Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Expressing video game exasperation.

Throughout the years, developers, designers and programmers have treated and entertained gamers with many unique flavours of pixel playing delight.

However, there are certain moments that exist even within a classic franchise which will have you thinking, ‘why does the game do that’ or ‘why do I have to do that’.

When you start shouting expletives at the television screen, you know that the unpleasant aroma of contempt has entered your nostrils.

Some of these designs for life kill, are unique to a certain series and most will just piss you off to the extent of thinking twice riding the frustration vehicle again.

They are now consigned to part of history and cannot be rewritten and/or reversed.

These are my experiences, the ones I can’t forget so prep that stress ball as we are about to give it a firm squeeze.

Broken controls and frustrating moments

The animation of some games (good, great or bad) can restrict the signal of movement and some creak more than a robot allergic to WD40 making it generally unplayable.

I’m sure we’ve all played shit in the past that were actually the shit but bad controls threatened to make the experience shit.

It is important to differentiate between bad and broken controls as the former equates to frustration and the latter means those actions are so unresponsive you’ll begin to doubt the functionality of your controller.

I’d like to bring cases forward which include Tomb Raider, Alone in the Dark, Flashback, Sonic the Hedgehog, Prince of Persia and Virtua Fighter.

Awkwardness and sliding all feature in the above.  The future inclusion of a 180 degree turn in Resident Evil 3 was a godsend.

I hated how Lara jumped and the enemy AI but most of all, taking a dip and pulling a lever filled me with dread.  I just wish the gameplay was as sharp as her triangular bosoms.

You keep champagne on ice before something great happens.  In Flashback, Conrad was literally on ice because every time you wanted him to stop running, he slipped and slid like an infant giraffe.

As far as my good self is concerned, this had the most stupid and illogical ledge grab ever.

To access a higher ledge, you had to ‘jump’ for it but not in the traditional sense.

To achieve this feat, it was something like running in that direction, holding a button and then releasing it at a very specific point in order to grab and progress.

Q. What’s the similarity between Virtua Fighter and The Police?

A. Walking on the Moon.

Sorry Sega, maybe I’m been a touch harsh because of U.S Gold and their curious handling of Street Fighter II on the Amiga.

This looked surprisingly authentic, despite a distinct lack of colour and animation but that isn't really the complaint.

Controlling Ryu, Ken et al was amusingly terrible with zero g being the order of the day.

Other joyous cement movement includes Pit Fighter and Rise of the Robots.  If those games weren't awful enough, why compound the error with terrible controls?

I guess they set out to make shit and boy, they passed with cartwheels.

Hurtling to the near present, how about New Super Mario Bros?

The whole gimmick of this latest adventure was up to four players could participate and I personally have only played this with two.

Adding another helper was a hindrance more than help.

This was a frustrating nightmare and when a gameplay element is more deadly than the enemy, you know you’re knee deep in shit.

Maybe I’m doing something wrong but jumping on each other’s heads resulted in an unnatural reaction meaning you could easily die.

Before the acquisition of reliable light guns, all you had on 8 bits was a joystick and we all remember how sluggish it was.  Forcing that crosshair to hover over a particular target was a tiresome pain in the ass and sometimes even been smack on didn’t work.

Now we get to some very ‘special’ cases.

If you want to plunge into the depths of degradation, look no further than Shaq Fu.  The infamous one on one fighter featuring former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal was a disgusting and dirty effort which was hazardous to everybody’s health.

Chars getting stuck in mid-animation which could imprison a motion all added to the gloss of notoriety and equated to a slam dunk of shit.

It appears that Capcom and SNK weren’t threatened…  

Superman 64 was about as super to control as the idea of Superman eating Kryptonite sandwiches.  When soaring through the sky, the guy in red in blue did as he was told about as much as a disobedient child.

This is one battle that you couldn’t win.

Invisible walls and getting stuck were also all in a day’s work for the Man of Steel.

Whose idea was it to believe that the public wanted to play a Superman game that consisted of flying through fucking rings and was basically a very bad version of the training stage from 1993 SNES classic Star Fox?

It was their intention to create such an exasperating and distasteful mess and they passed with more colours than a rainbow.

This was about as much fun to play as taking a cricket bat to your joy department.

Retro heads will remember the 1988 Taito arcade shmup/beat ‘em up and while appalling to look at now, at least it played correctly and more accessible than entering a manhole doing from the splits.

This is what you’d imagine a Superman game to be as you shot and smacked anything that moved.

The NES version of Turtles (not the arcade game) had a horrific jump that you had to negotiate in the sewers and has become infamous among retro gamers.

Turrican 2 boasted relatively smooth controls but using the gyroscope did spark unnatural bouncing.

