From water levels, to ice levels, to "moving" levels, to escort missions, many games have fallen into designing levels and missions for us with the same kind of challenges and mechanics. From our 8-bit days, all the way to the most modern of games, we've retained a lot of level types and a lot of these types have retained what makes them so annoying. Here are the most annoying types of video game levels.
Remember having to go home after a long day of school, then knowing your friends were going to be playing nearby, or going to the mall, or going out to the movies, and your parents said you could do all that, as long as you brought your little brother (or sister)?
That's what Protection Levels are like.
Remember that game you were having so much fun playing? Yeah, well now you have a little sidekick next to you, slowing you down, getting hurt (and often that causes you to have to replay the level more often than you would otherwise).
A lot of times, these levels are completely fun when done correctly. They add to the feel of the game and help you create an emotional bond with the character you're protecting, so they you actually care about the fact that they live. It puts you "in" the game.
But when done incorrectly (most of the time), these characters just act like a long tail that if hit, will end your game immediately.
Some examples are Resident Evil 4 (and 2) and most notably Dead Rising. Dead Rising doesn't just give you one person to protect: It gives you dozens. Sometimes you have a small crowd behind you that you have to keep safe, and apparently they're all paralyzed in every limb except their legs, their reflexes about two seconds behind yours.
And who can forget the final levels of ODST, as you have to protect a type of creature you've been blowing up the whole game?
It's awesome when two characters bond, but when you have to carry around their useless weight, it becomes absolutely obnoxious.
Another example of this is the entirety of Left4Dead. It's an absolutely amazing game, but one of the most challenging parts of it is how you need your teammates, but if you play socially online, you're most likely playing with people worse than you. This turns Left4Dead into a protection level.
They're the worst. And I don't just mean those levels where you're immersed exclusively in water. I mean levels where you're constantly in danger of falling into water, too. Those are the worst levels of Super Mario and have always, conceptually ended my game. Why?
Because you can swim in some levels in Mario.
So why does water end our game sometimes? Does that 15-foot drop really end you on impact? Even after making close to 100-foot jumps all the time, and even striving for them?
For some reason, for the longest time, water was the absolute devil. These heroes who braved endless valleys and hoards, upon hoards, of unrelenting villains would completely bite the dust once they even touched water.
And when you actually got to a level that is all water, people saw it fit to make it so that your character was always made of cement. Basically, you sink if you don't swim. With the amount of body fat Mario has, that seems pretty unrealistic.
Water levels don't only bring the game we were once playing to a complete standstill momentum-wise, but they annoy us. Why?
Every creature in just about every water level is more well-suited for the water than we are.
So why has this become such a long-standing, game-level paradigm? Is it just easy to do? Are designers really just that uninventive with their environments? Either way, here are some examples as to why water levels are the worst:
1. Ocarina of Time - Water Temple
We could have included video of the Water Temple, but we didn't want to frustrate the readers. Also, boots, really? Is Link really that skinny?
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This is easily one of the worst water levels of all time because not only is navigating absolutely horrible, but (like I said above) your character keeps sinking if you don't swim. Why does this matter? Because you're going to lose health each time you try to relax. And the fact that this is a timed level just adds insult to injury.
3. Star Fox 64
Remember the lamest level in the entire game? Yeah, that was the water level. Why? Because, for some reason, even though you're jumping higher than you've ever jumped and eating things off the floor in games all the time, they think that adding weight and slowness to water will make it more "real."
The kind of levels where for some reason or another, your vision is impaired in some way, shape, or form.
For example, in Arkham Asylum, you have a beautiful game, absolutely brilliant, where you have to use a separate kind of vision to be able to see well.
Halo ODST, you're doing most of your looking around town with your visor and a piss-yellow outline — why?
What about impairing our vision is actually adding to the experience in most of these games?
Okay, we get it, they're adding difficulty and therefore challenge to the game, but why do it in a way that is so annoying? We'd rather deal with strategic difficulty, where my calculations as to how to beat the level have to be more sophisticated, than deal with the game just giving me a cheap handicap.
Sure, some games have done this well (Hard Rain), but most games that do this, just make it harder on you. The greatest and most annoying example?
Plants vs. Zombies
Plants vs. Zombies is actually a better iPhone app than it is a console or PC game (we've tried them all), but what's the one negative about the whole experience?
Level 5: Level 5 consists of round after annoying round of a fog coming over your field of vision.
This isn't added fun or experience. It's just a cheap handicap that doesn't challenge anything except our patience.
From fantastic games like Resident Evil to games that we really shouldn't have played (and are complete guilty pleasures) like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (PS2), another one of the most annoying cliches found in a lot of video games are completely irrelevant puzzle levels.
Resident Evil 2, for example, has you finding stones for certain statues so that doors can open. Why? It's a zombie apocolypse: just kick the door down.You don't need to walk around, figuring puzzles out when you should be bashing in heads and getting the hell out of there. It's like going to war, then ducking down in a corpse-filled trench for a few minutes to finish a sudoku you found on the floor.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be a fun TV-to-game adaptation (despite its many shortcomings), if it weren't for all the useless "filler" puzzles.
When a puzzle pertains to the story and matches the most fun part of the gameplay that the game has to offer, then the puzzle makes sense. When it is a puzzle that nobody would sit down and solve in the middle of any situation and that brings the game's momentum to a complete standstill? Then, you've ventured into an irrelevant puzzle level.
We're all for challenges, but not for "filler" puzzles that do nothing but add (not-fun) time to your total game time.