Friday, August 6, 2010

Not Necessarily a List of The Best Co-Op Games Ever

One of the reasons I prefer single-player games over multiplayer games is that the latter are typically geared toward competition, and I don't like how unpleasant I become when I get overly competitive. However, I do enjoy playing video games with other people, which is why I gravitate toward cooperative or co-op games.

Because you can find bigger, better lists elsewhere of The Best Co-Op Games Ever, I won't bother to compile one here. Instead, I'd like to share some stories of the co-op games I've played with my friends, which could also double as a less-than-subtle list of The Best Co-Op Games Ever.

X-Men Legends (GameCube):

During my sophomore year of college, I was the RA of a dorm--actually a small house at the outskirts of campus--populated by a bunch of kids who, among other things, generally enjoyed playing or watching video games. A GameCube was hooked up to the video projector in the common area, so it wasn't unusual to walk through the door and find someone literally spattering zombie blood across the wall in Resident Evil 4.

It's hard not to occasionally sit in on someone playing video games in the central area of the house, but when the game is X-Men Legends and up to four players can hop in or drop out at any point during gameplay, sitting down to play for a while is almost irresistible.

The beat-'em-up action of X-Men Legends attracted virtually the whole house at one time or another, and many hours were spent shouting at Wolverine for wasting a healing potion when he can regenerate on his own, or holding up the rest of the group because I had destroy every single wall in this science lab with my optic blasts because I could.

Perhaps my favorite memory was the time that Nightcrawler teleported across the room to ambush a bad guy... except he never reappeared. We conjecture that he overshot and teleported into the wall. Brilliant.

Gyromite (NES):

Originally designed to be played with a robot, Gyromite is a simple puzzle-platformer that involves careful manipulation of blue and red pipes (if you're practicing good teamwork) or crushing your teammate to a fine paste (if you're not).

Unlike many other co-op games, Gyromite requires equal participation from both players--you can't just let one player do all the work and then pretend like you helped. One player controls a Dr. Wily-esque professor (in appearance, not disposition) who can climb ladders and grab monster-distracting radishes, and the other player moves the blue and red pipes up and down to smoosh monsters and get the professor where he needs to go.

Speaking from experience, this game is great fun with a significant other, and it's an excellent option for casual gamers who don't have the skill or interest to keep up with the likes of X-Men Legends. There's a sense of accomplishment when you both work together, and there can be some great laughs when pipe manipulation gets out of control. No specific stories to tell; just fun memories.

Lego Star Wars (GameCube):

This family-friendly action-adventure game (and all its relatives) is another great way to get gamers of all abilities playing together, as the most serious gaming challenges only arise when you're trying to go after 100% of the secrets. Between blasting apart droids with a blaster pistol and blowing up anything and everything to grab LEGO studs--the game's equivalent of actual currency--there's enough action and collection to keep most anyone happy.

Something that never failed to amuse while my girlfriend and I played was the end-of-level recap of everything we collected in the level: one of the tallies was of "TOTAL STUDS," in big bold letters, and I would always proudly declare that we were, in fact, total studs. Because I am a total dork.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis):

I'm not catastrophically bad at Sonic games, but there's a reason I'm a dedicated Nintendo and PC gamer. Sonic 2 was always my favorite game in the bunch for the cool locations, great music, good balance between platforming and blindly speeding through levels, and being able to play as an invincible second player.

Tails has always been my favorite Sonic character, so in addition to getting to play as him in 2-player co-op mode, I get to stick my friend, who is far better at Sonic games, with the flammable, crushable, pokeable hero, while I get to fly out of bottomless pits and take an endless amount of enemy abuse because I'm just designed to tag along! All the fun, hardly any of the effort. Total opposite of Gyromite, but just as fun.

Paperboy (NES):

The first time you sit your younger sister down to play Paperboy and explain to her that the aim of the game is to break bad people's windows with a newspaper, you get a delightful reaction that sets the tone for a gaming session where you discover that, after years of playing this game, you're just about as good as she is. I seldom play Paperboy to win; I just like thwapping things with newspapers, and it's always a joy to share that experience with someone new.