The original had the gyroscope but I found this worse in the sequel.

This meant that you could literally spiral out of control and could result in a pit death.

I was 'life obsessed' with this baby and accessing secret locations usually reaped diamond smuggling too.

If you saw a 1UP, you better not let it out of your sight because if you did, it would assume a cloaking device and be just a visual memory when you returned.  What a stupid fucking idea.

Also, you needed to be dead on bollocks accurate because when jumping certain gaps, you there was no way of avoiding a bump to the head on the ceiling which made the gap wider than the average grin.

The grandad of gameplay putrescence were in the guise of Dragon’s Lair and/or Space Ace as you didn't directly control the cartoon, but controlled reflexes in order to pass each scene.

In Michael Cimino’s 1978 epic, Michael (Robert De Niro) tries to talk Nick (Christopher Walken) out of playing Russian roulette by remembering ‘one shot’.

Well that’s exactly what these shit storms gave you.

There were no second chances or leniency and if your timing wasn’t perfect, bye bye baby.

Escape from Singe’s Castle on C64 left me seething with rage as it was a pure insanity fest.

Live action lightgun laser disc series Mad Dog McCree had similar issues but this was due to such stringent conditions as to if the bastard game would react and decide whether or not your shot would be accepted.

The Power Glove was known for a total lack of response; these had a chance to turn the tables on such an essential notion.

Innocents in lightgun games

At some point, we have all played this classic genre and incredibly, this form of popcorn entertainment in arcades still exists.

You’re happily blasting away at human, beast or mech in order to progress and then with no warning, some asshole pops up out of assumed boredom and literally gets in your line of fire.

Oops, bang you’re dead, appalling death scream follows and for that you murdering git, I’m taking a hit and/or life which contributes towards the dreaded game over.

We’ve all done it and this really busts my balls because this cliché is designed to kill you.

These unarmed necessities are potentially more deadly than the enemy themselves.

The general rule of thumb is these tend to rise from a barrier and/or leg it across the screen.

Why would you do this when you’re totally safe as even the enemy isn’t interested in popping a cap in their ass?

Imagine welding without the necessary safety equipment?  Yeah, there will be consequences.

To pour further salt into a gaping wound, these annoying insects can be held hostage and if you’re not quick enough, even though you didn’t pull the trigger – same result boys and girls.

You could learn hostage patterns to avoid such a kill but should you really have to?  No!

I found the worst example to be Konami’s Lethal Enforcers which was littered with civilians.

I think the original lightgun monster Operation Wolf was the only game that couldn’t penalise in this way as it had a damage meter and not ‘lives’.  Okay, shooting friendlies may have brought extra damage to this meter but I can’t remember.

Others include Virtua Cop, The House of the Dead and Taito’s Space Gun.

Let’s slightly digress and talk about Space Gun.

The civvies seemed to run towards the camera almost zombie like.  I reckon this baby was the first of its type to feature a pump action facility for the piece when firing a nuke up those alien asses that included ice, incendiary and explosive.

This wasn’t your typical on rails rollercoaster as this injected something fresh with a pedal.

Unlike the futuristic Time Crisis, it wasn’t used to hide but to make a retreat from the enemy.  It was really helpful down corridors and nicely, didn’t make progression a guarantee as you could only do it for so long.

It’s definitely up there with being the best in the genre with epic space opera themes and some great bosses.

Some may argue that civilians are necessary as an incentive for those who are keen to show mercy will be rewarded.

To an extent, this is partially true but largely, the designers are preying on your instinct to shoot anything that moves (benign or otherwise) and could potentially cost you some serious coin.

The random effect

The RPG is a marmite tasting morsel.

I’d describe most as either an epic vision or interactive storybook.

Most are vast, imaginative, story-driven, packed with statistics, weapons and boasting more magic than Merlin.

All of which are essential ingredients for the aforementioned beast.

Final Fantasy VII is such an example and was introduced on PS1 with three discs packed full of frustration, frivolity, secrets, 70+ hours of gameplay and Chocobos ensured a banquet that would satiate the truly hungry.

You are walking around minding your own business and all of a sudden, the screen would transform into a psychedelic whirlpool and you were forced to fight.

Escaping could work but that seemed to only encourage another as though the game is flashing the ‘v’ sign and punishing your cowardice.

As with everything, it happens at the most inconvenient time and usually against an enemy that wipes your team out.

I enjoy Final Fantasy as much as the next but was this open world was made to be so fucking annoying because of unwanted casualness.

It’s like having an itch that you can’t quite scratch.

Joystick killing

Sporting occasions on 8 bits ordered the player to get out his joystick and give it a vigorous waggle.

