I’m still ploughing through the Pile of Shame games – almost there on my Toshiba laptop (except for the Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew games), but still have to do the Mac lot and the Asus lot! And I’ve been thinking about how the hell I’m going to write reviews for all of the games played during this marathon.
My conclusion to this problem? Blog a general overview of groups of them, and the direction that some (via their developers) are taking. The older games also need to be grouped as, although they are still entertaining, their lack of facilities, such as interactive maps, create frustration for current impatient players (such as myself) who just want to breeze through the games at high velocity, and get annoyed when they find themselves floundering around due to the outmoded ‘order of play’ preventing obvious steps from being taken.
As you can see, this highlights a side to our personalities which is less than admirable. The rise of this impatience over petty issues, and the varying degrees of frustration, annoyance, stress, anger and in some rage, is less than flattering, and can be quite harmful physiologically. Most of us are charming, good, kind, friendly, clever, curious, knowledgeable, socially informed, humorous, witty, and downright fun. But put us in front of a game, and by the time the damn thing has loaded – often slowly (which when it came out was considered fast) – the stress-levels have begun to rise. I mean we just want to get on with it! We want to enjoy ourselves!!!
Of course, if I’d played all of these games as I bought them, this problem wouldn’t have arisen. I bought them because they trialed as great or at least good fun. The graphics were cool and/or colourful, and the blurriness which was used in the HOPs back then was a pain but the norm. If you’ve read others of my blogs – especially earlier ones you will see that I mentioned this annoying aspect frequently – mainly due to the eye-strain factor it caused. Even then we were unsatisfied with the amazing work done by the game producers.
I believe as the technological advances occurred, producing HOP games that weren’t just locations full of unrelated items to find from Lists, our expectations for the game-play also rose. We were given Interactive HOPs – where you could use and found item on another to collect it – then items that hid other fragments that resulted in the Key Object – then silhouettes, shapes, and pictures in the List bar – then bejewelled or plain fragments of several items to assemble – then the cursed Morphing items which try the patience of a saint let alone a frustrated human! And within the main game-play the challenges rose also.
Then there’s the problem of Puzzles! Some games are overburdened with Puzzles. There needs to be, in Hidden Object Games, a balance between HOPs and Puzzles at the very least, with a leaning towards HOPs if possible. The Mini-Games are also a recent phenomenum – combining Puzzle actions with HO searches, usually including Interactive problem solving. That’s fine, but the Puzzles need to be solvable – relatively quickly, logically, readily. The Puzzles that require random clicking or sliding to solve them cause stress, frustration, annoyance with the producers, and time-wasting in both the real and game worlds.
Now I know that in an ‘urgent’ storyline situation, that urgency will actually wait for you to reach it before it activates – the villain or victim can wait for you to play your way there no matter how many toilet or coffee breaks you take. However, the whole point of a game is for you to progress through the story until it concludes, otherwise there’s no point in having a story at all. The tension, created by the emergencies in the story, drives the game-play forward. Puzzles stop this game-play flow dead in its tracks. Having said all that – some puzzles are innovative, clever, delightfully different yet simple. The simplicity is the key – the ingenuity is the delight. That’s the kind of Puzzle that makes players smile in acknowledgement as they see the trick of it, deal with it, and move swiftly on.
Then there’s the problem of the NANCY DREW and SHERLOCK HOLMES games. The NANCY DREW games are heavily loaded with Puzzles, with no Skip button, which means that if you can’t solve it, you’re stuck. Completely. And the SHERLOCK Adventure games have problematical navigation issues. Great stories, but extremely difficult mouse controls causing motion sickness side effects. No wonder I keep putting them off, despite the fact that I love anything Sherlock! The SHERLOCK HOP games are much better re control, though the very earliest have blurry graphics and tiny HOs. The exception is SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES game, which plays really well, while allowing you to get involved in the story and the evidence searches.
So returning to an older game is doomed from the outset. It’s accompanied by escalating stress levels, vocalisation at the incompetence of the character who is unable to perform the most obvious tasks you require – usually because it’s not the right time in the game to do so, though of course you know where things have to go and what to do way ahead of time. Instead of an enjoyable time spent playing a game, you discover that you’ve turned into a snarling monster, loudly telling your character to ‘bloody open the stupid thing – I gave you the key’; or denouncing the artwork department for hiding objects behind rays of light, clouds of fog, or as opaque or miniscule items against the same colour background, or so obscured by another object that the fragment shown is not recognisable.
Another already noted frustration is the lack of Maps (Interactive or otherwise) in the older games. We are so used to saving valuable time, and the onset of RSI in the mouse-hand/wrist, by continually using the Map to jump from inactive to active site – that having to continually traipse back and forth, often through multiple sites, to reach the next point of action, is tedious beyond extreme. (My over-the-top vocab use evokes the stress-levels this b & f causes.) Also, of course, we now expect there to be info indicators on these Maps, so we can stay focussed on the forward movement of the game and thus the story.
We’re busy people! We don’t have time to waste going back and forth! Besides, how are we supposed to remember which direction we went in, or where the damn item we just found needed to be used, without a Maze-guide – a Map. It’s our Sat-Nav! As for making our own Map as we go along – for Pete’s sake – it’s ridiculous. This is not MYST or FREDDI FISH. Why didn’t the game producers think of that? Oh yeah – I forgot – it’s an old game – they didn’t have the technology. S i g h . . . . .
Tip: Try not to gain a Pile of Shame. Try to play the games as you buy them, and not buy the next one – regardless of the great Sales on your favourite Game-site – until you have completed the last one. And pigs will fly, and pink elephants will become commonplace!
Tip: Take note of your personality changes as you play, and try to modify them, or have a drink or munchies break till you calm down.
Having passed on my helpful Tips, it goes without saying that I will no doubt fail to take employ them myself. But you get that!
Games. Such fun! So enjoyable! So addictive!
Jud House 15/03/2016
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