So here you are, powering through a game and loving every minute of it, when all of a sudden a sequence comes out of left field that brings the game to a grinding halt and makes you question the developer’s sanity. I’m not talking iffy camera control, clunky menus, or problems with the overarching mechanics of the game, but just that one particular level or segment that makes you wonder what the developers were smoking when they thought this was a good idea.
Here are ten of those moments right here, in no particular order – and disclaimer, there will be extreme spoilers, so be warned!
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
The Offense: Tadtones
I loved Skyward Sword, if you couldn’t tell by my review. The swordplay was fun, the plot was a step above past Zelda games, and the game itself seemed to be a natural evolution for the venerable series. And then this happened…
Here you are, trying to prevent the world’s eminent destruction, and the water dragon Faron decides to flood her forest in order to destroy the monsters that have overrun it. Great plan, right? Well, instead of just draining the forest and giving you her part of the song that will save the world, she decides that you’re not worthy yet and need to prove yourself, despite having saved her life earlier. Your task? To collect an unholy amount of…musical tadpoles.
Navigating the flooded Faron Woods with the game’s finicky swimming controls is downright painful sometimes, and the fact that you have to collect the tadtones in each sequence in order, within a specific amount of time, just makes it even more annoying. It’s a late-game sequence that serves as nothing but padding and brings an otherwise incredible game to a halt in the home stretch.
The Offense: The Black Throne
Darksiders was a game that borrowed shamelessly from other game series, most notably The Legend of Zelda, with a hint of God of War, Panzer Dragoon, and even Portal. Thankfully, the things that it ripped off, it ripped off well, and the end result was a fun, mature Zelda-style action-adventure. The dungeon design in Darksiders is competent enough, though of course nowhere near the masterful heights of Zelda. The final dungeon of the game, the Black Throne, especially stands out, except for all the wrong reasons.
The dungeon item is, for all intents and purposes, a Portal gun, which fires orange and blue portals – but only on special tiles. The apocalyptic horseman War defeats the midboss of the dungeon and uses this portal gun – I mean, Voidwalker – to reflect a beam back to the entrance chamber, freeing the archangel Azrael from his prison. …or he would, except there are two more beams, each of which requires War to navigate another wing of the dungeon, solving the exact same type of portal puzzles, battling the same midboss, and redirecting another beam through a series of portals back to the main chamber. The Black Throne takes hours to complete, and with the game’s glitches and broken-at-times autosaving, it’s a pain in the ass to finish, earning it a spot on this list.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
The Offense: The Star Destroyer
Quite possibly the most incredible-looking sequence showcased in trailers for The Force Unleashed was Starkiller single-handedly bringing down a Star Destroyer using the Force. The developers promised this would be a key moment in the story and that players would be able to actually perform this incredible feat themselves. And they delivered on their promise…
…except it sucked. Hard. Following the on-screen prompts resulted in failure every time, and it was best to ignore them. The controls were absolutely broken and unresponsive. The Star Destroyer had to be perfectly aligned a certain way to even stand a chance of coming down. The entire sequence was less an awe-inspiring display of Force power and more of wiggling a massive ship until it finally…maybe crashes to the ground, maybe not. Add in TIE Fighters accosting you every other second and an old Jedi master screaming at you the whole time, and what should have been the crowning moment of the game became an exercise in controller-throwing frustration.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
The Offense: The Triforce quest
Cliché choice? Most definitely, but the Triforce hunt is the biggest blight on what is otherwise one of the best games ever created. You’ve just finished the final temple and restored the Master Sword to its full power by adding the power of the Earth and Wind sages to it. The game has been building up to this very moment and the tension is on. Zelda’s counting on us to come rescue her from the clutches of Ganondorf. It’s time to go kick some Gerudo ass…right?
You see, we’re missing a very key part of the plan to take out Ganon: the Triforce. Problem is, it’s been broken into eight pieces and scattered all over the Great Sea. So you’re thinking that we can just go find them, stick them together with some super glue, and problem solved, right?
First we have to go find eight charts that will tell us where those pieces are. At least Tingle was kind enough to give us a chart that shows us where all those Triforce Charts are. Just so happens that they’re in some of the most inconvenient places in all of the Great Sea – including ten floors away from the bottom of the Savage Labyrinth (the enemy gauntlet of the game) and in various mini-dungeons throughout the land.
Okay, we finally got those charts. Now to follow th- oh for crap’s sake we can’t read them. But guess who can? That’s right, Tingle! He’ll gladly decipher the charts so we can go find and unite the Triforce pieces and save the world from imminent destruction…for a cost of 398 rupees each. You have to have almost 3,200 freaking rupees for the little freak to decode the charts for you, and even though the game has been showering rupees upon you throughout the whole Triforce quest, you’re still probably going to have to go treasure hunting to find more rupees. And then once he does decode them, you still have to go yank all eight pieces up from the bottom of the ocean.
Yes, it was mercifully cut short in the HD remake, but the Triforce quest still remains a blight on The Wind Waker‘s reputation to this day. And it’s a shame, because the rest of the game is pure unadulterated joy.
The Offense: Cortana
Flood levels suck.
The Library in the first Halo game really gave us the first taste of those hellspawn, and is widely considered to be the worst level in the whole saga to this day. Considering I’ve only recently gone back and experienced that game since the Master Chief Collection came out, I wasn’t as turned off by it as some people – mostly because I found the whole game to be an exercise in tedium with nothing but copy/paste corridors and relentless backtracking. The Library really didn’t stick out as a weak moment of an otherwise good game, because I don’t think the game is that great (or, rather, it hasn’t held up well at all).So it was just the low point of a fairly “meh” experience overall.
Halo 3, however, has a masterful campaign…that is, until you get to the second-to-last level of the game: Cortana. I’d like to know what Bungie was smoking when they designed this exercise in frustration and decided that it’d make a great penultimate level to close out their trilogy. Master Chief has to infiltrate the Covenant capital of High Charity, which has now been overrun with the Flood, to rescue Cortana from the clutches of Gravemind.
High Charity has become a pretty gross place since the Flood’s recent renovation, complete with their signature “putrid rotting flesh” style of design, with doors reminiscent of sphincters. Most of the level is cramped, meaning your journey through High Charity will consist of close-quarters fights with waves upon waves of Flood (and only Flood – no Covenant to be found here), and the fact that every single freaking room and hallway looks the same means there’s plenty of wandering in circles and getting lost along the way. Plus Gravemind will mentally assault you with unskippable story cutscenes around every turn.
It’s a difficult, tedious, and ugly level that comes at the worst possible time in Halo 3‘s otherwise fantastic campaign. And did I mention you have to backtrack through the whole level to get out?
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