For the past five years, I’ve hosted a show about the worst movies of all time. As expected, it’s mostly played for comedic effect. I portray an exaggerated version of myself, much louder and caustic than I typically prefer to come off in the real world. In an attempt to make the show something beyond two dudes cursing into microphones, we do try to, weird as it sounds, add an educational element to the show, discussing why certain tropes are so often reused and how easily some mistakes can be solved with some extra care and attention. I absolutely believe that you can learn what to do by observing what not to do.
The most interesting cases to me are the works that seem to fail so spectacularly because of how close they could reach their mark with a few modifications. Abo Mondo is a failure of focus as much as execution. It claims inspiration from 8 bit classics like Metroid and Mega Man; that it’s a challenging platformer in the vein of those older games but with a style patterned after Mexican horror. It sounds like a formula for success; something familiar, but with a new twist. Unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver on any of those promises. It’s a soulless retro platformer in a landscape already over-saturated with them.
One look at the developer’s website and you’ll see pretty clearly where things went wrong. There’s a mock-up NES cover for Abo Mondo staring back at you, a gesture that feels hollow these days, an attempt to capitalize on a trend without understanding why those landmark games of that era worked in the first place. It feels less like a game than the result of a someone going down a programming checklist, then releasing it into the wild after the novelty quota had been reached. There are parts of Abo Mondo that feel borderline unfinished, be it absence of sound where there should be, graphical glitches, or even lack of a simple proofreader. The contrast of the vivid character against the monochrome scenery would be an inspired visual choice, but really only makes it hard to tell where you can land.
The worst part is that Mexican horror is such an unexploited thing in the medium of games. There’s a distinctive flavor there that can supersede the trappings of indie game development, the necessity or desire of so many to create in that similar space of the pixelated platformer. Like so many of those movies I referred to, it could work with just a little more elbow grease; a greater sense of movement, a soundtrack beyond a 20 second keyboard loop, a better sense of identity beyond rehashed tribute. It’s a shame that every game Guillermo del Toro has ever been involved with has turned to dust by his mere touch, because he’s one of the few gatekeepers we have in the mainstream that could realize the potential of that aesthetic. Abo Mondo, sadly, is just another lesson in what not to do.