Mortal Kombat of course needs no introduction; a popular '90s fighting game franchise that combined martial arts, monsters and magic, it quickly became a fan favorite for its unique comic book flair and for having tons of hidden secrets for players to unlock. It also drew plenty of controversy for its over-the-top violent finishing moves and mid-match bloodletting, and was almost singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board and their content rating system that appears on every video game released to this day. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was presumably intended to be the first of a sub-franchise that would have expanded the series' lore and storytelling, though its poor critical reception (as well as the dismal failure of another spinoff game, Mortal Kombat Special Forces) quickly put a damper on those plans. It isn't difficult to see why the game flopped after only a few minutes of playing it, either; essentially, they attempted to take a fighting game engine and incorporate platforming, puzzle solving and RPG-style levels and boss fights into it, and the end result was - to put it charitably - disastrous. Enemies all have the same strange AI as the 2D Mortal Kombat games, which is to say they're either braindead easy or read every input from your controller and instantly counter it until you're dead. Every level is laden with platforming puzzles and traps that either eat a huge chunk of your health or (much more frequently) just kill you instantly, and avoiding them is a pain owing to the fact that the screen doesn't scroll until you're roughly 2/3 of the way from the edge. Each level is also a convoluted maze where enemies can attack at virtually any time, and you have to hit a button to turn Sub-Zero around to face them every time they come from behind or jump over you (and lord help you if enemies attack from both sides at once). The RPG element also feels lazily implemented - you get points for defeating enemies and unleashing combos, and reaching certain thresholds unlocks more special moves, including Sub-Zero's freeze blast; that's right, you don't even start the game with the character's signature move. Boss fights are downright nightmarish too, often requiring extremely niche tactics to even hit them, let alone whittle down their enormous life bars, and they can generally kill you in only a few hits (which you often cannot block). You do get items that restore health, boost your attack/defense or grant temporary invincibility, but these are so few and far between and the combat is so frequent that they barely provide any help, and if you die and have to restart a boss battle after using some, they don't come back. Just an amazingly frustrating and poorly-planned experience on every front. Hell, when there's secret codes to give yourself 999 lives and unlimited health powerups and even that barely makes it more tolerable, you know your game is in serious trouble. The only highlight of the whole mess are the live action cutscenes, which showcase some truly cheesy acting and special effects, and it's almost worth suffering through the aggravation just to watch them. Almost.
Developer: Midway Games, Avalanche Software
Publisher: Midway Games
Platform: Playstation, Nintendo 64
Released: 1997, 1998