Is there such a thing as too hard?
You know the feeling – you’ve been playing a game for the last hour or so. No checkpoints, you’re playing a proper MAN’S GAME. You’d rather hack off your own limbs than use quicksave.
You’re so close to the end of a level you’ve been playing for the last twenty minutes. You round a corner and BAM – smushed dead by something off-camera. You shrug your shoulders, gird your loins (however one achieves such a feat) and get back into the fray. You get back to where you were, inch around the corner. You’re pumped, aware of the threat. You’re going to do it this time for sure.
BAM – you get smushed by something off-camera. Shit.
Games are like life. They should be hard. Nothing worth anything is easy to achieve, as anyone who’s toiled through a Barbie game just for the 1000 gamerpoints will attest.
But there’s a fine line between hard and too hard. Between the sweet, sweet feeling of beating a game harder than tempered diamond and simply bashing your skull against a brick wall. Capcom normally come down on the right side of this divide (Viewtiful Joe, the DMC games, God Hand etc.), and they are responsible for my favourite game of all time (Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts). That’s because they’re normally pretty good at designing their games.
Games that cross the divide into pad-smashing frustration are normally games with dubious design decisions - possibly due to external pressures, maybe due to general crapness. Everyone’s got their own horror stories of this kind of game. Mine? To pick a recent example I’d cite WET. A game of many parts, not many of which seemed to work.
Whose grand idea was it to have into-the-screen falling levels that could only be beaten with trial and error? Probably the same genius who thought that putting forced timed tutorials into the main campaign was a brilliant idea (one of the tutorials actually occurs after you’ve used the weapons demonstrated in the tutorial in a previous mission. Amazing). The game itself is laughably easy, but the broken platforming bits and the above stuff kept me stuck for hours. Only to beat the final bosses in a fucking cutscene.
So the question I leave you with is this – what’s the most frustrating game you’ve ever played?