No Checkpoints? No Fucking Thank You: Gauntlets In Video Games

maxresdefault

I’m not one to shy away from a challenge but one little golden rule that I like to have is that it must feel like I don’t get annihilated for an easy slip up…not unless I invite such an arduous task. it is for this reason that I find myself often infuriated or at the least disappointed with gauntlets in my video games. It is at its worst when they decide that I have to run in what is essentially the dark swinging my sword and pushing buttons, hoping I didn’t mess up and get sent back to the beginning.

These feelings were made firmer recently as I have been playing through Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, a great game with a few moments of cheeky hidden collectibles and some catchy tunes. In each area there is a special level for collecting all of a certain pick-up in the normal stages, each one being a gauntlet at a higher difficulty than the rest of the stages.

I have played 4 of them thus far and the first 3 got on my nerves tremendously, for they commit the greatest sin a gauntlet can do: force the player to improvise. Failing and getting launched back to the start is one thing, asking me to react on the spot with bugger all time to check what is ahead or how I even get to the platforms in front of me is maddening. Hell one section has me trying to figure out how to land on narrow platforms that swing after having gone through some cinematic barrel nonsense, just plonked me down on a platform with no warning and said “deal with it”.

Now, a gauntlet can get difficult or even stunt your progress because you get far in one run, mess up and then the nerves start making you mess up the previous sections. I don’t need to tell you how many times I died on the final star in Super Mario Galaxy 2, the damn one hit run of the Grandmaster Galaxy because of those nerves. I can get all the way to the end the first few times, then after that I die right before and within 10 minutes I’m missing the first jump cos I’m mad as hell and my fingers are possibly leaking cos there is sweat near enough everywhere.

Imagine all of those problems with the added problem of having to act on instinct, often failing because to stay ahead of say falling platforms or to make it within the short time limit Super Mario 3D World it requires you know what you are doing and do so quickly enough to cut the timer by the skin of your teeth. Yeah I beat every course in that game with every character, I annihilated the Champion’s Road gauntlet stage with Rosalina in a single damn try. I know I wouldn’t have been able if she wasn’t the last character I ever did it with, I had so much practice to get past moments that will break a gamer who isn’t part cat for the reflexes or part Precog to know what is going to happen.

Personally I do in fact enjoy winning a gauntlet, however like a lot of things it only works when done right. As I said I had done 4 of those special gauntlet stages in Donkey Kong, the 4th one being the most recent & my most enjoyed, having beat it in a single go with everything collected. I loved that stage so much for finally getting the gauntlet concept right, it threw you into an area but gave you time to analyse and focus on a game plan, it showed all the pieces of the puzzle on screen or gave you adamant time to see them and react.

One of the big players in its success in retrospect is it had fantastic design visually, there was no misdirection or anything it was just raw precision platforming. It made me giddy after an exhausting and occasionally rude water world and me realise how good design flow is imperative to allowing twitch based gameplay to function correctly. Nobody wants to be thrown on the spot when it isn’t clear what you have to do, this is why we often take such interest in running scenarios outside the norm that require rapid decision making and the like I believe.

Running a death course in video games can be the highs of my gaming experience, the thickness of the hazards providing a rush during and a sigh of relief afterwards.

It’s why I think Kirby Triple Deluxe had the best core gameplay simply because it felt full of things to watch out for, you can be attacked from the foreground or background which always keeps your attention focused. Playing Ratchet & Clank 3 and getting the “trophy” for beating the Path Of Death without taking a hit, avoiding the fire and the spikes and the enemies all so flawlessly got me pumped. A shame really the gauntlet concept is often only found at the end of a game, sometimes leaning on stupid design choices or don’t know when to end with the 50 stage gauntlet like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. I really do love the euphoria of dodging and avoiding so much at such a pace.

Are you a fan of gauntlets/obstacle courses in games? Do you loathe the checkpoint-less rush of the challenge? What games do you think it’d be fun to have a gauntlet to really test your skills? I’m personally hoping one of the Bayonetta games will have one, I could do with an easy grind for cash and I got a hankering for some strings of elegant evasions. Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.

Advertisements

, , , , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by Karl Weller on May 15, 2015 - 10:11 pm

    I once attempted to complete Outlast on insane mode, which had increased difficulty and had to be resolved in one sitting. I died, alot. Didn’t try it again.

    Like

    • #2 by Prof.mcstevie on May 15, 2015 - 11:03 pm

      It makes me wonder who are the people who will happily throw away hours upon hours doing the no dying mode on VVVVV. You just can’t slip up, not even for a moment or it’s all over.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: