So, I've recently come out of a play through of the new Prince of Persia, quite happily with the thought that yeah, that was a pretty darn good game. That's fair enough I guess, but it did feel a little strange for me to say, because it seemed that every time I sat down with that game I'd fall into a language and controller abusing rage of how much it frustrated me to my limits and the degrees to which I hated every thing in existence in this world. It's perplexing as to why my attitude changed so drastically after placing the controller down for the final time, so I wonder, what changed?
I understand that it would be very difficult for a developer to create a game with the perfect balance of satisfaction and frustration (i.e. latter: none, or little enough for the player to care) which is a shame because really, that is all our enjoyment falls down to. Ideas go into a large pot and get mixed round a bit, while some are good, but others are bad. Some of them will garner a nice reception from the public, while there will be some that aren't so lucky. Every game is just a combination of these positive and negative aspects, which is what I'd put my experiences with Prince of Persia to – it was lucky that it's good outweighed the abundance of annoyance present – and it is also where I would place many of my more annoying gaming exploits.
The only thing that can make a game perfect are our opinions, and the same goes for the means that can break a game for us. However, while many videogames offer experiences that can test our patience to its core, not all of them are bad enough to make us want to stop playing them entirely. This piece is dedicated to those games: the ones where some moments make us our controllers far in anger, before praying that they're not broken so we can pick up and play them again. Here's a run-down of five of my worst, and where better to start, than with the one which inspired this piece!
Zack fully endorses the content of this article, regardless of the absolute slating he'll be recieving later on.
Prince of Persia
The new Prince of Persia seems to treat gamers like magpies: as long as they're collecting shiny things, they're happy. Now while this can be true in some cases (I can remember having some nice old times finding coin hoards in Super Mario Bros.), having to backtrack every stage to satisfy my kleptomania was not fun. But still, I found myself doing it, every single time
, as if the game had captured me with some kind of intrinsic trance. When you activate the game's fertile grounds, you're given two directions to go in. One leads nowhere, the other one doesn't. Both are dotted with shiny orbs. Cue running back and forth while hating self.
If repeating stretches of land and the same four moves to get around over and over again wasn't enough, Ubisoft have kindly included repeats of every boss fight too. Five times. Each.
That's four bosses, repeated five times, making for a grand total of twenty near identical fight scenes the player will have to bear through. Some of them can admittedly be quite entertaining, given you manage to off them quickly, but having to chip my way through the eternally difficult heath bars of the Concubine or the Alchemist was never
, at all enjoyable. I don't know, there's just something I don't find satisfying about fifteen minute slogs in which attack damage is barely noticeable, reward isn't issued for successfully completing quick-time-events, and I have the painful knowledge that I'm going to have to do this almost another bloody half-a-dozen times! So yeah, beats me.
And I'm not to forget those damn flying/running up wall sections. While they look nice in practice, the fixed nature of them, combined with the fact that you can rarely tell what will knock you back to the start, makes them some of the most hair-tearingly frustrating moments I've ever had the misfortune to be placed in front of. It's basically trial and error without the awesome chiptune soundtrack and feeling that your mad skills can dodge bullets (exactly what makes Megaman great!) and when the sections are linked together without a place for Elika to pick you up, it becomes less trial and more error with dusty knuckles.
Oh, and forget about getting the “Be gentle with her” achievement first time around, because there are so many random deaths in this game that you'll lose it before the introduction level is completed. But seriously, that is all for Prince of Persia. It makes me wonder what I actually did enjoy about the game when seemingly half of the experience was laced in pure agony, but looking back, I see that the whole package of running about and swinging about on things was pretty good stuff. The graphics, the writing, the epic musical score, and the guy from Uncharted definitely helped alleviate my time with it too. Anyway.
I can fly! I can run up walls! i can jump around a bit... You probably wont enjoy much of it, mind.
