A couple of weeks ago, I finished Donkey Kong Country Returns. I was warned that it would be tough. I was told I could get assistance. I resisted, until the end when I let Nintendo finish a game for me. I have no regrets.
Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii is a difficult side-scrolling platform game. The player makes Donkey Kong runs to the right, jumping and collecting bananas and tries not to fall off ledges, tumble into spikes, stumble into bad guys, or die in any of the myriad ways side-scrolling Nintendo heroes often do.
The game was easy early on but very tough late. The developers are merciful, though, and allow the player to rack up free lives. If you die eight times, you can activate the "super guide," a feature Nintendo introduced a couple of years ago in a Super Mario game. It lets the player cede control to the game system. The computer runs through the level for you. Your brown-furred Donkey Kong is replaced by the silver-backed Super Kong. He gets the job done.
Pride kept me from using the Super Guide. But pride melts once one reaches the lava levels of this game. I was using the Super Guide even earlier than that, letting the computer play through tough levels for me, though pride compelled me to go back and then replay the level myself. I marveled at how much easier game levels were once I could see the path through them. Once I reached the lava levels, I didn't care about replaying levels. I just cheerfully played the levels I could complete and let my Wii play the levels I couldn't.
(Beware! I am about to spoil the nature of Donkey Kong Country Returns' final boss)
I believe that we who play games want some sort of resistance. If a game doesn't require us to struggle, if the game is all decline and no incline, there's usually little fun in victory. I'm not sure those of us who play games, however, should be happy with cliches. The final boss of Donkey Kong Country Returns wasn't simply difficult, he was a floating head with two giant floating hands. If you've played a few games from Nintendo, there's a chance you've fought a bad guy like this before. He'll swipe his hands at you! Beware his clap! I dealt with that kind of obstruction when I was playing games on the Nintendo 64 a decade ago. I let Super Kong take over. I let him sweep the cliché away. Victorious, I had finished the game.
Nintendo introduced its helper system to get us through hard parts of games. I hear from many games who consider the feature an affront to the spirit of pure play. They wouldn't use it. I did. And if I could use it in the future, I would — not necessarily when a game gets tough, but when a game gets clichéd. I will happily let Nintendo and other game companies play the parts of games I've played before. I'll take over when the game gets interesting again.