Make Me Play Videogames: What’s Going Wrong Here

There’s no two ways about it: this experiment with Shadow of the Colossus is not going well. I sit down to decide what to do with my evening, and as my glance strays towards the PS2, SotC disc slumbering away in its tray, I remember that I have Space Marines to paint. Episodes of Glee to watch. Dishes to wash. The catbox could use cleaning.

Apparently I don’t want to play this game anymore.

There’s a lot to like about Colossus, and I touched on some of it in the last podcast. It’s beautifully atmospheric. The designs of the colossi are interesting, and the puzzles are interesting to figure out and solve. I’m just looking for a bit more, I suppose.

For one thing, a story would be nice. Almost no plot progression occurs in the course of the game, and as a narrative type of person I really like a story to drive the action. That’s not to say that it’s required, and maybe it would help if I could try harder to think of Colossus in the same way as, say Peggle rather than God of War. But it’s really vexing to have a main character who almost never speaks or affects the arc of the story, which only has one or two narrative points.

In the same vein, Wander never seems to gain any new capabilities in the course of the story. Certainly you can have a game where the player character never gains any new abilities – and again, maybe it would be best not to think of Wander as a character at all, but rather a positional marker, like the ball in Peggle – but it offers a sense of progress as the player works his way through the game. I guess I’ve just been conditioned by the games I’ve been playing lately – Chaos Rising, Prototype, Persona 4 – to expect that gameplay success will be rewarded with story progression and additional character abilities. SotC really just offers another scenic vista and a new colossus to figure out.

On top of having to adjust my expectations of how I will be rewarded for playing the game well, I also still need to find some way to adjust to the control scheme, which is vexing to say the least. I can’t think of another game that makes you use the Triangle button to jump, much less making you hold down the X button to make your horse go forward while steering it left and right like a tank. Even worse, when Wander is crawling around on the colossi, I frequently just have trouble getting him to crawl in the direction I want him to in order to place his sword in the weak spots that you have to stab to bring the boss down; it’s a lot like trying to make Solid Snake crawl around in Metal Gear Solid. The whole thing just flies in the face of the control skills I’ve had ingrained by a lifetime of more conventional gaming, and rather than being refreshingly different it’s just a pain in my ass. There are certain standards to 3rd-person control schemes, and by flying in their face SotC makes itself a weaker experience, not a stronger one.

I’m not going to just up and quit, because I’m a stubborn bastard in my own squishy way. I’ve already let myself out of the requirement to play one game at a time; completely quitting a voted game would be tantamount to admitting that I set my sights just too damned high, and I’m not ready to admit defeat yet.


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