You’d handle this situation in one of two ways.

1. Hold the base and waggle with your ‘good’ hand; or
2. Hold the joystick in mid-air and shake the bastard which should achieve the same effect.

However, technique 2 could be useless as during the furious waggle, you may need to press a fire button to progress in the event.

Exercising my memory, examples include swimming in Hyper Sports and hurdling in Daley Thompson’s Decathlon.

The former involved ‘breathing’ and the latter required ‘jumping’.

Applying some kind of gentle rhythm was not an option and you needed to work those biceps while your arm was left aching.

Joysticks in those days either had the fire button at the top or on the base so shit, what a nightmare for you but more importantly, that poor controller.

Your stick doesn’t want exercise, it wants love.

Imagine if the abused could take revenge?

Yeah take that you asshole, let me shake the shit out of you for a period of time and see how you like it.

Whether you want to believe it or not, it seems we’re all capable of murder…

Left for dead

Yes, this is not about that popular zombie franchise…

Instead, it’s about being able to leave the second player for dead.

The best genre example are scrolling platform games as the screen will scroll in a particular direction which is dictated by which player is the furthest ahead.

If you really wanted to work together, both would verbally cooperate to prevent such accidents.

Remember, we didn’t always have online capability or Bluetooth headsets…

For the swifter player, you could easily kill the other as the slower player will be killed by not being able to keep up with the scrolling.

This was a double-edged sword though because the other player could also commit an alternative kill by not allowing the game to scroll on purpose, thus preventing progress and depending on the game, force a pit death.

It could become a competition to try and kill each other which obviously shifted focus away from teamwork.

There are loads but I’ll only mention a few.

CJ’s Elephant Antics on C64 and Contra on the SNES were classic examples of ‘I’m going to use the scrolling to kill you’ with the classic Double Dragon also been guilty.

Single player games like Castlevania all fell victim to the scrolling death.

There is only one scrolling effort with heavy emphasis on platforming that I can think of which didn’t punish you for falling and that was Turrican.

You could happily fall to a previously explored area and the game would ‘rescroll’ which meant common sense did prevail.

Resident Evil

This influential franchise deserves to hog a section for itself and while I absolutely adore the zombie busting beast, there are some aspects that are more horrendous than any Umbrella experiment.

I am judging this series as a whole as most exist in its infancy

Horror a)

Get out of my way

Many games have CPU controlled chars that either help or hinder your progress.

When they literally stand in your way of where you want to be and refuse to move is when the frustration dial is turned up to eleven.

Try it as you will but they won’t respond to audible expletives or gunfire.

What sort of programming malfunction is this?

Such nonsense should not be entertained but unfortunately, you have to embrace it with tentative and frustrated arms.

So who can I point the finger of blame at?  Well, how about Resident Evil 0.

This was a prequel to the 1996 classic and was a Gamecube exclusive, before been re-released on the Wii.

This did away with those seemingly bottomless storage boxes meaning that you could now drop items and retrieve them for future use

Anyway, this particular instalment introduced the innovation of so-called ‘partner zapping’ which involved the process of swapping between chars in real-time in order to overcome an otherwise impossible puzzle, gain access to another area that is inaccessible for the other and even the carrying of certain items.

Also, the char you were currently controlling could bark orders to the other but only if they were in the same area and/or room.

This real-time feature meant that the other could be in grave danger and if you didn’t respond quick enough, game over man.

Okay, it was injecting something new into a franchise that was running out of steam quicker than a sex starved train but I personally hated it.

The problem was rife in areas where orders were given as the now CPU controlled partner has this terrible habit of mindlessly meandering in an area you really didn’t want them to as you couldn’t assign them to a specific spot.

As neither Rebecca or Billy were ghosts, this proved to be extremely infuriating as the only way to get them to move the fuck out of the way was from a series of unnecessary orders.

Horror b)

Movable objects

Capcom were obsessed with puzzles that forced the player to push blocks into a specific position.


Is this some of insanity and/or frustration test?

To really piss me right off, this was compulsory or you couldn’t get any further.  There wasn’t just one, how about several in most games.

In the original, the sick bastards even forced you to build a bridge out of crates before the shark segment.

To baffle me even more, they retained the same chore in the Gamecube remake.

I’ll ask again but this time, WHY HAVE I GOT TO DO THAT?

The controls further compounds this irritation as Resident Evil has never boasted the swiftest of movements and when you go back to the PS1 days, controlling Chris or Jill was literally like manoeuvring a tank and they ran slower than I can walk.

The much needed 180 degree turn didn’t appear until the fourth game in Resident Evil 3.

