The eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted the results of last week’s vote. Well we’re certainly not ones to chicken out of a tough list, but we did flock together with Kevin from The Mental Attic to get the job done. He helped us to gather up a veritable aviary drawn from geek culture, and try and arrange them in to some kind of logical order. I don’t know what you do for fun on a Thursday night but this is our kind of party at GeekOut.
They’re magical and they’re mythical, somewhat mystical too. These creatures are incredibly magical and often very small, but count your blessings should you meet one as often they’re portrayed to be kind and nurturing. But do we really know fairies as well as we think we do? When you think of fairies, what do you think of? In this weeks’ Top 10, we’re going to count down our favourite fairies. (more…)
Level design is never an easy job, especially when you have to manage a large variety of levels and worlds. However some levels are so dreadful, that even years on, we as gamers raise our arms in frustration and say “Ah, sod this!” With all this said though, we’re not on about levels that are poorly made per se, but just levels that are genuinely bad to us.
So whether the level is downright frustrating because of how hard it is, or if the level is simply terribly designed, we’ve got you covered in this Top 10. Now it’s time for us to exit stage left and check out our best of worst levels!
10. IntelliLock – Mystery of Time and Space (MOTAS)
Ah the Intellilock, a lock that was designed to be incredibly intelligent, or so you would think. Actually, this lock is pretty smart in that it puts you through a rigorous game of “hey, press the right button!” There’s a lot of buttons you can press and when you press the right one, they all change to become another puzzle in amidst the already annoying puzzles. One moment, you could be looking at crosshairs, the next you could be given a simple number puzzle.
The issue with Intellilock isn’t that it’s a bad lock per se, or even that the level around it is bad. Instead, it makes you seriously think and it slows down your whole gameplay through Mystery of Time and Space. MOTAS as it’s affectionately known, is a flash game which you can play absolutely for free (just click this link). It’s really good fun, but when you come to the Intellilock screen, be sure to have a good memory or a strong logical brain!
9. Shalebridge Cradle – Thief: Deadly Shadows
This is a bit of an awkward one, and would have been placed far higher in the list if it weren’t also one of the best levels in Deadly Shadows. Throughout the game so far you’ve possibly walked the City streets merrily koshing or stabbing your way through a world that’s all too easily unburdened of life and valuables, and extinguishing every light that would reveal your presence, and a few you probably didn’t need to.
Welcome to the Cradle, half orphanage, half insane asylum, leave everything you’ve learned at the door. None of the lights can be extinguished, space is limited, and every occupant died a long time ago, but that hasn’t stopped them shambling the halls. If you’ve grown comfortable playing the master thief Garrett, be prepared to be made most uncomfortable, and otherwise freaked out, unnerved and generally annoyed. You’ll hate it, but it’ll make you want more.
8. Caustic Caverns – Borderlands 2
Good idea to replace all the water with acid, adds an element of risk, especially if you have to cross said acid a few times to get to essential locations. But jumping isn’t difficult in Borderlands, better make the acid bubble and splash so that it’s harder to dodge, OH and maybe if you put treasure and things in places you can only reach by jumping into said bubbles just as they burst! That’ll be great.
What else? What else? What if this is filled with creatures that can throw you great distances into the acid, or things that fly so you can’t look at where you’re going, or creatures that spend half the fight underground?! That’s sounds like a lot of FUN! PEOPLE WILL HAVE FUN! And now that we’re all having fun, let’s have a lot of quests in there, a lot more than any of the other dungeons in the whole game! Or at least let’s make it feel that way.
7. Kaizo Mario World
Kaizo Mario World is a trial-and-error game or “rage game”, I.E a game just like I Wanna Be The Guy. It’s a game where you might jump over a pit which would be an insta-kill, just to have a bullet bill fly at you JUST as you jump. Of course, this would go and kill you anyway. It’s the type of game that was made to intentionally annoy the hell out of you – and it’s pretty brilliant at it.
I’ve seen people die whilst just walking in that game. I’ve seen people die by being inactive. I’ve seen deaths by star blocks, deaths by chomps and deaths by goombas… Who appear out of nowhere! Kaizo Mario World is the ultimate test of patience. It’s not really a bad game at all, it’s rather clever in fact. But it’s such a bad idea for how a level works, that it deserved a mention. Please note: Kaizo is actually a fan based ROM Hack, so if you don’t own the official game, you’re not likely going to be able to play this legally! Still, it’s highly amusing to have a look at people dying pretty regularly on it!
6. Test Chamber 18 – Portal
One of the final phases of preliminary testing of the Aperture Handheld Portal Device, subjects are required to traverse elaborate corridor networks, and resolve a rather awkward puzzle in order to complete the chamber.
Test Chamber 18 is a bit of a doozy, and is often referred to as one of the hardest puzzles in the game, more than a few people were trapped in the little chamber for a very long time. The turrets add very little complexity, as they’re easily dispatched, but the solution is not all that obvious, and being trapped in that side room by a sliding panel, and some parts requiring rather narrow timing add little stressors that make the puzzle just a little harder.
The exit is a series of tall platforms reached by hurling oneself higher and higher, tempering your relief at completing the chamber with a little vertigo and nausea. Not to worry, there’s time enough to settle your stomach before the cake.
5. Safari Zone – Pokémon Red/Blue
Games seem to really love completely removing their own fundamental mechanics occasionally just to screw us over. The Safari Zone is just a prime example of exactly how gleefully the modern masters like to upset their fans. The whole point of pokémon is to pitch your pokémon against another pokémon and slug it out through means of tactical application of their various powers or abilities to whittle the opponent down far enough to defeat or capture it. The system works, and it would certainly be a great deal harder if you were just throwing rocks at your opponent, or if they could just run off whenever they liked.
Welcome to the Safari Zone, where your pokémon are removed from you and you have a limited time to throw rocks and/or bait at a kangaskhan until it either wanders off or actually stays in the damn Safari Ball. Oh, and your supposed to figure out that there’s a particular method when you’re 10 and don’t have a clue about strategy and just blast everything with hyperbeam until your PP runs out? Yet more proof that children should never be permitted to play children’s games.
4. Robot Masters before Dr. Wily – Mega Man games
The Robot Masters are the big baddies of the Mega Man series. Mega Man 2 is my all time favourite Mega Man, probably along with many other people. I’d always fight Metal Man first, then I’d take on Wood Man. Next I’d kill Bubble Man, followed by Air Man, then Flash Man. Crash Man is next, Quick Man and finally Er… Zippo Man. Heat Man, that’s his name! Then once you defeat all of the Robot Masters and take their powers, you can go to the middle section, which is Wily’s castle. Defeat the enemies before the big skull part and boom! It’s time to fight Wily.
Actually, no it’s not. Instead, you just find 8 doors that you can step through. Each of these doors have lights above them, indicating that they’re currently still active. All you have to do is go in and de-activate all of them. How hard can this be? Well, it can be incredibly hard if you’re only getting by with the skin of your teeth. You have to now fight all 8 of the Robot Masters all over again… And guess what? You don’t heal all of your health between fights either. Good luck, Mega, you’re going to need it!
3. Biker Tunnel – Battletoads
Have you played Battletoads? If you have and you’ve played this game with a friend, you know that most of this game is one massive mess. It’s a great mess, a glorious one at that. People only really took it seriously after it became subject to a bit of an internet meme targeting shops like Gamestop for a pre-order of Battle-Toads for the Nintendo Wii. All thanks to the above video: isn’t the internet an awesome place?
Nevertheless, it let people see the insanity that was Battletoads, inciting many people to then actually get frustrated with the games absurdly high difficulty. One moment, you’re playing a typical beat em up, with massive boots to kick the butts of your enemies. The next moment, you would be driving along a tunnel on a bike, with obstacles coming into contact with you every second. Don’t worry; that’s not all you have to contend with. Ramps are the only things that will save you from falling into the massive pits and you even have to hit those at the right speeds, else you’ll just lose. The Battletoads really had all odds stacked against them!
2. Water Temple – Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
If you thought the Water Temple wasn’t going to make our list, then you were only fooling yourselves. Yes, the Water Temple clocks in at a whopping number two on our list, which is totally understandable, considering the infamous nature of this level. People go so far as to call levels “the Water Temple of this game” when referring to the worst levels of whatever game they’re playing. At least, I’ve certainly referred to levels in such a way.
Regardless, the Water Levels is interesting in that it has 5 layers, which sees you navigating all 5 layers just to get through it. If it were just a case of having to do each layer, that’d not be so bad, but you need to go back and forth between the layers just to progress. You know something’s up when they admitted they made it easier during the remake for the game on the 3DS, because they felt guilty for how hard this level was. Traps, layers, puzzles – It threw everything it had at you and only the patient would survive.
1. Rainbow Road – Mario Kart
Wait a minute, before we continue, how come we’ve got a second Mario item in the Top 10? Aren’t we only supposed to have 1 entry from each franchise? You’re absolutely correct, it’s one entry from each franchise. However, Kaizo Mario World is a fan-made ROM Hack, which does not count as part of a franchise. With this out of the way with, let me now explain why Rainbow Road not only makes it into the Top 10, but why it’s our number one pick.
