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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Game Play: Okami's Spider Queen

Let's accept Okami as a work of art for a moment and move on. I'm talking about the game mechanics here. I definately give Clover credit for trying something new and having a glyph/gesture based command layer on top of pretty much the whole game ... that's pretty cool.

And usually - it works pretty well. Sometimes there's confusion on just what to do and often the precision of what you're doing seems based on as much, if not more, on the camera angle of what you're trying to scribble on with your Divine Pen. Other times, like the Kohana Shuffle, the gestures need to be annoyingly precise. Sometimes flipping to the "fat brush" just to insure that you always hit your mark is more necessity than option.

Then we have the Spider Queen. Wow does the Spider Queen ever embody everything I've ever hated about boss fights. It took me about ten seconds to figure out that I needed to draw vines to the hook on her body to defeat her. Then it proceeded to take me something like an hour to get it done.

Note to designers: if it takes me ten times longer to accomplish your puzzle than figure it out - I stopped having fun pretty early in the level.

Why so long? Because everything about the way the level is staged works against you. Okami might be right in between the flower and the hook ... but you won't be able to see either one because the camera works around the rim of the circular level. The the flower may be under your camera and the hook on the other side of the queen herself. When that isn't fighting against you - the gesture mechanics are. Once you have one vine, it's way too easy to cut that vine while trying to make the other one. Simply hit the spider (which occupies 80% of the screen no matter what angle you try) the wrong way and the game assumes you meant to power slash your previous work.

Why? Why on this level would I ever want to slash the one thing that will help me? Ever? So why even make it an option? Why should it be possible to repeatedly do something that the game should know well I'm not trying to do? The very setup which is supposed to add a new layer of fun into the game is working against the player. Over and over and over again.

If either the camera angles or gesture interaction had been fixed - probably a completely different story. But to repeat the same task over and over and over again fighting not the Spider Queen ... she was actually something of a pushover ... but simply aspects of design. Ugh.

I hope either future bosses improve on this or Dark Cloud 2 gets here quickly.

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Anonymous said...

It took me a second to figure her out, but once I did, I found the fight to go pretty smoothly. In fact, I didn't find any of the combat to be too difficult... a bit clunky, but not like you're describing.

I can see your points about the camera and the staging (I did feel a little hemmed in by the arena structure of combat), but ultimately it didn't hinder me much. I wonder why we had such different experiences with it?

Patrick said...

I agree that you were fighting the camera more than the spider. I also found camera problems to be persistent, maybe if they went back and put in spline rails for certain areas? On the other hand, I found most of the problems came from areas where there were fixed cameras, so less is more in this incidence.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, don't get me wrong, the camera was an annoyance throughout. I'm not arguing that with you.

Bonus Renown available to the first person to tell me what movie that last line came from!

Josh said...

Well what was weird was that I got better - but pretty much only at camera manipulation and avoiding accidental brush mistakes.

So maybe you had the catch of the camera earlier?

And yeah, the log ride just right after shared many of the same problems. The flower bud were too far on either side to be seen cleanly and while the game learned I wouldn't want to cut a vine ... it seemed oddly hard to connect point a to point b.

That said, as I think of this, this game was probably a pain to QA since half the control system borders on artistic flair.