In every video game there’s always some arbitrary task that slows down the pace of the game and forces the player into a moment they wish could they skip. It makes an otherwise amazing playthrough turn into a slog, where you just stop enjoying yourself. This is a list of seven game mechanics that totally take me out of the experience and I can do without.
#1- BUTTON PRESS SEQUENCE
First on the list is when a game presents me with a Button Press Sequence. It takes the power away from me as a player, and with everything going on, I stop paying attention to the dazzling graphics unfolding on screen and simply focus on the flashing buttons. Every now and then a Button press Sequence here and there is all right, but they’ve become commonplace in a lot of games, and it detracts from the battle.
#2- LOCKED ROOMS
You’re progressing, moving through the stage, then a sudden door/barrier slams shut, and your stuck. Enemies spawn and you can’t escape until every one of them has fallen. Once this is done, games that use this tactic usually rinse and repeat, and it isn’t long before you come to another locked room. It can often times lead to tedious boredom, and eventually stops being fun.
One game in particular that felt like an endless run of locked rooms was Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae. It’s a 3D arcade style beat em up, where you dispatch waves of enemies. However, in this game you are stuck in what is essentially a circular room, or platform. There are no straightaways, no halls, or anything, just a large circular platform where enemies spawn from thin air. There’s a finite amount of room to run, and the sides are open with backgrounds, giving the illusion of open space. This forces you to run in an endless circle, and kill every enemy before moving onto the next stage… which is another circular platform with enemies, that cannot be passed until everything is dead.
#3- ESCORT MISSIONS
I don’t mind fighting along side a NPC, or non playable character, especially if they have the ability to defend themselves. But more often than not, you end up with a character that must be protected, and if they fall in battle, you lose and have to start over. I mean, pick up a stick, or some kind of weapon! Anything? And if that isn’t bad enough, this particular character usually walks slowly, purposely moves into harms way, and seems to be programmed to set you up for failure.
I can think of a lot of games where this is the case. Aside from Yorda in Ico, or Emma in Metal Gear Solid 2, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep comes to mind, since it’s the most recent game I’ve played with this issue in it. A great example is when you need to defend Jaq in the Cinderella World, Castle of Dreams. Jaq has a key. Unversed creatures swarm around, and it’s your job to defend him. Jaq waddles slowly, stops when he’s surrounded, and does nothing to help you. Just stands there. Like dude, come on, run!
#4- UNSKIPPABLE CUTSCENES
There was a time when cutscenes would play and you were forced to watch them. I mind it more now, but back then it was okay. I loved seeing the cutscenes unfold! Nowadays though, if you can’t skip a cutscene, it just gets annoying. Especially if it’s one that plays before a difficult battle. And you die. And you see the same scene play again, and you die. Without the ability to skip, you are stuck in an endless loop of nonsense, when you simply just want to get to the action, and progress. Most recent games thankfully give the player the ability to skip cutscenes.
#5- UNSKIPPABLE DIALOGUE
Like the unskippable cutscene, dialogue that you’re forced to sit through can get tedious. Most of the time, there are subtitles, and I read them faster than the character talks. I’d be done, forced to listen to the entire block of text before being able to move on.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game that comes to mind. It had brilliant dialogue, and the writing is top notch. But sometimes I’d just want to skip through segments of the conversation for the sake of not only time, but interest. Some characters are really interesting, and I hung on every word! But there were some dialogue sequences that just droned on and on, with little to no substance. I think that’s why I enjoyed the questing banter from companions so much, since it never halted your progress.
#6- MANDATORY SIDE QUESTS
I’m the kind of player that likes to play side quests before moving on with the game. If I have a choice, I usually try to see what I can visit and search before continuing the narrative. However, quests that require you to finish in order to move on are always a chore. The quests I’m talking about are the ones that force you to do menial, nonsense tasks, like finding a dog, or delivering a letter, in order to get on with the rest of the game.
Recently, I started playing Kingdom Hearts 2 H.D Remix, and the beginning of KH 2 is one example of this. You start off with Roxas, and instead of jumping into the game, you need to find jobs and do them over and over again to make money, so you can leave. There’s no way to bypass this. You must do these menial tasks. If you choose not to, you can’t move on. It’s a chore.
#7- TIMED SEGMENTS
If there’s one thing that can totally kill a game for me, it’s timed segments in a level. Why is this even still a thing? It just arbitrarily makes a sequence, that in and of itself is already frustrating, even more of a rage inducing experience! I get that there needs to be challenge, and that you should work to reach the goal. Okay. But when there’s a time limit to what you can do, you make stupid mistakes, you rush, and you will end up dying. It becomes an exercise in how much you can remember, and through stupid trial and error, you eventually make it through. You don’t feel accomplished. You just feel angry.
One particular example of this is Steam Wood in Brave Fencer Musashi, for the original PS1. A tree, with steam vents within it, is about to explode. You need to lead Musashi through the inside of the tree, via an elevator, in order to halt the inevitable explosion. You have a time limit. So, on top of steam gushing out and dealing damage, a slow moving elevator (that starts from the bottom of the tree, moves automatically up multiple levels, and only comes back down once it reaches the top!), a character that doesn’t move very fast, a SLEEP meter that makes you progressively slower the more you stay awake, and a less than impressive jumping height, you also need to find valves that shut down some of the vents. And you are timed! If you don’t make it within the time frame? Dead. And you have to start over.
In the end, a theme I notice through all of these is that they halt and hinder gameplay. They force you to do something. They take the game out of the players hands and create an illusion of difficulty. They’re not fun and seem to be set in place simply to lengthen the gameplay experience. And usually, at least for me, they take away from the overall immersion, and ruin specific segments, completely.