Underneath my yellow skin

WWDTAOL: The thin line between hard and unfair (video games edition, part four)

me standing by campfire leveling up my tent.
I’m an empress leveling up my tent!

Here we go! Part four of WWDTAOL: vidya gaemz! Here’s part three. First, some more talk about Cozy Grove and BoI: Repentance. These are the two games that I play every day and they could not be more different. Cozy Grove is like slipping on a pair of fuzzy slippers, sitting on an overstuffed couch under a fluffy duvet and sipping a cup of raspberry tea. I mentioned before that once I could wrap my head around the fact that the game was very much about taking it in little chunks and not mainlining it as I would most games, my frustration just melted away. There’s something charming about a game that isn’t trying to be massive, grim, and gritty. It knows what it wants to be and is more than happy to do exactly that. Not everything needs to be open world and hundreds of hours. Though, this game can be hundreds of hours, it’s not open world and it’s not meant to be played for hours on end.

In the beginning, I spent a few hours a day just wandering around and fishing endlessly. Now, it’s about an hour, but that’s because I have so many resources to gather. Many many flower/fruit bushes/plants and fruit trees. By the way, I have one niggling complaint about the game, a very small one. The interactive function can be wonky. I have probably thirty plants close to each other, plus decor, plus deer and birds. Clicking on the one that needs to be harvest can be hit or miss. The reason they’re so close to each other is because they ‘like’ being next to x, y, or z, and the radius isn’t that big. Nor is space that plentiful. I can deal with that, but what really frustrates me is that sometimes, it’s impossible to interact with certain items. I can’t even get the prompt. It was really noticeable when it happened to the campfire and it’s doubly frustrating when I had just been able to interact with it a second before.

The only thing I find that makes it better is to exit to the menu and restarting. If that doesn’t work, then completely shutting down the game and starting it up again sometimes help. I don’t understand why it suddenly stops working, but it’s frustrating as fuck. It’s a little irritation in the grand scheme of things and it’s an indie developer so I’m apt to be more forgiving.

Now. Let’s talk about BoI: Repentance. It’s funny because I call the former iteration BoI: Rebirth, but this one Repentance. Shorter, I guess, and I just assume everyone knows what I’m talking about. Anyway, there is so much there.  I think it’s the best iteration of the game since Rebirth, but it’s also…not the worst, but so fucking hard. Is it too hard? I don’t know. I think I’m less likely to want to quantify ‘too hard’ in general and just say that I’m reaching the ceiling for myself. I took Apollyon out for a spin because I hadn’t played them in aaaaaages. I don’t hate them–I just don’t find much interesting about them. They’re the one I always forget even exists. I managed to unlock Tainted Apollyon, however, and that’s an interesting character–more interesting than Apollyon.

Black Judas with wild new brimstone synergies.
New Brimstone synergies hype!

So, to recount, I have unlocked Tainted Isaac, Tainted Maggie (Magdalene), Tainted Cain, Tainted Judas, Tainted Cain (my second fave), Tainted Lazarus (I’ll get to him in a second), Tainted Eve, Tainted Lost, Tainted Forgotten (my fave), Tainted Samson, Tainted Eden, and Tainted Azazel. Tainted Forgotten is so much fun because you get to throw your dead skeleton friend around. Hey, wait, where are you going? And now that I actually understand what is going on with Tainted Cain’s Bag of Crafting, it’s so much fun, too.

I will say, there are different tiers of interesting when it comes to the Tainted Characters. Tainted Lazarus is really interesting, but difficult. He has a living self and a dead self (very thematically correct). Each self has a different amount of health and whatever item you pick up, only applies to that self. These are both passive and active items. The consumables such as money, keys, and bombs are shared. You switch selves every time you clear a room and there’s an item (in the consumable slot) they share that will flip the selves on will. It takes eight or nine room clears to charge the item so it’s not to be used lightly. If you die as one character, you die for good. It’s a really fascinating character, but that’s a lot of thinking to do on top of actually playing the game.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been concentrating on unlocking the Tainted Characters, which means doing the same thing over and over again. When I go on to try to fight the boss of Home, I get decimated. I appreciate this boss from a theme perspective and from a graphics perspective, but from a fighting perspective, it’s not fun. It’s similar to when I played Dead Cells by Motion Twin. I could breeze through most of the game and then get slammed when I hit the Castle. Ten seconds into the boss fight and dead. An hour run just to see fifteen seconds, half a minute of the final boss. That was so deflating. I feel similar to fighting the last boss of Home. Once I’m done unlocking the Tainted Characters, that means I’ll have to do this same run for forty minutes or longer just to be killed by the boss once again. And, there’s the alternate path which I’ve only beaten once (and tried maybe ten times) in order to unlock the second new character, whom I hate. I played Antibirth a bit, on which it is based, but I never got into it the way I did Rebirth. It crossed the line into too fucking hard and I feel the  same about the alternate path. I don’t enjoy it when I do it, perhaps because it’s unfamiliar, but I don’t want to do it. And, if I want to finish the Post-it Notes, I’ll have to do it seventeen times. Seventeen times! Or rather, sixteen more times. Ugh. Wait. I’d have to do it for both sets of characters so thirty-three more times.

I mentioned that I don’t do the Hush route any longer. Ever. I may do the Void (Delirium) if I’m really OP, but I NEVER do the Hush. Which, again, I’ll have to do seventeen times if I want to fill out the Post-it Notes for the Tainted Characters. Plus two for the two new characters. That’s a whole hell of  a lot of unfun shit to do. That’s my issue with this game. Right now, there’s enough interesting new stuff to do that I’m ignoring the stuff I don’t want to do. But, once I get past that, then what? There are over two-hundred new achievements. I went from full completion to having 2/3rds of the achievements. I don’t know if I have it in me. I really don’t. I know that I don’t have to plat it, but that’s how I play the game. I don’t know if I can break free from that–it’s the same as Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! by David Galindo. I am not happy that I didn’t plat it, but that mentality is the reason I didn’t touch it for a year and left it unfinished. I’ve seen the ending and can put it in the ‘done’ folder, even if I didn’t 100% it.

I don’t know where I fall on the accessibility line. I don’t think every game needs to be made with me in mind. I don’t expect to be able to play every game because I’m old, my reactions are slow, and I have spatial awareness issues. One of my favorite games I couldn’t play was Hollow Knight by Team Cherry. I loved the haunting, lush bug world that it’s set in. I adored the main character and her trusty, rusty nail. I approved of the nod to Dark Souls (of course!). A few hours into the game, however, I knew that I couldn’t play it because it was too hard for me. Should there be an easy mode that nerfs the platforming? I don’t know. I do know that it’s harder for indie devs to do this kind of thing, especially when it’s expected their games will be a third or fourth the cost of a Triple A game. This game is $14,99 on Steam. They were a four-person team when they published the game with one guy doing the coding. I’m not making a statement as to whether or not they should have put an easy mode in their game, but I’m saying I understand why there isn’t one. Same as I understand why some indie first-person games don’t have an FOV slider. Basically, I’m saying that I support indie devs and understand that they are small teams, sometimes only one person, and I want them to produce the game they envision. Not every game is for me, which is ok. It really is.

 

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