(Quick note: blog posts are officially on Tuesdays now!)
Lena and I have been playing the Playstation 2 video game, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We have been entertaining ourselves thusly both in anticipation of the upcoming movie and book, and because Lena really likes Harry Potter games. (As a male gamer, I tend to jump on any opportunity to get my wife to game with me, no matter what the subject. Barbie’s Horse Adventure anyone?)
This particular installment in the series has been a little different from previous titles in both the way it pretty much entirely sidesteps the actual goings-on of the movie, and in that it kinda sucks. There are dozens of quests and challengers for which the reward is literally no more than a check next to the quest name, the combat is by turns so easy that it feels like a needless interruption, and so difficult that you want to throw down the controller and pitch the game disk out into traffic. (Which you can’t do because you were at least smart enough to have rented the game instead of shelling out the fifty bucks to buy it.)
But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about.
When it comes to video games Lena and I are weenies. We tend to crash into the learning curve at the point most twelve year olds start to really get interested. Goblet was a perfect example. In an apparent effort to replace any sense of accomplishment with intense feelings of fury, there are numerous stretches in the game where every enemy you dispose of, by any means at all, is immediately replaced (poof!) with a brand-new, undamaged one. This also invariably happens in areas where there are plenty of environmental puzzles and obstacles to solve. These usually involve lots of backtracking, slow-cast spells, (which getting hit by a monster will force you to restart) and careful observation of your surroundings. Lena and I immediately discovered which of the the following?
A) Dodging skills, combined with careful game-play, rewards the gamer with a surplus of pick-ups, power-ups, and treasure.
B) Thorough planning and utilization of the game’s customization features can help the player overcome any obstacle he is presented with.
C) Dying 5 times on a level results in starting over at the very beginning no matter how far you had gotten.
D) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire makes you fight with your spouse.
If you guessed C and D you win a life-time supply of postage stamps from your local grocery store. (Just tell ’em Shamus sent ya!) If you guessed A, B, or both, you’re either under thirteen and finished the game in forty-five minutes, or you’re attached to the game-designer’s PR department.
This story does have a happy ending though. Having realized years ago that Lena and I both suffered from Video-game weenieism, I purchased a cheat device for my PS2 called a Game Shark. This device allows you to research codes for specific cheats for your game on their website. In our case, Infinite Frogs. You see, every level in Goblet you get five Chocolate Frogs. Every time you need a Rez, it uses up one of your frogs. Die five times, and it’s a total do-over. Now however, we can actually relax and enjoy playing the game, knowing that however many times we die, we can always count on popping right back to life. It has even started a brand new mini-game, just for us, within the context of the larger game.
Lena and I play Hermione and Ron, and let the computer (which is quite dim) play Harry. It’s extra fun to maneuver so that we can solve puzzles while Harry is getting beaten black and blue by salamanders, giant vampire mosquitoes, fire-breathing dragons, and anything else we might happen against, and no matter how much he dies, he’ll never use up any of our frogs.
I just wish the Game Shark had a code for keeping your horse clean in Barbie. Washing horses is hard.
P.S. I get a fair amount of email asking me questions about the comic, the stories I write in the blog, the toothpaste I use, whether or not I think facial make-up is okay for men… (I swear, I am not making this up.) Anyway, Lena suggested that I ask you guys to email your questions, and I will pick the best ones and answer them in a future blog post. Don’t post the questions, we want them to be fresh for all the readers, but rather email them to me here: firstname.lastname@example.org