Friday, 1 February 2013

The Water Temple made me quit.

by Peter Smith

So…I’ve never completed Ocarina Of Time. Apparently in the video game world this is a, quote-unquote, ‘big deal’, because apparently in some gaming circles you can’t get a sense of bloody perspective when you buy a game, and I doubt it will be made available as DLC anytime soon.

I’ve played it mind you, I downloaded a reputable N64 emulator and it was the first game I got. And for 12 hours I definitely had a fun ole’ time; albeit a somewhat muted experience due to the format in which I was playing it. Alone in my university room on a laptop, as opposed to a cartridge in a glorious piece of plastic the size of a coffee table.

And then I stopped playing. I was done with it. I didn't want anymore. It had exasperated me to the point where I’d punctuate sentences in chunks. Like this. 

It was The Water Temple that made me realise it wasn't worth my time, and that I’d been far too lenient on the game as I spent the hours navigating it. It baffles me how people are willing to gloss over that aspect of the game, or merely refer to it in a slightly annoyed aside. 

If somebody said ‘the movie was terrific, apart from the 15 minutes of intense static and piercing white noise’ you’d think they were a bit deluded. A game cannot get a free pass because 95% of it is fantastic, there’s still that 5% to contend with. 

I remember reading some reviews of God Of War when it came out on PS2, and quite a few gave the game just shy of a perfect score because of how frustrating they found the wall climbing segment in the Erebus (Greek legends' term for 'Hell') section.

This bit here. Except in motion.

Why do some games bend to this ‘sum of all parts’ style of reviewing, yet others are given a free pass? Is it based on company or series legacy, or something else entire?

I know people who, without a guide, spent months trying to navigate The Water Temple. Months. Let that sink in. Sixty odd days trying to complete one portion of the game, with 90% of those days amounting to fruitless travelling and nothing gained.

I personally don’t recall the game being that incredulously perfect that I’d spend months trying to get past a poorly designed gaming experience. I used a guide when I did it, and at times it felt as if I was trying to disarm a warhead using post it notes and a taped over VHS. I felt as if I was in an experience tantamount to having 10 hours of a rigorously structured, accessible and entertaining game and I was suddenly being asked to solve the mystery of the Antikythera Mechanism.

Quicktime events won’t help you now. 
Hand holding in games is something that relates entirely to the enjoyment of the game involved. I've no problem a game gently nudging me in the right direction like a doe eyed mother wolf nudging her young towards a fresh kill (X-COM Enemy Unknown having the most enjoyable tutorial I've played this side of Metal Gear Solid’s VR missions), and I've no problem with an obsidian black void that consists entirely of your character and a pause menu. Case in point, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die edition, a game that I'm currently 50 hours into the new game + part of, yet has caused me to exhaust every blood vessel I've got in my big stupid face.

Unless I'm at a spawn point, at which time I propose to fires.

But I kept playing, regardless of me yelling variations of the word ‘fuck’ at my friend’s TV screen during boss fights. I kept playing because every challenge was met by an unyielding sense of achievement and satisfaction, along with in game currency to level up or new areas. 

After The Water Temple the only satisfaction I got was from myself. The fulfilment of finally overcoming something mentally straining and structurally flawed, with little reward on the game’s part isn't a hugely positive gaming experience. It was the expected sense of accomplishment you’d get from something immensely frustrating, the scenario overshadowing the achievement itself.

I imagine I’d feel more relief pulling a bullet out of my gut or drinking my own piss to survive.
As it stands, after spending roughly 4 hours on this area, following a guide to the letter, I ended up realising I hadn't even played the game at all. I’d been a glorified garbage boy, following instructions with the hope I could get to the end and continue playing and ironically, that’s why I stopped playing.

I remember an hour afterwards, running across Hyrule field and merely going ‘Why am I even doing this?’ The temple had drained all enthusiasm and energy from me; I’d hardly be surprised if the final boss had actually been Mola Ram.

‘Now to burn your remaining 4 hearts!’
I was sure that by terminating my adventure there and then that I was missing out on a terrific experience, but I frankly didn't care. And I still don’t. I put up with that section, and it was so unenjoyable that I don’t think the game deserved me finishing it.

Even Nintendo has qualms, altering the layout and design for the 3DSconversion, so clearly this post isn't an over-reaction on my behalf. The disapproving reception was high enough that they altered the game because of it.

The Water Temple was an unenjoyable gaming experience even with a guide, and was enough to put me off the rest of the game. I honestly don’t believe it deserves to get off as lightly as it does, and it’s such a shame it belongs in a game with terrific gameplay, a beautiful soundtrack and an engaging atmosphere.

But fuck it to a dry, unforgotten, abyss.


  1. You really should check out the Shadow and Spirit Temples though. The endgame is totally awesome.

  2. If you think the Water Temple is bad, try the Great Bay temple in Majora's Mask

  3. I think I the Water Temple is the harder dungeon but Great Bay Temple has that Gyorg boss to contend with. Water Temple's boss (Morpha) is an absolute pushover by comparison.

  4. I may try playing it again, but outsource that section.


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