Time limits and player punishment

So I came across a Flash adventure game called Broken Bone’s Complaint. The art is nice, the animation is good. It has higher production value than most Flash games out there. The basic story is you’re some kid having a nightmare where he’s in some kind of monster world with skeletons and stuff.

The gameplay consists of you clicking on things to pick them up, and then trying to use those items somewhere else to get more things or gain people’s favour, or open a blocked path. If you’ve ever played an adventure game like Monkey Island or something, you’ve got the rough idea.

Also if you’ve played such a game before, you’ve tried to pick up things that weren’t pick-up-able. You’ve tried solutions to problems you thought might work, but didn’t. Now imagine what playing that game would be like if you were punished every time that happened. That’s what someone decided to do in Broken Bone’s Complaint.

Every time you try to do something that doesn’t work, you are not only mildly disappointed, but you lose a life. They don’t show it as losing a life, but they play a sequence of animations of a devil or something sneaking up behind you. Every time try something that doesn’t work, the sequence progresses, and when it reaches the end of the sequence, you lose the game.

The only way I can see this happening is some guy with clout who didn’t play adventure games was all, “But if they can’t die, they’ll just keep exploring until they figure everything out. There’s no challenge, then.” And so he forced them to make a change that essentially punishes the player for exploring.

And since everything else in this game is very well done, this one boneheaded design decision stands out that much more. And for me, this one decision makes the game nearly unplayable.

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