When a colleague asked me what I’d been playing recently and I said: Olli Olli 2 and Bloodborne, he remarked that you couldn’t really get two games that were more at opposite ends of the gaming spectrum. I passively agreed and went back to my work. The cogs of my subconscious mind continued working however.
On the face of it – he was absolutely right. One game – an indie developed, 2D extreme sports game, with simple visuals and hi-scores as a primary objective – the other a gorgeous, triple-A, open world, action game with atmosphere and violence dripping from its every pore.
My brain would not be satisfied with such trifling differences however, something in these two seemingly disparate games had me convinced they weren’t at opposite ends of the gaming spectrum at all…
There are, it turns out, a number of shockingly similar elements to Roll7’s masterpiece skater, Olli Olli 2, and From Software’s nightmarish and intelligently complex action RPG, Bloodborne.
1) Exercises in pure frustration.
Both Olli Olli 2 and Bloodborne know how to frustrate the hell out of you. Putting you in a position where you’ll first think the task ahead is impossible- you may tear your hair out, throw your pad down – maybe even weep a little when playing these games. Then you’ll have the break through. You’ll finally put a dent in those combo challenges- or you’ll get past that sub-boss with the brick and take out those wolves without taking a hit! You’ll be on the precipice of success… then both games will immediately smash you back down to reality as you mess up the landing on that x60 combo or get axed to death from behind by the weediest of foes that you just didn’t see. Which brings us to point 2….
Which ever game you’re playing you are going to see the opening section of the area you’re in again and again and again. In Bloodborne, you’ll be waking up at that lamp in Central Yharnam more times than you can count – even when a new path presents itself, you’ll be back! Though there are well publicised issues with the loading times, Bloodborne is a game that is built around knowing you’ll be restarting a lot (without giving away too much, there are elements to the game that are only revealed upon your inevitable death).
Likewise, In Olli Olli 2, you’ll be mashing that triangle button for a quick restart more often than you pull a flip or a grind switch! The fact that one of the controller’s face buttons is mapped to ‘quick restart’ should tell you all you need to know (it can be a little frustrating at first when you get over excited with a big combo and try to grind a huge rail – forget you’re not playing Tony Hawks Pro Skater- hit triangle and pop a ‘nose-grind’ to ‘switch-laser-flip’ to ‘restart level’…
Which is a handy segue into point 3…
In both these games you need actual, honed and developed skills – with fast reactions to boot. With the exception of the aforementioned triangle – restart – button, you will achieve nothing in Olli Olli 2 by mashing buttons. Instead, you’ll need to flick those analogue sticks out in very specific ways and time your button presses with laser-like precision.
Similarly, thanks to the stamina bar and the intelligent enemies, button mashing in Bloodborne leads to (yet another) swift death. You need to time your movements, plan your attacks carefully and then execute swiftly and decisively. Then, and only then, can you be actually successful.
Olli Olli 2 does a much fairer job of easing you in, but make no mistakes – both expect you to persevere and get good in order to progress.
And speaking of progress…
4) Dizzying highs.
Thankfully, the pitfalls of frustration are accompanied by the dizzying highs of success in both these games. Yes, they make you work damn hard for it, but the sense of achievement is second to none when you actually stick that landing or beat that boss and get the glimpse of the shiny horizon beyond the cloudy sea of despair you’ve been staring into for the past hour or two.
Unlike other popular games that you progress through having your hand held or being blessed with countless auto checkpoints along your journey. Both Olli Olli 2 and Bloodborne make you feel like you’ve accomplished something every new step of the way. It’s something that other games really don’t let you access in the same way. Much as I love games like Uncharted and Batman Arkham games, its fair to say you can pretty much drift through either series without hitting a serious challenge at any point. Even if you do, unlimited lives, check points every 5 steps and auto-saving certainly goes some way to assuaging such ‘challenge.’
Sure, you may smile at finally completing the story or beating a final boss on those games – but you’re not going to be whooping and punching the air, proud to have finally made another single step of progress like you will (and certainly I have) on Bloodborne and Olli Olli 2.
Along with those dizzying highs come the terrifying lows. The boss that cannot be beaten, the combo that cannot be achieved. The fact that you can try for hours on end to make that extra step of progress CAN (and frequently does) leave you banging your head against a brick wall, or throwing your pad into said wall – depending on your persuasion. However, akin to Stockholm syndrome, it’s this captive pain and anguish that you get so addicted to. Whichever game you play, you will slam or die way more times than you succeed. You will hemorrhage hours on achieving little if anything and feel nothing but the exquisite agony of each noble failure.
When I tried to describe the experience of playing Bloodborne to the self-same colleague mentioned in the intro – he said ‘so, it’s a game for massochists?’
On this occasion, despite my trying to re-word what I was saying, convinced I hadn’t articulated it properly – the cogs in my mind kept turning.
Richard is a father, teacher, gamer and writer. He believes that The Last of Us and Olli Olli 2 are the finest games ever made, feels that the StarWars Saga should only be watched in ‘the Machete order’ and once cleared Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in one sitting. Took him 20 hours, four cups of tea and a sausage roll. You can follow him on twitter @TLOUFactionsMP or @VigilanteSanta and view his occasional twitch outbursts on twitch.tv/spooklebeans.