Wot I Think: Guacamelee

Guacamelee: Gold Edition has been out since before the stars were born, so it’s really about time we let you know Wot One Of Us Thinks. The 2D, side-scrolling Metroidvania is a cut above the rest, a shining example of the form. And also a damned good example of how boss fights can really spoil things. Here’s wot I think:

I can’t get over how much one moment can alter the overall memories of a game.

I’d been loving Guacamelee. It has flaws – not least the very troublesome failure to trigger button presses – and there have been particularly tricky moments where I’ve sworn and shouted and declared the unfairness of the universe. But it’s all been worthwhile because of a really superb Metroidvania platform experience, in a wonderfully realised world (or worlds), with wit, millions of moves, and a perfectly delivered escalating series of skills.

It’s a game themed around Mexican folklore, especially Día de Muertos, where you play a Luchadore aiming to – sigh – rescue a captured princess. Ah well. But that hoary motivation aside, what this is really about is running, jumping and fighting, as you expand your arsenal of moves and abilities, expanding the explorable world.

This is all delivered in just utterly splendid 2D cartoon graphics, the animations for which are luscious. Every enemy is so intricately animated, with a Disney-like flourish for sheen and a Chuck Jones sense for movement. These are high compliments indeed. And everything you see has been designed twice over, since you switch between the worlds of the living and the dead, at first when the game flips things, but later at will. It is, without doubt, a stunning piece of artwork.

On top of that there’s a superb combat system. Attacks can be played as straight button hits (I chose to play on a 360 pad, as it just made more sense), but also strung together in elaborate combos, effectively used in battle, and carefully deployed against the distinct attack styles of each enemy.

But best of all are the skills. Your attacks can double for movement advantages, especially the upward punch that propels you just that little higher. There’s wall jumping, running, achingly far into the game a precious double-jump, and many other surprises, until near the end when you’re equipped with such a vast array of moves that the you from five hours earlier would never believe he/she could cope with them. In fact, late on there’s what essentially amounts to an assault course for your fingers, a sequence of the toughest obstacles to make your way through using all of your learned abilities, in the most astonishingly difficult setting. It’s entirely optional, and I’ve spent genuinely hours trying to get through it, declaring each section obviously impossible until I master it, then labelling the next the same. I’ve still not made it all the way through, because, well, the latest section I’ve reached is obviously impossible. I’ll get there eventually.

There’s something similar for combat too, a vast pit of floors, each containing enemies to beat, that must all be completed in one go to reach the bottom. Do that and another one appears even harder, in which I’ve reached the very bottom level before being defeated, swearing at the screen and refusing to ever try again. I’ll get there eventually.

The game has a peculiar obsession with chickens, it has entirely optional little quests you can complete, finding missing band members, rounding up loose chickens, discovering the location of lost husbands, that sort of thing. There are advantages to doing them – extra health and stamina – but they’re almost blended into the background, not even flagged up as missions in your menu. The game is almost modest about its enormous amount of content.

It’s so long since I’ve gone from being so bad to being so good at a game. What I’m capable of achieving bemuses me, as I somehow string together a jump, sideways dash, second jump, swoop upwards, grip of the wall, roll, dodge through spikes, switch realities to bounce off a wall that exists in the other, then land on a ledge. Me and this game – we’ve gone far together.

I’ve had a fantastic time, and was looking forward to writing such a positive review.

And then I reached one particular boss fight. And my time with the game was horribly tainted. Because the amount of unfun, the degree to which I’ve been pissed off and infuriated by this sequence, has become my dominant memory of my time with it. It will be the game with the stupid boss fight now. Well, it will join the list of games with the stupid boss fights, at least.

I’ve ranted at length about why boss fights should always be skippable on many occasions. (Disagreeing with this argument reveals sociopathy in the contester, of course. Either a mad conviction that they’ll be forced to use the skip button against their will, or a creepy belief that others shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy something without liking the same things as them.) And there are few better examples of why than Guacamelee. Packed with story, dangling all sorts of reasons to keep powering forward, to see where it’s all going, and then putting a bloody great wall of hate across the pathway and telling you “tough shit”.

Complaining on Twitter about it, I didn’t even need to mention which fight it was. So many others groaned in agreement, knowing that I was talking about the battle against the jaguar character. Because the fight is, so very obviously, poor. As with so many errant boss fights in so many games, it contradicts the nature of how you’ve played until this point, and uses unfair tactics to create a false notion of “difficulty”. All those extremely complex fighting techniques you were taught, those chained combos of a very elaborate nature that you almost never really need to use… Facing this opponent that’s extremely strong and powerful, and… none of them work.

You also learn from fighting so many other enemies that there are certain things you can do to block attacks, or over-power enemies. None of these work. You’ve recently been given a new array of movement abilities between this boss fight and the last. None of them are useful. Instead you have a situation where the if the enemy is even one frame into an attack animation when you hit him, that attack happens anyway, despite your successful contact, and you get a massive chunk taken out of your health anyway.

Worse, the knockback effect of getting hit lasts as long as it takes for him to let loose his next attack. Should he choose to, he can kill you in one go if the AI feels like it. Yet when you hit him, nothing, he can carry on an attack he’s already doing.

I’ve beaten it now. I’ve gone past it, had more fun since. Until the final boss, which I defeated eventually, not getting any pleasure from the process, but at least not feeling cheated. That miserable hour or two that I spent earlier, on and off between doing other things to stop myself getting too angry, remains a blight in my experience. And for once I wanted to represent that in a review, rather than let that obnoxious section get reduced to a sentence. People love Guacamelee, and they’re going to be disappointed or angry that I’ve let that one sequence dominate so much in this review. I hope that makes my point.

I have had such a fantastic time with this enormous game. I’ve been playing it in work hours, then in evenings, the weekend, any spare moment I can find. It’s a wonderful thing. Play it, if you haven’t already. It has so much going for it. I’ve had such a lot of fun for the vast majority of the time. I can’t think of a better example of why there should be a “skip” button for the utterly irrelevant moments that interrupt the fun, and have hung this one out because of it. But despite the stain, it’s still a superb creation.


  1. Sixtoe says:

    The cartoon version of DX:HR then?

    • Deathmaster says:

      Worst comparison ever.

    • Totally heterosexual says:

      No, not at all. What the hell are you on?

      • Sixtoe says:

        My enjoyment (of which there was a lot of) of DX:HR came to a crashing halt every forced FPS brainless boss fight, and even prompted genuine confusion about what was going on the first time, especially considering I’d managed to get to the first one practically without even being seen let alone killing anyone.
        It was a splinter in the otherwise pleasantly smooth memory, a small irritation, but always niggles away, so it seemed to genuinely mirror Johns experiences above so I thought the comparison was fair.

        • jonahcutter says:

          The problem with the DX:HR boss-fights wasn’t a spike into unfair difficulty. I basically blasted all three apart with a full upgraded revolver and grenades. They didn’t feel particularly hard as far as boss-fights go.

          The problem with those encounters was it forced you into a combat-only approach. They cast aside how the rest of the gameplay, throughout the entire game, allowed you to determine your own approach.

          • gwathdring says:

            You’re missing that people who didn’t focus on combat upgrades very much if at all had a very difficult time with the boss fights–especially people on Give Me Deus Ex difficulty. I did kill people from time to time, so my personal problem wasn’t that. It was the difficulty spike.