Zack and Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros Treasure
To be perfectly clear, I could pick any level in Zack and Wiki, and use it to write a detailed description of why I hate that game so goddamned much, but for memory's sake, I'll use one that I've played most recently. Its the penultimate challenge, titled Mad Science for anyone in the know. After playing the stage for about five minutes I come across a large coffin with an energy field. I touch the energy field: dead. Start the level again. Slightly miffed. Next, with my new knowledge of not to touch buzzing deathtraps, I progress further and find a potion, which I use. This begins a ten second death countdown. Okay, I'm slightly worried now. Start the level again. After retracing my steps again, I finally realize what I was supposed to do! I mix the potion as was intended, and everything is happy. Then I come to mixing the second potion, exactly as I've figured, and... ten second death countdown. Anger is on the rise. Finally, I get the second potion right, which turns me invisible! Knowing exactly what to do, I merrily run back to the energy field coffin where it turns out that I'm still holding the beaker which the coffin can see, and it zaps me into oblivion yet again. Dead. The anger has now turned to a sort of white-hot rage I can't quite explain.
,” I exclaim to myself, and go and do something else.
Upon its arrival, I saw critics praising Zack and Wiki for its unseen creativity, and opportunity to gather those fantastic feel-good “Eureka!” moments. Unfortunately, all I seem to draw from it are moments that include long strings of curse words, hatred, and citing a desperate need for gamefaq's to anyone sitting around me. The problem I find, is it that punishes the player for almost everything. Hard. It punishes you for not adapting to its particular brand of logic, it punishes you for not solving puzzles fast enough or in the game's right order, hell it even punishes you for trying to rid yourself of deaths common doorstep, by putting a big black mark on your overall score sheet every time you use a continue. Behind a visually beautiful exterior is a game that takes much pleasure in making you feel like an utter moron. Be wary of it.
“Hirame Q's,” otherwise known as the game's scoring system, are handed out with the performance of each task, more-so if you do it well. You never know exactly how
you're expected to do it well, though. You may complete a challenge, feel good about it for a second, then be awarded with a small fraction of the total points, and left wondering exactly why that happened. It then turns out that you were supposed to hit the insignificant looking crank over there first. Annoying. The real face kicker though is seeing a sullen achievement of 100/75000 because you didn't get the game's obscure use of logic quick enough. Through many moments in Zack and Wiki you'll probably be asking yourself, “how was I supposed to know that would happen,” and it doesn't get any easier with each passing time. It is something to stick with however, because as I'm sure many people will know, there is a very good game lurking beneath. Such difficulties overcoming death are unfortunately, something that players will just have to get over.
Yes, I did eventually realize you can shower off that death countdown. By then, however, the pent up rage was so strong that I didn't care.
It shouldn't come as a surprise, that a game whose glitches deserve their own top ten list shouldn't beckon a list of significant frustrations. Fallout 3 became one of those games where my enjoyment was marred by the fact that I was just waiting for it to spaz out. Case in point: you're walking along the Capital Wasteland, and suddenly get stuck in some scenery. It shouldn't happen, but at least a quick fast travel can fix that. Next, you're walking inside some derelict old building, and again, get lodged in some mound of dirt scattered about the ground. Now that sucks because you're forced to reload your last save, which hopefully will be not too far away from where you were.
The time after that, you're walking inside some derelict old building, and then suddenly, some massive black walls of pure glitchy goodness begin to completely envelop your person, obscuring your entire view and making you an easy target for all the mutants around. Then you get your leg caught on a stair-rail.
In Fallout 3, it quickly becomes mandatory game around the technical difficulties, which is never a practical position to find yourself in. Though they're not usually too frequent (but much more common than most games), and repeating your game due to a glitch-out never usually takes more than an hour, the fear will always be there. But its worth it in the end, simply for a fantastic game. It can be likened to the failure rate of the Xbox 360: when it isn't happening to you you'll have one of the best pieces of technology around, but on those few instances that it does come about, pissed-off at it will be the first thing that is felt.
This may appear to be someone's head exploding, but its actually a texture error in which his head was for some reason loaded with a red background, and in many disperging parts. Poor guy.
