This morning we published a piece by Zack Zwiezen that posed an interesting question: what was the first game you finished? For me I'm not sure, because it's a random Spectrum 48K game I can't even remember the name of. After that, possibly Alex Kidd or Hang-On on the SEGA Master System (damn that's a good name for a console.)
The fact I can't be sure led our production editor Kim Snaith and I to chat instead about something that did lodge more firmly in my addled brain. The games that we wanted to finish but never did.
Let me tell you about the game that made me break my most treasured possession in the world, my Game Boy. I would've been 10 or so, and one Christmas I got a game called Skate or Die: Bad 'N Rad.
Truthfully, a more accurate name would have been Bad 'N Bad. But the thing about being a kid in the early nineties is that, whatever games you got for Christmas and birthdays, they had to sustain you all year. I'll give my dad props, his choices were generally great, but this was a stinker. Nevertheless, it was one of my Game Boy games, so I played the hell out of it.
Bad 'N Rad's issues were manifold. The controls were sluggish, and it could be hard to react to enemies or sudden drops. It had incredibly annoying 'instadeath' sections where you had to make pixel-perfect jumps over massive pits. By far its biggest issue, however, was that it was miserly about lives (you start with three) and every time you fell in a hole you lost one. This is a game with a lot of holes.
Ah man... it was terrible. I almost flinch to think about it. But I was determined to beat Rad 'N Bad and over the weeks I gradually mastered its ugly ways. Then I hit the last boss, who is literally called ElRad the Evil One.
Well at least they got that name right. I hated this guy with a passion, died to him countless times, and vowed to triumph. Looking back now he looks so easy but, for whatever reason, I just couldn't do him.
One day, I'd had enough. I was gonna win. I sat down and began the playthrough. I came agonisingly close. Each time I'd enter his boss chamber bleeding and battered from the journey, and he'd just mince me. Of course, every Game Over put me right back to stage one.
It came to what must have been my fourth or fifth attempt that day. I'd worked out how to dodge his flame jet bullshit. I had an idea of how to move in the halfpipe. I was bopping him on the head!!! His health is getting low!!! This is really happening!!! He's only got two blocks left!!!
Then I get stuck in the corner at the wrong moment. He's blocking me off. I knew what was coming before the fire incinerated me. Dead, Game Over, again. In a combination of anger and frustration, I slam my head into the Game Boy. I feel the crack. I open my eyes and there it is, my beautiful handheld, with the screen smashed to bits.
You bastard ElRad.
While I eventually got my Game Boy replaced, I could never face Skate or Die: Bad 'N Rad again. ElRad beat my ass. He beat my ass so hard that, for the first and only time, I headbutted my own hardware into pieces.
So yeah: fuck that guy. In fact, I'm thinking I got the title of this piece wrong. Maybe it shouldn't be the games you never finished. Maybe it's just the games that hurt you too much to ever look at them again.