Rainbow Road is infamous amongst people who have played through Mario Kart, in any of it’s various iterations. When you start playing Mario Kart, you get frustrated by the players who are throwing those red shells at you and the people who leave banana’s behind. You get frustrated that people are better at drifting than you are and you want to just give everybody the Luigi Death Glare whenever they try to pass you and you hit them with a shell.
Rainbow Road stops everyone dead in their tracks, because now instead of contending with other contenders, you’re fighting with the game itself. You now need to try to get this road, this wavy, moving, wiggling road, to treat you a little bit better. In the Wii version, for instance, the Rainbow Road has the occasional ripple in the ground, allowing you to gain speed for making a jump off the ground itself… But that doesn’t always help, as it can throw you full speed off one of the many curved sides of the road. There are no railings to save you in this exceedingly long level! It’s a nightmare to navigate and the colours can be highly disorientating.
There are so many levels out there, but to call them all the worst would be a massive overstatement. However, we thought we’d show off two more levels that at least deserves a mention; One isn’t even really a proper level!
Tomb of Horrors – Dungeons & Dragons
Omitted by a small technicality, the Tomb of Horrors is a module for D&D that is used by DMs when they are sick to death of their group, it’s veritably infamous for how cruelly it tortures those adventurers foolish enough to try its entrances. Sudden death is abundant, puzzles are difficult, and non-lethal penalties are dramatic to say the least. The place is the current final resting place of the demi-lich Acererak, and is a death trap riddled with hazards, monsters and deceptions of a most sadistic nature.
Expect loss of limbs, change of gender, altered philosophical views, and the very real possibility of just starving to death. Being a challenge for medium-high level characters, most of these penalties would be a mere setback, even death would be a revolving door. Would be! But the necromancer Acererak isn’t so polite as to let you die like normal, death is an absolute, no coming back from this one.
Kill Screen – Pac-Man
So we all know and love Pac-Man and I’ve mentioned this highly broken screen many times before on this website, however it’s interesting to note that this is technically a playable level, even though it isn’t really a proper one. What I mean by it not being a proper level, is that this level isn’t supposed to be like this, but it’s just a memory issue with the game, where it doesn’t know what you want to do with all of the fruit ever.
Rotten fruit aside, the Kill Screen is infamous in Pac-Man. Having supposedly been beaten only once before, which is seemingly unverified, the Kill Screen is basically the end of the line for the most hardcore Pac-Man players. Some modern versions of the game include it just as an Easter Egg to those who figure it out and get that far. On the plus side, at least the screen is visually different than the 255 maps that preceded it!
I’ve had enough of going through dungeons and caverns filled to the brim with krakens, because how many of these guys can fit into such a small space? Not to mention that there are fire monsters inside of this water cave, how did this even make it past play-testing!? Nevertheless, we’re done for this week’s list and now it’s once again over to you, our audience, to decide what we do for our next list.
Did we mention those levels that were so dastardly to you? What about the order in which we ranked these worst levels? Do you think we unfairly put any of them in, or do you think we were justified in our reasons? Did we miss any out?! As always, life isn’t fair, but you can help us make it right by telling us your personal worst levels in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Help us check through these games for the future of mankind’s sake: We’ve had enough of these worst levels!
Sidekicks, the oft-forgotten but ultimately necessary addition to any great main character. Let’s face it, what is Batman without Robin? Sure, we all care about the main guy more, but let’s face the facts: The sidekick serves more purpose than just comedic effect, (although some seem tied into this role.) Some are actually intelligent, capable and sometimes are more rounded than the main characters themselves.
In honour of all of the best secondary characters out there, as voted by you, this week we’re dedicated to bringing you our Top 10 Sidekicks in Games.
10) CL4-TP – Borderlands 2
Specifically Borderlands 2. Why? In the first in the series CL4-TP units were everywhere, each had their own variation on the basic personality type of arrogant and cowardly, and they would eventually come to rise up against their Hyperion masters and endeavour to assimilate various main characters. In the pre-sequel, the Interplanetary Ninja Assassin model becomes a playable character.
In Borderlands 2, that same Claptrap is the last of his kind, living in a mausoleum made of his broken friends. Hard to feel bad for him though, while he is essential to the plot, he spends most of the first chapter referring to you as “Minion” while shaking in a corner as you deal with his problems. He’s full of catchphrases and soundbites, and every one makes you want to throw him off Sanctuary just to watch him bounce. Sadly for us all, he’s necessary.
