Monday, September 24, 2012

Does Leaning Forward Really Make You Play Better?

By Gusana
I've played enough video games and watched enough people play to know that leaning forward means you're getting serious. When you lean forward, it means you need to focus, get into the game, and be ready for anything. But does leaning forward really help you play better? I put this question to my regular Smash Bros. playing buddy and we decided to put this myth to the test, scientifically. 

I first asked the GameFaqs community whether they played better leaning forward or not. Of course, this only shows what the perceived benefit of leaning forward is and not any actual results.

Do you play better leaning forward or sitting back? - Results (40 votes)
Leaning forward
(13) 32.5%

Sitting back
(4) 10%

Sitting straight up
(2) 5%

I haven't noticed
(12) 30%

It depends on the situation
(9) 22.5%

From these results, all we can really see is what it looks like, so I won't bother restating the the statistics, but it at least confirms that the belief that leaning forward helps you play better is pretty widespread. Also of note was that 22.5% of people believed that they played better while leaning forward but only in certain situations. We only received one comment, but it was that they thought they played better sitting back when they were ahead, but did better leaning forward when they were behind. My Smash Bros. buddy seemed to agree with this notion as well and tends to lean forward only when necessary to make a comeback. This situational difference is a bit harder to test for so... we just didn't.

But let's get into the actual experiment and my results. I challenged my friend to a series of matches in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (with Brawl+ for balance and the removal of random tripping). We played without items, three stock with a seven minute time limit, and on Final Destination.

On the left of the chart below, you can see which characters we used (I switched from Olimar since the matchup seemed to be bad and his Up+B is less consistent for recovery than other characters). The numbers designate who won and by how much. In typical myth busting fashion, we collected criminally few data points and confused things by switching characters part way through the experiment. Though really, switching characters shouldn't affect the results if leaning forward is universally beneficial.
A's Remaining lives - B's Remaining Lives
A Sitting Back A Leaning Forward B Sitting Back B Leaning Forward
Sheik/Olimar 2-0 2-0
Sheik/Olimar 2-0 2-0
Sheik/Zelda 0-1 1-0
Sheik/Zelda 0-1 0-2
Sheik/Zelda 1-0 0-2
ZSS/Zelda 1-0 0-1
ZSS/Zelda 0-1 2-0
Total: 5-2 5-4 1-1 2-1

The results were that there was no significant difference between sitting back and leaning forward. Participant A tended to do better than participant B regardless of the situation and, in fact, both A and B did slightly worse while leaning forward, though this may be within the margin of error.

So why might gamers tend to lean forward while playing? Humans aren't designed with video games in mind, but we are designed with survival in mind. In "the wild", leaning forward might help you see better or get ready to pounce and it's a possibility that this same instinct may be activating during gaming sessions, even though its effect is negligible in that situation. But, you know, that's just speculation and stuff.

Since we only tested two people, it is possible that only certain people are able to reap the hypothetical benefits of leaning forward. It may be the case that some people are simply more comfortable sitting back or leaning forward, but even though I would identify myself as one who usually sits back and my friend as one who usually leans forward, our results were the same. It's also possible that leaning forward only helps during certain games or certain genres, but since we believe Smash Bros. is the only game that matters, we're going to call this myth...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kirby Air Ride is Nintendo's Twisted Metal

Developed by Masahiro Sakurai and HAL Laboratory, most famous for the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. series and more recently Kid Icarus Uprising, Kirby Air Ride offers a very unique racing experience. While Air Ride is arguably unbalanced, simplistic, relatively sparse in content, and overshadowed by Mario Kart: Double Dash and F-Zero GX, it is still a blast to play and more fun than it has any right to be.

The basic controls of Kirby Air Ride are, well, basic, but in a good way. To move forward, you don't press anything and just move the control stick to turn. Then, to make a sharp turn, you hold A to start drifting and turning, which charges up a boost meter. After a second or two, if all goes well, you'll be aiming yourself down the next stretch of the track and upon releasing the A button will get a boost. There are also occasional enemies that you can inhale by tapping A which will give you various temporary abilities that you can use to get ahead or attack the other players. Gliding is also an important mechanic in this game and it's easy to pop off the track and fly through the air with the greatest of ease. And one other point of mention is that you can draft off of other players by following behind them, which now is a commonplace feature in racing games, but at the time seemed pretty innovative, at least to me.

