My little Oni, Part 2: So, we meet again

Really, Again?

Having been distracted suddenly by Child of Light and then by Dark Souls I wasn’t sure if I was going to carry on playing Oni. It’s fun, but so is Child of Light. I know, I thought, I’ll have another session and see how I feel after. So I played the next mission, and you know what? I still don’t know.

I will find the level designer and [censored]

ESRB TeenWhen we left off last time we’d just made Barabas cry like a little baby and fly away with his rocket pack. That part admittedly was not so much like a baby.

Remember how I mentioned checkpoints as being the worst aspect of the game? Yeah… When I loaded it was looking down the sights of Barabas’ gun. I almost quit there an then. Still, I’d beaten him once with relative ease, I could surely do it again. Maybe not. If you were making a combat game where speed, evasion, aggression, shooting and brawling were integral to almost every single moment, would you have a key that would make you walk a a snail’s pace, be unable to fight, defend, draw a gun or pull the trigger? And if you did, would you put the button right between the “use hypo-spray” and “use object” keys? And if you did that, would you neglect to tell the player about it? Well if so, congratulations! If they ever make a sequel there’s a job waiting for you!

Long story short I spent the first rematch against Barabas strolling casually around while he beat the pudding out of me. Then I tried again, stole his gun and stun-locked him, killing him in under thirty seconds without taking a point of damage. That’s just how this game rolls.

The road not taken

Note: precision platformingBoss aside, this level is why the checkpoints stuck in my mind. Fluid and intuitive the controls may be, but Konoko is not well-suited to precision platforming. So obviously the designers put some in, to punish me for sins in a past life.

I remember one bit, fighting your way through a number of enemies along a tiered set of walkways, gradually heading for ground level. No matter how well you did they’d chip away at your health, and several had guns and could hit over a long distance before you could close or return fire. It was a bit of a trek to the bottom is what I’m saying. At the bottom you used a control panel that unlocked a door on the other side – across a wide vat of toxin green goop. Obviously. The only way over is to hop a sequence of platforms like stepping-stones. I died there. Oh how often I died to Konoko’s slightly drifty jumping animations. The first time round that almost killed the game for me.

This time round I noticed that I could just go back up one level, walk safely across the gangway and drop down on the other wide without ever going near the green goo. Ahem. Erm. I think I was trolled by a level designer year ago. Seriously trolled.

Think deep

TesseractIt does raise an interesting point about the evolution of technology, player interaction and level design. I’m pretty sure this section was designed to mislead the player – an easy route over which you are intentionally directed away from noticing. Look out for the goo! you are warned. Oh look, say two years of platformer training, boxes that make a route over. But I think the major factor that made it work was that Oni was released in 2001 and true 3D was new. Oh Doom and Duke were already getting old by then, but while they were drawn in 3D and allowed vertical movement, the maps themselves were very much planar. By 2001 we still weren’t used to thinking vertically, in 3D, so it’s understandable that we could be easily misled into the designer’s little trap.

I hope it was designed that way. It was a neat trick that worked well and took me over a decade to see through.

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