You would think by this point in my life, I would have a pretty good idea of what I like and what I don’t when it comes to gaming. You would be wrong, just as I am often wrong when I think that I don’t like certain genres or specific mechanics, and that having them in a game would be a deal breaker. But for every rule there is an exception, and I feel like the next step in my journey is looking at the exceptions rather than the rules to help me to figure out why these specific games work for me when many similar titles just don’t.
3D Platformers – Psychonauts and Psychonauts 2
All game images in this post link to their respective Steam store pages.
Okay, maybe this one is cheating every so slightly. It’s not like I am opposed to the concept of 3D platformers – or platformers in general actually – it’s just that I’m so very very bad at them that a game really needs to speak to me in order for me to push through that frustration. Psychonauts is a game that took me nearly two decades (and at least one major patch which dialed down the difficulty of the final area) to finish. Thankfully, I had a much easier time with Psychonauts 2.
I might have still loved them just for the concept – I love the idea of going inside people’s heads and sorting out their problems. But it’s the humor of the game that really sold me, that kept me coming back even though I was struggling, and has made me buy untold copies of the first game to inflict on everyone I know who plays games.
Games Where the Main Character is an Unrepentant Bad Guy – Saint’s Row: The Third and Saint’s Row IV
Look, I’m not going to apologize that – generally speaking – my video game fantasy life is being able to fix everyone’s problems. I do everything I can not to choose mean or hurtful dialogue choices. I just want to be the good guy, ok?
Except when I’m playing Saint’s Row. Then I gleefully run over pedestrians, blow up buildings, and shoot anyone who looks at me funny, as well as most of the people who don’t look at me funny. I crash so many cars, so very many cars, and almost every single one of them is stolen. I don’t care. I am embracing my inner gang leader, for whom actions almost never have any kind of permanent consequences.
I generally find myself bouncing off games that want me to play as the bad guy, but when I really want to get my destruction on, these are the games I generally return to.
Games With Extremely Tight Time Limits – Dead Rising series & Cook, Serve, Delicious! series
I’ll admit it – in the past, when people have asked me the number one thing that turns me off from a game, I have answered that it’s unforgiving time limits. Except, apparently, when it’s not. In fact, I am pretty sure the only thing that the Dead Rising series and the Cook, Serve, Delicious! games have in common is time limits, and I don’t think either set of games would work at all without them.
Dead Rising and its sequels actually consistently set you up to fail. It’s built into the way the game works. Sure, you have to start over, but you retain your level and your upgrades, and more importantly, your knowledge of the game world. You need to learn how to best optimize your route to not miss critical game deadlines, and coming back both more powerful and meaningfully smarter about the game makes replaying the early bits sheer joy.
Now, I can’t explain why the Cook, Serve, Delicious! are almost meditative for me. In fact, I regularly make these games harder than they are by default by not allowing even a single less-than-perfect order to leave my kitchen. As you get further into the game, the recipes get more involved, and your customers get less patient, and there is no button that let’s you toss an order in the trash and redo it. These games are fast paced, and they require a lot of twitch reactions and a huge amount of memorization to play effectively. They’re everything I should hate, but in this one very specific instance, I absolutely love.
Are there any games that have really worked for you, despite being fairly far outside of your gaming comfort zone?