Weekend Hot Topic: What game mechanics are you bad at?

Readers admit the game concepts and moves that they can never get right, from flying a plane to special moves in a fighting game.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Razzledazzle, who used the example of web-swinging in Spider-Man. It could be any element of a game though, from a general concept to something more specific.

Everyone was surprisingly happy to admit their blind spots, although the most common by far was rhythm action games and, to a lesser extent, QTEs.

Fascinating rhythm
The one mechanic that always troubles me in games is any time I am expected to perform actions in time to music. If there’s a visual component such as the moving icons you get in most rhythm games then it’s fine, and if there is something clear like a steady drum beat then that’s also not too bad, but if I’m supposed to listen to a complex tune and somehow deduce which notes are important then I quickly come unstuck.

I tried Cadence Of Hyrule but really couldn’t get to grips with it. Some of the tunes have a drumbeat, but they frequently add in extra beats you’re not supposed to tap along to, miss drums out but still expect you to keep tapping, or fade the drums out leaving you to rely on a tune with no obvious beat. I ended up using an accessibility option to ignore the beat and turn it into a DROD style turn-based game, but that just made it too simple to be much fun.

The worst case I can remember though was the Yoshi race from Super Mario RPG, in which you are simply told to tap two buttons in time to the music with no further indication of how this is supposed to work. I googled it and found an explanation written by a guitarist which sounded like Adam and Joe explaining the rules to Quizzlestick. Fortunately, that bit was optional so I could just skip it.
TGN Professor

Different perspective
Not really sure if this counts as a mechanic, but it’s something I still struggle to get the hang of. In games from the late 90s and early 00s, such as Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, a fixed camera angle was used for every room you entered, but when you go to certain areas of the room the angle would change but your direction would not. So if I’m walking up a corridor with the camera facing behind me, there could be a point where the camera changes to be in front of me, so I’m now walking towards the camera, not away from it. So long as I keep pressure on the thumbstick in the same position, I’ll move forward.

Problem is, because the angle has changed this feels extremely wrong to me, so I’ll adjust the thumbstick and end up going backwards, but there we go I’ve changed the camera angle again. In slower paced games this would just be a minor inconvenience, but when there are zombies chasing me or demons slashing at me and I’ve got to deal with these changing camera angles as well, it’s a nightmare. So glad fixed camera angles are a thing of the past, but when I go back to older games this problem always trips me up.

Bottom of the table
I think this can be filed firmly under ‘I’m just not very good at it’ but for me, I’ve never been able to get the hang of football sims. All the fancy moves, chips, feints, turns, and the like. I don’t care if it’s a through ball or a lob, I just want to pass it! I’m not fussed about aiming the shot, I just want to welly it at the goal!

But even if I manage any of that, I always end up selecting the wrong player anyway and just see their legs running around at the other end of the screen, while the player who received the ball stands there and loses possession.
FoximusPrime81 (gamertag/NN ID/Twitter)

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Quite tough experiences
I’ve never had very good hand/eye coordination, couple that with now being disabled and in constant pain, and I’m left struggling with certain mechanics of gaming.

I recently admitted in the Inbox to having difficulty with Spider-Man’s combat but as I have managed to beat all four Batman: Arkham games, and also Sleeping Dogs, I feel the problem lies with Spider-Man, I just don’t know what it is though!

I also don’t generally enjoy QTEs in games, but I love them in Resident Evil 4, although the very first time I played it it took me ages to get past the first run from the boulder bit!

I guess the two main things I really can’t get the hang of are rhythm games (because I don’t have any!) and twin stick shooters – I’m fine moving but couple that with using the other stick to fire and I’m utterly hopeless!

Didn’t get to da chopper
The games I’ve always wanted to like but couldn’t get to grip with are very similar.

They are:

1) Desert Strike
2) Choplifter
3) Glory Days 2

They all are military style games where you use a helicopter or jet plane to attack and rescue hostages.

I’ve really wanted to enjoy them and they are relatively simple games but I think maybe my reaction times are too slow.

Out of step
The rhythm. It ain’t gonna get me. Gloria Estefan lied to me! No matter what, I cannot for the life of me, do rhythm action games. Space Channel 5, anything involving a dance mat, and most heartbreaking of all: Gitaroo Man.

I just can’t get the cues. With Space Channel 5 Part 2, I have no idea when I’m supposed to be pressing the buttons. I resorted to inputting the cheat to have the game play itself. Shameful, I know, but the game is surprisingly fun to just watch.

And then Gitaroo Man, where you have to guide a cursor along a line with the analogue stick, I think? As well as press action buttons occasionally? I got to the second level, somehow, but no further. To me, the controls just felt so counterintuitive. Or I’m missing something painfully simple. I always worry that it’s the latter. Always. I’m not joking.

Yet, similar sections in other types of game like Ratchet & Clank and QTEs are fine for the most part. It is baffling and upsetting in equal measure.

