Did you ever play The Longest Journey? I’m going to hazard a guess that most people haven’t as it whilst it received critical praise it didn’t sell anywhere near the amount that many games do today. Personally I think this was due to the type of game it was and the time it came out in (an adventure game that came out long after the golden age of said titles) but I’d also bet that countless people who did buy it never really got around to finishing it. Part of that will be because of its length, clocking in at over 40 hours, but if my experience was anything to go by it was pretty easy to get stuck on certain puzzles which just seemed nigh on impossible to get past.
People who played the game will regale you with many tales of woe with all the titles contained within that game but none of them leave as much of an impression as the infamous rubber ducky key getterer puzzle which is nigh on impossible to figure out by yourself. Indeed I spent so much time stuck on that puzzle that I ended up tracking down a walkthrough guide for it because every hour I lost in this game was another hour I couldn’t spend on Dreamfall, the game I wanted to play in the first place. At the time the use of the guide cause something of a stir within my friendship group with many of the points being centred around how I was missing the point of these kinds of games. However as time has gone on I’ve found myself referencing these kinds of guides more and, strangely enough, I’ve started to enjoy them more as well.
This was playing at the back of my mind as I was making my way through Primordia this weekend just past (I’m lucky enough to be on Wadjet Eye’s list of game reviewers now, so I have access to pre-release copies). Since this game hasn’t been released yet there’s no walkthroughs available and that meant that any puzzle that I got stuck on at one point or another meant I was pretty much stuck there until I could figure it out. Sure I eventually got past them all, usually after taking a break and coming back to it later, but I can’t help but feel that my opinion of the game would be higher if I didn’t have to struggle through some of those puzzles. Once I got into the mindset of the developer though the last couple hours rolled off without too much trouble but I still couldn’t help that feeling that a walkthrough guide would have improved my experience dramatically.
It was something of a strange realization as most of the time I’ve used them in the past has simply been to get past a section once I’ve been stuck on it for what feels like too long. I’m not religiously following them, mostly because that gets boring rather quickly, but having that get of puzzle free card certainly went a long way to eliminate any anxiety I might have. Indeed there were many times where I thought it’d be better just to wait for the guides to come out and then slug it out after that. Thankfully the drive to do the review on the day it was released (Wednesday this week, for those of you wondering) pushed me past this and now that I’m aware of this bias towards games with available walkthroughs I can account for it properly in the review.
I’m interested to see what the wider gaming community’s opinion is on this as walkthroughs have always been a slightly taboo topic, something we all know about (and likely use) but rarely ever speak about. Whilst I love a good challenge as much as the next guy there are times when being stuck at the same place for a long time just doesn’t feel like fun and a good guide can get you past them without too much hassle. Is that missing the point of the game? That’s something for you to decide and I’d gladly welcome your opinions on this.
Bar the shuttle there’s only been one mission in recent memory that has managed to capture the attention and imagination of nearly the entire world. That mission is the Mars Exploration Rovers, a pair of plucky little explorers that touched down on Mars almost 7 years ago today beginning a truly epic journey that lasted well past their expected lifetime. They also hold the crown of being conceived, built, launched and spending the better part of a decade on one of our closest neighbours in the universe in the time that it has taken Duke Nukem Forever to be developed. Their impact on the world and our understanding of the universe cannot be understated and it is with a sadden heart that I bring you this news today.
Even though they were, for all intents and purposes, identical twins Spirit always had the hardest time on our red sister. For the first couple years they were both chugging along quite well but in mid March 2006 Spirit’s front right wheel locked up and failed to respond. This meant that for most of its life Spirit was driving around backwards, dragging the dead wheel behind it. It was both a blessing and a curse to the little rover as the dragging meant it could image the crevices it was leaving behind, providing some insight that we weren’t expecting. There was a brief moment of excitement when the wheel began to respond again, but it soon stopped responding shortly after. The rear right wheel also suffered a similar fate several years later.
Then in 2009 Spirit became stuck in a soft patch of Mars soil. At the time it didn’t seem like a big of a deal, they’d been in similar situations before with both rovers and managed to free them successfully, but this one presented some major challenges. The soil was an insidious creation of mostly iron sulfate which has poor cohesion and is like quick sand to the rover’s wheels. NASA then spent 9 months testing various scenarios on earth in a desperate attempt to free the craft before the harsh martian winter before giving up and declaring Spirit a stationary research station.
With the rover stuck in the soil it was unable to orient its solar panels to a favourable angle in order to generate enough electricity to keep its components warm during Mars’ winter. This meant that once that time came it was likely that the rover’s electronics would be subjected to temperatures far below what it was designed to handle, likely killing it in the process. It’s the same problem that faced the Phoenix Lander and the unfortunate truth is that it didn’t survive the winter. Spirit went dark on March 22, 2010 and all attempts to contact it since then have been met silence. This means that the rover is no longer functioning, frozen in its final resting place.
Spirit may no longer be communicating with us but its mission lives on in its twin, Opportunity, and it’s future incarnation in the Mars Science Laboratory called Curiosity. There’s also the very real possibility that SpaceX will be launching a mission to Mars in the near future and that gives us the very real possibility that us humans could be meeting up with our robotic creations much sooner than we think. So while writing this article brought a tear to my eye I know that Spirit won’t be alone in the Martian soil for long and we’ll be seeing it again very soon.
So long Spirit.