The game itself, unfortunately, doesn't offer as much content as one might like. It is divided into three modes: Air Ride, Top Ride, and City Trial.
Air Ride is your typical race. You pick a track, pick a vehicle, and race. There are only 9 tracks to choose from, but they are pretty well designed and fun to race on for the most part. There are also 16 vehicles to choose from (plus a couple more in City Trial) and each offers a very distinct experience. In fact, the play styles are so distinct that, while fun to play, there are always certain vehicles that are obviously the best or worst or suited only for particular tracks.

In Top Ride, players control their vehicles from a top down view and race around one of seven much smaller tracks. There are only two vehicles available for this mode and they only offer different ways to control for your convenience. In both Air Ride and Top Ride there are a few options for those who are interested in setting Time Trials records.

Last is City Trial, which is the most unique and tends to be everyone's favorite. I've owned this game since around when it came out and I still pop it in from time to time to play City Trial with friends. In this mode, you and three other players (computer or human) are placed in a "city" which you have a set amount of time to explore. During this time, you can collect power ups which increase your vehicle's stats to improve your top speed, turning, boost, glide, and others. There are also attack items which you can use to gain temporary abilities and attack other players, causing them to drop some of their power ups which you can then steal (so basically, this could be Nintendo's Twisted Metal if you wanted it to be). Also there are other vehicles scattered around the map at random that you can switch to if you want. During your time in the city there are occasional events, like boxes all containing the same item or a UFO appearing in the sky with items on it. 

At the end of the allotted time, everyone competes in a randomly selected minigame, which range from long distance gliding competitions to races to destruction derbies. Thus comes one of the problems: since certain vehicles have certain things they're obviously the best at, in a lot of cases, as long as you have a decent number of power ups, what really matters is what vehicle you have and whether it matches up with the minigame. This is most obvious when it comes to the long jump, high jump, and drag race, in which you can usually predict the winner just based on the vehicles that everyone has. Sometimes during City Trial, a message will appear, giving a hint as to what the minigame will be, so this somewhat takes care of the issue, but even still, the minigames rarely are won by skill in that challenge but by the skill of collecting the most power ups in the city. 
Suddenly, there's more to do in this game.

Because of that, winning the minigames hardly even feels like winning. Which is why when my friends and I play, we make our own fun by just competing for the most power ups, trying to find our favorite vehicles first, or attempting the challenges on the checklist. "What? Checklist?" you say? Yes, that's right, where the game lacks in content it makes up for in having a giant grid of mini achievements for each of its three modes. Many of these just happen during normal play while others you have to go out of your way for. As you complete them, you'll be able to view the challenges surrounding the one you completed. You may have seen something similar before, as they used the same idea in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Kid Icarus: UprisingCertain challenges will even unlock new colored Kirbies, levels, music for sound test, and vehicles. So between the checklists and making your own challenges among friends, there is really a lot of fun to be had in this game.

As for the graphics, they are crisp, clean, and colorful and look great in progressive scan mode. Also, the music is fantastic and contains a combination of classic Kirby music, music from the anime, and original music composed and arranged by the same composers who worked on Super Smash Bros. Melee. Kirby Air Ride was also the first Game Cube game to support LAN play via broadband adapters and up to four other consoles, something which I've never tried, but which still only allows four players total and only divides them between multiple TVs.

The Final Word

Kirby Air Ride may be lacking in content, but the core game that's there is a blast to play, especially with friends. If you enjoy going after achievements and making your own fun, this game is probably for you. In any case, if you haven't played it, you should definitely check it out.

Monday, September 10, 2012

10 Games in Which You Survive Being Eaten

For some reason, compared to the infrequency of which people are swallowed whole in real life, it's an incredibly common occurrence in the world of gaming. There are plenty of games with enemies that attack by eating your character. Usually they munch on you a bit, then spit you out, dealing some damage; or in some cases they kill you instantly. There are even good guys like Kirby and Yoshi who attack by eating. But as those sort of occurrences are so frequent as to be impossible to list, this list will focus on only the times when you, as the main character, are swallowed whole by something and survive as part of the game's story (not getting munched on by an enemy accidentally). [Beware, as this guide may contain minor spoilers.]

