the slowest game ever

I don’t mean to imply, by my title, that there are framerate problems with Silent Hill 2. The graphics remain quite impressive, although I really am starting to tire of the ever-thickening fog. What I mean is that the plot develops incredibly slowly. I do huge amounts of Wandering Around. Roughly, the game works like this:

10 WANDER_AROUND

20 IF (RANDOM(1)) THEN FIGHT_ZOMBIE

30 FIND(LOCKED_DOOR)

40 WANDER_AROUND

50 SOLVE_PUZZLE

60 FIND(KEY)

70 UNLOCK(LOCKED_DOOR)

80 GOTO 10

Look, that’s not fun. Are you out there, Corporate Game Developers? What the hell is wrong with you? Infocom discovered that find-the-key puzzles suck about twenty years ago.

They also discovered that describing a lot of items with which you can’t interact is annoying. The scenery is wonderfully rich with knick knacks and doodads, but half of them are totally useless. How do you find out which? You walk up to them and press A. “Hey, that looks like a letter on the table!” – “Yeah, but I hit A. It doesn’t do anything.”

This also leads to worse problems: sometimes, you think you can’t do anything because you didn’t stand in the right place. There are other interface disasters. When you find a key to a locked gate, you must try to “use” the gate (that is, walk up to it and hit A). In your inventory, though, the key has a “use” option. So, if you walk up to the gate and try to “use” the key, you’re told “That can’t be used here.” What a nightmare.

I’ve started wondering if this isn’t an attempt to create some kind of Beckett-esque absurdist experience. The plot is nearly non-existent, so far. The setting is fleshed-out but it’s never clear what’s window dressing and what’s “real.” Even beyond that, less and less of the world is visible as the fog thickens to the point where you’re practically a person walking around a grey field. Dialogue is nonsensical.

Maybe someday high school students will look back on this game as a masterpiece, because they know that weird stuff that doesn’t make sense is cool. (“It’s so po-mo!”)

For now, I’m starting to get really tired of it. I’m starting to feel that the designers thought, “The problem with Resident Evil is that every other room has something deadly: a very tough zombie, a instant-death trap, or something like that” and then decided to solve that problem by removing most chance of death and inserting hundreds of pointless rooms and hallways.

Doom!

Written on June 25, 2003
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