            Your mileage may very. Maybe you figured out the gas canister trick right away and the fight was easier as hell even on the highest difficulty! The problem is that was a trial-and-error method in a fight that wasn’t just hard because the guy was hard to kill … but because he killed you very quickly. Which meant it was necessarily meta game trial and error rather than in-the-moment trial and error. Does that make sense? Die, try again. Die, try again.

            The one with the electric floor was particularly brutal for me. And I had an upgraded revolver at the time.

          • jonahcutter says:


            You make a good point in that even perhaps the approaches to even combat alone were more limited, and that my existing set-up happened to be easier perhaps. Though I didn’t use the gas canisters on the first boss. I literally just brute forced him with revolver rounds to the head and every nade I had, and dodged behind pillars when his gun spooled up.

            I think both our overall points of view mesh though, that the flaw in those fights was they forced a far more limited approach than the rest of the game allowed. Whether you wanted to stealth or hack, or use a different weapon than the ones I happened to have chosen, it was either impossible or at a severe disadvantage.

          • gwathdring says:

            Exactly. The game allowed for a substantial variety in combat prowess available to various character builds. I’m personally fine with the designers deciding the only way past is to kill/fight, or what-have-you … but the designers had to be really really careful. Make it too easy to avoid damage and combat builds find the fight too easy. Make it too easy to die and non-combat builds can’t survive the fight. And that’s before we even get to the problem of player education–non-combat builds or stealth-kill builds have learned a host of tactics that don’t work, so while it might be ok to push them out of their element (clearly some people disagree with me there :P ), you have to telegraph it to them a little better keeping in mind that they’re not as used to this style of play as other players will be. And then again we don’t want to make it too easy for the combat player …

            It’s a difficult design challenge.

  2. Dominic White says:

    Never really had trouble with Jaguar Javier. Here’s a video of someone nearly acing that fight on Hard Mode, too:

    Absolutely every attack is telegraphed, and everything can be dodge-rolled through. That entire fight is a crash course in Not Getting Hit(tm). Look for the tell, avoid, repeat.

    Granted, you need to repeat a lot, but once you’ve got the timing down, there’s not too much threatening there.

    • Ross Angus says:

      This is not a counter-argument for a “skip” button.

      • Convolvulus says:

        I believe it’s intended to counter the argument about the boss fight’s quality/difficulty/fairness. Obviously there is no valid argument against the “skip” button because anyone who disagrees is a sociopath.

        • Dominic White says:

          Apparently I’m a sociopath now? Cool.

          Some games are hard. Sometimes I get stuck, and can’t progress and have to practice and try different approaches. Sometimes I won’t even complete a game.

          And that’s okay. And the funny thing? The older I get, the more okay I am with that. As a kid I’d play everything on Easy mode, cheat like a mofo and get to the ending and move onto the next game and there was no satisfaction in it. Whoop de doo, another ending. Only later did I realize that the journey really is more important.

          • Bradamantium says:

            I think you neglected to read the article before descending to the comments. The sociopath is John’s bit, and though it’s a bit strong, I agree. He even provides a handy counter to your “It makes things too easy!” logic. It’s an option, not a necessity, and people who like the sort of backwards “difficulty” that comes up with some boss fights can happily ignore the option.

          • Mr. Mister says:

            Thing is, there’s no situation where nobody can be wrong, and that includes deciding what will make themselves the happiest. No need to expand on this.

            Also, skipping boss-fights can result in a dangerous positively fedbacked (is that a word?) cycle, similar to brute-forcing your way past puzzles without reflecting afterwards on puzzle games.

          • dE says:

            Oh, there are counter arguments to this and in a flurry of irony, they lead to the opposite of a sociopath. After all, difficult parts in a game are a community building exercise. They’re possible connections for people to talk about and craft theories and ideas around. Just a great topic to meet and talk about. It’s hard to understand for people that seemingly have never experienced that. With a skip button, that’s just gone.

            People are driven into this social experience against their will, but stay for the joy it brings. Alas, I’m personally all for skip buttons in games. There are plenty of bullshit scenarios in games I’d just love to skip. I’m just willing to argue the sociopath statement, because what it leads to is far more sociopathic than the other option.

            Hell, difficulty and obstacles in the broadest sense are the founding foundation for any community. It’s the reason why people stick together, because they can’t do things alone and want to got at it together.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            I’d be fine with a skip button if it was in a separate difficulty setting or something you toggle on or off before you start the game. Otherwise, it would be like making you invincible. Sure, you could still dodge attacks, but it would suck out the point.

          • Acorino says:

            I’m for cheat codes, but against skip buttons. It enraged me when Crimson Skies asked me if I wanted to skip a level. No I’m good enough to beat this shit, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I somehow felt insulted and patronized.

    • Swanny says:

      I’ve been wondering if this fight is homage to those old coin-op fighting games that have just an insane boss where you have to wait and counter everything. The Shredder fight from TMNT or the red dragon from D&D: Tower of Doom come to mind. They were such a change-up from most of the other bosses that you had to take extra time relearning how to play to get past them.

  3. RedViv says:

    The mere mention of JAVIER JAGUAR sends a memory of pain through my ring fingers and thumbs. That truly was an awful one.

    Oh hey, on that note I can do something that I haven’t really yet: Praise something about GTA V Five 5.
    You can skip missions. I guess one Irish comedian might have helped here, making it the hook for a bit on games being the only medium that can stop itself dead.

    • dE says:

      You can skip missions? How? I’d have loved to skip that utterly retarded torture mission.

      • Kitsunin says:

        If you die three times in a row during one bit, you can skip to the next checkpoint instead of retrying.

  4. Laurentius says:

    It’s really hard on keyboard and i don’t like this at all, i played and completed lot of platformesrs on keyboard in my days but this is a real pita. And if someone wants to start blabbering about getttin a pad, well go fuck yourself.

    • AndrewC says:

      Get a pad.

    • Totally heterosexual says:

      Get a pad.

    • John Walker says:

      Get a pad.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Get a pad

    • RedViv says:

      You have all the options with this wonderful PC machine. Do utilise that wonderful functionality and don’t demand The One Input Device as you are FORCED to on consoles.

      I mean…

      Get a pad.

      • Tacroy says:

        There’s some genres and control schemes that just plain work better on a pad. I mean, how would you play something like Katamari Damacy on a keyboard and mouse?

        Sure, when you need to precisely indicate a group of pixels on the screen, the keyboard and mouse reign supreme; but that’s not the only kind of user interface. For anything where relative motion matters, rather than absolute position, a controller is going to be better.

      • DanMan says:


    • Lemming says:

      A pad. Get one.

    • Sunjumper says:

      Get an arcade stick.

    • Lyrion says:

      Hey you know what can help? Get a controller ;)

    • Dowr says:

      Get a pad.

    • colossalstrikepackage says:

      Get paid. Then a pad.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I really wish games would have a ‘requires a pad’ disclaimer instead of just ‘supports a pad’. So misleading, spending X amount of money on a game only to find that you have to spend Y amount more.

      So, yes, the ‘get a pad’ argument is pretty asinine in that respect. I expected better of you.

      • ulix says:

        The very first screen after bootup in a game I played, was it Meatboy?, reads: “strongly recommended to be played with a gamepad” or something along these lines. I liked that.