It was the fourth game because of Resident Evil: Directors Cut came out before Resident Evil 2 which was a tweaked cash-in of the original which was also bundled with a separate disc containing a playable demo of Resident Evil 2.

Anyway, when you are involved in these frustration exercises, it was like a very slow double movement in rugby as you only shoved blocks gradually and considering how far away some were set when you entered the area, even perfection cost several minutes.

It is said that Icarus ignored instructions by not flying too close to the sun as it melted his wings constructed from feathers and wax.  It seems Capcom also felt its fury as whoever dreamed up crate dementia obviously had their brain partially melted.

So apart from time, it also expended fury and energy.  What a shower of shit.

Horror c)

Give me some space

In any game of this type, there has to some kind of status screen that houses items and this is no different.

Herbs, ammo clips, weapons, keys and various other shit was essential in your quest and needed to be carried to solve puzzles, save and heal.

You saved via a typewriter and it was impossible without an ink ribbon.

If you’ll forgive me by digressing slightly from my eventual point but why oh why do you need an item (of whatever kind) to save?

Okay, I can live with the typewriter gimmick as these are sort of guaranteed restart points upon death but surely it would be more fucking appropriate just to be able save progress without.

Tomb Raider and its save crystals was a shit storm too.

Ahhh, I feel better now after getting that out of my system.

So you’re happily plodding along and you get the fearful message of something like ‘you can’t carry anymore items’.

When this happens, you have two choices:

i) Retreat to a storage box and drop something off you really don’t want to then backtrack to the item you can now pick up; or

ii) Use a herbal remedy, first aid spray or even unload an ammo clip to create extra space.

So both choices sound stupid but what fucking choice do you have as the game only permits a set number of item slots?

From the very off, Konami gave Silent Hill players infinite inventory space…

In Resident Evil 2, you could eventually pick up a backpack to expand item space but in the original, Chris could only carry a miserly six and Jill grumbled with eight.

Combining herbs is always available but you shouldn’t be forced to concoct a mixture and anyway, who’s to say that’ll help.

Inventory space really exploded into life with Res Evil 4.

Playing the game for the first time or an inexperienced player obviously won’t know what’s coming so this is inevitably going to happen unless you’ve played it x amount of times as enemies and item placement are going to be the same every time.

Begrudgingly, I’ve taken the herb and even used a first aid spray on numerous occasions just to save the unnecessary hassle of backtracking because retracing your steps is never fun and a right royal pain in the ass.

Some may say using a useful item unnecessarily is foolhardy and lazy but to me, it’s better than the alternative.

Horror d)

Unable to skip sequences

This is something even a zombie would struggle to get its decaying head around.

You expect that every game of this type will have some kind of visual sequence to give further insight to the story, introduce a boss or even kill off a char.

That’s fine and often great because any type of sequence (CG or otherwise) is worth seeing and/or hearing once or at a shove, twice but that’s when the line should be drawn.

Hmm, every Resident Evil on PS1 would really argue this point as Capcom are convinced that you’ll want to learn the script, movement and re-enact such drama that you must watch every sequence again, again and again.

Yeah, there is no option or button press that can skip terrible voice acting, an awful script and bizarre gesticulation with rectangular hands so you better like them because like stubborn glue, they are here to stay.

Even Capcom realised that this wasn't such a good idea because in later entries, they decided not to make this compulsory.  I believe this first came available when Veronica was born on the Dreamcast.

Horror e)

Providing protection and keeping up

This final bugbear is basically marmite but still remains somewhere in between for me.

When Leon stumbles across eye candy Ashley in Resident Evil 4, you have to protect her from members of Plaga controlled cult Los Illuminados either when she’s solving a puzzle or when she’s by your side.

If she dies or you don’t rescue her when she’s grabbed by the mad villagers, game over man.

When this happens, Leon sounds equally devastated as he enthusiastically states ‘Oh No!’

This is just a pain in the booty as why doesn’t the stupid bitch fight back and just rely on your marksmanship or general bloodlust?

As a cross reference, Dead Rising gave you multiple innocents to protect.

Another thing that twangs my elastic band is when CPU controlled chars follow you about.

This is fine when that char is of equal size but when it’s a child is when it really pisses me off.

The only example I can think of is the Claire scenario in Resident Evil 2 as she grows extremely attached to Birkin’s daughter Sherry.  The maternal instinct pouring out of Ms. Redfield is on par with Ripley’s affection for Newt.

Anyway, I have a massive problem with Sherry for two reasons.

Firstly, you have to take control of her to grab an item for Claire but nasty woof woofs are there to scupper progress.  This is great because apart from not carrying a pointy stick or firearm, her run is slower than the geriatric Olympics.