Pokémon was, still is, and always will be one of my favourite games of all time. Raising a team and developing a bond with each string of code that inhabits your team will always be a gaming highlight of mine: there's always a feeling that the ones you raise are you're
Pokémon, and nobody else's. No two are alike, and that is what makes them so personal.
At least, that's what it used to be like, until these buggering hidden stats became a huge part of the game. Raising a creature to lv100 used to be a great achievement for me, but now it is something I rarely care to do. And why? Because now, I have the knowledge that even if I do battle my way through the Elite 4, and the strongest monsters in Victory Road enough to amass my ultimate team of death and destruction, they still wont be as powerful as they could have been, and this is all due to the fact that I didn't go back to the beginning and spend countless hours fighting lv3 Bidoof to get those much needed EV points, which I then would have to keep track of on a piece of paper myself
because the game can't be bothered to do its job properly!
So I'm sorry, Charizard. I'm afraid that I will never raise you to the highest level, because I'll feel like I've failed you for doing so. Instead, you'll continue to live in that cold, dark box, surrounded by all my other favourite Pokémon I've abandoned for the very same reason. This is a victory for RPG depth and people that can spend hundreds of hours on a single game, but a great loss for the casual player who just wants to make a team they can fight fair with, and feel good about.
Also, 493 now, not including alternative forms? A bit overkill don't you think?
The bulk of my gripe with this game can be summed up in four words and a comma: Fuck you, Canary Mary. That button bashing bitch caused me pain and agony, no less that four times during my most recent play through of Tooie, all because I'm klepto enough to have wanted all of those stupid Cheato pages. The last one was the worst; I can honestly see no other possible way to spin that bloody mouse round Cloud Cuckooland without pausing your game to take a rest every time your arm cant take anymore. For me, it took three rests to make it to the end, but alternatively to do it quicker, I guess you could just pass the controller to other people in the room. Of course, if they can take the pain of mashing the X button until their arm feels like its about to drop off.
Aside from stupid mini-games, my other complaint around this game has to do with the utter ridiculousness of its challenges. Checking my recent Banjo-Kazooie/Tooie play's against each other, the former weighed in at a nice six hours, while the latter managed to accumulate a massive twenty-three! Logic dictates that the value-for-my-1200-Microsoft-points award goes to Tooie, but of course that vote gets wavered when you take into account that the majority of that earth's-rotations worth of playtime was spent running around aimlessly without a blinking clue as to what the hell I was doing!
I defy anyone who can finish Tooie 100% without consulting a guide. In retrospect, it appears impossible to me. The beauty of the first Banjo lied in the simplicity of its platforming, but in the sequel, it appears to have been dropped in favour of a much larger, yet unmistakably convoluted mess of a world to explore. You'll still be collecting many pointless items, travelling the expansive level depths, which are now joined together, and pressing switches all over the place to try and put each piece in place, all while attempting to keep track of everything around you that is going on. It's as bad as Pokémon, in the regard that you'll need somewhere to write everything down on, and that is aside from the fact that missions have become much deeper in structure, often requiring you to traverse a number of fetch-quests before you're even rewarded a single jiggy. It is indeed a harsh mistress to toy with.
Pictured: approximately 17x more fun than actually playing most of Banjo Tooie.
We can traverse the impossible quest for that “perfect game” until the donkeys sprout wings, but it wont ever matter when there are so many vices of absolute perfection in front of us already. They'll all be different, relative to the player, and likewise each will have the common aspect that is in providing the purest extract of actual factual fun
to the player. I know I have mine: to name a couple, Super Mario Galaxy, practically any Zelda after A Link to the Past, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, and regardless of their long-winded, tedious running-about sections, the Ace Attorney series, because I only relate it to the brilliance of their plot. These are the games that I could just sit down with forever, and watch the rest of the world melt away before me, from the perspective of my own gaming nirvana.
If there was no evil in the world, then there could exist no good either, for we would have nothing to compare it with. I'll end with that age old quote, for I think it summarizes why some bad ideas ultimately turn into something so good. That is, of course, after the dire amounts of anger and frustration have subsided!
The moral of this blog: videogames are awesome! read