        Also: get a pad.

        • hotmaildidntwork says:

          That’s probably good, but it seems like it would be more helpful *before* the game has been purchased.

          • Baines says:

            People will then scream about it being a PC game that doesn’t support mouse+keyboard.

            Look at State of Decay’s Early Access, where people complained that an *unfinished* game didn’t have fully customizable mouse+keyboard support. The people who buy a fighting game and then complain about doing moves on a keyboard.(*) Or even the RPS Spelunky article that complained that it didn’t have mouse-controlled whipping.

            (*) Though fighting games are weird. Some moves are easier to do on a keyboard. Indeed, there is now a fighting game controller that takes the arcade stick design and replaces the stick itself with four buttons, and its supporters swear that it is better (both faster and more accurate) than a joystick once you get used to it. One of the main sticking points for keyboard support isn’t even the buttons themselves, but rather keyboards not recognizing enough simultaneous presses.

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      Bluerps says:

      Get a steering wheel.

    • Bobka says:

      Good to know, if a bit disappointing. Hm. I guess I’ll bump this down a couple of slots on my wishlist.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I don’t play games with pads either. If I wanted to use a pad, I would be on consoles. Most of the time when a game says it “requires” a pad (especially 2D platformers), they just didn’t try different keybindings. Shank was probably the worst in this regard. Try using the number keys.

      • ulix says:

        If I wanted to use a screen, I’d play consoles. I hate PC games that require a screen. Most of times the problem is the audio, if they’d recorded and programmed the audio better, I could play perfectly fine with just sound.

        Who needs a screen? Apart from these console kids of course!

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Serious question, why? I mean, you have a PC right and one of the strengths of PC’s, since the days of the Dragon 32 and the MSX is that they can have a variety of controllers plugged into them. For instance, I had a platformer on my Dragon which required a joystyick, so I purchased a joystick to play it with. I have, since the 70’s owned a keyboard, mouse and stick at all times and since the 80’s a wheel and pad was added to that roster. Since the 90’s I diverged joystick into fight and flight stick (Think I just invented that all by myself!) and upgraded pad into dual stick designs. the 2000’s saw a guitar, drum, mic controllers as well as mech cockpit – though all of those are rotting in the attic as we speak. This decade will likely see some form of gesture controller to go with my future occulus.

        It is understandable that consoles are limited – they limit themselves by the space they occupy – under the tv. Why would you voluntarily gimp your PC?

      • dE says:

        That has become such an annoying connection: Gamepads Consoles. Did folks really forget about those days with Joysticks, Steering Wheels, even more crazy input devices? It has always been about using the right tool for the right job. A flight sim, yeah of course you’re going to use a Joystick. Remember TFX? That had rudimentary mouse support. If you flicked your mouse, your Jet made 234809723489 turns in one second.
        Filthy console game, right? Then suddenly kids started argueing about which console was supposedly better and PC Users got angry with Exclusives and seeing their high-tech PC twiddle thumbs… and just as suddenly it was a Stigma to use input devices other than Mouse and Keyboard. WHY? No seriously, WHYYYYYYYY? It serves no purpose for you, it does you no good to limit your options. I guess, ugh, get off my lawn filthy youngsters. Or I’ll waddle you with my joysticks paddle.

      • Metr13 says:

        Shank played like… A really poorly designed game on a controller too, for me.

      • The Random One says:

        I honestly don’t know why you’d insist on using a writing device for gaming, but it’s your funeral. I’ll use a gaming device to game.

    • Tacroy says:

      Get a pad, and then get Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons too. It’s totally worth it.

    • Laurentius says:

      Joking aside, what would I gain for getting a pad for Guacamelee ? I played plaformers on keyboard since, I don’t know probably back in 1992, times of Prince of Persia and Prehistorik 2, I think i am moderatly skilled with pressing my keys or at least I used to be. Never own a console, never been playing on pad, if I’ve found bloated controls for Guacamelee as pita for my keyboard, I would probably break this new gamepad in two right away.

      • derbefrier says:

        Its not 1992 anymore get over it and get a pad, old man :p

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Get a maxi pad, you pussy.

    • PhilKenSebben says:

      Get a pad. With wings.

    • Urthman says:

      There are two kinds of games that “require” a gamepad. The first is games like Darksiders where the “you must have a pad” people just don’t seem to know how to rebind their mouse and keyboard controls correctly. I suspect Guacamelee is one of those.

      The second is games that genuinely require analog triggers or analog sticks or that require you to move at weird angles while locking the camera in a fixed position. Bastion, Lara Croft Guardian of Light, and AssCreed2 had a few places like that, but I mostly had no trouble playing those games just fine with a keyboard. (The follow-up, AssBro, seems to have fixed this problem: none of the fixed-camera “tomb raiding” sections require the same kind of awkward angles.) Paper Plane is the only game I’ve come across that absolutely requires analog triggers. I’ve certainly never found a 2D platformer that didn’t work with a keyboard.

      (I do have a pad, and I’ve played Darksiders and AssCreed2Bro for extended periods with it, but I find the advantages of tight camera control with the mouse consistently outweighs the benefit of analog movement with the stick.)

      • ulix says:

        I’ve never encountered a first-person-shooter that couldn’t be played with a gamepad. At least theoretically.

        The point is: it’s shit. It is played better, and better played with a mouse & keyboard.
        Just as a controller is infinitely superior to a keyboard (& mouse) in genres like fighting games, platformers, SHMUPS, most sports games, racing games (obviously a wheel is even better for those), and many other 3D action-games that aren’t first- or third-person shooters.

        And Twin-Stick-Shooters. They’re not called “Mouse & Keyboard Shooters” for a reason, if you believe it or not.

        Sure, theoretically most of these genres, and even most games in these genres, would work with a mouse and keyboard.

        I can hammer in a nail with a shoe as well. I’d rather use a hammer though.

      • Laurentius says:

        It’s not key bidings that is the problem per se, it’s just that these games are build around gamepad and then ported without giveng a damn. Platformers but almost all present games have incerdibly bloated controls thanks to all this buttons and things on gamepads because if they are there why to not to utilize them ? In fact these games wouldn’t suffer (or imo would actully be better) with tighter more focused controls. If game pins me down with sparate buttons for: jump, attack, super attacks, dodge, button to talk to NPC, button to enter buildings, button to pick up itemes etc, I know i am in for a treat…

      • Metr13 says:

        Bastion worked really well with mouse and keyboard for me, I don’t think I ever noticed any problems with controls.

        I suspect that guacamelee might be like Rayman Origins, in that it feels weird at first, and then you really don’t understand how the hell people are supposed to play this with analog input.

        • GamesInquirer says:

          Gamepads are so advanced they offer digital input too!

          • jrodman says:

            Sadly the 360 dpad is shit, a lot of games struggle with other gamepads, and even with that one they often insist that the dpad is only for doing things like picking stuff out of menus. Oh well.

    • Metr13 says:

      L2P then. Remap until you find the controls comfortable.

  5. DickSocrates says:

    There should be a button to skip entire levels too. Just skip between cutscenes. And a button to skip the cutscenes too. In fact, many games do have an option to watch the credits right there on the first menu screen.

