Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bad Levels in Gaming History - Volume Nine

You can have a nearly flawless game-- great action, great set pieces, great combat, great narrative, great characters, great gun play (if you're a shooter), etc., but if your level design is poor, your game is going nowhere fast. While the games featured on this volume's list of Bad Levels in Gaming History generally have fantastic level design, there are some sections, areas, levels, or whatever that do nothing but annoy, whether they be poorly designed, a slog to go through, or what have you. After you've scoped out my picks for bad levels in this ninth volume of Bad Levels in Gaming History, list your own in the comments section.

And if you want to catch up on past installments, look no further than these links:

The Drowned City - Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS4, PS3)

For my first "level" pick, we find treasure lover and dashing gentleman in his own right, Nathan Drake and his female accomplice Elena aboard a jet ski in a flooded ancient city setting. While Drake drives, Elena has a grenade launcher to fend off enemies. Sounds fine enough so far, right?

Well, that's until you factor in the usually cramped channels filled with explosive barrels that if Nate and Elena's jet ski touches them, they'll get blown to smithereens. This is all the while having to navigate very carefully through the water to get the perfect viewpoint on oncoming enemies that await in the various architecture of the ancient city.

It's all too easy to accidentally run into a barrel or drive too far ahead, getting filled with enemy lead, because most of the enemies, whether hiding on rooftops or within the architecture of the ruins, can be very hard to spot until it's too late. Add into the fact that jet ski doesn't control the best, and you have a recipe for frustration that is the Drowned City chapter of the original Uncharted.

Great Bay Temple - The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (3DS, N64)

When most players and fans of Nintendo's historic series think of a water-themed dungeon in a 3D Zelda game that is highly annoying, they tend to think of the Water Temple from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. For good reason, as in the Nintendo 64 original, having to pause the game constantly to equip and remove the Iron Boots was highly annoying. Thankfully, this was amended in the Nintendo 3DS remake.

However, a dungeon in the 3D Zelda games that I find irritating to play without the help of a guide comes from Majora's Mask. It's the third dungeon of the game, and it's none other than the Great Bay Temple. This waterlogged dungeon's main claim to fame is that Link has to push switches to change the flow of water in the dungeon. This makes the current go absolutely crazy fast, making it difficult to swim to the desired room.

Couple that with a labyrinthine design full of rooms that can only be reached by making the flow of water move in the correct direction, and the Great Bay Temple can make you crazy in a jiffy, especially when you have impending doom coming with a moon in the sky that doesn't care if you don't finish this complicated dungeon on time.

The Labyrinth Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog (GEN)

We seem to have a theme here of aquatic themed levels so far with this edition of Bad Levels in Gaming History. Well, this continues with a classic zone from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, the Labyrinth Zone. Sonic the Hedgehog's first outing has a pattern in its zones. The first, third, and fifth are faster experiences, while the even numbered zones are much slower affairs. The Labyrinth Zone is the fourth zone in Sonic the Hedgehog, so yep, it's quite a slow slog. ...And quite the annoying one at that!

The Labyrinth Zone isn't just a maze like its name suggests, it's also a massively underwater zone that requires slow trudging movement through the water that permeates throughout the zone's three acts. Filled with obnoxious enemies, traps like spears that poke out of walls, and the constant need to be near an air supply or else hear the wrath of this immensely intense jingle,

While the Marble Zone is also slow going, the fact that there is so many easy ways to drown, annoying traps, and ways to die, makes the Labyrinth Zone my pick as most annoying zone in the original Sonic the Hedgehog.

Frozen Factory Zone 2 - Sonic: Lost World (Wii U)

Poor Sonic. Bad Levels in Gaming History just seems to keep picking on you! Nevertheless, a competent game overall, Sonic: Lost World isn't an overtly bad game per se. In fact, many of its levels and ideas are quite good. Frozen Factory Zone 2 borderlines on good, but it ends up being bad overall.

The concept of this level is that Sonic is trapped in a snowball and must navigate the narrow platforms and pathways of the level or risk falling off into the abyss. While this is a novel idea, the execution leaves something to be desired.

You see, the snowball moves very slow and has clunky movement. It makes moving around with any kind of perfect accuracy just a daydream. Factor in enemies that can blow you away just from touching them, and you have a recipe for disaster, and that's what a good portion of this second level in the Frozen Factory is, a disaster.

Chapter 21: Chaos Vortex - Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)

A chapter the near the end of Kid Icarus: Uprising, Chaos Vortex is a two part level which has a first part that is perfectly fine. It's the game's typical on-rails flight level that has our protagonist Pit following the creature that controlled Palutena for several chapters, causing havoc unto the world.

It's the second portion of Chaos Vortex, Chaos Island, that is one of the weakest parts of the game. It has Pit on a singular island combating enemy after enemy in wave after wave. It's not the most fun experience in Uprising, and it feels like it goes on for an eternity.

There's nothing like going through multiple waves, upwards of a dozen or so, only to take too much damage and fail the level. This is especially easy to do when the Orne enemy shows up, a foe that if Pit touches, it's instant death. Thus, the second part of Chaos Vortex brings the entire chapter down, and makes it one of my least favorite chapters to play. I appreciate the need to mix things up, but here the idea didn't work out so well.

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