I’m no stranger to hard games. As any 30something can tell you, games when we were kids were fucking brutal. I frequently take on old games in challenge runs at twitch.tv/nallynally (not so subtle plug). They were brutal out of a necessity to pad out gametime and create a sense of value, granted, but the fact remained. If you could no death run Castlevania, you were a certified badass.
With games becoming bigger and better in many ways over the years, the need for wrench-chewing difficulty was gradually erased. Some games decided to keep it or add it in as an option. And some people in particular took it upon themselves to make games designed to be difficult, but crank it up to eleven. In this climate, kaizo games appeared.
Usually Super Mario hacks with a million koopas or something, essentially more puzzle games than normal platformers. “Gotcha” games, made to frustrate the player with their obnoxious difficulty, but undeniably give a rewarding feeling when you beat them. The foremost examples would have to be Kaizo Mario and I Wanna Be The Guy.
Difficult as they were, they were completable. Although saying they are tough but fair would be stretching it. A player who knows how to beat them can achieve this in around 20 minutes, provided they have the time and dedication to master the hell out of them. This is a testament to how much time and effort the developer sunk into these. Making a hard game that can be beaten might just be one of the biggest challenges a developer can face.
You can however, get creative about it. It is indeed, quite easy to make an impossible game in ten minutes tops and let luck sort your players, and customers, out. While making an impossible Mario hack and putting it online for free is pretty much harmless, if a bit of a dick move, there’s something sleazy about charging money for a game that might or might not be finishable.
Potatoman Seeks The Troof wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve. It’s right there in the title: Potato and Troof. It’s lolsorandom humour that employs such hilarious things as TALKING MONKEYS throwing BANANAS at you and talking boulders who want to make potato PANCAKES. Released in 2014 by a developer who cut their teeth on Newgrounds, you can spell out streamer bait louder, but not clearer.
It got picked up by YouTube titans and enjoyed a fair amount of attention, though it’s ultimate fate is clear: you hadn’t heard about it before coming here, had you? It is entirely possible to make history as a notoriously difficult Indie, and you need look no further than Hotline Miami. But you need good art, a good story, music, you need something. Potatoman however was at best, a lazy cash in, and at worst, a cynical attempt at gaming the system. Good ol’ fashioned Steam shovelware.
With randomness interwoven within it’s core mechanics, somewhat awkward controls and responsiveness, and a fair number of “got ’em” moments, Potatoman launched a trailer that made waves, and that’s where all the effort and polish went. Even the trailer is just an actor reading off what I assume the writer considered funny lines with that “what a man’s gotta do for money” look on his face.
If you’re looking for something to keep you interested in the game while you’re on it, look elsewhere. Colour palette is dull, and models lack any sort of detail or personality. Animations are very functional, which is the diplomatic way of saying characters and objects move like Soviet-era cardboard robots on paint thinner.
The game itself is an unbearable trudge through levels that to this day get hate on Steam forums. Those that were made by hand by the developers are fairly easy to crack. But those that are made by randomness are very much not. That fucking slope with boulders on it simply shouldn’t have been in the game. Potatoman goes above and beyond in it’s annoying factor. You’d think a game that only lasts an hour couldn’t be this infuriating, but Potatoman is truly something special.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you’ll then see how little content is in it. Every single last NPC except the ones that look exactly like you for misdirection will simply murder you, usually after spouting some nonsense about the troof. This isn’t even annoying, since the game is more treacherous than the all dastardly-mustache gentleman’s club. There are no cutscenes, there is no story. The game knows its music is annoying enough to warrant a big fat “Press M to Mute” and I understand not every developer can make or buy a pleasing soundtrack, but we’re to the point where silence would have been better than what we got.
But the biggest punch in the dick is without a doubt the fact that you can master Potatoman no more than you can master blindfolded roulette. Artistically speaking, it is a very unique experience, since it can take one player ages to get through this torture and another can just blaze through, purely based on how challenging the game randomly decides it’s gonna be. This, hilariously, completely kills the game. If it’s a challenge that we should overcome, taking from the challenge ruins it. And if it’s an experience we’re supposed to have, all this challenge is just in the way.
The game even has the balls to stroke it’s chin at us out of nowhere in it’s pretentious ending. When our Potato reaches a light prism in a final level surprisingly easy compared to what came before it, it is elated, for a while. Before literally curling up into a ball and dying. Luckily, it will get teleported to the very start where the same cowboy NPC who shot your ass at first will pick it up and take it to it’s farm.
There, it will blossom into a beautiful, honest to god, potato TREE. Big laugh, you are so random, Potatoman. May you randomly find your way out of my garbage bin. An ending that seems to intentionally underline how pointless it all was.
Imagine having to complete seven master level sudokus before you get to pick Clementine’s boyfriend in Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Now imagine the sudokus keep changing as you try to finish them, and Clementine’s boyfriend just screams TOILET SNIIIIIPES and instakills her. That’s what Potatoman has on offer.
4 bucks on Steam. Sadly, the best part of it is how it is beatable and refundable. Only for the pettiest of gamers. To everyone else, stay clear of this dumpster fire.