One step forward, two steps back

I play a fair number of games. I go through about one PS2 game a month, on average, plus various PC games once in a while—mostly platformers and first or third person shooters on the PS2, and strategy / adventure on the PC, with some puzzle gmaes like Oasis thrown in.

The one thing that never ceases to surprise me with these games—especially console games—is how most of them share the same two elementary flaws, which you’d think they’d discovered and fixed years ago.

What are these two flaws, you ask? The first and most annoying is uninterruptible cut scenes; the second is poor camera control.

Cut scenes need to be interruptible, because (with a few exceptions, such as LucasArts adventure games) the very nature of a game implies that you will fail and have to repeat parts of it, and you should not need to view the same cut scene over and over again every time you retry a particularly difficult sequence.

Taking the Prince of Persia games as examples of a series that gets most things right: I don’t recall precisely how cut scenes were handled in The Sands of Time, but in The Warrior Within, the second and subsequent times you view the same cut scene, you can fast forward through it by pressing X, in a manner reminiscent of the Prince’s speeded-up visions in The Sands of Time. In The Two Thrones, however, although you can skip most cut scenes by pressing X the second time around, the cut scenes at the start of boss fights—precisely the ones you are most likely to want to skip—are uninterruptible.

The camera control issue also affects many games, and once again, The Sands of Time got it right and The Warrior Within got it wrong. In the former, you could always zoom out and get a bird’s eye view of the area. In the latter, you can only do so in specific spots, when an eye symbol shows up in the lower left corner, and instead of the entire room or area, you get a carefully selected view of the way the game wants you to go next. The most egregious camera issue in The Warrior Within, though, is (once again) in boss fights, where you can’t control the camera at all; instead, the camera moves to keep the Prince and the boss lined up. This may seem like a good idea at first, until your back is against an obstacle (such as, in one particular boss fight, a wall of flame) and the camera moves behind the obstacle and all you can see is your health gauge going down…

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