Thursday, February 13, 2020

Bad Levels in Gaming History - Volume Twelve

After over a year's absence, Bad Levels in Gaming History is back on SuperPhillip Central to deliver to you even more of those obnoxious areas, sections, missions, racetracks, etc. (I use the catch-all term "levels" to describe them) that frustrate and annoy. These can be overly frustrating due to poor or unfair design, bad AI, or a plethora of other reasons.

On this twelfth volume of Bad Levels in Gaming History, we delve into a combination of modern and classic gaming with titles like Luigi's Mansion 3, MediEvil, and GoldenEye 007, to name but a few. So, read on and you'll see just some of the more insidious levels that gaming has unfortunately bestowed on to players.

Check out past volumes of this long-running SPC article series with the following links:

B2: The Boilerworks - Luigi's Mansion 3 (NSW)

The above accompanying screenshot to this level isn't just there because it's adorable--it's also there because it's the reaction a great deal of players had to a certain floor of the Last Resort hotel in Luigi's Mansion 3, a game that was part of SuperPhillip Central's Top Ten Games of 2019. While the Boilerworks, the bottom-most floor of the aforementioned Last Resort, is a creatively designed level, it features a section that is maddening for first-time players (and for many veteran players as well). While a lot of the game is designed around trial and error gameplay, it's mostly done with a safety net or in non-dangerous areas. The section of trial and error gameplay in the flooded floor of the Boilerworks does not occur in a place of safety at all. In fact, it's hazardous as heck.

In the Boilerworks, there are parts of the floor where you must ride in a rubber raft as Luigi. The controls here take a lot of getting used to, having Luigi's Poltergust G-00 vacuum needing to suck air to move forward and blow air to move backward. This is in addition to aiming the nozzle of the vacuum in the right direction to move correctly. It takes a great deal of practice to get the hang of it, much more to even competently do under pressure.

The issue here is that the controls aren't the most intuitive (read: they're not at all), and you don't get much time to learn them either before the game throws some unwanted challenges your way, such as a line of shark-like specters that can pop your raft in a jiffy. Better, clearer instructions on how to control the raft with Luigi's Poltergust would have been greatly appreciated and would help players not get so stuck and frustrated during this easily infuriating portion of the game. That's not even talking about the Boilerworks boss that incorporates the raft as well, with a flooded chamber surrounded a spike-rimmed wall. No wonder so many players shout profanities that would spook even King Boo when playing this portion of an otherwise impeccably designed game.

Ghost Ship - MediEvil (PS4)

Continuing our spooky and haunted theme with this edition of Bad Levels in Gaming History, we delve into a late-game level in MediEvil, which was terrible in its original PS1 version, and it's even more terrible in the PS4 remake. It's the Ghost Ship level, a sky high airship complete with rolling barrels, cannons to dodge, undead pirates, and risky jumps aplenty.

The latter is the most annoying and infuriating part of the level, due to the sloppy and near broken collision detection in it. There's a part where you have to bounce along nets to reach a higher platform, and if you fall into the chasm below, you have to make your way through a deadly obstacle course of cannonballs being blasted out at you.

Each time you fall down the chasm, you have to go through this minute-long, highly hazardous section of level, and it will happen more than you want because of how poorly designed the platforming is in the game. Further, even if you manage to cross over the obnoxious netting of platforms, there's still another chasm to cross, sending you even further back in the level if you fall down those. The Ghost Ship is by far the more frustrating and unfair part of MediEvil, a game that isn't exactly the friendliest in difficult to begin with.

Guard the Freight Train Cargo - Daemon X Machina (NSW, PC)

This mission from the rank C section of missions in the newly released on PC Daemon X Machina is one of the worst types of missions in gaming. It's an escort mission, and it immediately separates the proficient Arsenal pilots with the ones that should just stick to watching episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam.

The mission starts out simple enough with the need to destroy a number of small fry enemies in order to reach the second, more important part of the mission where the freight train needing to be babysit chugs into the scene. It's here that not one, not two--but three enemy Arsenals, all ready, willing and seriously able to deliver devastating amounts of damage to the train in no time at all, arrive on the scene.

It's quite easy for the freight train to go from 100% strength down to just half that in less than 30 seconds, and it's even easier for the train and its valuable contents to be destroyed before you even have a chance to understand what's going on. This mission is a tremendous jump in difficulty, and it oftentimes feels like an unfair one. It's more focused on luck with whether you can lure the three attacking Arsenals away from the train so it can reach its destination safely than anything else. Plus, escort missions just stink in general, as we'll see shortly with another example.

Wrong Side of the Tracks - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Multi)

But while we're on the subject of trains, let's begin with a game that is no stranger to this series of articles with a mission that generally ends for many players with the line, "All you had to do was follow the damn train, C.J.!" Well, it's not like we were just popping wheelies for the hell of it, Big Smoke! Wrong Side of the Tracks is an early-ish mission in gaming mega-hit Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It asks of you to control protagonist C.J. and have him ride a motorbike with Big Smoke in tow on the back, pursuing a train under control by the Vagos gang.

The aim of the mission is to stay towards the front of the train, on its side, and allow Big Smoke to fire rounds from his gun to kill the Vagos on the train. This is easier said than done due to the various hills and side paths, as well as how unclear it is the exact position you should have the bike in relation to the train. It says something negative about the mission when a good amount of players use various "alternate" methods to complete it instead of the intended way.

Control - GoldenEye 007 (N64) 

Continuing off from the idea that escort missions are for the most part terrible, we have one of the most infamous early examples of that with Rare's otherwise terrific GoldenEye 007. There are four missions where James Bond is tasked with protecting computer hacker Natalya Simonova, and by far, for me, the most awful of these takes place in the Control mission. The escort character AI is notoriously dumb, known to run directly into enemy fire as well as in the line of sight of the player's gun.

Control ratchets that up to a ridiculously frustrating degree by requiring you to protect Natalya from enemy gunfire as she slowly tries to re-calibrate and put an end to the GoldenEye satellite. And I do mean slowly, as she must also be trying to log into her GeoCites web page to take the proverbial piss on players as well. That's the only other explanation Regardless, it's a breeze for Natalya to perish in this mission, resulting in players having to restart from the very beginning and contend with the escorting carnage all over again. No wonder this mission was a roadblock for many, resulting in them simply returning to the multiplayer to get out their frustrations on other players of the game.

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