Here’s a question for you – what’s the worst cover art ever to grace a videogame? I reckon most people would go for something bland and inconsequential, or maybe just something that’s poorly drawn like this cover art for the 1985 ZX Spectrum game Antteroo.
But I think that would be to miss the point. A truly bad piece of cover art has to offend the mind as well as the eyes: it ought to be clear what it was trying to do whilst failing miserably, and it has to really, really insult the actual game it’s purporting to promote and illustrate.
And taking all of that into regard, ladies and gentlemen I give you the image that graces this article, the cover art for the (American?) Commodore 64 conversion of the (brilliant) arcade game Metro-Cross.
There’s so, so much wrong with this. For a start there’s the guy on the skateboard: he looks dazed and he’s scrawny, he’s the opposite of “cool” or aspirational. Then there’s the way that the central figure is a photograph which has been cut and pasted onto a crudely-designed backdrop like someone doing their first paid collage work. But what makes it even worse is the way it manages to combine several aspects of the real game (a sporty, skateboarding hero; a chequered background; a racing track) and manages to present them all in a way which bears no real relation to the game itself. It’s really quite an achievement and I can’t help but think that the designer was given the order “skateboarder, chessboard, some kind of road” and then found his work the subject of some kind of bet to get everything completely off.
And if you’re wondering why I’ve put “American?” in brackets earlier on, it’s because in the UK the home versions of Metro-Cross were published with the cover art below which manages to be everything that C64 art isn’t: representative of the game, futuristic in an “’80s” way and kind-of nice.
And if you’ve never heard of Metro-Cross and don’t understand just why it’s shameful to give it such a poor cover, find out more here (where you’ll also find some arcade flier art that doesn’t have a gangly bloke looking like he’s about to sneeze either).