10. Tales of Graces f - Inside the Rockgagong
In Tales of Graces f, there's a part where you urgently need to get to a certain city. Unfortunately, a giant rock tortoise monster called the Rockgagong is blocking the path and is acting more aggressively than usual. In typical RPG fashion, our heroes don't have time to let the situation resolve itself and decide to just go for it and hope they don't encounter the Rockgagong. Spoiler alert: they encounter it. Unavoidably, you and your party are swallowed by the Rockgagong and must clear out the enemies in its belly in order to get it to spit you out and return it to its peaceful self. Honestly, the Rockgagong's belly doesn't look much like a belly, since it's made of rock, but that purple liquid does drain your HP if you stand in it, so, like, don't do that.

9. Kid Icarus: Uprising - Hades' Belly
In the battle between the gods, Pit narrowly avoids
some holy crap.
The plot in Kid Icarus: Uprising is kind of like what a kid with ADD might come up with while playing with action figures; it jumps from one thing to the next without any prior warning. One minute you're fighting the goddess of nature and the next your fighting aliens and the next you're inside Hades' belly. More likely than the kid with ADD scenario, the developers probably just had a lot of level ideas and just forced them together with a heavy application of dialogue in an attempt to explain away the madness that's going on. Luckily, this game's a blast to play so it doesn't really matter. In the case of Hades' belly, you're finally going up against your arch-nemesis in an air battle and then he inhales you, as if that's the normal thing to do. You then spend the second half of the mission on foot inside him. Even though the level has an organic look to it, it doesn't really look like the inside of a body beyond that. Then again, Hades is a supernatural being so logical anatomy need not apply.

8. Xenosaga - Inside a Gnosis
Whaddya know..sis.
The plot may have taken a back seat in Kid Icarus, but in Xenosaga it's practically the whole game. If you like scifi and cutscenes, you should definitely give Xenosaga a shot. In this particular part, you and your party are on your way somewhere when suddenly a huge swarm of gnosis (the game's alien antagonists) appear and drag you out of hyperspace. Earlier in the game, you witness smaller translucent gnosis drain the life from one of crew on the ship and just  making physical contact with one seems to be deadly. Somehow though, everyone ends up just fine inside this giant one and spend the next long while wandering around in search of escape.

7. Muramasa: The Demon Blade - Big Oni Battle
This game, along with Rayman Origins which is next on this list, has really nice hand drawn graphics which make seeing the inside of some monster all the more interesting. In this chapter of the game, one of the two heroes, Momohime, finds herself delving into Hell, which is inhabited mostly by oni, which are basically Japanese demons or ogres. When you get to the end of the area, it's time for a boss fight, because that's what happens at the end of areas in games. Without any prior warning, as soon as you enter the boss area, you find that the spirit that had been sharing Momohime's body with her has been eaten by a giant oni and in order to save it you offer yourself to the oni as food and break out from the inside. Yeah... these Japanese games are weird. It's pretty much just an excuse for a boss fight, but at least the giant oni's stomach is as nicely animated as the rest of the game.

6. Rayman Origins - My Heartburn's for You
Probably the third best drawn stomach I've ever seen.
As mentioned above, Rayman Origins has seriously pretty graphics, but it's also incredibly fun to play (not that Muramasa isn't). Its levels are well designed and it offers a lot to do and more difficulty than your typical platforming game. It's so good that when Rayman Origins and New Super Mario Bros. pass each other on the street, New Super Mario Bros. has to hide its face in shame. It's also home to another instance of surviving being eaten; specifically, the level called "My Heartburn's for You". Half of this level is spent running from an angry swarm of fire bird things on ice, after which you run full speed down the throat of a dragon. After a few areas of platforming, you reach the creature's stomach where you must avoid the fire and acid and attack its weak points that pop up. Even after you finish that, you still need to escape the fire that chases you out. Surviving the stomach can be a frustrating game of trial and error, but deftly dodging obstacles while running full speed out of it is pretty satisfying.