I’m all for a bit of realism but not of the annoying kind.

Finally, even in a non-lethal situation she manages to piss me off as you can’t leave her behind.

At any point when she’s with you, if she’s not in close proximity, you can’t exit as if you try, a message will flash up saying something like ‘I can’t leave Sherry’.

Well I wanna know why the fuck not?

So you go back and you find her crouching which suggests she gets out of breath very easily.

She only picks up the pace when you get close enough.

I’ve got a better message.

‘Sherry is lagging behind, would you like to leave her for dead?’

If you chose ‘Yes’, a further prompt appears.

‘Okay, will you supply her with a fully loaded firearm, ammunition, several mixed herbs, first-aid sprays and a map?’

Choosing ‘No’ will bring…

‘You selfish, heartless murdering bitch.  Oh, you've also got a fat ass, bad complexion and a triple chin’.

Anyway, would it have really hurt Capcom to let you hot foot it ahead and just make Sherry appear in the next area and/or room?

After all, this is fantasy.

When you temporarily take control of any other subordinate char such as Ada or Carlos, they are useful but Sherry is the only char that refuses to buck the trend.

Tofu doesn't count as he was just a joke and only unlocked under ridiculous conditions in Res Evil 2.

That concludes everything that grinds my gears about Umbrella but Resident Evil 5 should be discarded like a useless key.

Losing temporary control

This can be fatal and after you get used to it, you’ll even find yourself trying to play a game differently on how you’d originally play it.

I’m going 8 bit again with Hammerfist on C64.  I’ve no idea if any other version had the same issue but let me tell you all something, it was difficult to keep calm.

You could get trapped between enemies and fuck me, good luck getting out.

At this point, you’ll instinctively mash buttons, wiggle that joystick, smash the qwerty and shout whatever at the game.

It might not do any good but it’s worth a go.

Becoming the ball bearing in a pinball machine is not how I imagined playing this game or any game.  This is really what it felt like without multi-ball and bonus points.

It was at random if the flippers (enemies) showed mercy and made the game more demanding than a budget deadline.

We continue this particular teeth grind with games like Castlevania and countless other platform games that when hit, the ability to control your sprite is temporarily abandoned.

I’m talking about that annoying forced knock backwards when you collide with a baddie or projectile meaning you are absolutely helpless until you come to rest by landing on a nearby platform.

Okay, this is irritating enough when on solid ground but performing jumps to clear a chasm is a different animal.

There’s a strong possibility that an asshole can tag you in mid air and because the fixed trajectory is largely never your friend, it’s certain death.

The solution of temporary invulnerability is obviously obscene and saying that patience is a virtue is thrown right of a high-rise apartment window (along with a joypad).

Boss resurrection

In the 90’s, this was synonymous with shmups and scrolling bash ‘em’ ups and happened towards the end of whatever game, usually before the final boss.

You should expect to experience déjà vu by been forced to defeat a boss from a previous stage and sometimes to the extent of fighting or blasting them into oblivion once again.

This may have been psychological but they always seemed easier than before even though attack patterns remained identical.

It was lazy, tedious and like a mild form of purgatory.

This was a type of recycling that isn’t a hit with environmentalists.

When I was younger, I thought this was a good idea but now my opinion has radically changed.

For many years now, the accepted buzzword for this type of enemy has been ‘boss’ or depending on its challenge or level of frustration, ‘asshole’, ‘bastard’ etc.

Here’s a bit of pointless information but for shits and giggles, the manual of the US version of Gradius III described bosses as ‘Mayors’ with a claim that they wouldn’t win a popularity contest.

What sort of pixels were Konami snorting to come up with this bullshit?

Vicious circles

Restart points and/or checkpoints exist in many guises but in platform or shmups, these are fixed points (usually invisible) that must be reached and/or passed without dying which guarantees you’ll begin at a specific part instead of at the beginning of a stage.

These approximate halfway points will be found in games without a save capability.

You start to convince yourself that you’ve done enough to achieve the ‘halfway’ point but if not, you’ll have to try, try and try again. 

The pivotal aim to succeed against the horde of alien scum or sworn enemy of the galaxy is to collect power ups that are usually left by a solitary enemy or by successfully destroying an entire attack wave.

Solitary enemies are eponymous in R-Type and attack waves are ubiquitous with Gradius and/or Parodius.

Whatever you destroy, anything from a speed up, pod or weapon will be left and the longer you survive, the theory is that you’ll only get stronger and send shockwaves through the enemy nervous system.

However, there’s usually something smarter than yourself and whether it be an enemy or bullet, you’ll go bang and be floating in orbit around the nearest planet.

