Stuck At the End of Two Platformers

Last week my friend bought Steam’s Hunble Indie Bundle V, and out of interest in Bastion (which I haven’t started yet), I installed Steam so I could play it. Instead, I ended up playing Super Meat Boy for three days straight, then blasted through Psychonauts the next. But I haven’t beaten either of them, and only one of them do I intend to do so.

Both are cool games, but for opposite reasons. Super Meat Boy is all about playing Super Meat Boy. There’s little story or visual interest—it’s about the amazing level design, tight controls, and lightning-fast play.

Psychonauts is cool because its dialog and voice acting are brilliant, its visual design is interesting, and it provides an experience which can’t be had elsewhere. Unfortunately, the game isn’t put together well.

There are many fun concepts in Psychonauts, but they’re only enough to distract me from how boring it is to play. It ranged from being tedious to frustrating and, at the end, infuriating. Early on, I was determined to collect everything, but as the game wore on, I realized there was no way I’d keep playing it after I’d beaten it. By the time I was halfway through, I hoped I was close to the end.

In Super Meat Boy, I enjoyed replaying levels. When I got stuck on the fifth boss, I went back and redid a shitload of them for a whole day before defeating it. I’m currently on the level before the final boss. I’ve spent nearly an hour dying over and over, but I’m still determined to get through it. After I beat the game, I intend to collect as much of the bonus features as I can.

When I got stuck on the final level in Psychonauts, I became furious. When playing Super Meat Boy, I could get stuck on a level for half an hour, and though I swore and got mad at my failures, I always thought, “just one more try, one more try,” usually getting pulled away by others, or by my realization of how long I’d been playing. (I’ve got about 20 hours on Meat Boy so far—twice the time it took me to reach the final level in Psychonauts.) Every time I lost at the end of Psychonauts, I had to put down my controller, take a deep breath, try not to break something, and talk myself into trying again. After an hour of failure, I couldn’t take it anymore.

My point is that a fun, well-designed game can be hard as fuck, but I’ll keep going because I enjoy playing it. (See also: Dark Souls.) But if the game is poorly designed, then I’ll just end up ragequitting, even if I’m very interested in the story and shit, because I can just watch the cutscenes on youtube. Being a fun game is what separates the medium from the movies, after all.

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11 thoughts on “Stuck At the End of Two Platformers

  1. I haven’t played Super Meat Boy or Psychonauts, but I generally agree with you. It’s why I ragequit the first Uncharted, even though I was close to the end. The production values are high, and the characters are fun. The gameplay, however, is mediocre at best, and I feel like the battles are designed to be difficult in a way that’s not fun at all.

    • Haha, I actually had loved playing Uncharted—only game I’ve ever beaten on the highest difficulty. Not sure how I’d feel about it now though since I didn’t get far in Uncharted 3 because it was boring as fuck.

  2. That’s funny—I can connect with this post in at least two ways. First, I downloaded the Bundle myself a couple weeks ago, after a friend watched me play the demos for both Limbo and Braid. With Braid especially, I ended up punching stuff in my room a lot, muttering, swearing and whatever—but I still kept playing. I guess that’s when you reach the sweet spot: frustration with a point.

    Second, I actually finished some weird post trilogy on MLP:FIM (actually, considering that it’s you, you might find it insightful, annoying, hilarious, or any combination of the three). My experience writing that was similar, because I was trying to do close reading, and I don’t see myself as being great at it. I went nuts obsessing over that project for weeks at a time. Again: frustration with a point.

    • Yup. I mean, I can’t blame reviewers who probably gave it scores in the 7 range because sure they all wanted to like it, but it’s just not an amazing game. It didn’t deserve to sell exceptionally well, and I think the kind of comeback it’s gotten is the right kind anyway.

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  8. Yeah it’s what a lot of game analysts like The Game Overthinker need to always remember: video games don’t have to have great stories or characters to be high art. Mechanics themselves are high art. The whip in Castlevania is a masterpiece; Mario’s jump is a wonder that inspired millions; Sonic’s speed sold his character, not the other way around.

    When Ebert said, “Sounds to me like these video games aren’t as much like art, that sounds more like sports.” I was like, sports ARE art, doofus! Even that one Cracked article that tried to argue against him said something like,

    “Okay, I concede that point, BUT” and then went on to talk about story and nuanced morals and shit. What a pathetic way to undersell the whole medium.

    You know when video games became high art? Became GREAT art? Pong.

    And that’s not just hyperbole; here’s a paraphrased line I remember from Nolan Bushnell:

    “The number of people who have come up to me, and told me that they met their husband, or met their wife, playing pong, is in the hundreds.”

    The 1971 revolutionary creation inspired and wowed crowds; it brought people together. That art is high as shit.

    I don’t think art MUST have to have subtle themes and nuances to be great, it just has to be great.

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