Yet more complaining about video games. This time, it's games that I made an earnest attempt to complete last year but where I didn't get past the finish line.
I picked up The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
on sale several months ago against promises of a beautiful walking simulator combined with an atmospheric mystery. When I finally got around to playing it this holiday, I discovered that it was a little heavy on the beauty: it's an extraordinarily demanding game specswise, and I had to turn every graphical effect off or to its minimum settings to get the game to run at a blistering 4 frames per second. Turned out that that was only the beginning of the frustrations. First, this is another goddamn game that breaks saving, with no manual saves allowed and checkpoints that are very infrequent, the first coming about an hour and a half into gameplay, leading to my initial 45 minutes going down the drain when I took a break before apparently doing anything the game deemed noteworthy. Second, the game's paths are so poorly-marked that finding anything you're required to find is an exercise in pixel-hunting frustration. Third, the "atmospheric mystery" is more of a "stupid gory horror story" in the vein of The Hills Have Eyes
, with the family of the titular vanishee being possessed by a demon that turns them into bloodthirsty psychopaths and the first plot vignette revolving around a murder committed via severing of the victim's legs. Fourth, the ending is so trite and renders what came before it so pointless that the designers were prompted to write an extensive defensive apologia
for it. Not that I came close to reaching that ending, though; points 1 to 3 were enough to send me to the internet and see if pushing through all the above aggravations would be worth it. Turns out: definitely not.
Besides the PS & Lunar
series, I haven't dabbled much in 16-bit Sega RPGs, so I thought I'd fire up the Sega Genesis Classics Collection I have on Steam and give Wonder Boy in Monster Land
a try. I'd seen it on a Giant Bomb Quick Look for some retro collection and was drawn in by its adorable Duplo art & animations. (Your healing fairy friend, for example, will continually whap enemies on the head with her little wand when she's not on Curaga duty.) But there ain't enough of that. The cute elements begin to wane around the halfway point, whereas the gameplay weaknesses are constant: your pathetic little butter knife has a range of about 2 pixels, and you have like zero invincibility frames (and a low health bar, with big leaps in damage from level to level). I eventually wandered away when I reached the ice castle, with whose slippy, slidy floors and rampant enemies the "zero invincibility frames" combines smashingly, let me tell you. I tried using a walkthrough, but even it got confused here. I actually got about 80% of the way through the game, so I might go back, but I'm not chomping at the bit.
I've been playing Legacy of the Wizard
even since I was a kid - I even remember the commercial on TV for it. I was charmed by the central idea of an entire family on a quest, with Mom, Dad, son, daughter, and even the family dog (er...monster) pitching in. This was my first real, earnest attempt at it, though - and it apparently is a legendarily difficult game due to its sheer size, as these Nintendo Power counselors
will tell you. What deterred me, though, was that the game, in the words of this rather annoying article
, is somewhat "poorly programmed." The very last section of the girl's stage depends on making a jump that in essence depends on glitching out the game, as it's not a move that can be made normally. (It took 30 attempts before I got it the first time - and I then lost nigh-instantly to a boss who for this character requires an item that you get in another family member's part of the dungeon.) I went on to the father's stage, but it features these block puzzles with really unreliable and frustrating block-pushing controls. Apparently, Dad's stage can be cheesed by his daughter, so I'll have to try that in the future; the game has interesting ideas, such as the truly versatile sets of powers possessed by the various family members (the "dog," for example, is weak but does not take damage from colliding with his fellow monsters, which allows him to ride them to reach new areas), but for right now, I just want a break.