I probably don’t need to tell you about fake difficulty; we all know what that is by now. It’s one of those concepts that’s been held over in design for years now, a crutch that games use both unintentionally and intentionally. Forcing you to sneak past rows of enemies you could dispatch in moments is an intentional use of it, a game that just isn’t coded very well and winds up with difficult controls that hamper your experience has sort of stumbled onto it. You might think this article was meant to be about that.
While we all know about the telltale markers of fake difficulty, we don’t talk much about the elements of challenge that don’t actually qualify as challenge. These aren’t relentlessly cheap, but they’re also not really something that’s hard to do so much as they’re bulking out actual challenges with filler. If difficulty is meat and fake difficulty is something vile substituted for meat (tofu, maybe, since I don’t like tofu), these are water. You can inject a bunch into anything and fill out the size, but the actual content remains about the same.
One of the biggest things I noted about Final Fantasy is that its open world is really an illusion. You’re carefully sectioned off into very limited exploration, with the game always forcing you into the right parts simply through a dearth of alternatives. You can see this as a failing, but you can also see it as a notable advantage. It’s possible to be a bit unsure of where to go next, but you can always fall back on exploring for a while with the knowledge that you’ll stumble on your objective eventually, simply because there’s nowhere else new to go.
Final Fantasy II is a bit worse about that. The world is more open, and you have more chances to go off the rails. Which means that you get more opportunities to exercise your freedom, but it also means that you find yourself more likely to be unsure of where to go next in a game that doesn’t even provide you with helpful pointers like levels. And the second major quest in the game kind of leads in that direction, because your destination is sort of hidden way the heck and gone.
I love the Transformers wiki. Sure, that was kind of to be expected, seeing as I love Transformers in general (and I can indulge in that a bit more now, as I just realized both Beast Wars and Prime are available on Netflix in their entirety), but the wiki itself is a joy to read even aside from that. There’s a lot of great commentary on the pages, stuff that I find hilarious to read even outside of looking up specific bits of information.
There’s also a lot of good metacommentary on fandom as a whole, including the absolutely priceless and TVTropes-inspiring page on Ruined FOREVER. You can’t help but run across that a few dozen times in basically any online fandom. This latest change has ruined the franchise forever, and now we’re into the inevitable decline. And while I love that idea, I have to wonder… has it ever happened? Have we really ever seen a franchise that has been irrevocably ruined forever? Or is jumping the shark as a concept kind of ridiculous?
Sometimes you get a very clear picture of a game from a demo because the demo is well-constructed, offers you enough of the game to know what it’s on about, and leaves you wanting more. Honestly, most of the demos I’ve reviewed here have accomplished that goal rather nicely. I’ve no desire whatsoever to play RACE 07, but I have a reasonably clear picture of what the game is from the demo and feel as if everything it wanted to accomplish was laid out clearly.
Sometimes, though, the demo – and possibly the entire game – is a confused mess that gives you such a top-level overview that you’re not sure what in the world is going on, let alone how the game is supposed to tie into anything or be relevant. And that, I’m sorry to say, is what I was left with after my brief time in the Pyroblazer demo. The whole thing comes across as a big blending of various elements without further explanation, and by the time I was done I was just plain tired.