993 and 1995, a significant portion of Atari’s income had not derived from Jaguar sales, but from a patent infringement lawsuit victory over Sega. The writing was on the wall.” Sure enough, that iteration of Atari soon ceased to exist in 1996. In ‘98, the name and properties were sold to Hasbro, then later to Infogrames, who rebranded into the current Atari.

What I like most about current Atari is their acceptance of their past. Club Drive is an almost meritless game for a failure console, but they chose to include it in Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration. Unfortunately, there’s no supplemental material to explain the game’s nightmarish deficiencies, which would be a feature presentation to someone like me. They also kind of gloss over the Jaguar’s failure, which is too bad. It refers to Club Drive as an “interesting historical artifact of the early days of polygonal gaming,” which I suppose it is. The industry is built on successes. The failures are far more interesting.

For previous Weekly Kusoge, check this link!

Zoey Handley

Staff Writer – Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.


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