Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bad Levels in Gaming History - Volume One

In the past I have listed some of my favorite levels in gaming history. Now it's time to take a look at the opposite, some of the poorer attempts at making competent levels. These areas might be convoluted, designed with best intentions but end up being messes, or are repetitive beyond all get out. Volume One has five of these monstrosities for your viewing and reading pleasure.

Eggmanland - Sonic Unleashed (PS3, 360)

There's something to be said about a level that takes nearly thirty minutes even with a pro player going through it. That is the HD version of Eggmanland from Sonic Unleashed, a platforming and perilous hell on the level of past haunts from games like Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). The level switches you between normal Sonic and Werehog Sonic as you jump and maul your way through increasingly more challenging scenarios such as tiptoeing as Werehog Sonic on incredibly thin pipes with a bottomless pit, the cornerstone of recent Sonic games, taunting you from below. It doesn't help that the camera is fixated in a position that is not beneficial to your jumping prowess. Then there's the coaster part as Sonic where you must control a seemingly uncontrollable roller coaster car through a hellish halfpipe as you leap over chasms, dodge spikes, and hope for the best. After this there is a portion as Sonic with square sections of wall with an Eggman-esque mug on them that push out. If you happen to be standing there when they do you end up getting pushed off the level and die. This is very easy to lose precious lives at. The whole level is a life-stealer, and it says something about this incarnation of evil when I start with 99 lives and end in the forties. Not only is the level way too long, but it is unbelievably cheap, too.

The Dam - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

Without a doubt one of the most obnoxious water levels in gaming history (they are usually already a pain to begin with) is the dam stage from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The premise of the level is that you must disarm eight bombs that are placed around a labyrinthine underwater stage before they detonate and destroy the dam and turn you into turtle soup. Electric seaweed lines many of the soggy corridors of this stage, demanding pinpoint precision of the player. Good luck with that with the unwieldy swimming controls. And don't forget the other shocking obstacles in this nightmare of a swimming level. Many gamers never made it past this the second stage of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Blaze Heatnix Stage - Mega Man X6 (PS1)

Now, Mega Man X6 is already a poor Mega Man X game. That much is for certain, but the creme de le crap comes from the Blaze Heatnix Stage where you face off against the same mini-boss (seen in the picture above) about 5-6 times throughout the level. The battleground may be different each time, sometimes you're facing the boss in a vertical chamber with rising purple flames on your tail while another you're battling the boss in a horizontal area with multiple chasms to worry about, but the way to beat this annoyance is always the same. You must shoot out the multiple green weak points of the snakelike robotic baddie to temporarily defeat it. Mega Man X6 is known for some of the lamest level design in series history, so taking the prize as worst level in the game is some stellar feat.

New Pork City - Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

My problem with Super Smash Bros. Brawl's New Pork City stems from the fact that not only is it way too large, but it is also just a seemingly random pile of platforms put together to form a stage. At least with Super Smash Bros. Melee's largest stage, Temple, the level was designed to resemble something. This is not the case with New Pork City. The many thrown-together platforms and huge negative space means that throwing your opponents out of the arena takes much longer than a normal-sized stage. Now to be fair, I like the aesthetics of New Pork City, but looks alone do not a good Smash Bros. stage make. This is why I have the level turned off when I decide to play on a random stage. Too big and too difficult to get K.O.s on, New Pork City winds up in the Super Smash Bros. Brawl hall of shame.

Planet Wisp (Classic) - Sonic Generations (PS3, 360)

Planet Wisp (Classic) from the recently released Sonic Generations starts out innocently enough as you stroll or speed through a verdant valley with badniks wearing construction hats and armed with pickaxes, but as you enter the actual factory, the second part of the level, things turn crappy fast. Sonic Colors, the game Planet Wisp is picked from, had wisps, beings that for a limited time gave the blue blur powers like the ability to drill through certain floors and the laser which bounced Sonic off walls for as long as the wisp's power held together. The lone wisp power in Planet Wisp (Classic) is spikes. Sonic turns into a spiked ball and can use those sharp quills of his to climb walls and ceilings. The problem is when you get to special and small gears that need Sonic to charge his spike power on them in order to operate/move them through hazardous hallways. This is all the while dodging a barrage of missiles that fly throughout the level. Planet Wisp becomes maddening when you're tasked with moving four different platforms to line them up to lead the azure hedgehog to the goal. It's an annoying second half of the level and one I wish only to my enemies.


That wraps up Volume One of Bad Levels in Gaming History. To get some better vibes and view some Great Levels in Gaming History, check out one of the following volumes:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five

Which levels in games do you deem as poorly designed or made? Hit me up with a comment discussing this or post whether you agree or not with my choices.


Alex Jowski said...

Yeah, that TMNT level was brutal. I never got through it.

Reggie White Jr. said...

I've heard stories about Eggman Land. Sounds like a very strong contender for the worst level in a Sonic game.

The Dam, The Dam, The Dam. We I rented that game as kid, my friend and I never got past the stage. Sure, I think I can do it now, but why torture the play with a level that like. Once you play it, you cannot unplay it.