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Taboo: The Sixth Sense (NES) artwork

Taboo: The Sixth Sense (NES) review


"I suppose it's not fair that I went into Taboo: The Sixth Sense with a predisposition to dislike it. Then again, it's reasonable not to expect much from a non-game whose sole purpose is to give you the most obtuse answer possible to any given question. Taboo falls into its own special category along with a handful of other games designed solely to piss off the average gamer, because it's not a game. It's a short, five-minute activity that was poorly passed off as an exciting product that could h..."



I suppose it's not fair that I went into Taboo: The Sixth Sense with a predisposition to dislike it. Then again, it's reasonable not to expect much from a non-game whose sole purpose is to give you the most obtuse answer possible to any given question. Taboo falls into its own special category along with a handful of other games designed solely to piss off the average gamer, because it's not a game. It's a short, five-minute activity that was poorly passed off as an exciting product that could hold its own with the best of what the NES had to offer. I don't know anything about reading tarot cards or the impact of the planets' alignment on the answer to my most pressing questions, and after ten minutes of having Taboo remind me of the adage that a fool and his money are soon parted, I don't want to.

Taboo starts out by gathering a little bit of your personal information, including your name, date of birth, and gender, all the while never bothering to tell you that these factoids will have no bearing on anything in the long run. After you tell the game about yourself, you enter the question you wish to ask. This can be anything and everything, and it can be a wise question or something totally foolish. In order to test the full range of Taboo's knowledge, I granted myself the patience (for this game is very taxing on one's sanity) to ask the unidentified shuffler of the cards three different types of questions.

''Should I have steak for lunch tomorrow?'' (a trivial question)

''What is the meaning of life?'' (an existential question)

''Will I get married someday?'' (a prophetic question)

Taboo struggled mightily with my query of meal choices, giving me a needlessly oblique answer to a rather straightforward question. More than anything, it was a lesson in the kinds of questions you should and shouldn't ask the game. It is generally unwise to ask it anything trifling that the stars do not have a ready explanation for, such as what you should wear today or how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop (although it's not like any bubbleheaded cheerleaders or nostalgic lollipop crunchers are going to play, much less understand, this weird-fest). The best way to get actual results from Taboo is to ask it a question akin to the latter two I asked it. Just because you inquired about the new job you're crossing your fingers for, however, doesn't mean you're going to get a clear-cut answer. Far from it, rather.

I fared slightly better when asking the game what my ultimate purpose in life was, albeit in a very broad wording. After asking your urgent question, you're treated to a display of lights that will probably knock over some epileptics while the game shuffles the deck and deals out your fate. (You'll get more out of the game if you ask a deep question requiring at least some degree of abstract thought, but even then that isn't saying a whole lot.) Afterward, ten cards are placed in what I can only assume is the standard layout for an average tarot reading, and one by one, the game will dole out your incomprehensible fortune. This is a large part of what makes Taboo such a notoriously bad game - its sometimes indecipherable grammar. There are some occasions when you simply cannot tell what the cards are trying to communicate to you. The only card of importance, it seems, is the final one that reveals what the culmination of the events will be. Why it takes ten minutes to go through nine other cards just to figure out your inquiry's outlook is beyond me. And don't even bother adding it all up: according to Taboo, I'm spiteful and I interfere with other people's relationships, but it is nevertheless my life's purpose to have a child. At times like these, it's best to throw my hands in the air and go eat a few tacos.

When all is said and done, Taboo boots you back to the title screen to repeat the process again. Only the most sadistically curious soul will go on to ask multiple questions of their all-knowing NES, and only the most unbelievably gullible will enjoy the experience. I have a difficult time believing that anyone could be drawn in by their Nintendo's ''ability'' to summon the psychic spirits and draw forth a cogent answer to your many statements of wonder. Of all the useless inventions in our society - among them, butter in squeezable bottles, the solar-powered flashlight, and the scratch-and-sniff sticker - Taboo shines as an example of the fact that any product can rise up from a free market structure, and that the results aren't always pretty.

This is such a bare-bones attempt at a game that it's difficult to imagine anyone at Rare (yes, that Rare) thinking that people would spend their hard-earned moolah on it, but obviously spend they did or Rare would not have gone on to be the powerhouse they are today. Taboo is horrifically counterproductive and has no real application to anything at all. Aside from some pretty groovy music, it is impossible to enjoy Taboo because its mysteries are beyond decoding. This is one of the worst messes of a game to ever be released on the NES. There is no hint of mystical allure, contrary to any impression the eerie phrases the game burps up at the beginning may give off. I have never had an inclination to learn the intricacies of tarot reading, and thanks to this useless surrogate bookend, the door of interest is now firmly shut and padlocked.

Says I, it is the fortune of Taboo: The Sixth Sense to be cast off to the farthest, snowiest corner of the earth and buried in a glacier to remain frozen for eternity. And to anyone who claims that no video game is worth a lowly, pathetic score of 1 on a ten-point scale, I present for your consideration Exhibit A - Taboo: The Sixth Sense.

Rating: 1/10

snowdragon's avatar
Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)

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