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CLoM » Play! Volume III

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Play! Volume III
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I don’t want to write about map four right now.

And so, on to map five.


Map five is the most annoying map so far. Seriously. I thought map three was irritating, but it turns out that map three is gentle and kindly disposed towards the world. Map five is like some guy who hates you because you burned his hair. And it doesn’t even have that many spiders in it compared to the others.

The main thing about map five is it’s tall. Map five takes place on top of some very large platform-pillar things. If you fall off — and you do, you fall off all the time, when you least expect it, when you're not actually moving, when you’re not paying attention or when some kind spider just knocks you off for fun — you fall about half a mile into a sea of lava. Then you die. Map five wants you to fall off. In between random sadistic fights, you have to run across smaller platforms which are carefully arranged so that they’re hard to run across. Falling off is the main theme.

If you were not paying attention I hope you at least absorbed the main point that I fall off a lot. That is sort of the gist. I'm not going to mention every time I fall off, but you should keep in mind that when I am doing other things I am also falling off in between those things.


The first half of the level is OK. You have a few straightforward fights, then a really annoying one with a Mook Maker who keeps making mooks for me to fight, even though there are plenty of mooks already and I didn’t really need any more mooks. The Mook Maker flies, and if you shoot him, he drifts serenely backwards into the scenery until he hits something. And the thing is, he doesn’t hit something, because there are no obstacles in the air. He drifts backwards until he hits the skybox and then starts moving towards you again. Basically, he flies to where you can't hit him with anything and then comes back very slowly. And while he’s doing this, he keeps making mooks, unless you hide behind something so he doesn’t think he can hit you. I’ll be honest — I think I ended up with too many mooks.

But all that is nothing compared to the last fight. The guy who makes this has a thing about epic endings, and pretty much every map has a separate room at the end which will be much harder than the rest. On this map, it’s different because there are no rooms, just rooftops. There are no enclosing spaces, and it's easier for things to hit you because there are less obstacles. The final fight is very big — it is made of several platforms, which are quite big and covered in random architecture. You run onto the first platform and several gangs of spiders appear all over the place. Once you beat them, you hit some switches and walk back to the start to find the exit.

Very simple right? No. To stay alive here you have to basically memorize the arena. And when I say arena I actually mean ‘shapeless series of rooftops’. There is literally nowhere you can stand that doesn’t expose you to getting attacked from an unexpected direction. What basically happens at first is that I run out into the fight, I fight for a bit, I circle the group to try to get them fighting, some guy hits me from behind, and then another guy hits me from the side while I’m dodging frantically, and then I die. I'm not dying because of my skill, I'm dying because I do not have a rearview mirror or satnav. This is even more annoying than the Neverending Spider Horde at the end of map 2.

I was stuck on this fight for about 45 minutes, so I’m a bit annoyed and I want to share all the details. This fight about has about a hundred Demonic Spiders and three bosses. The bosses are scattered about the place. The spiders start in groups but quickly spread out like they are sightseeing. They fire heat-seeking missiles, whereas the bosses just fire in straight lines but make up for it by killing you in one shot. In this fight, you don’t just die because people hit you with missiles, but also because all the space gets clogged up with spiders, and you have nowhere to run. Best of all, you sometimes die because you haven’t memorized the layout, and you end up making jumps onto platforms that turn out not to be there. The way the place is organised makes it easy to not see where the platform you’re on ends, and whether there is a slightly lower platform next to it or not.

And that brings me to my next topic: random architecture. I used to think that architecture in a game should not have a negative impact on gameplay, but it turns out I was wrong. It turns out the best architecture gets in the way all the time and makes it impossible to know where you are or where you’re going. For example, there is an L-shaped wall at one place, with a teleporter in the corner. When the final fight begins, boring mooks begin to spawn there, and fill up the space. You might think this serves some kind of ingenious gameplay purpose, subtly shepherding the bad guys into a pattern that makes the fight more challenging, or rewards certain behavior in the player. Nope.

If I was actually in this place, it would be difficult to see my feet because of all the random details near me. I would probably fall off slightly more of the time. All the walls here are placed arbitrarily, and exist only to look nice. Most of them make navigation difficult or unnatural. All of them impede movement (this is usual for walls). But walls don’t need to be this stupid. If you’re going to have walls, can’t I have some walls that stop me being hit by random rockets?

Even if I was just strolling around without people attacking me — imagine I am trying to buy a second home and I really want it to be a crumbling city on a planet made of lava, for example — I wouldn’t be able to keep track of where things were. I can’t even form a vague idea of the general shape of this place. When I tried, I came up with a scarab beetle displaying its wings, but covered in walls. Except beetles are usually symmetrical. This level is definitely less symmetrical than a beetle. If you look on the map, you see what looks like a biscuit being eaten by confused ants.

That is enough ranting. Basically, this fight isn’t fun. I mean, none of the fights on this level were particularly fun, but at least they were short. This one is long.

Maybe if I scream loud enough I can alter the data on my computer with the sound waves?




(Success is minimal)


Surprisingly, after a while I picked up what to do to stay alive, and I discovered it was actually quite fun to panic all the time as long as you win a bit. If you manage to thin the crowd a bit, avoiding the shots of the rest of the pack is much easier. I actually like dodging those heat-seeking missiles anyway. I am good at dodging. Also, I was listening to music, which might have helped.

So at first I hated this fight and was sure it was not fun, but then I had fun beating it. It turns out I am some sort of hypocrite. I'm sorry about that. In the end it took almost as long to find the random switches you need to exit. Seriously, what’s with all the random switch hiding?

By the way, going back to the start is so much fun when the map is made of messy platforms. It gives me a chance to catch up on all the falling off I might have missed. This part of the map really isn’t needed. I need this part less than I needed the random architecture and spider armies. It’s not fun and doesn’t add anything. It’s just there to make it impossible to run past the last battle. Sure, because limiting gameplay options is always a good idea.

Anyway, after that I got into map six, which is instantly so much more fun. Seriously, map six is the best by miles so far. It’s even harder but also fun. It’s chaotic but it doesn’t have invasive architecture. I played about halfway through even though I was trying not to. Then I went to sleep, probably. It’s all a bit hazy, but I'm sure I do sleep at times.

--19:17, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

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