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Game Design Essentials: 20 Difficult Games


August 23, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 10 of 11 Next
 

17. Mischief Makers, a.k.a. Yuke Yuke!! Troublemakers

Another fever dream from the guys at Treasure, who only make two kinds of games: joyous platformers, and small explosive devices that some people call "shooters." Thankfully, this is an example of the former.

Developed by Treasure

Directed by Hideyuki Suganami (source: GameFAQs)

Length: Medium

Cool fact:

While the game is not a shooter except in a couple of levels, there are places where the game seems like a companion to Gunstar Heroes. Protagonist Marina looks like the lost sister of Red and Blue Gunstar who had to take up work as a domestic, and has about as many moves. The collectable gems bear a striking resemblance to the older game's goal items. Its clever bosses, in particular, feel Gunstarish. In play, however, it is unique. It's difficult to say that about many 2D platformers anymore!

Watch for:

The tremendous variety. One level feels like a remake of Track & Field, another requires players navigate through a sea of missiles, yet another requires figuring out mixing recipes. It is obvious that Treasure poured their hearts into this game. Also watch for the cheerful violence. Nearly every character can be picked up, shaken for goodies, then thrown. Some of them break down crying when you do it.

How does one think to make up a game like this? I'm not even talking about the premise. I mean, a robot maid with super strength and jet engines who has to protect her lecherous inventor from evil forces? That's only strange to people who have never heard of anime.

But the game play itself is way out there. This kind of platformer is about applying your stock set of moves to a wide range of situations. The spotlight, thus, is cast on those situations, on the levels themselves. And the levels in Mischief Makers, to say the least, are unique.

There are three common moves that must be mastered to get around the game. The first is the grab, by which some object, either an enemy, an enemy's missile, an innocent bystander, a friend, or any of the game's hundreds of floating grab spots, can be latched onto. The second is the shake, by which an object that has been grabbed can be divested of loot. The third is the throw, by means of which most of the above objects can be used as projectiles.

The grab move gets a lot of use. Treasure has been known to play around with "counter" moves, by which with good timing a player can get out of some bad situations with a button press. Gunstar Heroes' melee attacks are a version of this. Mischief Makers expands and universalizes that attack into the grab. Many things that the enemies shoot at the player can be snatched out of the air before it hits and thrown back. In order to get all the gold gems, the player must become a master of this by defeating all the major bosses without taking damage.

As video games continue to evolve, these kinds of counters and evasions are becoming more common. Viewtiful Joe contains a move that allows a player to escape some damage if he presses a button just as he hits the ground after a knockdown. Soul Calibur contains the "Guard Impact" move which can deflect most attacks with good timing, and other fighting games are also making use of this.

 

How hard is it?

It is forgotten sometimes that Treasure makes games other than shooters. Mischief Makers got a bum rap upon its release, but the moaners missed out on a surprisingly clever 2D platformer. And while most people can make it through the main game, the amount of the ending the player got to see depended on how many Gold Gems the player had found. Every level had such a Gem. In most levels they weren't too hard to find, but boss levels had them too, and to earn it the player had to win without getting hit. And the last one could only be earned by getting an 'A' time on every level of the game. That is not an easy task; take my word for it.

Design lesson:

Here's another mega goal, but subtly different in how it's presented to the player. When the final level is completed, there appears an "ending" level on the selection screen. When the ending portion of it actually starts, in the corner is the number of gold gems the player collected, counting down over time. When the number runs out, the ending ends.

If the player gets all the gold gems except the one for having all 'A' ranks, which is a big secret, the ending ends on a picture that could be seen as a resolution. If the player has all the gold gems INCLUDING that one, there's another picture after it that turns the previous picture into the setup for a joke.

Wikipedia's page on Mischief Makers.

GameFAQs' page on the game.

18. Rogue

Developed and designed by Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman and Ken Arnold

Length: Arcade (Yes, arcade)

Cool fact: You’d better believe these are spoilers… use scrolls of scare monster by standing on them! Drink healing potions when unharmed to gain maximum hit points! Potions of extra healing cure blindness! Rust Monsters/Aquators harm armor, but do no damage to the player, even if he’s naked! Throw potions at blank range to affect the monsters!

Watch for: There are two kinds of food in Rogue: food rations and fruit. Fruit is interesting because the player can name it whatever they want in the options file. "Mango" is a popular default for this.

Rogue was the subject of a great fad on college campuses back at the time when “using a computer” meant, as a matter of course, logging into a terminal on a time sharing system. What is sometimes forgotten is that there were plenty of other games back then. We remember Adventure and Dungeon (a.k.a. Zork), of course. Sometimes we remember things like Hunt The Wumpus. But who remembers Trek, an in-depth Starship Enterprise simulation, or Hammurabi, which put the player in the shoes of a Sumerian king?

Further, while some of those games are still remembered it doesn’t mean they’re played much anymore. The same can be said for many of the other games on this list, of course, but Rogue is different. It’s still played, and that’s entirely because of its randomness and difficulty.

Random dungeons in gaming aren’t as uncommon as they once were. Diablo and Diablo II used them to pretty good effect, and some MMORPGs uses quasi-random instanced areas to provide a small amount of replayability. Yet Rogue differs from those games in that its random dungeons aren’t of the superficial, “oh, what lurks behind that corner?” type, when it really doesn’t matter too much from the player’s perspective if what he finds is loot or a mean nasty. Many of Rogue’s monsters are extremely dangerous opponents, some of the treasure is surpassingly useful (some allows the player to defeat an arbitrary opponent, or even group of opponents), and further, its treasure must usually be figured out, its purpose deduced through experimentation or using a scarce scroll of identify.

Of all the roguelikes, Rogue remains the game that retains this emphasis on player knowledge. Even Nethack, a game which is ultimately more-or-less a direct descendant, gives the players many ways to identify items that don’t use up significant resources.

How hard is it?

Roleplaying games don't tend to be really difficult anymore, but the roguelike subgenre is an exception, and the trend was set by the first of them all. Its difficulty is a huge part of its appeal; if it were possible to make arbitrary progress the game wouldn't be nearly as fun.

Design lesson:

Simple victory at Rogue, really, is a mega goal. The game is meant to be played for score. That's why it's got a score list! Even if he gets the Amulet of Yendor, the player can choose to either make it back to the surface with it (reward: extra score for every object he's carrying including the Amulet) or keep descending, facing beefed-up monsters but even greater rewards in gold pieces, a very risky move but potentially lucrative.

Wikipedia's page on Rogue.

The Rogue's Vede-Mecum is a particularly good strategy treatment on the game.

Finally, rumor has it that there's a guy over on GameSetWatch who writes on roguelikes, including Rogue, quite a lot. I had Er, he had an article on Rogue itself sometime back.


Article Start Previous Page 10 of 11 Next

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