I may have reached a zen-like calm about difficulty walls. I hit two of them playing Belle Boomerang, the first causing me to restart with an easier mode, the second reaching as far as I could on Easy. And that’s OK. I had a good time getting there, and now I’ll play something else.
How impressed is everyone? I’m not ranting! Maybe I should be? The problem is, Belle Boomerang is just so gosh-darned lovely. This is a game where you and the enemies kick each others’ arses during the levels, but then all go to the same hang-out afterward for a friendly chat.
Designed to emulate the 2D platformers of the 8-bit age, this is a really splendid rendition of the artform, with gorgeous sprites, a constantly mixing up range of enemies, and very satisfying movement.
Belle has a boomerang, as you might have guessed, which allows for short-range attacks. It’s this limitation that drives you to discover different tactics depending upon the movement and attack patterns of the different enemies. Then there are moments where you’re able to pick up apples and just lob them across the screen.
I believe I made it about a quarter of the way through the game before I hit a second boss I just can’t do. Admitting this publicly invariably brings on deeply unpleasant scorn, but honestly, I’m too tired to care. It’s one of those sections where each wave of enemies gets more ridiculous, until there’s stuff absolutely everywhere, and I just don’t possess the reflexes or inclination to keep failing. I earnestly wish that games would just stop doing this, because I have absolutely no idea who it’s for. There’s a “Retro” mode for people who want this sort of challenge, so rolling it back to Easy seems like it should be all that’s necessary not to encounter such things.
But hey-ho, in this Soulslike reality I really appear to be in the minority for this sort of stuff, and games getting tagged “Difficult” on Steam seems to encourage sales. (It’s somewhat frustrating that Belle Boomerang isn’t yet, but I’ve suggested it.) For people who really want to emulate that 8-bit feel of games that you play until you just can’t any more, this certainly delivers. And indeed there will be those who breeze through it all and look at me with contempt.
I’m still recommending it because it’s so lovely, so well made, and I’m very aware there’s an audience out there for this stuff. Quite why there can’t be a setting that allows players to skip boss fights they find impossible I will never understand, and gosh how I’d welcome one here. But if you know you’re good at this stuff, I think this is one you’ll definitely enjoy.
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Just want to say thanks for consistently making the effort to share games that you recognize as being quality despite being frustrating for you personally. That requires empathetically imagining a whole lot of other people’s would-be experiences, which is no easy thing!
John, i couldn’t agree with you more. it seems like there are so many indie platformers and metroidvanias lately with retro graphics to die for, incredible sound design and adorable characters, but they are tough as nails, to the point of ruining my fun. i want to play them so badly, because everything about their presentation is right up my alley, but when i try i feel punished for not having an adolescent’s reflexes, or the patience to replay the same single screen of enemies a hundred times. and it hurts the most when they’re games i’ve been eagerly watching for months before their release, like Tunic most recently, or Phoenotopia last year. both are deeply inviting to me aesthetically but difficult to the point of unfun.