Hey, wait--there's no co-op function in Paperboy--how'd it get in here, anyhow?

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GameCube):

It was known as "The Summer of Zelda." Four best friends speedrunning (or hearing about the others speedrunning) Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, and spending a designated time each week playing through Four Swords Adventures, which required the most elaborate setup for a non-LAN-party multiplayer game I've ever seen: four Game Boy Advances with four link cables hooked up to the GameCube so that we could send our individual characters into caves and houses independent of the others without needing to break into split-screen action.

Four guys sitting on a couch, slapping each other around with swords, tossing one another into bottomless pits, and greedily breaking open money-filled clay pots with a boomerang that's loud enough to rouse the castle guards and get the whole team thrown into prison. Again. Ah, friendship.

While the game forces a lot of teamwork, the truth is that we all had our own skills and strengths that brought the whole experience together into one that was both fun and productive--somehow, we managed to beat the game before the summer was over, and before we physically threw a controller at our one teammate who insisted on throwing stuff at us. Heck, maybe that was me; it's hard to tell everyone apart when we're all technically the same character.

There's plenty more games to talk about--the Donkey Kong Country series, or Tales of Symphonia, or any game that wasn't technically co-op but I switched off with someone in the single-player mode--but I think there's enough here for one day, and I have plans of maybe someday covering some of those other games in their own dedicated posts. We'll see!


A Philosophical Nerd said...

My all-time favorite co-op game is definitely Rock Band, but then again I'm a Rock Band fanatic so it's hardly surprising.

I actually remember Gyromite and I had forgotten all about it. I played it when I was a kid. It was a very fun co-op game. I may go see if I can find some videos of it on YouTube or something.

Also, I absolutely love the Sonic series, but I don't necessarily enjoy its co-op value. I have no problem beating the Sonic games on my own, but if you get stuck playing Tails then it's easy to be left behind so that you can't really do anything, especially if you're stuck with someone who doesn't want to wait around for you.

Matt said...

I agree. I'm not a fan of the more competitive multiplayer games. As I live with my significant other, the only advantage of destroying someone in a video game is spending the night next to an angry person. This, honestly, isn't much of an advantage at all...

"Rock Band" was definitely fun. And I remember a lot of earlier sports games allowed you to work your way around the rules with the second player. He could check the goalie out of the box or do some pass interference without being penalized. It was a nice way of running up scores of 52-0 in "NHL '95." :)

Michael said...

I could never get anyone to play either Four Swords Adventures game with me. I think part of the problem was that the set-up is ridiculously complicated, and the other problem was that I didn't _have_ three GBA-owning friends at the time.

The game really isn't much fun on single-player mode.

Scott said...

I always thought the guy in Gyromite was a really old Mario (see the nose) who was too fat to go through pipes, so he just rode them. The things kids think up.

I tried Lego Star Wars with a friend on the PC, but we got to a point in the game with Jar Jar on the side of a mountain that we just couldn't get past and it was frustrating enough that we gave up.

Flashman85 said...

APN: Aw, man! I totally forgot to write about some good Rock Band stories. Maybe I'll go back and add one in. I agree that Sonic 2 can be lame if Player 1 is hogging the camera, but it's still fun.

Matt: This is why my Sig Other and I rarely play Civilization III against each other anymore. I never got much into sports games, but I always liked Blades of Steel for the NES because you could punch people in the face.

Michael: If I recall correctly, our Four Swords host graciously went out and bought all the equipment we lacked, and then returned it at the end of the summer. Still, it's not a convenient setup.

Scott: That's funny. And I know exactly what part of Lego Star Wars you're talking about--I got stuck there awhile, too. Lego Star Wars II addresses a lot of the logistical problems of the first game, so it's worth a try if you had any fun with it before.