5. The Lengend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Jabu Jabu's Belly
This is definitely the most famous game on the list and one which everyone was surely expecting to see. I could probably leave it at that heading and move on, but for the sake of any of you who, for whatever reason, haven't played Ocarina of Time, I'll explain a bit. At this point in the game, Link is collecting the three spiritual stones in order to get into the Temple of Time. One of them is in the possession of Princess Ruto of the aquatic race called Zora, who has recently gone missing. Turns out she had just been exploring the inside of Jabu Jabu, the Zora's giant fish deity sort of thing, in a game of hide and seek gone awry (no, not really). Anyway, Link goes in, uses Ruto to press switches, saves her from an octopus and some electric anemone boss, after which she gives Link the Zora's Sapphire as an engagement gift, which Link promptly steals and runs away with without looking back. Like other games where something's belly is a dungeon, the layout makes no anatomical sense, though there are nifty body-like features such as hallways with peristalsis that slowly push you down the tunnel if you stand still.

It's also worth noting that Jabu Jabu's belly is a dungeon in Zelda: Oracle of Ages as well, and it appears even less like the inside of a fish's body.

4. Tales of Monkey Island - Inside the Giant Manatee
In the five-part point-and-click comedy adventure of Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush Threepwood and the bounty hunter Morgan LeFlay find themselves swallowed by a giant manatee during their quest to stop the spread of the deadly Pox of LeChuck. Unfortunately, the manatee is missing its cochlea and thus its sense of direction. Without that, you won't be able to ride it to your intended destination. In typical point-and-click adventure fashion, it isn't as easy as just finding the cochlea. Instead, you have to earn the trust of the pirates living inside the manatee so you can become a member of the Brotherhood of the Manatee Interior. This too takes several steps which involve the clever use of found objects and well timed witty dialogue. By the end, you succeed in your mission and continue on your way to find the items necessary to stop the Pox.

3. Banjo Tooie - Inside the Big Fish and Chompa's Belly
The Big Fish is also home to some pirates and a Jinjo.
(No, that's not a joke, that's just a statement.)
From here on out, each entry has more than one instance of being eaten and surviving. In Banjo Tooie, these happen in Jolly Roger's Lagoon and Terrydactyland. Adventure games like this have been pretty few and far between as of late, but back in the day games labeled as "adventure" threw you into a big open world to explore, usually with several levels which you could also explore, in which you looked for and collected various objects. If you got enough of these objects you could open the next area, learn new moves, or do other things. Anyway, in Banjo Tooie, the main things you collect are puzzle pieces called Jiggies. In Jolly Roger's Lagoon, one such Jiggy is earned by rescuing Jolly Roger's partner from inside a big fish. It's not as big as Jabu Jabu, but it still has a "bigger on the inside" thing going on. There's also quite a lot of effort put into this relatively small part of the game since for an N64 game, the textures are pretty detailed and the surfaces even jiggle realistically if you jump. How fun.
The other part is in Terrydactyland, which is the dinosaur level as you might've guessed. In a certain cave, if you stand on top of the pillar in the center, a giant dinosaur called Chompasaurus appears without warning, checks you out a bit, and then gobbles you down without even saying "hello". Only when you're in its stomach do you find out that it actually is capable of speech, since it threatens you with digestion if you refuse to take part in its stomach virus shooting minigame. Lucky for you, even after earning the Jiggy on this one, you can replay the minigame from the main menu whenever you want.

2. Okami - Inside the Emperor's Body and the Water Dragon
Okami is also an adventure game, though much more like Zelda than like Banjo Tooie, and in this adventure spanning historical Japan and Japanese mythology, it becomes necessary to be ingested on two occasions. At this point, there are curses and evil everywhere corrupting the land, there's a giant water dragon blocking your path and terrorizing the people, and the emperor is nowhere to be found while his city is covered in a unwholesome mist. It's up to you to get to the root of things, which in this case means using your Lucky Mallet to shrink down and infiltrate the emperor's palace. It turns out that the mist is coming from the emperor himself, so there's nothing to it but to jump down his throat while he's sleeping and beat the crap out of Blight, the evil spirit that's hanging out in his stomach.
It'd look so much less nasty with a mustache.