A cat has nine lives and in a shmup you can usually choose how many but whatever the amount of chances, your immediate resurrection at a set point reveals a horrifying discovery.

You seem to be a light on weaponry and you’ve lost EVERYTHING apart from your standard pea shooter.

The game has severely punished you for such a foolish act and not only have you been stripped of your arsenal, you have also lost your zip.

Now you’ll probably waste several lives and/or continues desperately trying to manoeuvre what must feel like trudging through treacle to gain speed and weapons back.

Will that same enemy keep kicking your ass?  Hmmm, it’s possible.

Remember, this is also true with bosses.

There were tricks in Gradius and/or Parodius that allowed you to exploit not using a power up that would be there as insurance if you died, but with others, the system is not there.

If pixels piss your patience off so much, give up, trade the shit in and your recurring nightmare will be a frustrating memory.

Please take it out on any object apart from the controller because it is your friend, your only means of playing and that clever piece of plastic has not created this nightmare, some asshole has.

However, for the more determined gamer with more patience than the average saint, you will fight, fight and deliver the knockout blow.

It’s more trying than removing permanent marker with a paperclip.

You gotta be fucking kidding me…

That’s a famous quote from Palmer (David Clennon) in Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing as he observes the result of Norris’s alien imitation in the form of a spider scuttling across the floor.

Actually, that’s what I thought when I heard about the prequel coming into being…

Shadow of the Beast was a concoction of visual and audio brilliance combined with a playing experience more gut-wrenching than attempting to digest metal rods.

Playing each Beast was a nightmare and so unforgivable that those responsible deserve to be shot in a non fatal area, drawn, halved and guillotined.

Discounting ports, there were three official entries born on the Amiga and I or anybody else will tell you that each was an experience you'd never forget.

The third and final game remained an Amiga exclusive and was the most playable but that’s like saying a four day old kebab still looked edible.

The basic history is that our hero Aarbron sets out to take out nasty wizard Maletoth using anything from fisticuffs, feet, ball and chain, shurikens and other weapons to kick ass in an unforgiving platforming world.

Oh, throw several puzzles into the mix which are shy of method or clues which further adds to this caustic environment.

There is no skill and survival is usually in hope as enemy attacks are so random and ruthless.

The appalling truth to this nightmare is that it’s not a dream - it’s real.

What most may remember about the third game was not only was it split into separate levels as opposed to one huge area was before each stage, an old git thought of an object which appeared when you defeated each boss.

What he did with these?  I dread to think.

In short, the first had heavy emphasis on combat, the sequel was puzzle happy and the third was just puzzling.

You can freely progress to future areas without any prior warning that doing so without certain items or doing specific acts; the game will quickly be rendered absolutely impossible.

Also, the chasm is widened with time limits attached to killing and/or rescuing is tighter than a new pair of shoes.

Well that sounds absolutely wonderful but perversely, it’s true.

You want an example?
I want the shit.
You can’t handle the shit.

Well, just in case you can…

Psygnosis present Shadow of the Beast II on Amiga.

Put it this way, whoever designed this excruciating pain must have had an extremely frustrating childhood.

Okay, that’s unfortunate and I sympathise but several wrongs don’t make a right and there’s no need for this shit, no fucking excuse.

The sequel unleashed more evil than the contents of Pandora’s fatal curiosity and ensures psychological dementia.

Yep, every single fucking thing about this game is a true head fuck.

It’s a pretty short game and I reckon somebody who really knew their onions could finish it within half an hour.

Spending eternity with a scalpel wielding sadist probing a certain orifice is a merry jape compared to this.

The spotlight is distracted somewhat for this kick in the teeth.

You at some point acquire throwing axes that are absolutely essential to kill an otherwise out of reach baddie.

Guess what, not only is this baddie not immediately near when you first get this alternative weapon but you only have a limited amount and if you waste the necessary, you are fucked.

Of course, you won’t know immediately know that until you reach the horrifying surprise.

I’m pretty sure you can’t swap between regular and alternative weapon so that’s just brilliant.

Do you know what else, there’s something even worse and this is just an unnecessary squeeze to the bollocks.

At specific intervals, certain enemies leave gold coins and you’d think ‘cool’, I’m going to use this wealth to buy a new weapon at a nearby shop.  Also, it doesn’t matter if I don’t collect them all before they disappear as there’ll be much more to collect.

You’ll eventually stumble across a miserable looking snail who’s demanding hard cash for a ride to Karamoon.

This mollusc is a poor excuse for Charon, the ferryman of Hades…

You may now find that you have a big fucking problem because this greedy bastard demands, requires and drains every last coin that exists in the entire game (36 to be exact).

