Friday, September 1, 2017

The cruel march of time

It was a rough in Chamberlain's little video game world yesterday. First, Capcom announced a remake of Puzzle Fighter. That's good news! I watched the 'trailer' and was first turned off by the chibi 3D models instead of 2D sprites. If the trailer for the Secret of Mana remake has taught us anything it is that some things do not translate well into 3D. This could be forgiven as long as the game played the same.

Nope, it is a mobile game. Fuck that forever.

I have never found a mobile game that I have enjoyed for any length of time beyond ten minutes. Everything devolves into microtransaction driven bullshit. Even games that used to be good (remember Bejewelled?) have been twisted and turned into nothing more than whale trolling exercises. Once a week I download something on my tablet or my phone, think that this will be the one to justify owning these silly devices, only for it to be uninstalled with a quarter hour.

The only game that has ever stuck was Words with Friends and even that is marred with commercials and in game currency. Capcom remains on the shit list.


Amusing hyperbole aside, I do not lie about my thoughts one games. When I said that Breath of the Wild was 'okay' and that Horizon Zero Dawn had significant problems I meant it. I wasn't necessarily looking forward to either of those, though buying a system to play a game that I was not 'looking forward to' does seem a bit foolish, so it was easy to throw shade at them. Said shade was made all the more amusing by some rather talented and vociferous defenders.

But when a game that I was looking forward to ends up being a stinker, that's hard. I want to look for excuses instead of piling on. I want to think that I am wrong, that I was in a bad mood, that I was distracted. None of that is true about Rock of Ages 2. I just need to admit that it is inferior to the first game in every possible way.

The basic premise is the same: roll a big boulder down increasingly difficult tracks to knock down the door to your opponent's castle and squish them. On the flip side you also need to play defense, set traps and obstacles to prevent your opponent from squishing you. It was the weakest part of the first game but was bearable because it was not that important or difficult. So what does the sequel do? It doubles down on the worst part of the first game, makes it more important and much more difficult.

I have admitted in the past that I am not very good at video games. My breadth of knowledge and experience comes from sheer hours played, not skill level. I play games on Normal. Always. And I do not feel bad about dropping it down to easy. Rock of Ages 2 was dropped down to easy almost immediately and it still was too hard. The AI cheats, honestly cheats: it can put down more defences than you as it starts with more funds. It knows all of the shortcuts on the tracks and is not confused by level design several steps behind that of the first game.

Stylistic choices are one thing but making the track indistinguishable from the barriers? That's just dumb.

Playing Rock of Ages 2 is like running into a friend from college who has turned into a total asshole in the intervening years. Some of the charm may still be there but the little things that you didn't like and could look past because you were young and drunk have been magnified by the cruel march of time. It's not good and it makes me sad to say so.

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