Tuesday, December 2, 2008

ZA Critique: Okami

While I was playing Okami, I took a break from it that was only meant to last a few days. That turned into two weeks. I finally dragged myself to picking it back up and played another 3 hours before I found myself wanting to quit again. Just as I was about to give up on writing this essay it occurred to me that what I was experiencing was worth digging into. Why did I not feel like playing the game anymore?

Some stat checking showed me I wasn't alone in this response and some comparison to the game it resembles yielded some interesting results. It's easy to become unconcsious of how a game is structured and flows but seeing how Okami flows in one long gushing stream instead of an organized series of divisions was worth discussing.

I'm still probably going to catch heat for this since so many people loved it.

4 comments:

Iroquois Pliskin said...

It's called pacing. I think you bring up a really interesting point here, which is that anticipation is a huge part of pacing. In games like Zelda (or even half-life, say) you have a very definite sense of what the rhythm of the experience is going to be like. but as you point out, in Okami the whole experience is punctuated differently from other adventure games where the dungeons and overworld are more distinct.

Also, as totilo pointed out, the pacing of the middle of the game is, like, really slack. I don't know if you plan on finishing, but the ending third of the game is quite good.

PS ever finish Windwaker? like, same deal.

L.B. Jeffries said...

I opted for words like 'flow' and 'stream' because pacing implied authorial control while what I was arguing implied that it was the player's lack of control creating the problem. Just semantics, but I did pick the words for a reason.

I might finish it but the stack of games I need to play never ends. After a really long JRPG burn I'm thinking it's pwew pwew time.

Iroquois Pliskin said...

No way! I'm fond of prepositional phrases and commas myself, albeit unintentionally.

also, this is an interesting point about the pacing. As you say here, the problem isn't so much the tempo per se so much the fact that the game isn't constructed in such a way that the player gets a good sense of his progress through the game. It's not literally a matter of time, right?

L.B. Jeffries said...

Hehe, it got a laugh out of me.

I'd pay money to see the look on the Popmatters' editorial staff if I submitted something that said "The Orwellian aspects of the like, combat design, conjoins to create a dictatorial player input that leaves little to the experience except muscle memory.