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I had such high hopes for February, I really did.
I sat on Banjo Tooie, because I wanted to experience it, but I didn’t want to experience it quite so close to Banjo Kazooie. I was genuinely looking forward to what Plague Knight had in store for me at the end of Shovel Knight. I wanted to delve into Simon the Sorcerer and find out if time – and my memory of that game – had treated it well. I also wanted to see if – a year on – Jazzpunk was still that spellbinding, silly experience I found it to be while watching Lucahjin play it.
This tragic tale is a tale of how that all fell flat and how I ended up playing three games that weren’t even on my list. Well. Kind of.
The Plague…Of Stupid Jumps
Let’s start with Plague Knight, because Plague of Shadows has the most to answer for in this year’s four in February.
I have this policy: I can’t do a review on something if I haven’t actually finished it, myself. This means no Hand of Fate review until I actually finish that game [if I ever do. The ending was particularly stupid, difficulty wise.]
I liked Hand of Fate, don’t get me wrong, but that last stretch…it was frustrating design piled on top of impossible odds.
Shovel Knight does a similar trick to Hand of Fate. For a lot of the game, it’s quite a fun romp. Sure, there are problems. It has bad pits of instant death and spikes of sorrow aplenty. But for the most part, Shovel Knight is fantastic. Here. You can even read my review or go watch my Let’s Play of it. Shovel Knight is the “right kind of platforming,” in my humble opinion. If you die, it’s your own fault. Mostly.
Plague of Shadows? It takes all that very careful and nuanced platforming and throws it out the window. It doesn’t even give you time to warm up to the new ideas. It just drops you right in at the deep end. I spent five [!] minutes on the first screen trying to figure out what the minion I met even meant about jumping. And it just got worse from there. Your jumps? They’re leaps-of-faith. EVERY jump is like that. While you do eventually kind of get the ability to slow the jumps down, it doesn’t stop every jump from being you hitting the jump button and immediately reaffirming your faith in your deity-of-choice.
It got to a point where I was in a room with a technically possible jump that was frustrating to pull off because the jump also required silly timing. There were fire spewers in the room and I had to make a fantastically precise and technical jump [something that – remember – Plague Knight isn’t particularly good at to begin with] in between each burst of fire. I spent three hours [!] in that one spot. Eventually, Plague Knight just beat me into the ground and I gave up.
And this was how Four in February started off for me.
I’m counting Shovel Knight as a game I played in the month, because I beat that again.
I loved Banjo Kazooie.
And I really wanted to like Banjo Tooie, but all I can muster for it are mixed feelings, because the one bit of it that I played that put me off made me re-evaluate the series as a whole.
Some of Banjo Tooie was great. Again, this isn’t really a review, because I never finished it, but…
…you start out with your old moves?! Fantastic!
…getting notes is now less time consuming!? Awesome!
…there’s an autosave!!!!! Why wasn’t this in the first game!!1!!!!?
All these great things then got undermined by my first ever FPS section in the game. Yes. You read that correctly. This is a platformer that takes time out of it’s busy, platforming schedule to introduce a mechanic I didn’t even think I wanted or asked for. And that’s right. The mechanic is a first person shooter section[s]. [I dunno if this shows up more often than the first world, but just in the first world it was the most frustrating part of that level I played.]
So, here’s the thing: the first person shooter sections feature respawning enemies, no auto map/map at all and a first boss that’s truly annoying unless you know that you can strafe. [I didn’t.] They also require you to find a dumb number of collectibles. This is an environment without it’s own mini-map or tracker. Can you see how extremely tedious that would be?
I did not want any of this in my Banjo Kazooie game. I wanted some expanded ideas and features, for certain, but…not this.
I abandoned Banjo-Tooie midway through that first world and haven’t been back. Instead, I ended up counting a second run of the wonderfully sweet Chronology as my second game.
You can watch my play through of Chronology here. [please pardon the ads. A silly third party with no rights to the game decided to false claim it. I’m trying to get that fixed.]
Simon Says…Don’t Play Me!
These twin frustrating failures made me apathetic. And that affected everything that happened in February. I am currently playing through a text adventure called Gateway. February’s failure stalled my run of that. I was attempting to level a mage in World of Warcraft. But that feeling of frustration prevented me from getting very much done. It just wasn’t a good month for playing video games.
So, you can kind of see what happened with Simon the Sorcerer [and, ultimately, Jazzpunk.]
My heart wasn’t in it. I did manage to finish Space Quest 4 – and you can watch me play that here – and I’m grateful I did that. My trek down Sierra Memory Lane is proving to be quite pleasant.
But…man, I wanted this February to work out. :(