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Masochistic platformers are not rewarding

Marjar

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Oct 17, 2012
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Yeah I never got that feeling of accomplishment or satisfaction with games like that either.

Well aside for VVVVVV. I actually really enjoyed that game, although it's really not that hard at all. The ending is pretty fucking hard (and getting some of the trinkets of course), but overall it's not that bad.

Stuff like Super Meat Boy just bores me. After beating a level it's not a feeling of "awesome I did it!" as much as it is "what bullshit are they gonna throw at me next?"

This kind of platformer just isn't for everyone.
 

huxley00

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Jun 1, 2013
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Games in general are full of false sense of reward. You've accomplished nothing essentially but you feel like you've accomplished something by completing a game that means nothing to your actual life. I wouldn't harp on one genre more than another.
 
Mar 16, 2011
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Oh no you fucking didn't just say that. IWBTG was mindblowingly good. One of the best platformers ever made.
Those deaths you don't see coming are often pretty funny and due to save points being so frequent I rarely found the game too punishing.
sure sounds like it

iwbtg is a joke game dude

when your checkpoints are so close together - you don't have to make a good game anymore (because nothing matters)
 

FloatOn

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I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Super House of Dead Ninjas! We set out to make a game that we would enjoy, that would appeal to like-minded gamers while not completely alienating the more casual gamers (which is why unlocks such as extra timer and hearts occur after playing enough times).

It's difficult for some of us developers to judge the overall perceived difficulty level for a game based on reception, though; while I've seen videos of people losing all their continues before even beating the first boss, we've also seen videos where people have absolutely DESTROYED the game in ridiculously quick times. To be truthfully honest, I thought we had made the game too easy even before it released, hence adding a higher difficulty in the DLC.

To weigh in on my thoughts on masochistic games in general, though; if the rules are simple and the controls are good, and you have plenty of options available to you in order to challenge stages, I can keep dying as many times as I want because progress and learning is being made. When you get utter bullshit like I Wanna Be The Guy, though, which is nothing but a string of pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you situations... that isn't something that I find in the least bit appealing. Having a compelling narrative, interesting world or amazing-looking bosses helps immensely in the reward section too (obligatory Dark Souls mention) but generally, the act of bettering yourself at something ought to be a good reward for tough games.
I played a good bit of it this weekend and it's mainly what inspired this post. Believe me when I say that I wanted to like it, and there are many aspects to it that I love.

+ It nails the audio/visual aesthetic that I grew up with.
+ It controls as it should.

But the enemy and level design is just too over the top for me to feel like any victory I achieved with it was anything other than luck and/or reflexes.
 

Miguel81

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Aug 20, 2013
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Games in general are full of false sense of reward. You've accomplished nothing essentially but you feel like you've accomplished something by completing a game that means nothing to your actual life. I wouldn't harp on one genre more than another.
Hobbies are important for our well-being, and some people thrive on competition(whatever it may be).
 

Shufel

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Oh no you fucking didn't just say that. IWBTG was mindblowingly good. One of the best platformers ever made.
IWBTG is supposed to be a joke. It's actually not a well designed game at all. It's basically a pattern memorization game more than a platformer.
 

southerncross

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Mar 5, 2013
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I don't see much of a difference between playing 50 times the same stretch of level and instantly respawning, and playing 50 times the same level with a loading and other bullshit in the way before the respawn, aside from time wasted for the player.
Time wasted for the player is "playing a bad game" or - for some - "playing games at all". Is "seeing new things" our main motivation for playing games? I just enjoy interacting with well designed games. In those, if you die, it's your fault for not mastering the ruleset. You have to get good enough to succeed. I believe it is fair to demand that from me, and that it's fair to punish me if I try to cheese my way through to the ending. I guess you'll disagree, but without consequences and long levels, death is meaningless. All you get is an autoplay, training a muscle memory, cheesing your way to another checkpoint. I can't call SMB a "hard game" when I keep seeing people who are awful at games, yet finished that damn thing.

I do agree that long loadings and all the fluff that makes replaying games a chore has to go. Luckily, my favorites don't have problems with those.
 

I Wanna Be The Guy

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Apr 4, 2013
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sure sounds like it

iwbtg is a joke game dude
Funny deaths you don't see coming is a huge part of the experience. You're either going to love it or hate it. You're either going to embrace that aspect of the game or you aren't. You'll either laugh when that spike wall ramming in to you or you're going switch the game off. You're either going to laugh when you jump in to a sword you retard, or you're going to switch it off. Either embrace that aspect of the game enjoy the hell out of the fantastic platformer underneath, or just leave it alone.

IWBTG has a very specific audience. It's niche and aimed at a very specific person. For who it's aimed at I can confirm it's absolutely fantastic. It is not a bad game in the slightest. It's in my top 5 2D platformers of all time. Man this thread is making me want to play through it again. Aint played it in ages.
 

Mman235

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Jun 28, 2013
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No room for improvisation.
I've heard this silly statement before about hard platformers and it's always bullshit (at least in any that aren't worthlessly shallow); great players in games like Super Meat Boy can do things other players would never even think of, let alone be able to execute.
 

I Wanna Be The Guy

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IWBTG is supposed to be a joke. It's actually not a well designed game at all. It's basically a pattern memorization game more than a platformer.
Joke or not it's an amazing game. Divekick is also a joke game, and it's still the most fun I've had with a fighting game in a long time.
 

huxley00

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Hobbies are important for our well-being, and some people thrive on competition(whatever it may be).
I'm a gamer myself, I'm just saying that its not really fair to single out this type of game, arguing that it is less worthwhile than some other type of game when neither is giving you very much.
 

PetriP-TNT

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I didn't find playing Super Meat Boy frustrating at all, it was my OCD that killed it. The regular stuff, running through the stages getting A+ ranks was rather easy but the bandages and special stages were pretty brutal at points.
 

I Wanna Be The Guy

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What makes IWBTG a fantastic platformer underneath joke deaths? Serious question.
The flawless controls, the challenge, the quick restarts and the fact the game was just so fucking addictive and fun to me. It's so goddamn hard to explain. You either get it or you don't. Words alone can't express how much I love I Wanna Be The Guy. It's one of those games I'm always going to remember. It's an experience like nothing else. Even Gaiden didn't quite capture the magic of the original, though it was also a really good experience, if too short and a tad too easy. If you don't get it then you don't get it. Most people don't.
 

Eidan

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May 23, 2012
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In what universe are the beginning levels of Super Meat Boy considered unfair challenges?
 

Nose Master

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The robot line is a bit dramatic. You don't need to be god of platformers to beat most of these games. SMB and VVVVV especially.

If you don't enjoy them because you're not good at them, that's fine. There's more easy platformers than hard ones. Play those, don't expect every game to bump down the difficulty curve to make them more accessible.

Games like Rayman Origins are braindead simple to the point where you actively have to try to lose a life.
 

FloatOn

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In what universe are the beginning levels of Super Meat Boy considered unfair challenges?
Like I said at the start of the thread. Most of these types of games so graciously give you a basic tutorial and then, into the hell fire you go.

I made it to the hell world in super meat boy and I had enough. Looking back though, it was not a matter of me really learning anything, it was just how sharp my reflexes were that particular day.

These kinds of games can learn quite a bit from a game like Rayman Origins I think. In that there are mechanics that you can learn that allow for improvisation and optional level goals should you want to push yourself even harder.
 
D

Deleted member 125677

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Like I said at the start of the thread. Most of these types of games so graciously give you a basic tutorial and then, into the hell fire you go.

I made it to the hell world in super meat boy and I had enough. Looking back though, it was not a matter of me really learning anything, it was just how sharp my reflexes were that particular day.

These kinds of games can learn quite a bit from a game like Rayman Origins I think. In that there are mechanics that you can learn that allow for improvisation and optional level goals should you want to push yourself even harder.
I don't get it.

Super Meat Boy is challenging, but there are tons of ways to improvise with the mechanics, and tons of optional level goals.

It also has 23 unlockable characters, each with their own unique mechanics, which enables you to replay levels with new strategies.

It has the retro levels and the glitch levels, also with their own unique mechanics.

I just don't think you get these games at all.
 

maty

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Jan 2, 2012
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Like I said at the start of the thread. Most of these types of games so graciously give you a basic tutorial and then, into the hell fire you go.

I made it to the hell world in super meat boy and I had enough. Looking back though, it was not a matter of me really learning anything, it was just how sharp my reflexes were that particular day.

These kinds of games can learn quite a bit from a game like Rayman Origins I think. In that there are mechanics that you can learn that allow for improvisation and optional level goals should you want to push yourself even harder.
Funny how you pick Rayman Origins when that game is all about momentum. Trying to beat the time trials would be the same as getting an A+ in SMB. Even if if doesn't require as quick reactions as SMB.

Trying to get all band aids would be like collecting lums but harder, besides depending on the character you choose you get new moves and speed.

I don't get it.

Super Meat Boy is challenging, but there are tons of ways to improvise with the mechanics, and tons of optional level goals.

It also has 23 unlockable characters, each with their own unique mechanics, which enables you to replay levels with new strategies.

It has the retro levels and the glitch levels, also with their own unique mechanics.

I just don't think you get these games at all.
I agree
 

Mman235

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Dark Souls is the antithesis of what I'm talking about here.

Dark Souls required you to learn a handful of various systems. It's true that Dark Souls is a difficult game but it is also fair and requires thought/planning to achieve any measure of success. It's not twitch-oriented in the slightest.

Well except for maybe Bed of Chaos ;)
This comment about Dark Souls is amusingly ironic given the people who suicide charge into dumb situations without trying anything new and then call the game nothing more than a memorisation challenge despite the fact there are almost countless ways to handle most situations (many of which require few reflexes).

Games like Super Meat Boy aren't as freeform as that, but they still mostly provide plenty of leeway to handle challenges and obstacles in your own way.
 
Feb 27, 2013
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You make a good point and a bad point. The good thing you pointed out is the difference between a game like Super Meat Boy and 8-bit platformers. There is significantly less punishment and therefore less frustration in a game like Meat Boy. The challenge comes purely from the challenge itself, not the fact the game sends you back really far and you have to repeat large sections.

The bad point you made was implying that this is a bad thing.
You can brute force it though. Just keep throwing yourself at the obstacle again and again and again until you get lucky and finish it, which is basically impossible or unrealistically frustrating if you have to do a larger chunk at a time. With larger segments also, memorization comes into play less, and it rewards consistently good play and mastery over brute force. The downside of longer levels however is there'll often be long chunks that are trivial and one part that's a stumbling block, in which case the parts before feel like time wasting. That's an issue of pacing though, not inherent design. Would a racing game be better if there were check points every 5 seconds? Would Dark Souls be a difficult game with a check point after every room? The challenge with these games is in consistency.

Edit: I don't have anything against bite-sized platformers either though, I really enjoyed VVVVVV and got through a fair chunk of SMB, I'm just saying people saying short levels or long levels are better are missing the point; both have advantages and disadvantages, it's like saying FPS is better than RPGs or something when it's apples and oranges. It just comes down to preference and what sort of challenge you find more rewarding personally.
 

Tain

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I agree that these games aren't very rewarding (when it comes to Super Meat Boy, I Wanna Be the Guy, and VVVVVV at least), but not for the same reasons. In the case of Super Meat Boy, for example, there's little mechanical variety throughout, the aesthetics are mostly boring (if not ugly), and the dense checkpoints on top of that make everything matter even less.

But:

PS - This also applies to bullet hell shmups.
...The good modern STGs have little to do with these games. Have you tried to beat (as in single-credit clear) a Cave or G.Rev or MOSS game? Do you honestly think they have no difficulty curve? If so, that's going to need serious elaboration because that one of the crazier stances I've heard.
 

Riposte

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You make a good point and a bad point. The good thing you pointed out is the difference between a game like Super Meat Boy and 8-bit platformers. There is significantly less punishment and therefore less frustration in a game like Meat Boy. The challenge comes purely from the challenge itself, not the fact the game sends you back really far and you have to repeat large sections.

The bad point you made was implying that this is a bad thing.
Allow me to give a rather long-winded, if not an especially educational answer. I think next time I'll remember to quote this, since I've said this over and over.

The "challenge itself" (dumb lol) is the entirety of the "large section" if the game wants you to clear the whole thing without dying.

That is to say the challenge is "do all of this without dying", not "do this" multiplied by w/e amount and any other "limitations" are framed as separate/unnatural/etc. The obvious effect of lowered tolerance for failure (although this may be besides the point) is that it makes the game less vulnerable to trial and error (and sheer luck), i.e. increasing depth(the amount of meaningful complexity (strategic and reflexive) to master/learn) as seen by a hypothetically measurable "distance" between players(non-mastery vs. high mastery).

Perhaps its necessary to properly define trial and error before I move on: trial and error is the process of repeating attempts, without extrapolating a logic from the results, until you happen upon the correct combination of choices. I say "properly", because "trial and error" is often used to dismiss strictly difficult challenges, when it should only be used for challenges where "skill" (mastery of meaningful complexity) is less of a factor. Scrubs (undisciplined players looking for excuses and escapes) use this because they do not like to reason with difficulty higher than they can handle (impulsively saying: "I can't do it right now, thus it is cheap/punishing/etc."). So a game vulnerable to trial and error demands less mastery than what might first be expected (it could be deceptively easy, large swathes of its complexity lack meaning), with a game that is completely trial and error (limited to it) would be an entirely random game (e.g. requiring coin flips to come up heads five times in a row - highly difficult, but no skill involved). All this can be demonstrated by examining players of different skill levels, with some criteria or another based on the game itself.

However, the larger point here is that you are being entirely arbitrary in what constitutes a "single challenge", which is being used to say a challenge that must be completed before your progress is saved. Moreover, after setting this rule, you treat anything above it as something other than increased difficulty on a spectrum: it becomes "punishment", an essentially negative quality that players should avoid.

Maybe this will help illustrate how arbitrary singling out challenges the way you are is (as well as briefly explain a relationship between strictness and depth): you could easily break down Super Meat Boy, an already heavily "fractured" game, even further than what it is. It would be a simpler matter to take a stage from a "masocore" (dumb lol) platformer as we know it and make each successful jump a stage/"single challenge" in itself (this is already done by scruby players with emulators for older games). You could then even break each jump down into pieces for each general gesture of aerial movement, then maybe even further for every single input and non-input (by the frame)! We could then complain "WTF? The game expects me to repeat inputs after the first time I put them in!?" And as you might expect every single additional input players need to get "correct" (or at least, not "incorrect") in order increases the opportunity for failure (ways to create distance between players) and makes learning solutions more necessary (at least, the time spent using trial and error to find answers, statistically speaking, grows exponentially versus the time it takes to learn the reflexes/strategies required).

Using a term like "punishment" to dismiss certain challenges on a general level (i.e. cowering from a perfectly fine degree of stimulation that hungrier players will rush to enjoy) betrays one's true intention: to shield oneself from "frustration". We must first understand exactly what "frustration" is: the sensation(being reminded) of lacking power ("weakness"). It should go without saying that humans don't like this. However, when faced with something that gives frustration, it may be possible (and, in reasonable matters of skill, it is), if we also have the dedication for it, for us to grow to the point where we are no longer made to feel that way. This results in us growing as players to a visible extent, the obtaining of power in the form of mastery (and this "progression" is much more meaningful and personal than having a "character gain a level"). This satisfaction with oneself is a worthy reason why to take on challenges, if the not the purest reason. More so than the idea of "difficulty", it is "resistance" we seek: force pushing against us so we can sense our own strength as we exert our own force (too much resistance will emasculate us, too little resistance doesn't have much feeling at all). (We can see here how it is resistance that is important, not "achievement" - but that's a tangent.)

To sum it up, metaphorically: There was at first an amount of weight that we could not lift and thus we were painfully reminded of our weakness as we struggled beneath it. Then in our struggle, we grew to the point where we could succeed and in this process we could clearly feel our increased power. If we will not or can not grow, then we are left with that frustration. What is the alternative solution, then? Declare the demand "illegitimate".

See one could even say "the game is too hard (for me)" accepting weakness in the process (though, there is the question how weak they really are compared to other players), but that's a whole different approach than labeling something as "illegitimate". You are not humbled this way, in fact you maybe even feel good about yourself, because it wasn't your fault you failed and you get to feel the satisfaction of laying blame. Going as far to argue "the game is too hard" (or "the game is too luck-based") means having to deal with players who may know better that disagree.

It is very likely that, besides it being good old human psychology, these specific learned excuses for 2D games in particular come from an era of overexposure to the combination of crap flash games and emulator save-state abuse totally fucking up expectations of what how a "hard" 2D game should look like. After all, Super Meat Boy is a perfect blend of these two terrible experiences and its designer(s) embody these ideas.

tl;dr: don't be a scrub

I didn't actually get to reply to the OP like I wanted to(I think there is a good point to be found which will put everything I said in a different perspective), but I guess that will come later because I was exhausted before I started this post... not mention I get the feeling people might put emphasis on the wrong things, but I'm too lazy to explore every possible interpretation right now.
 

Mondy

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I half agree with the OP and half don't. I agree that these games could only ever appeal to nostalgiaphiles, and I disagree that that makes them inherently poor games.
 

GutsOfThor

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I used to love these types of games as a kid but 20 years later I don't have the patience for that shit. Now, I pretty much only play games where the game almost plays itself.....
 

Defect

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No learning curve in meatboy? That game was basically textbook game design in learning curves.

Every level introduces you to a way different way to traverse and different obstacles, and then those obstacles/enemies get more insane, but you are conditioned to know how to beat them.

Super Meat Boy was so fucking satisfying.
This.

I put so much time into the game and I believe I'm ranked 9** in the world. So rewarding.
 
Feb 13, 2013
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Never been a gamer that's typically enjoyed the hard games but I fell in love with Super Meat Boy, I think it's the insane speed, precise controls, infinite lives, and amazingly catchy soundtrack that kept me going back. Never before or since has a challenging game actually hooked me as strong as that did (Binding of Isaac was pretty fun though). Now action games or strategy titles that are hard as nails (Arma, SC), I won't touch those with a 10 foot pole.
 

wonzo

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Probably because Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV are not particularly good platformers.
Yeah, the levels in SMB are way too short to really be considered hard at all and the only genuinely hard bit in VVVVVV is entirely optional for some daft cheevo. easycore gaming
 

FloatOn

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I don't know. I was having a shitload of fun last night when I was playing Super Meat Boy. So I think you might be wrong, OP.
There is a difference between fun and rewarding. Although they are not always mutually exclusive.

I have some degree of fun with these types of games. I enjoy the art, music and even to some degree the feel of the controls.

The whole thing falls apart when it becomes a twitch fest of not playing the game in the way you (the player) chooses, but becomes a predefined path that the game designer sets you on with the only success condition being 100% precision as fast possible.
 

The Real Abed

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There is a difference between fun and rewarding. Although they are not always mutually exclusive.

I have some degree of fun with these types of games. I enjoy the art, music and even to some degree the feel of the controls.

The whole thing falls apart when it becomes a twitch fest of not playing the game in the way you (the player) chooses, but becomes a predefined path that the game designer sets you on with the only success condition being 100% precision as fast possible.
I'll put it this way. SMB and VVVVVV are fun hard.

I Wanna Be The Guy and the many spinoffs are not fun hard. But they are fun to watch people try and complete.

I find SMB and VVVVVV rewarding. Especially when you finally beat Veni, Vidi, Vici after dying a thousand times.
 

greg400

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Super Meat Boy really wasn't that enjoyable for me. Had to ask myself why I was playing it if I was constantly getting frustrated regardless of when I completed a level. I play games to avoid frustration, not multiply it.
 

John Rabbit

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i don't understand how setting goals for yourself and then achieving those goals isn't rewarding.

it's one thing if you don't enjoy these types of games, it's another to paint with broad strokes and condemn the genre altogether. just play games you enjoy, don't play games you don't enjoy. if you stop enjoying a game, stop playing it. simple!


edit: also, hell naw to that comment about bullet hell shmups.
 

spineduke

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I grew up on the NES so I've played my fair share of difficult video games. What I want to talk about here though is this retro-chic trend of indie platformers that instantly throw you into the shit.

To name a few:

Super Meat Boy
VVVVVV
Super House of Dead Ninjas
Cloudberry Kingdom
Electronic Super Joy

The reason these types of games are not rewarding is that as soon as you make it past the very brief tutorial that goes over the mechanics there is no learning curve at all. No room for improvisation. The entire point of the game is a binary code, digital rewiring of your human brain to be as precise as a robot for as long as your patience lasts.

As much as I love indies and as much as I love platformers, until these developers learn how to create a learning curve these types of games can fuck right off.

Or maybe I'm missing something... Feel free to explain the appeal to these types of games if you disagree with me.
I'm sorry, Super Meat Boy was excellently paced - you fail to recognize how each successive level teaches you a core skill before advancing to the next, with the final stages of each world combining said skills into a final challenge. If you're too weaksauce, that's okay - blame yourself, not the game.
 

Conflict NZ

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I agree, Super Meat Boy was terrible. The collision detection was poor and it wasn't fun at all. I feel bad for the people who actually enjoy games like that.
 
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I never really thought of VVVVVV as a hard game. I think I got 100% in one sitting over a couple of hours. If you understand what the game is trying to do it shouldn't take too long to get through any one area. Dodge that object, hit the checkpoint - it's like a puzzle game with 10 to 15 second stages. Veni Vidi Vici is entirely optional, but I think it's a total of 6 screens, each with one or two movements you have to make per screen.
 

Krackatoa

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I agree, Super Meat Boy was terrible. The collision detection was poor and it wasn't fun at all. I feel bad for the people who actually enjoy games like that.
I had tons of practice back when it was a flash game. I also play with a keyboard, so it feels super punchy to me. I don't know how people play with a control pad.

Apparently I am a god among my friends at that game. I couldn't believe they had the trouble they did.

Maybe it's not enjoyable if you suck?
 

linko9

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Dude, this is some of the most closed-minded, unintelligent thinking I've ever come across in the wide world of videogaemz. I love both of the genres you bring up in the OP. You're rewarded for actually learning something; for mastering something. This is fun to many people. That's really all there is to it. These games are by far the most rewarding of all genres of game if you enjoy them. It's fine if you don't, but it's just nonsensical to claim that there is something inherently "unrewarding" about them.
 

Cipherr

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VVVVVV is not masochistic and it doesn't 'throw you to the wolves' at all man. It definitely becomes challenging, but its a simple concept thats introduced to you at a comfortable pace. Super Meat Boy though.... man that one ramped incredibly awkwardly IMO.