    I’m more in favour of well designed boss fights. And if you’re getting that frustrated by a game, it says more about your current state of mind than the game itself. I was there myself for about 10 years, so I sympathise. It’s just most people don’t play games and instantly get insanely angry when everything doesn’t go their way on the first try.

    • Viroso says:

      I’m in favor of these two things. You don’t need to pick either skipping content or having good game. You can have both. I think games should hand the player a lot more control. Skipping parts, immortality, whatever. Maybe it’d be extra work for the devs, but I think it’d be worth the effort.

      When I say this I fear that my pro gamer street cred will be blemished, everyone will think I play games on EASY. What will be of me then? Can I still be called a gamer? Do I deserve that honor? So I like to tell people that I’m one who usually prefers to play games on hard and enjoys stupidly hard games.

      At the same time, sometimes I’d like to revisit a level, fight a certain boss again or just have fun with the mechanics. Very few games let me do this. More games should though. Devil May Cry 3, that game can get super hard, and if you want you can just put in a cheat code on the opening screen that gives you all the stuff I talked about earlier. The game continues to be awesome, and it is even awesomer because I can instantly open every level, difficulty mode, galleries and costumes that make me an immortal god.

    • sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

      Install game. Watch credits. Uninstall game. $40 (or whatever) well spent.

      • Baines says:

        I’ll admit that “watch game on YouTube” is enough for me to be satisfied sometimes.

    • RedViv says:

      Why do you handle these as if they had to be exclusive binary design decisions? Design better boss fights that don’t work completely opposite in feel to the rest of the game, but merge them with the general flow. And have a skip function if that is still too hard for some. Drop achievements or whatnot for the fight if that function is used and everything is fine.

    • stoopiduk says:

      “And if you’re getting that frustrated by a game, it says more about your current state of mind than the game itself.”

      No it doesn’t. There is no reason those two things have to be linked; you’re making a poor, patronising assumption on the basis that you used to get annoyed at video games and think it may have been to do with your mental state at the time.

      I often play games when I am in a frustrated state of mind, with the aim of relieving that frustration and inducing happiness. It works, frequently. Other times games frustrate me. Am I a psychopath? Is it manic depression?!

      Psychology and video games are obviously not your strong points, you should probably steer clear of both.

      • Tinotoin says:

        I dunno, I find that I can be frustrated and not frustrated by the same game depending on how I’m feeling. Mind you, that could be frustration based on my performance (caused by my mental state), rather than my mental state causing the frustration directly.

        Who knows, add a skip function already!

        • Mr. Mister says:

          Nintendo has been adding “auto-play level” (even better than just skip) in Mario games since Galaxy 2 (essentially counts as a standard level complete, except it’s marked as auto-played), and I haven’t seen a single praise for that feature.


          • gwathdring says:

            How is that better than a skip? That’s way worse. You have to sit and watch someone else finish for you the game for you. It’s giving up AND getting control taking away from you. That *sucks.*

          • Mr. Mister says:

            You skip something because you believe that you’re not going to get good enough to get past it (otherwise you’d just keep trying and improving until you’re good enough), or because you’re at a loss as what you need to do to beat it, and have surrendered in figuring it out.

            If you simply skip it, that’s it, consider as if there was no challange to begin with. With an auto-play feature, you can see how good exactly you needed to be to beat it (and maybe even realise it was between your possibilities!), and/or discover which was that something that you were missing.

          • gwathdring says:

            You might also skip it because you’re bored. Autoplay requires extra work for the designer compared to a skip. Heck, why not both?

    • gwathdring says:

      I’m going to give you the benefit and assume this isn’t exactly what you meant with your ten years comment, but you reminded me of something that comes up a lot in this kind of discussion: god I’m tired of people talking about how enlightened they are now that they’re older. Look. Education, development, evolution … these things are not inherently positive. You can learn forwards, backwards, sideways. The Developmental Narrative shtick is just as bad as the Back in My Day shtick. Put your shticks back where they belong! Just becasue you used to think something and now you don’t doesn’t mean you’ve discovered new heights of understanding.

      Sorry. Tangential rant over. So about skipping boss fights. There are some key arguments that I think are worth discussing here. The first is the problem of conditioning. People say you can just ignore hints, cheats, and skip buttons. Maybe they can, but not everyone can and it has nothing to do with how strong-willed and mindful a person is. Perfectly ordinary people with plenty of restraint and motivation will motor through skip-able cutscenes, dialog and so forth … just becasue they can. Even if they would have been happier to enjoy the dialog or cutscene. Obviously there’s an order of magnitude difference, but consider someone with a severe anxiety disorder who can’t bring themselves to leave the house during a particularly bad episode–would you tell them it’s easy becasue you just have to put one foot in front of the other? Well good for you and your brain that lets you put one foot in front of the other.

      Motivation is, research increasingly suggests, nicely modeled as a finite but renewable resource. When I come home from a long day of working to play games … my inhibitions drop. My patience drops. I’m here to play, to have fun … but I have less willpower. Less motivation. If I can skip a cutscene I might just hammer the button without thinking. I might keep playing a game that’s drudgery because I can’t bring myself to stop. Exactly how my motivational exhaustion manifests itself will depend a lot on my personal history and habits. But the point is the same: it’s rarely a matter of just doing things the way you want to do them. I might want to beat the boss fight but also want to get on with the joyful action-platformer. I might want to play fair and overcome a challenge but also want to experience something light and entertaining. Regardless of what I really “want” I might do something else just because it’s a habit, or because the reinforcement is more immediate, or what-have-you. Consider, too, that facing a difficult boss-fight saps a lot of motivation even if the player began in the best of spirits with the best of can-overcome attitudes. These design choices are never simple.

      Another issue on the table, though, is player choice. I’ve established that sometimes a choice being available is not the same as the player having a choice in the matter. But insofar as it is possible we should give players choices, shouldn’t we? I suppose there are a few ways to go there: our goal could be to create a series of events for the player, a message for the player, or an experience. If our goal is the experience and the series of events simply serves that experience … we should allow the player to subvert the order of events in ways that develop the intended experience. We should also, no matter our goal, almost always make some concessions to people who do not share our vision or our circumstance. DVDs can be paused, rewound, fast-forwarded, chapters skipped.

      And finally there’s the matter of poorly designed boss fights, which is an issue for another sub-thread. Some people will always find certain kinds of difficulty appreciable or rewarding. Not everyone shares preferences here; what for you might be a difficult but worthwhile challenge for me might be difficult in a way that is utterly boring and uninteresting. This is inevitable even in a well designed game. But sometimes a level or boss fight is so inconsistent or out-of-spirit with the rest of the game, or so much more difficult for most of the audience or what-have-you … that we can say bad design took place even if it worked for some people. Unless the intent was for most of the audience to find it arbitrary, sudden, inconsistent, and frustrating… but in that case you’re probably an asshole even if you’re a good designer. :P

      • Mr. Mister says:

        Some boss fights are indeed intended with an asshole mentality.

        Take Neuron from Unepic. The developer admitted that, when he was designing him, he simply kept thinking in ways the player wouldn’t expect to be fucked with, and fucked real hard. And it works, because those ways aren’t artificial difficulties (that is, simply requiring more raw skill), no. They are things Neuron does that nobody did before, things you certainly don’t expect playing a game, and yet perfectly reasonable given what he is.