9) Lydia – Skyrim
Otherwise known as Housecarl to the Thane of Whiterun, trap springer, arrow catcher, and “Dammit, get out of the way!” there is no more dedicated a sidekick than Lydia. Willing to fling herself into danger in the name of her Thane, no matter the consequences, literally no matter what the consequences, good/bad/irritating, it doesn’t matter.
She can take a beating, and she is sworn to carry your burdens, so she’s not all bad. And worst case scenario you can always tell her to go home. She’ll even stand in the cold and unfurnished shell of Breezehome, diligently awaiting your return. She’s not quite so keen as Oblivion’s adoring fan, but at least she has a name.
8) Ora – Mark of the Ninja
Ahh, here we go, a sidekick who knows what she’s for!
Mark of the Ninja’s Marked rarely sees his companion Ora except when she drops in to inform him of security measures up ahead that he may not have seen already, or critical changes in the situation. After that she vanishes, presumably to go deal with things off-screen while you get on with the game. She may very well be running her own little mission for all you care, but stays broadly by your side for when you need her most.
There may be a reason for this however [SPOILERS] Ora may very well be a hallucination brought about by the markings on the Ninja protagonist, and you are eventually faced with the possibility of killing your friend and ally, or possibly slipping into psychosis [SPOILERS OVER]. She’s a creepy question mark hovering over your narrative, but she’s also indispensible.
7) Murray, The Curse of Monkey Island
“I am Murray, the evil demonic skull! Muwahahaha!”
Murray is an interesting character overall. He’s a comedic relief, in a game series known for its humorous dialogue. The Curse of Monkey Island has a relatively ‘serious’ plot, in that you are trying to save Elaine from being a solid gold statue and defeat the evil pirate LeChuck.
Technically, this demonic talking skull isn’t really a sidekick, but in some situations he certainly acts like one. He gives you little hints and tips, all whilst realising the inevitability of his circumstances, (y’know, being just a skull means you can’t do much.) Whilst he’s snarky and nasty to you a good 95% of the time, he not only sometimes just appears out of the blue, (questionable how a talking skull gets about so much), but he’ll even go in your inventory and talk when you open it. At least he’s always there for you. Annoyingly.
6) Ellie, The Last of Us
The Last of Us is a game that took the world by storm and for good reason. The protagonist, Joel (not to be confused with our very own Joel,) loses his daughter and becomes a bit of a negative person. However, when push comes to shove, he is tasked with looking after Ellie and the two form a fantastic duo.
Perhaps it’s the strange bond of humanity that makes these two characters an absolutely believable team, or perhaps it’s the direness of the situations they’ve been faced with. Whatever the reason for these two and how they manage to look after one another, Ellie holds her own at such a young age. She makes a lot of sense in terms of character development and she’s up there amongst the most awesome youngen in video games.
Naughty Dog, you can be proud of yourselves for portraying Ellie so well in this. She’s the real hero to me.
5) Potato GLADoS – Portal 2
We struggled with this one, but frankly Wheatley made a far more interesting villain than sidekick. Somehow GLADoS’s journey from AI with god delusions – all-powerful within her self-contained domain – to science fair project with a personality disorder made her far more compelling a companion.
The excursion into Aperture’s abandoned projects and the narrative that unfolded their made her presence far more interesting, and her assistance felling the mad moron drunk with science was invaluable. Ok so her reward for restoring her to her rightful place was not killing you, considering her attitude towards you over the last eight years, you got off lightly.
4) Glottis vs Pey’J, Grim Fandango vs Beyond Good and Evil
This town ain’t big enough for two non-human engineer sidekicks. It’s time for you to cast your vote as to which of these two behemoths are video games best engineer sidekick, but first, let’s explain who these two are.
Glottis, the Demon engineer who isn’t allowed to torch anything bigger than a cigarette without a form signed by the boss himself. After Manny manages to get a signature for Glottis to do his thing to Mannys company car, Glottis becomes Mannys personal driver. Turning the car into the Bone Wagon that we all know and love, Glottis is a fun and incredibly enthusiastic character. He understands rules, but most importantly: He values loyalty and friendship above all else.
Pey’J is a Sus Sapien. If you don’t know what that means, it’s basically a pig human. Don’t be fooled by his gruff looks though, Pey’J is also an incredibly loyal character, but unlike Glottis, his head is way more down to earth and clearly understands the importance of Jades discoveries. He likes to create electronic devices for himself and Jade, often to help Jade out… But sometimes just be cause he enjoys making things. Conversely to Glottis, he doesn’t like driving, but he’s a master mechanic and engineer.
