Video games have challenges in them. That’s just a fact of life it would seem, and much as I’d like to see there be as many accessibility options as possible, there will always be obstacles to overcome. Normally, those challenges take the form of bosses, who will test you on the skills you’ve picked up over the course of the game so far. But sometimes, it’s the levels themselves.
I’m looking at starting a new XCOM run soon, so today, I’m going to prattle on about levels that are tough, regardless of the bosses that may appear at the end of them. As ever, these have to be games that I’ve actually played, and it must be the level itself rather than a single factor within them. Also, I’m going to ban Turbo Tunnels from Battletoads on NES, because that just feels like a cheap option these days. Let’s take a look at some frustrating stages, shall we?
Elephant Graveyard – The Lion King
Those of you that have played this know exactly what I’m talking about. Having come through the very enjoyable first stage, and getting past the infuriating monkey puzzles of stage two, you arrive at the Elephant Graveyard. It’s at this point that The Lion King can go f*ck itself.
The precision that’s required to progress in this stage just doesn’t exist in the controls. Whilst there are fun parts to the level, there are just too many jumping sections that require not just pixel perfect jumping, but also perfect use of the swinging from ledge to ledge mechanic that’s in the game. I can’t count the number of times I dropped back down to the bottom of a section because I couldn’t quite swing to the next ledge, or because Simba grabbed a ledge facing the wrong way, making the next jump nearly impossible. Oh, and I should mention that my sister and I played this on PC, without a controller. So that keyboard precision made things so much easier…
Through the Fire and the Flames – Guitar Hero 3
This is a strange one I suppose, seeing as this level (if you can call it that) is a bonus stage that you unlock when you finish the game. But, it’s my list so you can like it or lump it. I consider myself to be pretty good at rhythm action games, and I got very good at the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games during the plastic instrument craze of ten-or-so years ago. I could play through the songs on expert difficulty holding the guitar behind my back. Apart from this one.
Some of the previous songs had been tough, and the (somewhat bullsh*t) final boss stage was solid, but Through the Fire and the Flames was something else entirely. It’s a pretty bonkers song in real life, and that’s paralleled quite nicely in the game where it starts with all the notes in the universe flying straight at your face. Even on medium setting, this was tough, and nothing that had come before could have prepared you for the madness within. I love watching people play this perfectly on YouTube because it really is a sight to behold.
Dam – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles
That’s right, I’m British! So this gets the British name for it rather than the one with the ninja stuff in it. I’m not bitter. Anyway, this is a popular inclusion in lists on this topic and with good reason! It’s disgustingly difficult, and my sister and I died on this stage over and over again. That’s not to say other parts of the game were easy, but the Dam was just cruel.
You need to defuse eight (at least, I think it was eight) bombs hidden around an underwater maze filled with plants that will injure you, electric gates that will harm you, and swimming controls that will cause you to just give up. You’d think that turtles would be able to swim pretty well, but you would be wrong. Dam wrong (see what I did there). Oh, did I mention there’s an incredibly tight time limit? I didn’t? Well, there is and if the seaweed and gates don’t ruin your day, then the time limit will. This is one of my most disliked video game memories!
Blighttown – Dark Souls
Blighttown. People who have played vanilla Dark Souls will know where I’m going with this. In a series well known for its punishing difficulty and brutal bosses, you’d expect some tough areas. But there’s a special place in hell reserved for Blighttown. So you have really high ledges that are easy to fall off, confusing platforming to find your way through the area, poison everywhere, and a framerate in figures that you’d use in a sudoku puzzle.
In all honesty, it’s not that bad in Dark Souls Remastered simply because the framerate issues have been resolved. But in the vanilla game, it was incredibly tough to navigate without falling off a ledge or succumbing to the annoying flying insects. Or maybe you’ll get poisoned early on by the numerous ranged enemies and have little in the way of health as you press on further. At the time it was rage inducing and has become something of a legend in the field of horribly difficult levels.
Water Temple – The Ocarina of Time
Ugh. I hate water levels in games at the best of times (see above!) but when you throw puzzles in there too they can just sod right off. The Water Temple in Ocarina of Time deserves to be thrown into an eternal pit of fire (hopefully the water won’t put the fire out) for being an absolute pain in the arse to play.
Multiple floors within the temple that can be accessed in different ways based on the current water level result in a constant stream of guesswork. You’ll need to backtrack repeatedly as you try to solve puzzles without being able to see the direct result. It’s annoying, and for a game that’s often referred to as one of the best ever made, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
So how about you? What levels could you do without having to play ever again? There are probably more than a few that hack you good people off, so why not let me know what they are so I never have to go near them!