That one level... parts of a game which is otherwise Just Right which stopped you playing


Deep Roads for me. Had specced out my character as a smooth-talking rogue and passed a fairly difficult speech check against some noble who wanted me to grab [mystical artifact] from there, resulting in something along the lines of “Oh you charmer you. Anyway you still gotta get that thing for me.”

Spent a few hours getting my ass beat by Not-Orcs in a bunch of identical caves until I realized I was both bad at and didn’t enjoy the combat and decided to cut my losses. Probably the first time I realized a game can be good and still 100% not my cup of tea.


The goddamn Fade. Here’s the kicker-- I specced ranged rogue my first playthrough and cruised through most of the game because, yanno, anytime I couldn’t handle something, I could swap to Alistair or Sten, it was fine.

No joke, I think the Fade is literally impossible as a ranged rogue. You just cannot take on that many baddies without a diversion when you’re a ranged rogue, it’s horrible.

So I true facts had to restart the entire game and spec melee rogue instead. And on every subsequent playthrough of DA:O, I used the Skip The Fade mod. Horrible bad awful design.


The anti metal gear Ray looks like a dopey bird so I guess that budget went missing…


Sonic 3 is one of my favorite games but that barrel part in Carnival Night zone was something I never got past.


This was the most infuriating thing in a game as a kid because it’s designed in such a way that jumping on it makes it feel like you are building this momentum up and if you just keep doing that eventually it’s going to work out and you can slip on past when it’s going down. Nope instead you are supposed to just stand on it and alternate up and down on the dpad, no jumping.

I lost entire afternoons trying to beat it just to get time out death after time out death.


This is something I do think is under-considered in design at times (Iconoclasts has this issue with some of its boss points), in which there is a way to do something using your verb set. However, the lack of either negative or neutral signalling on an object can leave you chasing your own tail as you don’t realise what the ‘correct’ thing to do is.

Iconoclasts got close to this for me at one point: late in the game, you play a section as a new and different character who has sustained a significant injury, and is only able to walk slowly, jump with a hesitation, and stab/defend with his sword. I didn’t push the button to realise I could defend, so I went through most of their section stabbing. There are points where you need to repel an enemy shot to advance to them, which I mostly damage-boosted through with, on occasion, using the tiny window for a stab to parry the shots on occasion. When the game, later, asks you to fight a boss with these mechanics, I spent probably around 30+ minutes before, by chance, hitting the remaining button and realising I had a ‘defend’ move.



I don’t know about the rest of the game being Just Right for me, but after finishing Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls eventually defeated me with The Painted World of Ariamis. Which I didn’t even mean to enter, and couldn’t leave. Rough.

(Trying again on Switch, now.)


This happens to a lot of people in Dark Souls, for sure. The Painted World is where my first playthrough got cut short as well and it took me like a year before I decided I wanted to go back and start a new game.

It might be the only thing in that game I’d definitively say “look up a guide for this” because it can be such a demoralizing difficulty spike.


Ironically, I think I pretty much brute-forced my way through Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls to that point by excessive use of guides, so I just didn’t have the fundamentals to cope with the spike, even with a walkthrough. Having since played through Bloodborne 1.5ish times (still using guides too much), I think I’ve finally clicked into the Souls headspace (famous last words).


The final bosses of Steamworld Dig 1 & 2. It goes from a cheerful wee roguelike digging game to an awkward as fuck bullet hell. Nope.

It’s fine to experiment with gameplay variation - good even - but not only at the end with a huge difficulty spike. It pisses me off in the same way as route setters who put a crux dyno at the top of a bouldering problem.


The escape sequence from Ori and the Blind Forest which concludes with the “Love” achievement cutscene is a three minute precision platforming sequence that, uh, is the worst in precision platforming. These escape sequences are defined by scripted environmental collapse which does not follow consistent rules. Sometimes something crumbles long before you touch it; sometimes an almost identical object will hold. Sometimes the game punishes you for moving too quickly and drops a rock on your head in the timing of natural movement forward; just as often, waiting to figure out if a space is going to punish you results in death. The rest of the game is a solid Metroidvania - these are horrible, and this is the longest and least legible yet.

Upon completing this sequence, there’s a short interactive story sequence where the achievement unlocks. Just as the achievement unlocked, the game crashed and I was dumped back to my Xbox One home screen, and booting up the game revealed I was going to have to do it again. “Just right” isn’t QUITE how I feel about Ori, but I kept going…until this.


