To a lesser degree, ROM CHECK FAIL achieves what Nintendo managed with its first WarioWare game. WarioWare: Mega Microgame$ diced video games into their smallest parts, creating mini-games out of single button-presses or tilts of the d-pad. The result was a frenetic, stream-of-consciousness-style trip through the past, present, and (some would argue) future of the medium. ROM CHECK FAIL is a homegrown game with a similar approach. The premise is that there's a bug or some kind of critical error in the proverbial machine (hence the title) that's causing a handful of classic arcade and console games to merge.

The results are disarming, partially because of the way the game undermines expectations. Faced with the first level of Super Mario Bros., most habitual gamers instinctually understand what to do. ROM CHECK FAIL turns those assumptions on end. Instead of Mario, the player may be controlling Link from The Legend Of Zelda, or the spacecraft from Asteroids. And the enemies may be space invaders, or the multiplying energy creatures from Qix. It takes several seconds to find a footing, digest the familiar-but-askew scenario, and determine how to act. And then ROM CHECK FAIL pulls the rug out again, randomly altering the world, the players, and the rules.

Beyond the game: ROM CHECK FAIL was one of 48 entries in a competition revolving around the Video Game Name Generator website. Indie developers were to grab one of the random names and bring it to life within weeks.


Worth playing for: Responding to ROM CHECK FAIL's glitchy video-game mash-ups is like unpacking a poem. You're forced to look at individual elements of each classic game, and think about how and why they work.

Frustration sets in when: The word "fail" in the game's title is instructive. Many of the scenarios are impossible, since, for instance, the ship from Space Invaders can only shoot in one direction, and move in two.


Final judgment: Classic games cracked open with a hammer.