Press X to Not Die

All right, that’s it, timed button pressing minigames have got to stop invading my videogames.

I know it’s some sort of shiny fad or obsession or fetish or in-thing, but they’re not fun.

You hear me developers? Not bloody fun! Unfun. Anti-entertainment. Enjoyability factor zero. Stupendously unentertaining. Spectacular fun-fail of the highest order.

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The only reason these stupid things even exist is because developers get on their cinematic high-horse and want to have the spiffy-ultra-cool protagonist do some insane, needlessly showy, bring-in-the-stunt-double move and can’t figure out a way to make it actually, you know, interactive or enjoyable or fun or involving for the player.

“Hey, I know! Let’s throw in some parts where the player will have to randomly press a button that flashes on the screen during the scene suddenly and without any warning whatsoever! That’ll be great! That’ll solve all of our problems! That won’t be distracting or repetitive or annoying or cliched or old or not actually all that interactive at all! It’ll be like a miniature rhythm game slapped in the middle of our super-ultra-shiny-superfluous cutscene. Only without the music. Or the fun. That’ll totally draw the player into the experience and make them forget that our canned movie scene is having all of the fun instead of the player. I’m a freakin’ genius.”

Yeah, right along with the fifty gazillion other people who have now done the same thing.

You know, the idea was acceptably unique when Dragon’s Lair tried it in 1983. It added a small dose of interest to Shenmue. It provided for a few cool moments in God of War. It allowed a couple of tense actions scenes in Resident Evil 4.

But the concept is dead. Done. Overcooked. Destroyed. Played-out.

Take Prince of Persia, for instance. Clearly this was a team that had no earthly idea how to make an enjoyable combat system. I mean, I don’t think these poor guys even knew where to start.

First of all, the whole “combo memorization” thing got old just shortly after Mortal Kombat II. I prefer something slightly less putridly archaic in my action-packed battles, thank you very much.

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Secondly, there’s nothing quite as jarring as having the fighting system randomly determine that it’s time to take control completely out of your hands and test your reflexes instead of your skill.

“All right, Prince! Yeah! Show that enemy who’s boss with your sword-slinging prowess. You’ve got him right where you want him. Now, use your skills to — HOLY CRAP PRESS THE SQUARE BUTTON RIGHT NOW!”

“Oops, too late. You fail.”

Now that’s my definition of fun combat, let me tell you.

For some reason, more and more of these aggravating twitchy tests appear in the combat sequences the further you get into the game. As if that’s the way I want my progress to be rewarded. As if that’s the way I’m going to be able to tell that my skill is growing and the challenge is rising.

But of course! I’m failing more of these distracting button-matching sequences. I haven’t matched this many shapes since I was in kindergarten. I must be getting better at the game! Or something.

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This has to stop.

I’m all for interaction in games. As you might be able to tell from my cleverly subtle wording, I’m decidedly more a fan of games that let you play them as opposed to games that decide to show you crap while you sit back and twiddle your thumbs.

But half-assed, needless, mindless sequences like these “Quick Time Events” aren’t the way to go about it. If you seriously can’t think of any better way to involve me in your sequence, just show me what you have to show me and get on with it. Don’t shove these reflex testers in my face and then smile smugly in the corner thinking you’ve solved the problem of interactivity in cutscenes and created the ultimate involving story sequence.

You haven’t. You’ve created another in a long string of glorified movies that require you to press a button within a half-second time frame to continue watching them.

Would watching movies be more fun this way? Would you finish the ending credits with a smile on your face if you had to press the “2” button on your remote in 3/4 of a second before Neo’s punch landed on Agent Smith’s ugly mug or else it would kick you back to the beginning of the scene?

No, of course not. That would suck. Just like it does in movie sequences within games.

Would Metal Gear Solid have been more fun if, during the interminably long codec sequences, Meryll would have randomly burst out with, “Press the triangle button, Snake!” every few minutes and you would have had to react before the anti-triangle-button explosive charge went off in your head and blew your slimy brain to bits?

Well, maybe, but that’s just because I don’t like Metal Gear Solid anyway.

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The point is, if you can figure out a clever way to bring interactivity into your games, then great. More power to you. Go for it. Even if this happens to involve timed button presses.

For instance, look at Indigo Prophecy. It was flawed, but the buttons you had to randomly match on screen at least occasionally matched up with what was going on behind the prompts. Mind you even then you couldn’t actually see what was going on because you were too busy looking for the damn prompts so your eyes couldn’t actually focus on the action, but it was still better than some other implementations.

Or look at Heavy Rain by the same developers. It’s much the same idea only the buttons to press are floating over the in-game items and actions they correspond to.

Now that’s more like it.

But having Prince’s sarcastic little ass blown across the screen every time I don’t press the square button quickly enough?

Well, you can take your Quick Time Event and shove it down your circle button.

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