But that still leaves us with the problem of the water dragon and how to get to our final goal of Oni Island. Well it turns out that the water dragon has the key to getting into Oni Island, the Dragon Orb, in its stomach. Even though this thing could've killed you earlier in the game, it's perfectly safe to jump into its mouth at this point. When you actually do find the orb, it's held in place by fleshy tendril things. But that's alright because you can easily flood the whole area with acid in the next room and use it to dissolve the restraints around the orb. Of course, this and the following boss battle ends up killing the dragon and forcing you to escape while acid is constantly dripping down around you, but it's a small price to pay for a shiny ball.

1. Mario & Luigi Series
"What? A whole series in one entry? He's cheating!" I hear you yelling from your computer chair or similar butt receptacle. "Maybe," I say, "but one of these games takes place almost entirely inside someone's body and every other game in the series also has you get eaten at some point, so you just wait and see. Also you're getting more games in the list than you expected, so what are you complaining about?"

But before we get to that one, let's start with the first two games in this series of hilarious and fun handheld Mario RPGs. In the first game, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, you're facing off against the final boss and somehow managing to hold your own when all of a sudden a bomb appears out of nowhere and knocks both of the bros out. Bowletta takes advantage of this and does the most logical thing: eats you. But it's not over yet! You may be reduced to 1 HP, but the battle continues inside Bowletta. Should you manage to win, you will not only have beaten the game but will also return Bowser to his normal self, which, is good... I guess.

In the second game, Partners in Time, the Mario Bros. and their baby selves travel to Yoshi Island where they end up getting eaten alive by Yoob, a giant fat Yoshi-looking creature sent by the Shroobs (evil aliens) to attack the Yoshis. It's hard to tell whether it's really a living creature or a robot, as the inside of it looks like the floor is made of cushion or quilt and the walls look like red metal held together with mustard. That and there's basically a factory inside it, turning the eaten Yoshis into eggs which it is assumed would then turn into more Yoob-like creatures. Luckily the bros and baby bros put a stop to it and save the day. 
Finally, is Bowser's Inside Story, the game in the series that is entirely based around being inside Bowser's body. Early in the game, Bowser is tricked into eating a Vacuum Mushroom by the returning villain, Fawful, which causes him to start inhaling everyone including the Mario bros.. Throughout the game, you switch between the Mario brothers and Bowser, using one to affect the other. For example, if you have Bowser drink water, it could flood his insides so Mario and Luigi can get up higher. Or if Mario and Luigi strike the right nerve, Bowser could get super strength. Also during battles, Bowser can sometimes swallow enemies and make bros fight them instead. For basing a whole game around being eaten, Bowser's Inside Story, is the clear winner of this list.

Honorable mentions and stuff I found out about/remembered too late: Cronos in God of War 3, Monstro in Kingdom Hearts, PixelJunk Shooter 2, Prince Froggy in Yoshi's Island, the riftworm in Gears of War 2, Body of the Many in System Shock 2, and some giant monster in Dead Space 3.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

FTW: Rhythm Heaven on an ITG dance machine

So you think you know rhythm games? Think again. Not only is the dance game community alive and well, with harder and harder songs being hacked onto machines, but there are games like Elite Beat Agents, Rhythm Heaven, and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy constantly turning the genre on its head to awesome affect. For the love of rhythm games and making games do more than they were intended, I bring you our first FTW (from the web) post: an impressive conversion of Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) to an In the Groove arcade machine. Check it out, and check out the video's description for more details. 

Update (9/8/12): There are some other similarly nontraditional stepcharts made for the same gimmick competition. Here's a couple and a link to the official contest thread.

Monday, September 3, 2012

5 Gaming Moments in Non-Frightening Games that Scared Me As a Kid

Since the dawn of time there have been scary games[citation needed], with zombies and monsters and foreboding music. And I'm sure everyone has experienced fear and is haunted even now by the sounds of time running out in Mario or air running out in Sonic. That's why this list is not about those things. It's about the small things in normally non-frightening games that became horrors to my innocent young mind. So let's get this list started, starting with the most obviously scary to the most unexpectedly scary.