Luigi needs no introduction what so ever. The guy has his own stories and his own games that he goes through. Recently, there was even a year in his honour. If you missed out on that, then you missed out on a special part of the Mario universe. However, the Green Plumber is often picked over his own brother, which begs the question: Is he a sidekick, or an alternative hero at this point of time? Originally, he certainly was introduced as a sidekick, being the player two to Mario.
We can’t be too wrong with this one. Many other websites with similar Top 10 themes rate Luigi as a highly dependable character. With videos such as the below to support him too, whose to say he doesn’t deserve a top 3 spot? Honestly, the next two sidekicks however… They take it to the next level.
2) Tails – Sonic
Ok, so he’s not quite so good as Sonic, not as fast and not all that useful in multiplayer. But the twin-tailed fox has something unique that makes him surprisingly handy at exactly the right moment, and isn’t that ultimately what makes a sidekick perfect? Miles “Tails” Prower doesn’t exactly seize the spotlight but there are times you’d father rather you were flying than rushing past everything at breakneck speeds.
Unlike Knuckles – the third addition to the Sonic team – who has his own stuff to get on with unless he’s needed, Tails is friend and admirer to Sonic. Though he can increasingly depend on himself without the blue speedster watching his back, Sonic can always depend on him when he’s in a fix.
Plus he’s ginger. Gotta represent!
1) Alyx Vance, Half Life 2
Alyx Vance is, for all intensive purposes, the perfect Non-Playable Character and I cannot fault her at all. She’s logical, she’s believable, she’s very intelligent and she’s very athletic and helpful. There’s no reason to dislike Alyx, even if you’ve never played Half Life 2, you will at least know of her. She’s considered one of the greatest NPCs of all time by many, she’s full of presence in Half Life 2 and she’s likeable.
What helps is that throughout Half Life 2, you meet characters who are good for helping you out. Alyx is a constant reminder that friendship and devotion to a cause can be a powerful combination. She cares deeply about Gordon Freeman, the silent crowbar wielding protagonist, which is apparent. Combine this with stellar AI which possibly helps her be one of the smartest AIs in video games at that, it’s apparent she’s the perfect sidekick.
I know for a fact right now that if nothing else, there’s one GeekOut reader who’ll see this at the number one spot and be fist pumping and will never stop talking about it, because the guy never shuts up (and we love him for it). He knows who he is.
We’ve been through the motions of our Top 10 but now that the heroes helpers have been honoured, it’s time to have a look at some more sidekicks who didn’t quite make the cut for the full list. Nevermind, they’re still winners to us, even if they’re rarely remembered. We remembered them… Wait, that’s not how this works! We remember these characters for very specific reasons and here’s why!
Navi, The Legend of Zelda
ARGH!!! STOP IT NAVI!!!
Actually, the whole issue of Navi being an annoying character is slightly inflated by the internet. Hear me out here – I don’t remember playing Ocarina of Time and having Navi saying this all that often. Yes it is somewhat annoying when she does decide to go on a “hey listen” rant, but that’s probably because you’re not actually, y’know, paying attention to what she has to say? She’s there to help and she tries her damned best.
Instead, she’s become a bit of a mocking point for the internet. A real shame, too. She is only doing her job.
Pikachu – Pokémon Yellow
The infamous and least useful “Fourth Starter” was the first Pokémon to stalk you through the Kanto realm because he refused to stay in a pokéball. Well go to hell you stuck-up glorified battery! And stop turning your nose up and threatening to shock me whenever I try to talk to you. I have to go through Brock’s gym with you and a pidgey, that’s gonna be like trying to demolish a building with a pamphlet!
Much like in the anime, the pikachu in Pokémon Yellow edition grows to like you in time. He’s not entirely useless despite the fact that you can’t evolve him without losing the entertaining bouncy sprite following you around, and with it losing one of the most unique features of the game (certainly at the time, not so much anymore).
Quite so Watson, it’s time for us to wrap up this weeks Top 10. Much like our sidekicks that made the cut, this list is secondary to them. Hey, some of these may be scoffed at but we truly felt they deserved a mention. Don’t forget to hit that vote button for our next list!
As always though, we wouldn’t make these lists without you, the readers. Please cast your votes and let us know in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter: Do you think our choices were right for this, or are there any characters you feel deserves a mention? Did we put these in the wrong order? Is Alyx Vance really the top sidekick in video gaming, even above Luigi and Tails?! Let us know your thoughts and we’ll see you all again next week for another Top 10.