        If those two dudes from Dark Souls are the biggest asshole of a boss when it comes to mastering the game mechanics to beat them, Neuron is the biggest asshole of a boss when it comes to “Did he just… FUCK!”.

    • jrodman says:

      If I fail a boss fight or challenge once or twice, that’s fine and good.

      if I fail badly 3 times in a row, the game should really notice I intentionally picked the easiest setting available rather intentionally and think about whether it’s providing entertainment or misery and offer to stop it.

      If I fail to achieve a training mission 87 times in a row (I’m looking at you Wind Waker, with your jumping shit in the boat) then it’s massive design failure. In that case it was demanding a high level of competence with a clunky control without providing any sort of playpen to get used to them.

  6. jokigenki says:

    Having run through the game three times now, I have to say that the Jaguar Javier fight is actually my favourite boss fight, because it tests your skills most completely. However, the problem is that at that point in the game where you encounter him, you don’t yet have the skills required to beat him. It would’ve worked better as the final boss perhaps. The only bit that made me so utterly frustrated was getting the orb in the tree tops, that was a serious challenge!

  7. Zeno says:

    It really wasn’t that tough though. Maybe you just need to try harder.

    • Jack_Dandy says:

      You expect any better from RPS? They’re all casuals here.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      You’re such a great player! So awesome! Internet hero!

  8. Viroso says:

    I only fought one boss in Deus EX, ended up giving up on the game but not because of the boss. Were the boss fights in that game so bad as to make a ton of people dislike boss fights? I recall after Deus EX many articles and me-too articles about the boss fights in the game and boss fights in general popped up and it seemed like everyone agreed boss fights were this dumb archaic thing that went against the game yadda yadda.

    Maybe John likes boss fights, he just hated this one a lot specifically. I have hated some boss fights too. But I don’t feel like there are many bad ones. I also don’t think contradicting everything you know about the game is a bad thing about a boss fight.

    Boss fights are that moment where the game can create a unique challenge. The boss fight is where the player knows something’s different is coming, it’s a space that exists just for the fight. It’s where they can do different things.

    There’s this idea that’s like, a game should give you a mechanic, teach you how to use it and then test you, and sometimes this moment of testing is supposed to be the boss fight. If the boss fight doesn’t test that specific thing, it’s bad. But I think this is boring.

    A boss fight can exist to challenge what you think you know, to make you use your skills in different ways, to throw a curveball at you, to show that you’re capable of different things. If the boss is the moment to test the skill you learned, like in a Zelda game, then that boss is going to be predictable. There won’t be nearly as much tension.

    Boss fights should totally screw with the player. The only thing it can’t do is break the rules of what you’ve learned before. It is immensely frustrating when things arbitrarily don’t work or when the boss does something the game just wasn’t built for. By the WIT it actually sounds like Javier Jaguar is one of these cases so I don’t have any idea why I just wrote all of this.

    • Bradamantium says:

      “Boss fights should totally screw with the player. The only thing it can’t do is break the rules of what you’ve learned before.” These two sentences can’t coexist so closely to each other. I’m a little surprised the website didn’t implode beneath their juxtaposition. The problem with so many boss fights is that they do screw with the player by breaking the rules. Deus Ex, for example, invites various playstyles…but the bosses are 1 v 1 fragfests in rooms the size of a spacious cardboard box. Super Meat Boy goes from a platforming frenzy to a game of rote memorization that drops the game’s excellent pace to the floor. Countless games have a final boss that suddenly throws former mechanics out the window in favor of giving you some ridiculous new power or ability or an enemy that’s a hundred feet tall.

      Boss fights aren’t inherently bad, but they should serve as quick, challenging climaxes in the game’s style and theme, not as a sudden shift of mechanics that screw with the player.

      • Viroso says:

        Screwing with the player is great and it can be done without breaking any rules. Sometimes it can break rules and still be awesome, case in point metal gear solid.

        The first two bosses, Ocelot and Raven in his tank. Before Ocelot you had only fought regular enemies, which are dealt with in direct confrontation. They move in towards you and you shoot them. With Ocelot, you have a tight space and you can’t move or shoot through the middle of the room. Ocelot can’t do that either, but he can bounce bullets off walls to hit you.

        You were screwed with. Ocelot has the upper hand on you.

        The first fight with Raven. He has a tank, you’re in a minefield. He has the upper hand, and you got screwed with. It’s a situation you didn’t expect or prepare for, it’s an uneven, unfair situation. Snake’s fighting a tank in a minefield. The fight forces you to find new ways to attack, using grenades which you had no reason to use before that.

        A fight that absolutely screws with the player, breaks every rule of the game, it fact it breaks all rules of every game ever, Psycho Mantis. He dodges your every bullet, turns the screen black, and is in control of Meryl, he’s unbeatable. To beat him you have to explore all of your resources, down to the CODEC. He can be beaten without port switching too.

        So, a boss fight can definitely screw with the player without breaking rules of the game, or breaking them in a fun, satisfying way. MGS series has tons of examples of fun boss fights that put you at disadvantage. Bosses that turn invisible, that dodge all of your attacks, that hunt you down.

        Also the examples you gave aren’t of breaking the rules of the game, and SMB isn’t frenzy platforming, SMB is route memorization. It’s the boss fights of Super Meat Boy that actually force you to be fast. Anyway, the examples you gave are of the game going against your expectations. That’s different from breaking the rules.

        Breaking the rules, or changing the rules, is more like what you said there, with final bosses that throw a new mechanic at you. Those I agree are mostly weak. Or fights where, for no reason at all, a move doesn’t work anymore.

        It’s okay to give bosses unique advantages, otherwise I want the game to always benefit me. It isn’t okay (most of the times I guess) to cap the player, to change the core mechanics, etc.

        • gwathdring says:

          Well and thoughtfully put. I would argue that your examples are impeccable examples of clever boss fights. But boss fights shouldn’t screw with the player unless they know *exactly* what they’re doing, why, and that it will improve the overall experience. There are many games that don’t need that kind of climactic paradigm shift thrown in periodically. I’ve read there’s one boss you can optionally kill by not playing for a week or something like that–he dies of old age. MGS is a beautiful example of how to make boss fights inventive and cool as far as I can tell. I’ve never played a game in the series.

          You have to ask though — does the player want to be screwed with? Does the game set up the player to take being screwed with well and in stride or does it encourage the player to become set in their ways? This is important, because if the game doesn’t encourage the player to expect and adapt to paradigm shifts … throwing one in out of the blue because that’s how boss fights are supposed to work is just mean.

          • Viroso says:

            Yeah I think something I’ve been missing with what I’ve been saying is the communication the game establishes with the player. Screwing with the player I think works better when it comes with some context for it. Preparing the player for it and when it happens, making it something the player likes.

            So it isn’t just screwing with the player but it’s aligning everything so it works.

            The boss you’re talking about in MGS3 is The End. He’s a very old man. First time you see him, you’re from a distance and nobody knows you’re there, he’s pulled away in a wheel chair. Second time you find him, it’s a sniper battle. The End is one of the coolest bosses in the entire series, right up there with Psycho Mantis.

            You can fight The End in a sniper battle, it’s in a large map full of trees, his outfit makes it hard to see him. The challenge of the fight is in finding him, which can be done in a number of ways, by getting shot and following the direction of the shot(he uses tranq darts), by getting lucky and seeing him, by tracking his footsteps, by following his pet parrot.