No leeway, no mercy, no excuses and no exceptions, you are fucked.

Hmmm, now you can appreciate that theorem sounder than Pythagoras has a few fatal flaws.

Even for the most determined masochist, that is surely the last straw.

You can’t even attempt to rectify this or any situation because there are no continues.

The sick bastards successfully created the wickedest creation in pixelated history and in its own way, the most twisted game ever.

Beast 3 was an improvement but I’m pretty sure that if you fluffed a particular puzzle, you couldn’t reset it.

It involved a manoeuvring a stone slab on three balls and that slab was needed to be pushed on a slightly higher area and if it fell off, bye bye baby.

This isn’t defending Beast II in any mould or fashion but I do seem to recall that Creatures on C64 fucked you over if you didn't buy a vertical firing weapon, you couldn't kill a boss, rendering the game impossible.

Sticking with the C64, Delta was another of Thalamus's earlier creations and that went the extra mile.  I really did and still liked it but most of the time, it was a truly frustrating and nasty piece of shit as it fatally punished those who didn't collect the right power up for the next attack wave.

Okay, the attack waves never changed so you could eventually learn what to expect but believe me, that didn't make you feel any better.

I’m still of the opinion that Beast(s) remain cult classics and despite the infamous nature of each, their importance cannot be denied.

The first was shallower than a puddle, but it still looked incredible and sounded even better.

If only the same courtesy was extended to the gamplay.

Energy need not apply

Arcade games in particular (remember those) are purposely designed eat your cash and will inevitably have bosses that are charged with the challenge of saying ‘I’m tough, but I’m beatable, so as long you keep shovelling coin inside my slot, you’ll eventually win.

After all, you have infinite lives as long as you have the dosh.

In the golden age of arcades, there was largely no such thing as 3D, trillions of colours, texture mapping and any other advanced graphical technique because all you had was spaceship shmups, scrolling beat ‘em ups, one on one fighters, action and platform games, all filmed in glorious 2D vision.

The days of throwing in the odd primitive racing game with a steering wheel and even climbing into the cockpit to play After Burner have long since gone…

Having said that though, After Burner Climax and Outrun 2 SP were very impressive monsters as the former asked you to wear a seatbelt and the latter had you sat in a large moving car.

Even though they sound cool, the technology is now ancient and fairly unimpressive.

2D sprite driven powerhouses can never be anything other than seminal as so much effort is needed to draw and animate each and every aspect.

Today, it’s just easier…

So that’s the past and here’s my point.

I personally think Namco’s Tekken and Sega’s Virtua Fighter typifies why 3D fighters are soulless experiences.

Of course depth and technique is buried within but what’s the point if you can achieve the same outcome by way of rubber finger.

At least there is a heavy degree skill with a SNK or Capcom game but when a famous franchise swaps dimension…

Right, Virtua Fighter and another Namco creation, Soul Blade were in essence unarmed and armed fighting franchises in my least favourite dimension.

The problem was you could achieve a ridiculously easy victory without any real effort and sometimes it was pure accident.

The so-called ‘ring out’ is basically forcing your opponent to fall out of the arena and you’d automatically win the round, regardless of remaining vitality.

I struggle to see how the fuck this can be a good thing?

You could be getting your ass kicked and then a ring out could save your beef.

SNK tried this in the first Real Bout but at least it took some effort as you had smash your adversary against an obstacle until it could take no more.

It wasn't perfect but it was a far better idea.

Now we come to why if some arcades could walk, you could hear their cash box jingle from here to eternity.

Dead cert or one-hit deaths are other things that really get my blood boiling.

Double Dragon and Double Dragon 2 had two obstacles that really enjoyed pissing me off in the form of a spear poking statue and an automated combine harvester respectively.

As your char was pretty sluggish, a hit was almost guaranteed and with it, probably your life.

On the plus side though, the combine harvester proved just as lethal for the computer…

Konami’s 1989 classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a number of frustrating bosses but the multiplying Shredder took the Eccles cake by regularly performing a turtle shrinking ray that killed you instantly.

Final Fantasy was littered with enemies who possessed a nuke that could wipe out your party and what’s worse, you could do fuck all about it.

Jumping was an easy manoeuvre and was essential to clear obstacles in scrolling platformers and FPS’s.

Jumping is regularly used in one on one fighting games but using it is not essential unless a particular move forces such an aerial assault.

Double Dragon rears it head again and forced you to clear a gap in a broken bridge.

Cock this up and that’s a life wasted, all for one stupid jump.

Sega’s Golden Axe also had a similar neglected walkway.

Another example was Turok: Dinosaur Hunter which was a sort of killer app on the N64.  It was a fine looking FPS with our man Turok attacking prehistoric types.

