this space intentionally left blank

November 2, 2006

Filed under: gaming»design

Difficulty Spike

Psychonauts is a pretty funny game. It's one of those games where, if you could cut out all of the game-related bits like jumping and solving simple logic puzzles, it would make a funny cartoon. Sadly, it is not a cartoon. It's a platformer, and those parts of it are not nearly as clever as the writing and voice work. So I've visited GameFAQs at least once, because I'm less interested in proving how well I press buttons and more interested in jokes. I refuse to be ashamed of that.

I'm trying to make a rule for myself: if I'm stuck for more than half an hour on a puzzle, and I don't feel like I'm enjoying the process, I cheat. My time is valuable, and if I drag on for too long, I'll lose interest in the parts of the game that I do enjoy. I know that I'll forgive myself, and if the writing is good, I'll forgive the game for making me forgive myself. Something like that.

What I find, however, that I can't forgive is a game where cheating doesn't help, and where it is literally out to waste my time. I recently started and stopped playing Killer 7, all in the space of a week. It's the game equivalent of a David Lynch movie--lots of bizarre events, no overt explanations, overwhelming levels of gore (albeit in a strange kind of cel-shading that actually highlights the blood). When the game is playing with logic puzzles, it's a lot of fun--the shootout with two undead executives, who can only be defeated by disturbing their immaculate ties, is funny and just right in terms of challenge. But too much of the other puzzles simply revolve around picking up items, collecting random objects, and conducting glorified key hunts.

It's not just ridiculous, in this day and age, that we're still playing games with puzzles that were old when Zork came out. It's a little insulting. Killer 7 is written with a story that is confusing, thought-provoking, and challenging--whether or not it's any good, we can agree on those items. Why burden that story with drudgery? I am sick of having to work to get to the good parts. If the designer isn't interested in being as clever with the non-cutscene parts of the game (Hey, Squaresoft!), I'd rather just watch the movie version.

Which, of course, the makers of Metal Gear Solid and Halo have done or are planning to do. Good for them.

Future - Present - Past