            You can kill him or tranquilize him. This is the traditional way to defeat him. But you can also wait a week, real time week, and he’ll die of old age. The other awesome way to win is when you first come across him, and that’s maybe a few hours away from the actual battle. When you first spot him, if you’re really quick you can take out your sniper rifle and shoot him in the head before people wheel him out of sight.

            It’s a great boss because of the battle itself and all the ways you can defeat him, some which are totally unpredictable. Also, during the fight you can put a crocodile hat and move through a river, this will fool him and let you get closer, but it works only once.

            Anyway, I don’t have much to add to your other post. Some games really don’t need boss fights I suppose. We might disagree on which ones.

            I liked the boss fights in Mass Effect, specially ME3, when you fought that sword guy, my favorite fight in the game. I didn’t mind the last big fight in 2. It wasn’t the best moment in the game but it was a good moment. I guess the biggest problem with it was feeling too video gamey, I mean, you have to hit weakspots at specific times, it’s very Sonic. Mass Effect isn’t very Sonic.

            I love boss fights in Metroidvanias. For me there’s the moment for exploration, which is about figuring out how to move forwards or rushing through fun platforming sections and there’s the boss fight, which is where I have no idea of what to expect. I like a certain degree of predictability to the non-boss sections, not only in what I’ll come across but also a predictable pacing. The boss is when we have the climax.

            Boss fights are my favorite things in a game like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. It’s the moment when I get an enemy that doesn’t flinch. Because I also like the enemies that I can juggle but outnumber me.

            Every new thing in a game requires testing and polishing, by using repeating elements you can save up on that and occasionally deliver something that’s different, during boss fights. So I understand when a game can’t come up with new things all the time, that’s because the game prefers to repeat itself.

            Repeating, as you noticed there, can be fun. It’s when we master our skills or try new things.

            But you’re right, all of what I like in a boss fight doesn’t need to exist in a boss fight. Uncharted barely uses boss fights, when it does it isn’t as great as when it doesn’t. Uncharted creates climatic moments by messing with the environment and circumstances of regular fights, placing them inside a collapsing building or during car chases. Red Dead Redemption has climatic moments without boss fights, climax built solely through the story. Some of the more climatic moments are interesting not because there are more enemies for you to fight but because you have allies fighting by your side.

            I can’t think of certain games without boss fights, or without the throw away battles (when they’re fun). Aside from the stuff I mentioned here, which you correctly pointed out absolutely do not require a boss fight to exist, there’s a unique trait to bosses that make them fun. They are one target, they’re something you (supposedly) don’t know you can defeat. With boss fights it’s personal. The more personal it gets the better. With random enemies, regardless of whatever new trick they pull off, they’re still the random enemies. There isn’t ONE moment of victory, your progress is spread thin.

            I think that’s the key here, how focused a boss is versus how spread out multiple enemies are. In a boss, your attention, your aggression, the threat, all of it is focused on a single individual. With random enemies, it’s spread out, and because of that so is the climax or your victory.

            And I think that’s also what can make non-boss moments climatic. Focusing on one thing. Like I mentioned in Uncharted earlier, there’s a focus on the big complex set pieces. On God of War series, there are some very long fights against countless enemies that manage to be as memorable as the outlandish bosses in those games, but they’re the ones that focus on a specific place or situation, like the Pandora Box or the translator.

            You’re right that not every action game needs boss fights, and perhaps some bosses I enjoyed in the past could’ve been replaced by something else just as enjoyable. But there’s a special thing about boss fights that, for me at least, can’t be replaced.

            Sheesh I’ve only been using console games as an example here, what will RPS think of me. I’ll stop now before I bring up Shadow of the Colossus.

          • gwathdring says:

            No worries. Platform is as platform does. I yell at people who do the whole “boo, consoles” thing seriously hereabouts.

            Every new thing in a game requires testing and polishing, by using repeating elements you can save up on that and occasionally deliver something that’s different, during boss fights. So I understand when a game can’t come up with new things all the time, that’s because the game prefers to repeat itself.

            There’s a catch though. Some games should just be shorter if they don’t have the time or resources to add enough new content. Sure, some games should involve practice, mastery, repetition. But games need to know when to stop! Hack-n-slash games like DMC make an excellent case for enjoyable repetition. Dragon Age? Not so much in my personal opinion. There’s no timing to master, because you can just pause. It’s a cognitive skill, not a physical one. It feels like repeating something you’ve memorized rather than pulling off a difficult, learned skill. The joy in tactical games is in adapting to new circumstances and enivronments not in reiterating the same power combos over and over and over. I don’t need 90 hours of repetitive game-play content to get my 5 hours of story content. In DMC … you WANT the repetition and the boss fights add extra flavor, challenge, character and variety. In Dragon Age … you want the story and the special encounters and the regular fights serve very little purpose except to make sure you’re spending your time playing a game out of some arbitrary sense of duty.

            Also regarding Mass Effect: the first game had an arbitrary feeling boss fight that wasn’t difficult even on high difficulty levels and was absolutely boring. There was no cover, very little in the way of special tactics … just a very large health bar and a feeling of betrayed narrative momentum. The second game pulled the same “ooh, you killed it .. whoops, no you didn’t” silliness, didn’t make a whole lot of sense, and again offered little challenge or novelty. Just a big health-bar and a lengthy but boring set-piece. Mass Effect 3 had a cool “final” fight leading up to the missile launch–tough, threw a lot at you, leveraged systems you’d learned, leveraged sensible narrative and so forth. The Kai Leng fight made perfect sense as a boss fight in every way–I just didn’t enjoy the mechanics; it was a lot like the fights in Lair of the Shadow Broker in that rather than requiring you use your abilities in cool ways it simply made most of them less effective or useless.

    • gwathdring says:

      I’ve hated boss fights since before Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

      I see what they’re for. I don’t actually HATE them, and I’ve enjoyed my fair share. I enjoy a challenge. I enjoy brutal games that test me. I don’t enjoy arbitrary games. I don’t enjoy practicing and honing a skill set, enjoying the particular difficulty curve involving that skill set … only to have a wrench thrown into that forcing me to do something overly weird, new and difficult that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of my game experience.

      I don’t want to be screwed with unless it fits the general timbre of the game. If there’s something else in the experience that ties into a rapid shift in the gameplay space–be it narrative, or mechanical, or thematic, or whatever. Something that makes the frustration take longer to sink in so that by the time I’m getting bored and frustrated I’m also well along my way to winning and thus getting excited again.

      I think bossfights are archaic and unnecessary most of the time. You can throw curve-balls at the player and test what they think they know without locking them in a single room and forcing them to repeat a short but difficult pattern. You can screw with the player without following the boss fight model. The boss fight model has it’s place, but it’s a very specific place for very specific games and somehow the boss fight is nonetheless deemed ubiquitously necessary. Mass Effect 1 and 2 shouldn’t have had final boss fights–they could have gotten away with boss waves (you could argue Mass Effect 3 has such a boss-wave fight before the whole crucible finale thing), but the way they handled their combat finales was incredibly unsatisfactory and didn’t fit the game very well. Boss fights tend to be likewise out of place in more traditional RPGs where they almost inevitably amount to a potion-chugging, combo-spamming slog that goes on about ten minutes longer than any sane person would want it to.

