Here’s a familiar feeling:
You want to like something, but you’re unable to. The stars should be aligned, but somehow, they’re not – instead, you get a nagging feeling of frustration. A feeling that says: Have fun, damnit!
So why aren’t you?
Sometimes, you know the answer. I, for instance, know precisely why I don’t like Game of Thrones (but that’s a post for a different day). Often, however, the reason for disliking something is more subtle, and while you can point in the general direction of a possible cause, you can’t really nail it down. I’ve never liked Discworld, and I’ve never understood why. It’s funny. It’s creative. It’s good. All the stars should be aligned – why aren’t they?
Enter: Double Fine’s “Hack ‘n’ slash“.
Hack ‘n’ slash is, in essence, a Zelda clone with a twist: Instead of a sword, you wield a USB stick that enables you to plug into objects and change their code. This way, you can move boulders, burn bushes, and manipulate enemies in ways that bend the game on your knee and makes it cry for mommy.
Manipulate their health? Their damage? Their faction? Go hog wild.
It can all be done at the flick of your stick. It’s one of the best videogame ideas I’ve heard in a while, and it’s done with great consistency. Hack ‘n’ slash features sets of increasingly complex puzzles that at first feel impossible, but always have a way out.
So here we have a creative game that does something truly different. I can feel the stars aligning.
They’re so close.
But I’m not having fun.
So which one is it, Bert, I can hear you ask? Is it the “I know what’s wrong” kind or the “I have no clue” kind?
Well, dear reader, it’s a bit of both, I think. Hack ‘n’ Slash has real obvious problems that bring the coding party to a sudden stop. The puzzles can be agonizingly hard. The movement feels a bit sluggish. The story feels like it knows it’s terrible, yet it insists on interrupting you constantly.
But are those dealbreakers? I turn that question around in my head. Maybe Hack ‘n’ slash isn’t the problem. Maybe I am. Am I being too harsh? That must be it, right? Just me being a dick?
So I boot Hack ‘n’ Slash, play a bit. I find myself wanting to check a walkthrough. I’m looking away from the screen as wait for the character to finally run all the way over to the next map. And I’m rolling my eyes at the (skippable!) story in the most disdained way possible.
Nope. I’m not having any fun.
Sorry, Hack ‘n’ Slash. I love that you exist. But I guess your stars are all a tiny bit misaligned.