Axis of evil
Usually I can more or less adapt to whatever a game’s control scheme is asking for, even if it generally winds players up, but the one exception is the aircraft in Star Wars: Battlefront.

I’m specifically talking about the 2015 game as I haven’t played any of the others but going from infantry to pilot caused a total scramble in my brain, to the point where I just avoided flying, which was a shame.

It’s clearly to do with the non-inverted head movement of first person versus whatever I expected the flying to be. If I’m honest it messed me up so much I couldn’t even tell you whether the flying was non-inverted and I expected it to be different or if my difficulty was due to the fact it is actually different from what represents up and down in first person. (I expect it’s the former and they were trying to be consistent in the name of accessibility.)

I vaguely remember having a similar problem when trying to play two Ubisoft games around the same time. One was Splinter Cell and the other was Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time. Two excellent games but I swear the horizontal camera controls are opposite from each other. Then just as I got used to whichever one was annoying me, Beyond Good & Evil came along and messed me up again.

Occasional hero
Although I’ve never actually played any of the Spider-Man games, reading Razzledazzle’s tales of woe regarding their failure to master the web-swinging traversal mechanics reminded me of my own struggles in getting to grips with another type of mechanic in a different superhero game. To
my shame, I’ve never really managed to click with the sublime free-flow fighting in the Batman: Arkham games.

Don’t get me wrong, I was able to adapt my play style to my shortcomings and have completed the three main games (alas, my PlayStation 3 died before I got around to picking up Origins cheap), so my lack of finesse didn’t prevent me making progress. However, I never managed to get anywhere near any of the chain combo achievements, especially the ones requiring you to drop every type of move and gadget into the mix. Some of the larger scale battles took more than a few goes to clear, and most of the harder fighting challenges remain unbeaten in my version of the Gotham universe.

Somewhat perversely, the combat mechanics were some of my favourite elements in those titles. I really enjoyed the mass brawls and performing all the brutal takedowns I could manage. I suspect it’s mostly my sub-par reaction times that were to blame – it certainly wasn’t anything to do with dodgy mechanics or controls. Sooner or later I’d just miss or fluff a button cue or be too fixated on trying to pummel a particular goon to notice his iron bar swinging buddy creeping up to end my quest for justice. I did keep plugging away, I just never found the right groove.

In a way, I suppose it’s similar to my troubles reliably mastering parry and dodge mechanics in the Soulsborne games or stuff like Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. I can manage those timings sometimes, but never regularly enough to feel confident about employing them as a hard and fast tactic in a
fight. Although I do seem to have a pretty good success rate against Father Gascoigne in Bloodborne for some reason.

However, if there’s one particular thing that I’ve never been able to do at all, ever, it’s the 360° degree pad/stick rolls required to perform Zangief’s spinning piledrivers in the Street Fighter series. I’ve never got on with using any wrestling/grapple type characters in fighting games really, but as far as I’m concerned, the whole concept of needing to perform such a motion to trigger anything in those games seems fundamentally broken.

Whichever way I roll the movement control input the character’s leapt into the air before I’ve finished the move and usually lands straight onto my opponent’s fist or a well deployed fireball and I’m toast. Don’t get me started on the theoretical double rolls required for supers and ultras either. Even in the later game’s training modes, I just can’t manage them and I can’t even blame my
advancing age or failing faculties – I couldn’t do them back in the 90s either!

Driving in games is something I’ve never been great at. More so driving-only games. GTA and such I can do okay in but something like Gran Turismo or Forza I am terrible. Passable at an oval track but add in any turns or hairpins and I’m in the wall or well of the track. I think it’s a concentration thing, as I lose where I am fairly quickly.

It’s not even a new thing as I’ve been trying since F1 on the PS1 and have not improved.

I think after my latest attempt with a steering wheel and Assetto Corsa I will just give up any hope of getting good. I’ve tried and tried but there’s just no real improvement and I’m just wasting money.

Sim driving to me is what Soulslike games are for some people. Just impossible.

Mechanical challenges
There was a whole bunch of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat combos involving manoeuvres which where nearly impossible to pull off and still are. From spinning pile drivers and a variety of suplexes, plus trademark combinations, they still baffle me now!

The shield parrying on Dark Souls and Demon Souls were very difficult to pull off and I never relied on them in the end really. Straight shield staggers on the enemy after blocking their attacks, and then a quick thrust or swipe within that available stagger gap, was good enough for me.

The flying manoeuvre for caped Mario in Super Mario World was also difficult and I just kept going down and down, with Mario’s face being ploughed into the dirt for the hundredth time!

The most fun mechanics and one I mastered was the Mario Kart sliding speed boost. A simple but awesome ability to have continuous little speed bursts and combining them with speed mushrooms, was why I never worried too much about having steering accidents or item hit penalties. Just keep sliding away even on the straight sections, and away you go along with any items you collected.

There were definitely some more moves, but the above are the most memorable and have given me some great challenges in becoming a better gamer in general. Will be interesting to see other viewers’ gaming mechanic experiences.

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

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