1. Creepy invincible enemies that follow you

That heading is pretty descriptive and easy to understand, but there are two such enemies that remain burned into my mind from my childhood and both are from NES games.
First, there was Phanto in Super Mario Bros. 2, a mask-shaped enemy that would come to life and chase you down as long as you were carrying the key it protected. Even if you went through a door, this thing was relentless and would follow you onto the next screen. The evil grin on Phanto's face scared me enough that I almost always took the warp to World 4 in order to avoid him in 1-3. You would think that when the original version, Doki Doki Panic, was remade into a Mario game for the United States, they would have made Phanto a bit less creepy. But no, it was actually the other way around; the original Phanto sprite lacked the evil grin and just looked sad and lonely.  Nintendo thought American players weren't ready for the difficulty of the real Super Mario Bros. 2 (later released as The Lost Levels), but at least they thought us ready enough for a more horrific Phanto.
The other, was Baron von Blubba, which is apparently a "ghost skeleton beluga whale", but to me it was simply the restless spirit of some creature that wanted me dead for no other reason than that I was taking my time and enjoying the game. But to von Blubba, that meant taking too long to finish a level. The Baron is an impatient son of a blub who despises noobs taking too long in its game. And on that count, who can really blame him? I just wish he could've been a bit more polite about it. The fact that his coming was heralded by the most doom-filled music you've ever heard and coupled with the innate fear of running out of time didn't help either.

Honorable mention: the sun in Super Mario Bros. 3.

2. Various Parts of Super Mario 64

Overall, Super Mario 64 isn't a very scary game, yet from the very beginning I picked up on the eerily quiet atmosphere of Peach's castle, which was mysteriously devoid of any of Mushroom Kingdom's subjects except for an occasional Toad which materialized out of thin air. More disturbing, was Bowser's laugh which greeted me upon entering the castle; it was ominous, evil, and its source was unknown. Somehow Bowser was watching me and I didn't like it. 

Then there was the level known as Big Boo's Haunt. This wasn't the first time that there were ghost levels in Mario games, but for me it was certainly the scariest. The ghosts weren't the scary part; in fact, once I encountered a Boo I found the level was less scary. What freaked me out was the "music", which was like an unnaturally low sound of howling wind. When you first enter the stage, you are outside the haunted mansion and the only music is the howling wind. It's desolate, creepy, and foreboding. Inside the mansion there's some doom-filled piano added to an unearthly droning sound which together set an atmosphere that is altogether more creepy than a Mario game ought to be.

If that wasn't enough, there is also a piano enemy, just for this level, which unexpectedly and loudly starts hopping towards you and chomping at you when you pass by it. Compared to all this, the underground carousel, which had its own creepy-in-context carnival music was a relaxing break from the dread-filled atmosphere of the mansion.
Keep running. Bowser's laughing at you.

The last thing from Super Mario 64 that creeped me out and sent me seeking comfort from my mommy, is the endless staircase that lead up to the final boss. Throughout the castle there are doors with stars on them which only open if you have the required number of stars collected. In the case of the final star door which leads to Bowser, you need 70 stars, but if you have less the door still opens, leading to a staircase. It looks normal... but then it keeps going and going and going... forever. And once again, that wouldn't be so bad if it didn't have the mysterious music playing as you run hopelessly upward, driving home the point that something is seriously wrong. I didn't know how games were programmed or designed, all I knew was that stairs couldn't go on forever and that when I turned around I found I was only a few yards up the staircase, so something sinister was at work here. Suffice to say, I didn't go back in there till I had the required 70 stars.

Honorable mention: drowning.

3. Tourian in Metroid

I think there's a trend already going here of things that scared me being more due to the creepy atmosphere and scary music than due to anything actually frightening. Tourian, the next item on our list, is the last area in the game is the home of the Mother Brain as well as a bunch of metroids. As a kid, I had no idea that to get to this area you normally had to beat two other bosses first, or that metroids could only be defeated by a combination of freeze beam and missiles. So this is why, when I came to this area, always by using a code, I found myself completely unprepared. 
They want to hug you to death.