      I feel very strongly about this: difficulty shouldn’t be there to “screw with” the player. To hurt them, to punish them, to test them, or to restrict them. It should be there to challenge them, engage them, teach them, and entertain them. Far too often boss fights feel like a bouncer at a nightclub “Sorry, what’s the password?” “You aren’t cool enough to come in here.” That’s a shitty way to treat your players and it’s a poor substitute for elegantly designed challenge.

      • Viroso says:

        One thing that enemy waves rarely if ever accomplish is in creating a climax. You’ve beaten those enemies many times before, they aren’t imposing anymore. Boss fights are unique moments, you don’t know what to expect from them… unless it’s a very predictable pattern based boss. But still, for me, there isn’t the same climax from a simple enemy wave. And there isn’t the same potential for variety either.

        In a metroidvania game, where it’s expected that the same area is reused several times and that areas have multiple roles, at the very least simultaneously a path and a battleground, you can’t have curveballs everywhere, it’d create constant roadblocks, and you certainly can’t make them as imposing as a boss fight.

        Also, for me, the difference between challenge and punishment rests more on how frustrated a player is than on the game itself.

        A boss can offer a unique gameplay moment, a climax, an unfair situation, take the upper hand from the player. I don’t want to always have the upper hand and I don’t want the game to be nice to me, to friendly lead me to victory. For me bosses are the high point in a lot of games, including RPGs. If an RPG was just boss encounters I’d be happy. Regular battles are often throw away battles that can be beaten with the same strategy in 1 minute.

        I agree that they don’t fit in every game, but there are unique things to boss fights.

        • gwathdring says:

          One thing that enemy waves rarely if ever accomplish is in creating a climax. You’ve beaten those enemies many times before, they aren’t imposing anymore. Boss fights are unique moments, you don’t know what to expect from them… unless it’s a very predictable pattern based boss. But still, for me, there isn’t the same climax from a simple enemy wave. And there isn’t the same potential for variety either.

          This is exactly the attitude I don’t like in boss fights, though! You can use existing gameplay elements in novel ways to surprise the player. Use rules they’re familiar with but all mixed together in ways that are difficult to respond to. You don’t HAVE to make it a unique enemy with novel abilities to create a novel challenge. This attitude is also, incidentally, what makes so many games so boring during the “main” game. Fighting the same mooks the same way over and over for hour on end sucks. Don’t force me to do that. Ever. Who said it had to be a “simple” enemy wave?

          You could create a new wave of new enemies that behave in news ways! You could pull tricks like the MGS boss fights, but in the context of an array of enemies rather than a single boss. You talk about bending the rules, screwing with the player … but then you restrict yourself by saying that can’t happen in a boss wave?

          The mechanics just didn’t handle single enemies in an interesting way in the games I mentioned. Your abilities focus so much on crowd control and the bosses never really did anything truly novel that leveraged your abilities in new ways … they just had giant health bars. They weren’t even deadly.

          In a metroidvania game, where it’s expected that the same area is reused several times and that areas have multiple roles, at the very least simultaneously a path and a battleground, you can’t have curveballs everywhere, it’d create constant roadblocks, and you certainly can’t make them as imposing as a boss fight.

          Who said they had to be AS imposing? Also if your play of metroidvania games isn’t well described as “constant roadblocks” then we describe the genre differently. :P I’d much rather have constant roadblocks of changing rules and paradigms than constant roadblocks of “Oh, I have to collect ANOTHER mystery item from who knows where!” but that’s just me. It’s not broken, it’s just not my genre of choice.

          A boss can offer a unique gameplay moment, a climax, an unfair situation, take the upper hand from the player. I don’t want to always have the upper hand and I don’t want the game to be nice to me, to friendly lead me to victory. For me bosses are the high point in a lot of games, including RPGs. If an RPG was just boss encounters I’d be happy. Regular battles are often throw away battles that can be beaten with the same strategy in 1 minute.

          But why does that stuff have to be in the traditional boss fight mode? Why do we have to put up with hundreds of stupid, pointless, uneventful, un-educational throw away battles in Dragon Age? Once the fight is no longer interesting OR difficult … we should get new fights surely that are interesting or difficult? Yeah, in hack-n-slashes it can be fun to do the same thing over and over. In sandboxes, you can do new cool things when facing the same mooks. But … why should we put up with grind? Why should cool mind-bendy moments be left only for boss fights? I’m not suggesting every second of the game should throw curveballs at you. But games should feel right. Fluid. Dynamic. Some games work in the classic level-boss format … but that just doesn’t work for a lot of the kinds of games I play now and yet for some reason they still follow that model! It’s frustrating.

          The stuff that makes good boss fights unique? A lot of it shouldn’t have to be unique to boss fights.

  9. Lemming says:

    I love a good boss fight, I loath a bad one. I think skipping them would be heresy. Better we demand better boss fights.

    • Urthman says:

      Yeah, I already have a “skip” button for bad games called “don’t buy it.” I don’t want more chances to use my skip button, I want good games instead of bad games.

      I don’t want to skip bad boss fights, I want to play good boss fights.

  10. Tim James says:

    Aces Wild Aces Wild Aces Wild

    Am I doing this right?

  11. neumunki says:

    a) Aces Wild! and b) while I agree with the boss fight skipping ability, it would make me feel bad because a lot of work is put into boss fights (i assume) and sometimes the best ones are the ones I initially wish I would have skipped and then c) I constantly tell my friends how much I suck at boss battles and how much I loathe them, but the Jaguar one was probably my favorite in Guacamelee and one of the easiest to me. I’m not saying this to sound badass or something. I’m more confused as I had more trouble with other fights in the game whereas this one felt just like a good non pattern based old fashioned FIGHT!

    (Also I loved this game and want more 2D brawlers with great combat systems ala Platinum’s 3D games and some old Treasure games)

  12. trjp says:

    I played quite a lot of this – I love it and hate it in roughly equal measure.

    The bosses are mean but I can live with that because that’s how these games work – they’re the milestones of progress.

    What I couldn’t stomach was the way they hide bosses behind repetitive regular fights and pad almost every checkpoint in the later game too. They love those escalating fights with combos of colour-shielded enemies and those can be quite random and frustrating.

    There are issues with how these enemies combine – they can become VERY hard to beat

    There are also issues with projectiles which pass through enemies and scenery but you cannot pass through those – e.g. no escaping them.

    Last game I played which frustrated me in this way was an XBOX-only game called Outland – it liked to make you work before you worked, even if it was just a 20-30 second WALK from the savepoint to the boss (no really – it did that!!) – but more often it was 10 enemies to defeat before the ‘really hard part’ – every time you died…

    If you’re going to try this – you need 2 things

    1 – patience

    I’m not joking about the latter, you cannot even begin to play this on the keyboard and the 360 pad/left-stick is too imprecise – you will get your teeth kicked-out as you miss combo after combo(*)

    (*) One combo requires you to stop moving before hitting a button – ‘stopping’ with the analog stick is v.hard because it has no dead-zone…

    I used an MVC pad in the end – buttons aren’t ideal BUT the DPad is perfect for this game. You may need to faff about with button settings to suit.

