My Hellion is about to die.
This isn’t the dramatic climax to her story. This is not the point when I realize that all of her character development was leading to this moment, that her braggadocio was a front for a long-standing inner weakness. There will be no scene in which she declares that even a coward can be brave, when she needs to be, ramming her glaive into the throat of some howling beast before it slices her crippled body to ribbons. No, in a turn or two she will just die, unless my other team members can save her in time, because that’s the nature of Darkest Dungeon.
And I’m seventeen again, standing outside of my girlfriend’s dorm, my mother standing there and explaining to me in completely alien calm that my father is dead, that the last time I had spoken to him was the last time I would say a word to him, that I had no control over that, either. Which is why Darkest Dungeon can at once be brilliant and horrid at equal turns, the sort of game that I would recommend to almost anyone but with several rather strict caveats despite how much I enjoy it.
When you play Peggle, there is a finite puzzle to solve in each level. No additional pegs will crop up to assail your dwindling supply of balls, you will not rush ahead to the next level with the same number of balls you began play with, there are no carryover elements from one stage to the next. You clear the puzzle as it’s presented to you and that’s enough.
When you play Lumines, this isn’t the case. The game starts, and it keeps going until you screw up. That’s the long and short of it. The challenge will just continue for as long as you play. And while both games are fundamentally puzzle games, one of them is a game wherein each level should be played to completion, while the other is an ongoing process. And there are some interesting differences between a challenge that just runs forever and one that exists in a contained space.
The problem with any sort of endless game is that you have to provide a reason why people are going to keep playing. You need to offer something, well, unique.
It’d be unfair to say that Dollar Dash is a bad game. As games go, it’s pretty well functional. I might argue that it’s on the lower side of functional, but that’s not the point and it doesn’t really help or hurt the game on the balance. The problem it has isn’t about whether or not it works.
No, the problem is that it’s a game with the barest form of a game beyond the expectation of having multiple players beating the snot out of one another on a regular basis. Its single-player offering is perfunctory, there to train you and help you unlock things for the online experience, and that online experience is reliant on people deciding that they’d rather play this game as opposed to the countless entries doing the same thing, only better. It’s surplus to requirements, and it offers little to compel the player to care.