Another game Stephen Totilo got to first that I was curious about was Half-Minute Hero, the game where you really only have 30 seconds to beat a level.
The game's concept sounded simple enough to me – you play as little 8-bit characters that riff on classic role-playing game tenants and have 30 seconds to get through various levels that open up on a world map. However, when I picked up the game and actually started to play, I couldn't figure out which buttons did what. Then, with 10 seconds to spare on the clock and about two inches shy of the boss encounter, my character was suddenly naked and without a sword and shield.
No other game has ever made me say "What the $%&@" out loud before. It took me and four other games journalists half an hour to figure out what exactly happened. Apparently, when you stop in a town (where the timer so graciously pauses most of the time), you can pray at a Goddess statue to reset the timer back to 30 seconds. To do this, you have to shell out 100 gold initially and then 200 gold the next time you do it and so on. If you don't have enough gold, the Goddess will still reset the time, but at some random point during your game, she'll show up and strip you naked — also, the timer apparently won't pause in towns anymore.
Really, it was the damndest thing — not just being naked, but the whole concept of only have 30 seconds to get from one end of a map to another. Half-Minute Hero feels more like a puzzle game than an action game, really. The sooner the player grasps that and starts plotting out exactly where to go and when to pay the Goddess to reset the timer, the less time they'll spend yelling "What the $%&@" at their PSPs.
Here, have some screens: