By ahoodedfigure 12 Comments
That Meat Circus had me saying all kinds of horrible things to my innocent TV (and imagining throwing my controller through it), but in the end, I won. Didn't get a full collection list, ended at 97 or so, but I just watched a youtube clip and that was enough not to make me want to punish myself to find all the stuff I left behind at camp on an earlier save.
I'm OK with how it ended, and I actually love collection and exploration games... to a point. The level design was phenomenal and limited only by the imagination of the creators, who took the possibilities of the mind in some pretty fun directions. The writing was above average and pretty damned funny in places, although a little less repetition during the action scenes would have been nice (and not so many shrieky voices).
The platforming was my big problem, and this was only accentuated in the final stages. Honestly, I've never been a huge fan of 3D platforming on the whole because it too often becomes a depth perception issue: the TV is a 2D plane, but you're supposed to judge jumps as though you could see parallax and guess your jumps. The only game that showed me that 3D platforming was not a lost cause, as far as I remember, was Prince of Persia: Sands of TIme, and I think a good chunk of that was because it hemmed in player actions to set, routine movements, allowing you to use the skills you've learned to negotiate things pretty quickly and fluidly if you had the right approach. The more control you give to the player in these delicate scenes, the more that things can go wrong, allowing for players to jump to what looks like a handhold when it isn't, or smacking them back at the last possible second, sending them plummeting to their deaths. Sands of Time had its share of problems, but overall its execution (owing to the original PoP's design style) is the way I think these things should go. Psychonauts had me judging where I was in relation to a rope without a shadow to guide me, which was damned frustrating.
I'm really glad I had the opportunity to play it, and I think Black Velvetopia is going to stay with me as one of the most interesting level designs I've ever seen in a game, as well as the scaling Napoleon level. Since I beat it, I guess it's harder for me to hold a grudge, but I think the Meat Circus should have been better choreographed, and as an internet friend of mine Anthony said, they should have trained you better for those situations ahead of time. I understand why this game stays with so many people. Despite its flaws I can only recommend it (though some version of the above warnings would go along with that recommendation).