Even as someone who likes classic Thief movement/game feel/whatever and is way into TDP/Gold’s atmosphere, that first game seems deadset on handing out That One Levels all over the fuckin place, even putting large crappy areas in otherwise decent levels.

Seriously, I have the “Thief has some of the best level design in games” dogma burned into my mind, but revisiting it–especially if i’m trying to show someone else nowadays why I like Thief–elicits a lot of internal groaning at some truly unappealing labyrinths. Like, my game about being a ragtag stealy boy lets me be an average stealy boy for all of, like, one mission? before throwing me into godawful labyrinthine undead catacombs that evoke the reasons i don’t care for Tomb Raider.


I think this is something common to several games which were “the first of their kind” in an approach to gameplay. I suspect that it arises from an attempt to “hedge bets” against the usual audience being turned off by an approach with none of the traditional elements - so they inadvertently spoil the purity of their new design by mixing it with elements that detract from it. (In the case of Thief, this seems to extend to a rather large number of levels.) [I say “they” here, but I suspect that these decisions get made at a more “management” level, within the developer as a whole.]


Yes, this has largely been my experience as well as I’ve repeatedly come back to the game, each time trying to get a bit further. Sometimes it all feels so good, but in some levels it just takes one wrong turn and immediate frustration sets in. The labyrinthine nature of the levels and the low information of the map and UI can be a fun challenge, but I’ve found that the frustration is quickly compounded by saminess of the textures. If you’re trudging through a tunnel, every inch of that tunnel is going to look identical with very little for you to pick up on as a landmark. I feel like I have to conquer the level all in one go, because if I save and come back another day I absolutely will not remember where I am and where I’ve come from. The game demands that you very actively construct the map in your mind.


I really like the basic gameplay in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Cocaine Mountain). The shooting feels good, the scenery is quite nice and varied, as is the driving (although I would like more control for aerial vehicles). It supports enough distinct playstyles that if one thing becomes boring, there’s usually something different to do or another way to do it, whether it’s stealthing into a base, exploding all the things with grenades or just visiting the sights with my companion-drone.

Compared to something like Destiny where I felt hampered by the need for managing my inventory and making sure I had the right equipment for the right mission (so much that a companion app felt like a required thing), here there’s no setup, no wrong gear, it’s easy to jump in for an hour or two and do whatever I want.

Unfortunately there’s a story, a story which is all around bad, telling of bad people who fight other bad people who we (arguably the worst people) support because they (the first bad people) did bad stuff to the bad man who was the bad woman’s friend (maybe?). It don’t think the writing is all that hot either (aside from the background briefs and cartel messiah’s narration, maybe), which doesn’t help.
It infests all parts of an otherwise decent game. Everywhere you go, your companions go and where they go they bring their signature macho jingoist platitudes. Every interrogation features threats so laughable they wouldn’t convince a child (but will work on cartel lieutenants). And no mountain will block the radio signal to your utterly loathsome handler, reminding you to commit some more atrocities in the name of her personal vendetta.

In the fifteen month I’ve played this game, I’ve made it half-way through the story. Unless it ends with “rocks fall, everbody dies” I don’t want to go further.


that basement fight in re7 with the chainsaw stopped me in my tracks n i never bothered to go back to it


The first Gears of War was really fun but bah gawd that driving section with the kryll.


Oh god no. If I remember correctly you could adjust difficulty in the middle of the game. Pretty sure me and my brother had to do that when we played it on the highest difficulty and we came to this garbage. Literally impossible to beat.

Kinda reminds me of The Library in Halo on Legendary. You get there and sort of question if you want to keep playing at all.


The library is like trying to navigate through smog. The anniversary one isn’t as bad but it is still some what a trek.


Was really enjoying Darksiders 2’s rhythm of exploration and melee combat.

Then I got to Earth 20 hours in and the game wants me to forget all that and use a gun 90% of the time. Wouldn’t be so bad if the thing were fun to use at all, but there’s essentially no feedback, the aim sensitivity is awful and the enemies behave the same way they always do, swarming you from the sides and back. With the pulled-in aiming camera you just spend your time getting hit from off-screen.

Not a good time.


As soon as I reached Novigrad in The Witcher 3 the game ground to a halt with me. I felt obligated to do the quest to find your bard Dandelion, it just took so many quest steps. Some of them missions, admittedly, are better than most fantasy RPGs- you’ve got to help put on a play, you help this lady write a song but I just felt the urban environments really betrayed what that game was about. I was more at home ambling around the windswept wilderness hunting down monsters.