If I was to state that video games are increasingly focussed on multiplayer and online elements, you might ask where I’ve been for the last ten years. However, I still think that the concept and evolution of multiplayer games is an interesting topic, especially to someone as bad at video games as me. If you enjoy an easy victory then fine. But not being invited to be in friends’ raiding parties or Splatoon teams hurts. It’s like high school sports all over again. So here I want to look at multiplayer games that are fun to play even if you’re rubbish at them!
I’m clearly not going to cover every nuance of multiplayer games here, I don’t want this post to be ten thousand words long (unless someone wants to give me a degree for it?), so I’ll focus on a couple that do it well.
First up is Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo, 2013):
So what do we have here? Familiar faces? Yup! Familiar platforming (after playing both Super Mario Galaxies)? You betcha! But Super Mario Galaxy was too difficult for me and whoever invented Spring-Mario is in trouble when I run into them!
So yeah. This game is super fun to play in co-op mode. The 3D design is a bit like the Mario Galaxy games, but most of the levels feel more linear, slightly more traditional. You move around a map which contains many worlds, unlocking levels as you go and collecting stars a long the way. When you reach the end of the world, there is a castle. There is a girl to rescue, but it’s not Peach. Oh no. She is a playable character in 3D world, and happens to be the one I play as (as I do in Super Smash Bros, but that’s for another time…)
Up to four players can pick from four playable characters, each with slightly different abilities. Mario is an all-rounder, Toad (♥) can run really fast, Luigi can jump the highest and Peach can float. Somehow I find that this floating ability suits me, as it means I can often land a jump, even if it is slightly mistimed or misdirected. Tactically, it may be that some levels are easier with a particular combination of characters, but generally my experience of this game was playing co-op, me as Peach with another player as Toad.
Even in co-op the game is tricky, and one of the main challenges of playing cooperatively is trying to all stay on the screen at the same time. I’m quite bad at this, as I like to charge forward, just to try to get to the end. This is particularly difficult if you happen to be in cat mode, as this sometimes offers an alternate way to ascend the level’s walls. I also tend to fall off stuff quite a lot, which means my co-op partner had a lot of hanging around to do, waiting for me to get back into position in order to proceed – I don’t suppose you can play this game in split-screen?
However, co-op definitely makes the game easier. You can help each other. For example, if one player picks up an item but doesn’t need to use it, then they can drop it for a partner in need. Some levels also have balancing puzzles, where players can act as weights and counter-weights, in order to assist each other across treacherous gaps. If you become frustrated by your co-op partners’ lack of urgency, you can even pick them up and thrown them. Although I don’t approve of this.
Ok, so Super Mario 3D World is a co-operative local multiplayer with a fairly meaningless points system, you could say this makes it competitive as well, but only on a very casual level. What about actual competitive multiplayers though? They take so many forms that I’m not sure where to start, and although it is certainly a popular genre for multiplayers it isn’t going to be with shooters. The only competitive shooter I know anything about is Gun Gale Online (wink wink), I’ve never even played Splatoon (although I REALLY do want a Tent-a-Brella). So what on earth can I talk about here?
Ok, don’t laugh at me, I know this is pretty old-school, but my favourite competitive multiplayer game is Worms (Team17, 1995). I must have been about 11 years old when I started playing Worms (I think it was the original game, but possibly with the Reinforcements add-on), and my sister was my main competitor. Everyone knows how Worms works right? Bazookas, homing missiles, hand grenades and sheep, all expertly directed at your opponent’s Worms (and sometimes, your own). If you like you can change the names of your worms (me and my sister usually chose characters from Star Trek: TNG, and then competed to see who could kill Worf in the funniest way), and you could even make them talk like the Beatles.
The aim of the game is simple, i.e. destroy all you opponents worms before they destroy yours. Upon completion of a round it provides you with a (often hilarious) statistical rundown of how you did. The timer added a sense of urgency, but the controls were really simple – just aim with the cursor and either press or hold down a button to fire (depending on whether or not you’re using a variable power weapon). Since your worms are all stationary whilst aiming, it was just a case of lining the shot up right (and remembering to run away afterwards when using dynamite!).
This makes it accessible to most and it is possible to just pick it up and play (even after a beer or two). Many of the best moments in fact come when you slightly misjudge an attack, resulting in the destruction of your own worms (Oi! Nutter!). Anyone can make these mistakes, not just people like me! In fact, the comedic nature of the game is so good, that it is *almost* better to be rubbish at it – there is NOTHING better than aiming a full-powered homing missile at yourself (apart from possibly something involving ice and the ninja-rope)! You could even say that the entertainment factor outweighs the competitiveness of the game, and therefore you won’t be judged or excluded for being rubbish, but you still get a great deal of satisfaction from winning.
Right then! Are you a fan of multiplayer games? If so, are there any that you think I should try? Are you particularly choosy about your co-op partners or do you just like destroying your friends in competitive matches? If so stop it. But do let me know below.
Mario 3D World is out now on the Wii U
Worms (and its various sequels) is out now and available on…no, wait, this will take too long! Check out Team17’s website for details.