I’d love to do games journalism: gaming is a hugely exciting art form, it’s driving the development of hardware, it isn’t taken seriously enough by the mainstream media, blah blah blah. Unfortunately I’ll never be able to do it, because I’m rubbish at games. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a first person shooter, an arcade game or an adventure: I’ll play for a few hours, get horrifically stuck and reach for the cheat codes. If I can’t find any cheat codes, I’ll usually give up.
It’s interesting to compare the opinions of game journalists – people who eat, drink, sleep and breathe games and who, as a result, have gaming skills – with rubbish gamers such as me. Take Timesplitters: Future Perfect, which has attracted lots of positive reviews. Something that comes up quite a lot in those reviews is discussion of the puzzles in the program, which come as a delightful surprise to reviewers. Based on the reviews, I bought the game. It’s good. It’s fun, up to a point – and that point is the bloody puzzles.
At the end of one section of Timesplitters, you have to defuse a defence system. To do that, you need to hack a terminal, hack another terminal, shoot a bunch of guns and robots, and then hack a third terminal. If you get any part wrong, you need to start from the first hack. Needless to say, the hacks are beyond me.
The hacks are based on an old game called (I think) Pipes, where you have to get two or three pipes to go from one end of a grid to another. To do this, you need to click on individual pieces and rotate them, and this links them all together. Or not. So for example, the solution to one puzzle might be:
BLUE – down, down, left, left, up, left, down, down, down, right, down
RED – up, right, right, right, right, down, down, left, left, down, down
The second puzzle has three pipes; the third, four pipes. Naturally this is all to a time limit.
I can’t do it. My mind simply isn’t wired that way, which is WHY I BOUGHT A FIRST PERSON SHOOTER INSTEAD OF A SODDING PIPE GAME. Delightful surprise, my arse: this particular set of puzzles is an evil invention that sucks the joy from the game. I spent three days – three unhappy, sweary days – trying to get past it, cursing the developers and teaching my neighbours new and exciting expletives. Eventually I cheated, found a walkthrough and printed out the instructions. They were dead simple: “down, down, left, left, up, left, down” and so on.
Actually following those instructions wasn’t so simple. It went more like this:
“Blue… okay…. down, er, down, er, left… shit… [pause game for another read]… down, right, no, shit, left, down BEEP BEEP BEEP OUT OF TIME YOU ARE TEH LOSAR!!!!
Two hours. Two hours of my life that I’ll never get back. And two hours that removed any remaining enthusiasm I had for the game (which to be fair, is one of the better FPSes I’ve played). But despite finally getting on to the next level, I can’t be arsed playing it any more, so it’s on the shelf.
I’ve got Far Cry: Instincts now, which is by all accounts a superior Xbox FPS and NOT A SODDING PIPE GAME. Fingers crossed.