The Ice Palace is easily my favorite dungeon. Flocks of man-eating penguins line the walls. When Link enters a room, they run and toboggan toward him, their beaks yawning. At the same time, ice spirits come flailing out of the other walls like stunt men afire. The iced-over floors makes dodging a slippery giddy panic, and at times it looks a little like an episode of Benny Hill.
I’ve been playing long enough that all my instincts for solving Zelda puzzles have reactivated. Show me a configuration of blocks on the floor, a statue, two switches, and four torches, and the whole solution flashes in my mind like the crime footage in CSI. I pass effortlessly through locked doors, and descend to the depths of the Ice Palace where I pincushion the boss — a trio of floating eyes named Kholdstare — with arrows.
After the jump, I can’t stop now. Continue reading →
HUDs used to be essential. Without them, you couldn’t know how much ammo or health you had, or what the score was. Now they’re unfashionable. In the name of immersion, interface engineers do away with as much HUD as possible, or they find ways to integrate it with the game world. Now you read your ammo count off the gun’s built-in display. In Dead Space, your health gauge runs up the spine of your character’s suit.
After the jump, HUD is where the heart is Continue reading →
I’m in the Skull Dungeon, a warren of chambers spread throughout the bizarro world version of the Lost Woods. I’m getting frustrated. It is at this point that, had I not promised myself to complete the game, that I would quit again. It had been awhile since I played Link to the Past, so at the outset, my reasons for abandoning it in the first place seemed vague and unconvincing. We’re talking about Zelda here! My favorite games! But absence, fondness, etc. Proofing your nostalgia may always be a doomed enterprise.
After the jump, can you go home again? Continue reading →
In the course of my tomb raiding, Link has recovered all manner of potent artifacts. Completing the Palace of Darkness earned me a magic hammer. Other excursions have netted me gloves which confer the strength of a giant, the miraculous hookshot, and a cloak of invisibility. To get these, I’ve heroically slashed through legions of carnivorous plants, helmeted lizards, and leaping skeletons.
After the jump, it’s all about the milk bottles Continue reading →
We resume Link’s quest in the middle of the game’s fifth dungeon, the Palace of Darkness. Something about it must have pissed me off, because I am in a sub-basement with no inkling of how to progress. Zelda games are nothing like bikes — they’re nearly impossible to pick up again. Each dungeon requires the player to assemble a mental map and the few skills necessary to solving its puzzles. After not playing for a year, I remember none of these tricks. I’m stuck in a room with a locked door and three giant, bipedal rats — two green and one red. Experience with the series tells me that if I clear the enemies from the room, that door will slide open.
After the jump, easier said than done Continue reading →
Link trudges south across a beige flatland, his shield hoisted. Scuttling about him are Octoroks, red cephalopods with a cannon maw that identifies them as cross-catalogue cousins to Mario’s Birdo. The Hero of Hyrule draws his sword and prepares to join battle. Before he does, a greenish gray smog descends over the land. The heroic music chokes and stutters. My older brother and I moan. Our Hyrule is buggy, prone to armageddons of corrupted data. My brother yanks the cartridge from the NES and blows on the circuitboard like he’s playing harmonica, then slots it back in. I watch eagerly, waiting for Hyrule to return.
Since then, just one other game has enthralled me like that. The game was Link to the Past, because it was the first Zelda I was old enough to play instead of watch. Of the handful of other games to come close, most were Zelda sequels: Link’s Awakening in green monochrome on my half-brick Game Boy; Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess.
Twilight Princess came out five years ago. In the meantime I’ve gotten tired of gaming.
After the jump, I’m getting too old for this Continue reading →