You stare listlessly at the screen. Your forehead contorts into what might be described as a frown, but really this reaction is confusion. What. The. Hell. Did I just watch...
Playing a video game through to completion can be a confusing moment, but it's one we can all understand. Depending on the game, depending on the ending, it can elicit different reactions. You can feel satisfied with yourself, with your achievement. You can feel happy with how the game ended, happy with the game itself...
But then there are those other moments. Negative moments. Is that it? I wasted 15+ hours on that? What about the games that had bad endings?
What about the games that had no endings whatsoever? What about the games you kept playing despite the fact you were actively hating the experience?
Human beings are weird. Video games can be weird. And these are the five games I really, really wish I hadn't bothered finishing. Beware — there will be spoilers!
The Game: Shadow of the Beast
The Reaction: 1989 The Ending: YOU HAVE FREED YOURSELF FROM THE SHADOW OF THE BEAST WHAT THE FUUUUUUU?
Despite only being eight years old, I remember the release of Shadow of the Beast so vividly. There was an advertising blitz I was completely aware of, but only vaguely understood. It occupied the premium ad pages in every games magazine I read — right on the glossy back page. It reviewed incredibly well. I'd look at screenshots and breathe heavily without really knowing why.
It was lust. Product lust. I wanted that game so badly, I wanted it more than anything in the world up until that point. It cost bloody 35 British pounds — extortionate for the time. It came with a t-shirt, but it was too big for me and all I wanted to wear, at that particular point in my life was football strips. My Glasgow Ranger strip to be precise.
Oh but how I played the game. It was revolutionary. 12 layers of parallax scrolling, a chilling soundtrack that haunts me to this day. Production values... off the richter.
But it was difficult. Very difficult indeed. I remember struggling with it to the point of giving up, but the idea of it, the story: getting revenge on Maletoth for the corruption of my human form, for the murder of my father. This drove me ever forward, until the end. The final boss battle.
It was bloody ludicrous in hindsight. The last battle of the game. Essentially you punched the toe of a massive 'beast'. Every few seconds a random club powered in from above in an attempt to crush you. What the hell is this? Am I really going to extract clinical revenge on the man who murdered my father by jabbing him in the toe a few times?
I guess so.
But that wasn't the worst part. Not even close. After hammering away on a giant toe for a while the 'beast' magically disappears. No ending, no reward. Nothing. Just a simple message...
"CONGRATULATIONS YOU HAVE FREED YOURSELF FROM THE SHADOW OF THE BEAST".
The Game: Midnight Resistance
The year: 1990 The Reaction: Watch the sunset from the moon or something after climbing a ladder. It makes no sense!
Midnight Resistance wasn't real good on context. Luckily it was awesome. Nine levels of super creative gunplay, massive boss battles, inventive enemy patterns and music that has the power to actually reverse the aging process. That game is a time machine. Everytime I see or hear any part of Midnight Resistance I am transposed: sherbet, fizzy dizzlers, purple cordial. My teeth melt instantly with the sheer sugary pleasure of it. But the ending. What the hell?
You take down tanks. You take down fighter jets. You climb up a goddamn ladder into goddamn space and then you fight an enormous, terrifying skull that shoots fireballs at your arse. To this day I have no idea how any of it could possibly make any sense.
Then you defeat the enormous terrifying skull. This is where shit gets even weirder...
You climb up another ladder. You don't climb down the ladder — in a weird way that would have made more sense. You climb up another ladder and watch the sunset with the family you just rescued. You are magically back on earth, despite the fact you were just fighting a giant skull, on the moon, with Earth in the background two seconds ago.
My head hurts.
The Game: Naruto: Rise of the Ninja
The Year: 2007 The Reaction: Why did I just spend 15 hours doing fetch quests. WHY?
I think we've all been there. We've convinced ourselves that a video game was fun, purely because we loved the license the game was based on. As a child this was par for the course. I played the terrible Back to the Future game on the Spectrum. I bought an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom game that was barely functional. You'd think as a fully grown adult I'd have learned my lesson.
Naruto: Rise of the Ninja isn't bad, but it's hardly a game you'd want to invest much of your time into — particularly when there are so many other incredible games in the universe that deserve your time. Rise of the Ninja is about as generic as it gets. A jumble of RPG mechanics, functional fighting and a couple of puzzles here and there. Not bad, not great... but for some reason I thought it made sense to plurge (yes, that's a word, I'm inventing it) through the entire thing, purely because I'm a huge fan of the manga it's based upon.
I finished the game. I looked at myself in the mirror. I didn't like what I saw.
The Game: Skate 2
The Year: 2009 The Reaction: A hollow hole in my heart where hope once lived.
Wait a minute Mark, hold the bus. You wrote about Skate 2 in the games you were proud of finishing. I call shenanigans!
Yes, dear reader whom I have invented as a rhetorical device, correct — I did add Skate 2 to that list, but my Skate 2 regrets have little to do with the quality of the game, or the quality of the challenge. I do not mean to demean a video game I truly loved from the bottom of my heart.
No, my issue comes from the feelings I had immediately after I completed Skate 2. A hollow throbbing vacuum in my chest.
With Skate 2 I made sure to finish everything. Every challenge, everything. It felt like a noble goal at the time, but it was ultimately futile. Upon completion of the last task — a near impossible game of 'SKATE' that I discussed previously — there was no celebration, no message on the screen. I wasn't even congratulated on escaping from the shadow of the beast.
No, nothing. Just an hollow hole in my heart where hope once lived.
The Game: L.A. Noire
The Year: 2011 The Reaction: What have I done with my life...
Okay, I'm bracing myself for a negative reaction on this one — particularly from our designer god-king Ben White, who loved L.A. Noire so much he played through the game twice — but I think that, of all the games I actually played through to completion, outside of games I had to review, I enjoyed L.A. Noire the least.
That's not to say L.A. Noire is a terrible game. It's not. But I didn't enjoy it. Despite this, I continued to play and I have no real idea why. I don't remember being intrigued by the story or compelled by the characters.
I think one reason I continued to play through L.A. Noire, all the way to the end, was because it was supposed to be this significant moment for video games and I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be part of the discussion.
More than anything, I wanted to be able to dislike it after having played through all of it, to be free of all those 'wait till you get to this part' conversations I would need to have.
In short, all really terrible reasons to keep doing something you don't enjoy.
I have no-one to blame but myself.