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.