  13. InternetBatman says:

    I don’t like boss fights because they’re normally far too limiting on the player while allowing the boss to break the rules. The bosses are granted silly invulnerabilities and require a specific sequence of attacks that’s normally pretty unnatural, or they just have giant health bars and it’s just tedious at that point. People rail against QTEs, but boss fights are normally just extended QTEs.

    The one sterling example of a boss fight that everyone should emulate is Desann from Jedi Knight II. He didn’t cheat with instakills, invulnerable moves, or special attacks. He just played like a really smart and strong player. Almost every move he had was available to the player, and when you died it was because you made a stupid mistake, not because you didn’t perfectly execute an arbitrary set of moves and attacks.

    I think the failure of game designers to introduce interesting boss fights is really more a failure of AI than anything.

  14. Michael Fogg says:

    This notion of skipping parts of game comes from the misguided idea that the player has a Right to Content that he paid for. Game-as-content is an extremely mercantile way of looking at games. It’s not unlike a Cancer That’s Killing Gaming.

    • trjp says:

      i think it depends – I believe a player has a right to a game which they can beat at their skill level without significant frustration if, for no other reason, than if they cannot it will be the last game you make that they’ll ever buy.

      When it comes to the Dara O’Briain standard of how games like Rock Band lock songs away that’s different – that’s just the developer being a DICK…

      Guacamelee is slightly old-school in that it expects a degree of skill from the player – there’s no “easy mode”, if you cannot master the combat (esp the coloured shields) you won’t be proceeding at all.

      The upgrade system alleviates this a bit – you can get more health etc. – I actually just ignored that entirely because, frankly, I don’t like being asked to make a choice which clearly cannot actually matter (if it’s optional to choose – it’s not necessary to complete the game in my book).

    • Viroso says:

      You can go to any page of a book or fast forward your DVD. Why wouldn’t you be allowed the same on a game? There’s no reason to limit the player. The developers just has to trust that the audience wants to play their game the way they intended.

  15. strangeloup says:

    I got to thinking about boss fights, and for all the nonsense of the series’ plot (and it is, pretty much, entirely nonsense), the Metal Gear Solid series has some really, really great examples. They tend to be interesting and unique, and in several cases you can — or occasionally must — solve them with some really left-field strategy. Like plugging the controller into the other port for Psycho Mantis, or setting the date forward so the sniper guy in MGS3 dies of old age.

    There’s certainly plenty that can be criticised in the series, but it has some of the best boss fights.

  16. KDR_11k says:

    The risk with a skip button is that it tempts you all the time. Of course bad moments in games can be pretty severe issues and lead to you getting stuck and never advancing in the game at all…

  17. deadfolk says:

    Ooh, that reminds me of one of the Killzone games on PS3 – can’t remember if it was 2 or 3.

    The final boss (well, boss & minions) had me tearing my hear out. I looked up guides and youtube videos and found a vid of one person beating it. I thought ‘cool – I can do that’, but then when I read the description, turns out he was doing it on easy and took much less damage as a result. I didn’t stand a chance – I’m useless at FPSs at the best of times, and even worse with a gamepad.

    I ended up deleting the save, lest I was tempted to try again. I enjoyed the rest of the game, but that is my defining memory of it.

    The exact opposite of Bioshock. The only end boss where I went ‘blam-blam…er, hello? Christ, he’s dead.’

  18. botd says:

    Another disappointing sidescrolling action game. The bosses were fine, everything else was poor. Here is a room that locks you in and you must kill everyone to leave. They used that 5 bajillion times during the game. Rather than placing enemies organically throughout the level like a competent designer would. I also didn’t find the combat very engaging and skipped it when it could (except when I couldn’t, see previous sentence). Finally the only good platforming bits were completely optional. So yeah if it weren’t for Javier and the final boss it would have been a complete dud. Javier was the only time I found the combat really clicked.

  19. mechabuddha says:

    I dunno, the Jaguar was’t that hard. I think the whole point was to teach you that dodging away isn’t always the best idea – sometime you have to dodge *through* the enemy just before they attack. I will, however, say that the final boss was the most annoying thing in the entire game – the only reason I was able to beat him was playing coop with my wife, each of us desperately dodging attacks in turn until the respawn timer counted down.

  20. stout says:

    Boss nonsense is also what killed the A Boy and His Blob remake for me.

  21. Pyrobellum says:

    I would like to disagree with the idea that ALL games need a ‘skip boss’ button. In a long video here, EpicNameBro strongly disagrees with someone’s suggestion that Dark Souls needed an easy mode. To summarize a bit (just in case people don’t have a half hour to spare), the idea that all games need an easy mode assumes that the player already knows everything they might find enjoyable (in terms of difficulty). This precludes the idea that the developers could come up with something fundamentally different for you to enjoy. Dark Souls provides a very unusual joy: the stress of not knowing if you can beat the game. The frustration of being stuck, not because the game is impossible, not because of a game-breaking bug, but because YOU are not up to the challenge. And finally, the triumph of finally winning, which is powerful not because of the fairly modest “victory achieved” message, but because you were ready to flip your desk over the previous death.

    This obviously only works if the game is actually well-balanced, which it sounds like this boss is not. Perhaps this particular boss could use a skip (or a redesign), but I would certainly disagree with the thought that they all need one.

    • The Random One says:

      I’d agree that an easy mode/skip fight button for Dark Souls would defeat its purpose, but would also argue that there are very few games for which this is the case.

  22. Baines says:

    Because the fight is, so very obviously, poor. As with so many errant boss fights in so many games, it contradicts the nature of how you’ve played until this point, and uses unfair tactics to create a false notion of “difficulty”. All those extremely complex fighting techniques you were taught, those chained combos of a very elaborate nature that you almost never really need to use… Facing this opponent that’s extremely strong and powerful, and… none of them work.

    That’s my big issue with the most popular method of designing fighting game bosses. Fighting game bosses generally aren’t smarter. Often they are just designed with cheap attacks, advantages, and invulnerabilities that play havoc with how the rest of the game is played.

    Extra damage, extra rounds, fast charge or infinite supers, screen filling attacks… Designs without even a pretense of being balanced, pushing mechanics that will only exist in a single opponent.

    You play a grappler? Tough luck fighting any boss from a Vs fighter, because they are screen-sized enemies that cannot be thrown, and a third of your moveset is now completely useless because you were silly enough to try to play a grappler in the Arcade/Story mode of a Vs fighter.

    You have a multi-hit special or super that pushes forward as it hits? You now either have an easy-mode boss killer or a one-hit garbage move, depending on how the game handles your move interacting with its immovable boss. Game is built in part around juggles and OTGs? Wait until you hit the boss that teleport recovers out of juggles and OTGs, and suddenly half your playstyle no longer works for that one and only one opponent. Etc….

    But complain about that on a fighting game board, and people will defend it. It was easy for them, so you should just man up. Move X is cheese mode, so just spam it on the boss. AI opponents are no challenge, so bosses need those game-changing advantages to be bosses. Bosses are supposed to break the rules. You shouldn’t be playing against the CPU anyway. Arguments like that…

  23. airknots says:

    I think Jaguar Javier is easier compared to X-Tabay. His attacks are strong but still more predictable. Hard mode X-Tabay kicked my ass for maybe 2 hours before I was able to beat her.