Up until this point, all the areas in the game had been colorful and had pretty catchy, albeit slightly mysterious sounding music. Stepping into the gray and robotic-looking Tourian, with its comparatively dark and foreboding music was a bit of a shock. After that, it didn't take long before I encountered the metroids, which were, to me, unbeatable. Before I could say "screw attack", those metroids were on my head and draining my energy faster than a WoW addict drains a Mountain Dew. Like the endless stairs of Mario 64, something about Tourian just felt scary and wrong to me and I wanted no part in exploring it.

Honorable mention: encountering metroids in Metroid 2: Return of Samus (i.e. playing the game)

4. Missingno. in Pokemon Red/Blue

By spookydoom
Creepy atmospheres designed into a game are one thing, but when the game itself started doing something it's not supposed to, my uneducated mind considered it just a small step away from supernatural. 
Early on, one of my friends told me that if you talked to the old man in Viridian City, then flew to Cinnabar Island and surfed up and down the side, you could encounter the glitch Pokemon Missingno., which would also give you 128 of the sixth item in your bag. Of course, who didn't want to have unlimited master balls and rare candies? But this good fortune came at a price; no one seemed to know exactly what other side effects might happen due to seeing or catching a Missingno. but everyone agreed they were bad. The tales of corrupted Hall of Fame records and even of the cartridge becoming entirely unusable if Missingno. was caught spread like ghost stories made of wildfire. The game already had a whole mythology of unconfirmed rumors including those about Mew under the truck by the S.S. Anne, secret HM moves, a catchable Yoshi, and a Togepi that could be received after using the item finder on every square in Mt. Moon (confirmed to be false by my friend). With all these rumors circulating and with the item duplication trick already confirmed, it was difficult to know what was true and what wasn't. We didn't even know what this game was capable of and for all I knew, if I caught that Missingno. the game would send out the restless ghost of Cubone's  mother to club me in my sleep.

5. Adventuring in 3-D Body Adventure and 3-D Dinosaur Adventure

Wow. These games. I believe I ordered them from my school's Scholastic book order catalog in 1st or 2nd grade. On the one hand, they were pretty cool; I mean, just look at those 3D graphics. And c'mon. Dinosaurs. But on the other hand these games both had parts that scared the crap out of me so much that all the 3D dinosaurs and bodies in the world wouldn't be enough to convince me to venture into the dark realms of these games again.

Both of these games were supposed to be educational and had a small variety of activities relating to their topics. I remember that you could view and explore 3D models of the human skeleton and organs or watch dinosaurs come horrifically to life out of a skeleton. Honestly, I have only a vague memory of what all the buttons correspond to on that 3-D Dinosaur Adventure screenshot, except in one case: the comet in the top right. That comet icon started the "Save the Dinosaurs" game, in which you had a limited time to find each dinosaur in a 3D environment. So basically, what it did was throw a helpless young boy into a maze with dinosaurs and told him he had only a few minutes before a comet all but destroyed the world. Sound like fun? It wasn't. 
Even the short animation and lead-up music to the game freaked me out, maybe because I knew what was coming and already regretted my decision to make another attempt. Sure, there were hints, but when there's a timer counting down to doomsday at the bottom of the screen, stopping to ask for directions probably wouldn't be the first thing on your mind either. Basing a game on the common fear of getting lost probably wasn't the best idea ever for a children's game.

Inexplicably, the same company tapped into the exact same childhood fears in 3-D Body Adventure's "Emergency Game". When you start the game a voice tells you to "save the patient! It's up to you!" after which you are able to explore the hospital and select a patient to save, all while "HURRY DOCTOR, SAVE THE PATIENTS!" is displayed across the bottom of the screen. Sure. Alright, no pressure then. 
Because of that urgent responsibility, I usually dove right into saving a patient, which as you can see in the video (at 3:49) throws you inside their body where you have to shoot viruses or some such. Once again there's a countdown clock and it's confusing to navigate. It wasn't just about me and the dinosaurs any more, there were lives at stake! And once again I was totally lost!

But what scared me even more was when I discovered that I didn't have to do these operations and could explore the hospital, albeit still with a sense of urgency hanging over my head. In the video above, the player immediately turned and left the building but when I played I didn't realize that I could exit through that door and explored other rooms instead, getting more and more lost by the minute. Eventually, I found an exit and ended up outside the hospital. In the dark. Lost. And with dying patients. How do they expect to compensate me for all this trauma?!
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