Monday, September 7, 2015

11 Games I Tapped Out On Midway Through

For me to not finish a game that I've put time into, something drastic has to occur. Sometimes a game simply doesn't gel with me. Sometimes it gels fine, yet I find it too difficult to get to the end. This list will cover games that I simply reached the end of my patience with, one way or another, and had to stop playing. Some of them I enjoyed up until around the point where things went bad. The games on this list are by no means bad games (well, some of them are), but simply games that at some point I found myself disliking so much that I just gave up. I'll discuss the why and how of each one, looking at where they went wrong.

Almost Made The List: Super Princess Peach. I finished this game, which disqualifies it, but it would have been very high on the list if I hadn't. The game itself is actually really decent; the problem is that it doesn't let you into the final level unless you've found all of the collectibles. I'm all for platform games having collectibles and secret levels that you need to find collectibles to unlock. That said, never ever EVER lock the final level of the story behind a 100% collectible wall. It's one thing to have a reasonable collectible requirement for the final level, ala most of the modern Mario games, but it's another to require you to 100% the game before you can play the finale.

Considering no other levels up to that point had any such requirements, it really came out of nowhere and completely stalled out the momentum of the game. I wasn't expecting it and felt kinda cheated, since I had no intention of 100%ing the game. Things like that should be optional. I imagine very few players actually reached that point with full collectibles, and finding an inaccessible final stage at the end was like running into a wall. I very nearly junked the game at that point, but for some reason I decided to go ahead and get the rest of the collectibles and finish the thing. It didn't take as long as I thought it would at all, and the final boss was fun, so I'm glad I did. But yeah, that endgame wall was not cool.

Now for the actual list.

#11 - Lumines: Supernova (PS3) -This is a fun and fast-paced PSN puzzle game. Most of it being on this list is because I tried to play it during a difficult breakup, and something about the game just made my mood worse. I tried to play Fallout 3 during that same time and it didn't work out, but luckily I revisited that later and discovered that it was really good. Lumines, on the other hand, I never revisited. It's way above my skill level. Still, nothing against the game, but it gets a spot on the list.

#10 - Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (Many systems) - Time for the first controversial pick of this list. The first Mortal Kombat was practically a religious experience. I was in like 5th grade when it dropped, and all of us kids pretty much thought it was the greatest thing to ever happen. What adults didn't get at the time was that we weren't excited about it because it had blood in it, we were excited about it because the world it created was awesome and the cast of characters was super-compelling. We all wanted to be badass like Liu Kang or Sub-Zero. Later Mortal Kombat II came along and improved on everything that made the first game great. We had more characters, a stronger villain in Shao Khan, and the battle spilling over into the Outworld. Even the penultimate boss, Kintaro, was essentially a bigger and badder version of the first game's Goro.

Later, Mortal Kombat III came out and it was clear the bloom was off the rose a bit. It changed the gameplay too much for my liking, and the general roster/world seemed like a step sideways or even back from MKII. Looking at the penultimate boss, Motaro, even that guy wasn't up to the cool-level of the bosses in the first two games. Long story short, I wasn't that interested in UMKIII when it came out. It featured a huge roster with a bunch of new characters, but the roster was too big for its own good. It seemed like nearly all of the newbies were palette-swapped ninjas. Add in considerably higher difficulty than the previous games, and I just couldn't get through this one. That said, it's the only game on this list that I might try again eventually. It's like a thirty-minute game if I can get the hang of winning.

#9 - Alien 3 (SNES) - Here's a game that should have been fantastic, but is merely average at best. And by that I mean average for the time. Nowadays games like this don't hold up at all anymore in retrospect, not with competition like Super Metroid. While there's a great deal of potential for Alien 3 to be a blast to play, it gets ruined by the confusing area structure and objectives. During the short time I played, I spent nearly all of my time lost. Right from the get-go I had no idea where I was supposed to go at any given moment, with hallway after hallway that looked identical. Being forced to explore wouldn't be such a big deal, but the enemies instantly respawn the second you so much as look away from them, making travel very tedious. Factor in limited ammo and the fact that enemies don't drop any health or ammo...well, you're basically screwed without extensive maps/notes/patience, and I gave up fast.

#8 - Far Cry 2 (PS3, XBox 360, PC) - When I was trying to get into the Far Cry series, I should have just started with Far Cry 3. That's when the series really took off in popularity, and it's also when the games got very good. Instead, I tried playing Far Cry 2 first out of some weird sense of needing to "catch up". This game is probably really good if you can get into it, and has a fairly realistic jungle environment where you battle drug lords.

The problem for me was the "realistic" part. I like realistic characters and relatable stories, but I'm not so crazy about realistic gameplay. There's no fast travel here, no hints, no checkpoints, no map markers, and no clue what to do half the time. You're hoofing it everywhere, with nothing telling you where exactly to hoof it to. You can't even look at the map while driving! This game is very rough around the edges, and despite my best efforts I just couldn't seem to enjoy it in the least. I gave up after a couple hours of stumbling around in the jungle. I can see hardcore purists being into this, at least. The good news is that when I moved on to Far Cry 3 I had a blast.