It was fairly awkward to play as the N64 controller never helped at the best of times but the jumping mechanics were particularly demanding with many chasms claiming more lives than that of the enemy.

Locking hell

Yes, I could have used a different type of ‘hell’ so what the lock does this mean?

Well you probably already know because this has surely encouraged sniggers among gamers since the classic psychological horror Silent Hill was first introduced in 1999 on PS1.

This was undeniably Konami’s reply to Capcom’s already hugely popular Resident Evil and like the town itself, it did have some issues.

These problems included uninspired monster design, flawed combat with unnecessarily cryptic and often illogical puzzle poetry.

The original gave Harry not only one of the most demented jogs, but it also boasted probably the most pointless skip back in video history.  It was so beneficial, you may not even remember using it.

Another very strange thing was the censorship and redesign of the small knife-wielding enemies known as grey children.

They only exist in their uncut form in the trial (demo) and USA version.

Oh, I only recall the trial version because it was bundled with the PAL big box release of Metal Gear Solid.

These nude enemies were horribly redrawn (and not in a good way) for the retail PAL release as Mumblers.  These non frightening orange teddy bears had claws instead of knives.

The grunting and attacks remained uncensored but the PAL baddies looked absolutely terrible.

The original design of grey children did remain in Larval Stalkers who haunted the corridors in Midwich Elementary and were benign to the player.

However, to put the cherry on top of this shit sundae, in the final Nowhere section of Harry’s nightmare, a violent form of the Larval Stalker re-emerged as simply a Stalker.

The design of which was exactly the same of its ghostly counterpart but because they were merely a silhouette, the censors passed it.

There was a pretty sad sequence towards the end of the original featuring disturbing imagery as Lisa’s eyes began to stream blood.

At the time, the CG models looked brilliant and made this even more unpleasant.

This was passed uncut without compromise which is why BBFC censorship guidelines make so much sense…

Despite a few non-turning wheels in its machinery, some very impressive CG, an interesting other world concept and a brilliant Akira Yamaoka soundtrack meant it did send shockwaves to embarrass a minor tremor.

Throughout each nightmare, you will come up against terrifying denizens, eccentric chars and a world that twists and turns more than a contortionist but above all, a greater fear exists.

Basically, if a door isn't locked or slapped with graffiti in Silent Hill, investigating the entrance to a new room presents you with:

“The lock is jammed.  This door can’t be opened.”
“It looks like the lock is broken.  I can’t open it.”

Oh my fucking shit, many will wish that they could enter Raccoon City, buy Jill Valentine a glass of whatever poison and lend her lockpick.

After all, she is the ‘master of unlocking’.

In a town shrouded in fog and unrest, why do so many exist and which cowboy fitted doors with so many broken locks?

I’m not just talking a few here, I'm probably talking about hundreds.

Even if it’s your first play, you’ll almost sense this message repeating itself more than the radio.

Insanity is surely one more lock broken away.

These doors are rotten; they do not add to the flavour and ultimately poison this broth.

Following on from the actual message, how about a series of other false realities that is inherent with Silent Hill.

“This door refuses to open.  You’ll have to try another.”
“The door is under maintenance and won’t be fixed any time soon.”
“Fag break, will be gone a ‘long’ time.”
“It appears that this lock needs to be picked.  Walk away now.”
“Haven’t you got the idea yet?  You’re obviously a sucker for punishment.”
“No, no way, not now and not ever will this piece of shit lock ever be fixed so please stop wasting your time.”

After wiping the drool from your chin, here’s one final surprise.

“The door begins to laugh.  It knows what you want but won’t allow you to have it.  However, would you like to try and kick the door in?”

If you choose “No”, the game will crash, infect your console with a virus and a worldwide epidemic will be unleashed.

On the other hand though, the following message is displayed.

“What a naïve bastard and for being such a foolish and ignorant imbecile, broken locks will now become your reality.”

Your surroundings will terraform around you, all doors within your reach are digested by walls, except for one.

Although you don't want to believe it, the horrific realisation soon becomes apparent.

With hands shaking, you ‘touch’ wood and the door informs you “It looks like the lock is broken.  I can’t open it.”

It is now safe to assume that Jobe from The Lawnmower Man had it easy…

So that’s it, this journey has taken you down many trying paths which grant a one way ticket to Destination Frustration.

Most will piss you off more than losing a football bet in the last minute of stoppage time.

I can only believe that game creators, designers and programmers actually get a sick thrill out of driving gamers to distraction but somehow, they keep us coming back for more no matter how many walls they force us to climb.

After all that, I need to grab a breath of fresh air but it looks like the lock is broken.


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