#7 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) - I tried this game fairly recently and didn't get very far. It was also one of the first NES games I played, as a friend had it. Back then, we weren't experienced enough to realize how terrible this game really is. We were just happy to be playing something Ninja Turtles related. Trying to play through this now, I was pretty shocked at some of the design choices here. The game just isn't any good, and the water level is the stuff of nightmares. How hard was it to make a simple Turtles beat 'em up? Apparently, pretty hard, because they didn't start doing that until the second game. This game is dreck, and the people who made it were ROBBING KIDS.

#6 - RPG Maker 2 (PS2) -When the first RPG Maker came out for Playstation in 2000, I stayed up for three straight days working on creating an RPG. It was basically a dream come true to have that much creative power, and I haven't stayed up that long again for anything since. Unfortunately, it was a very limited program without keyboard functionality, which really limited the scope of what I could create on it. Losing a lot of data due to a wonky save system didn't help either, and eventually I put that game on the shelf after creating a short, bare-bones RPG.

Fast forward to 2004 and RPG Maker 2 released for the Playstation 2. I was stoked about this and put a couple days aside to work on creating something with it as soon as it was out. It had keyboard support, superior graphics, and weather effects; basically everything I wanted out of the first game and didn't get. Unfortunately, once the game arrived, I discovered the horror that was the character models. Every character archetype was a short, superdeformed cartoon character. That's right, all of them. There was no changing the core character model, and you could do everything possible to make them look like badasses, but they'd still be short bobbleheaded toddlers with heads as big as their bodies. What a colossal disappointment.

I created about 20 minutes of gameplay, total, then shelved the game without finishing anything. I didn't even play through the included finished game that ran on the game's engine to see what it was capable of. I just wanted to get as far away from those character models as possible, and never looked at the game again.

#5 - Terminator 2 (NES) - Nearly all of the old games based on Terminator (see link) are awful, awful crap. If I had to pick one that I really despised, though, it'd be this one. I barely got past the first level, only to almost immediately die on the auto-scrolling second level because they put a wall right in front of where you start. A wall that immediately crushes you. Yep. Along with a host of other baffling design decisions, this game was barely playable, and I tapped out fast. Sad thing is, I almost definitely would have bought this game if I had owned an NES as a kid, because Terminator 2 is one of the greatest movies ever. It's still great to watch even today as an adult, and when I was 8 or 9 we were insanely hyped for it. It's horrible that people who had an NES and wanted to play as Arnold got to be treated to THIS game. Once again, YOU ARE ROBBING KIDS.

#4 - Ultima: Warriors of Destiny (NES) - The NES ports of Ultima III, IV, and V are a mixed-bag to say the least. While the original computer games were great for their time and a lot of fun for RPG fans, the console ports of the series have been spotty. Exodus for the NES is a brutal, difficult game that looks like a lot more stress than I want to deal with, but I can definitely see hardcore people having a lot of fun with it. Quest of the Avatar is a marked improvement in every area, up there with the Dragon Quest games of the era in enjoyability. Aside from the confusing portal mechanics, it's a great game and one I want to return to later.

.....and then we have the port of the fifth game, Warriors of Destiny. It's like they forgot everything they learned when making the NES port of the fourth game, because as far as I can tell this one is nearly unplayable. It looks and handles horribly, with a weird diagonal view of characters/NPCs and a way-too-small portion of the screen dedicated to actually showing you the gameplay. This game isn't just bad, it makes me feel ill to even attempt it. While Exodus made me tap out with some regret, Warriors of Destiny made me tap out and run for the hills.

Funny thing is, the PC version of this game is regarded as one of, if not the BEST game in the Ultima series, with an epic storyline where the once-beloved Avatar is hunted as a criminal by the corrupt government now in control of Britannia. The NES version could have been even better than the NES version of Quest of the Avatar. Instead they made this mess that looks, sounds, and handles terribly. Oh well.

#3 - Drakengard 3 (PS3) - Pure shit. I mean, look at the main character; she looks like she's covered in shit half the time. Maybe that's why the framerate and responsiveness are so abysmally bad during boss fights. This game is lowest common denominator nonsense, with the most un-likeable cast I've ever seen in anything. No exaggeration. I can't tell if the heroes are horrible people or just very poorly-written, but I think it's the latter. That'd be alright if the game were fun, but it isn't. The large open-arena army brawls of the first two games are replaced with corridors and scripted events. With no real reason to play this off-putting mess, I tapped quickly.

#2 - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, XBox, PC) - Here's the other controversial pick. I think this might be the only time I've ever deleted my save files for a game just to ensure that I didn't waste any more time on it. See image at the top of the post. This game managed to alienate me so much that I had to make sure that my future self wouldn't go back to it like a battered spouse going "I CAN'T LEAVE! I LOOOVE HIMMMM!"

About this time two years ago I played GTA: Vice City and I enjoyed it a lot. In the mid-00's I played GTA3 and while it's no Vice City, I enjoyed that one too. After I finished Vice City I had big expectations going into San Andreas, given how popular it is. It's a fun sandbox, for sure, and great if you have no other games to play because of all the time-consuming sim elements like working out and...eating.

Problem is, once I actually got going with this game, I started having problems with it very early. The missions weren't fun, the characters are as un-likeable as possible (seriously, they give Drakengard 3 competition for being just insufferable people), and a lot of the game design elements here are baffling. The game is unnecessarily bloated, with tons of mandatory missions that probably should have been optional sidequests. It takes ages to get through, and those ages aren't fun. The lack of checkpoints on the missions adds to the frustration, while repeatedly having to drive to mission locations (some drives can be up to ten minutes long) makes this an incredibly tedious experience.

I played about a third of the game, but nothing about it was exciting or appealing, so I shelved it for a long time. Two years later (this past July), I resumed it, deciding that I'd finish the game once and for all so I could move on to GTA4 and GTA5. That was a waste of time. I got through most of the remaining game, stopping at around the 80% mark when I reached a flight mission that was damn near impossible. The flight controls in this game are so bad that I could barely get the plane to do anything I wanted it to do. It was like playing Superman 64. Hell, I even had to fly through rings! THAT wasn't happening when I couldn't even seem to move in a straight line.

So...yep. As unenjoyable as the game was, I stuck with it, but a lategame flight mission did me in. It's awful the way it forces a completely new game mechanic (flight) on you very late in the game, after you've spent the whole game using ground-based controls/vehicles. It's even more awful that it forces you to use the worst-handling plane for that mission. About two-thirds of the times I tried the mission, my plane would just refuse to gain any altitude to begin with. The third of the time where it would comply with my vague controller-based suggestions, it'd usually gain too much speed and end up spinning out of control.

After spending about three hours trying to fly through more than one or two rings in a go (you have to fly through about ten), I gave up. Nothing I did seemed to make a difference, and my success/failure seemed almost random. If I went too easy on the controls, the plane would peter out and lose all momentum. If I went to hard on the controls, the plane would spin out. If I went medium on the controls, one of the above two things would happen. My plane also seemed to just go into a nosedive randomly whenever I'd start to do well, and no amount of research let me come up with a good solution. The mission just sucks, and you need a lot of luck to get past it. Well, no thanks. I deleted the save from my PS2 and never looked back, something unprecedented for me.

The game just isn't good, regardless of the flight mission. It never was good, unless you've got tons and tons of time to put into it and nothing better to play. It's got plenty of content, but there's nothing fun about the design. I would have finished it anyway if they hadn't thrown in a lategame roadblock that uses terrible flight controls that you never use anywhere else. Looking it up online, tons of other people couldn't get past the flight stage either, so it isn't just me.

San Andreas certainly has an expansive world and a fair amount of fun to be had, but when you get down to the brass tacks of mission design, it's atrocious and shittily-designed. As much as I wanted to "catch up" with this series, I just couldn't get through this one. On the bright side, while it too has a lot of problems, I've enjoyed GTA4 a lot more from what I've played of it (10% or so). The characters are much more interesting/likeable, the setting is more compact and MUCH more interesting, and the mission designs are fairer. The vehicle controls could be better, but I think I'll be able to get through that one. Probably.

#1 - Superman 64 (N64) - As much as I wanted to put Drakengard 3 or San Andreas in this spot out of pure spite, I can't in good conscience put either of them above Superman 64 in awfulness. I'd rather play anything else on this list over Superman 64, and there was absolutely no way I'd be able to stomach it long enough to get to the end of the game. My problems with San Andreas' worse missions (like short timers, lack of hints, and flying through rings) are the entire core of this game. What do rings have to do with Superman? Imagine being a Superman fan in the late 90's, getting this game home after paying $60, and finding out what garbage it actually is.

I tried to play this to do a post. I fully intended on covering the whole game, but I just couldn't do it. It isn't even "so bad it's good" like Bebe's Kids. It's completely unplayable, and the barren wasteland of an environment isn't even something you can look at and make fun of. There is NO redeeming value to be had here. While GTA: SA saves the horrible flight missions for late in the game, this one makes you go through lots of them right from the get-go. At least the flight controls are marginally better here than in San Andreas, but that's like being the least-smelly litter box.

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  1. While Ultimate MK3 did add a lot of characters, for me the expanded character roster was more about the returning characters who WEREN'T in MK3. Scorpion being the biggest one (seriously, how do you not include Scorpion), and the classic Sub-Zero who was originally replaced by a lamer version with lamer moves. Also restored to the game in UMK3: Johnny Cage, Baraka, Reptile, Kitana, and Mileena.

    I'd say you could do a post called "Top Ten People Who Have Finished the First Turtles Game" but I don't think you could find ten people who have.

  2. This was a cool post because it got so much into design. We all have games we haven't finished for various reasons. I remember you suffering through all these in previous posts so I got a feeling of coming full circle. I like your observation that MK was cool because of the world moreso than the blood. The Scorpion-Sub Xero story is just great.

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