What does a hardcore gamer do when he gets stuck in a game? He does this...

The painfully convoluted process of claiming my free copy of 3D Classics Kid Icarus on 3DS was a lot more hassle than I expected, but I'm very glad I did it. Not only because the new game is all the better for its 'Original Mode' with its tightened controls, but because the final fortress level got me proper lost. So, after an hour or so going round in circles, I did the unthinkable: I drew a map.

Yes, I know you can find the dungeon map and that you can buy a torch and a pencil to show you where you are and where you've been respectively, but it's not as simple as that. Some exits can only be reached from the ceiling, which means you need to know exactly where you are at all times. This needed the big guns.

Of course, this is 2012 so the first thing I did was to try using the built-in Game Notes app on the 3DS itself. But opening and closing that took forever, so this is as far as I got with that:

Above: Crap resolution and slow multitasking means 3DS is not well-suited to cartography

So I thought long and hard to myself, and that's when I remembered something from the hazy mists of my deepest memories. What was it called... A penguin? No, that's too far. A pen and paper. So I placed technology on the sofa and went for a hunt. Having drawn a few scribbles to clear dust from its tip, I started drawing. And this happened:

Above: Obviously it wasn't intended for worldwide publication so it looks a little scrawled. I might as well have put 'By Justin Towell, aged 29 and 3/4' at the bottom

It would have been quicker to go on Google, yes. But the fact is I was using my own initiative to overcome a problem and I suddenly felt very good about myself. Looking at the map, you can see my breakthrough moment, too. Having explored the rooms on the far left without drawing them, when I reached the top of the map, I knew the boss had to be somewhere up there. And it was.

Suddenly, I was out of the fortress and quite literally sky high as I sampled the 8-bits delight of free-flight in the game's final aerial shootout. I shot the big eye thing. I defeated Medusa. And I watched the end sequence with the smug satisfaction that comes from beating a rock-hard game using nothing but my wits, my gaming skill and a pen and paper. Would I have felt the same if I'd looked online for a map? No. That would have been:

Above: The 'real' map. Note that it is identical, pixel for pixel, to my own map (cough)

We may well have had the Top 7 maps that do more than just show you the way to go recently, but for all their clever-clever, fourth-wall-bothering, hoity-toity, yes madam, twelve please, graduation ceremony worthiness... all of them are missing the point. Gaming shouldn't always be about everything being given to you on a plate.


  • laserwulf - February 2, 2012 7:07 p.m.

    This reminds me of when I custom-designed a snowboard in Cool Boarders 2 for PS1. I sketched out the picture I wanted, and with semitransparent graph paper made a pixel-for-pixel overlay of an in-game board. I don't remember how long it took me to enter the info into the game, but the end result was a board that looked better than anything in the game. Somewhere I still have the memory card with that board on it.
  • TheVoid - February 2, 2012 11:36 a.m.

    Justin, all I have to say is...WOW. Old school indeed. It probably wasn't the last time I went (or at least attempted) the pen-and-paper videogame map route, but I fondly recall doing something similar for NES' Deadly Towers, a game that prided itself on making no sense whatsoever. Good game/bad game debates aside (I personally am quite fond of Deadly Towers, but then again that was from a time when you got a game as a gift and were thankful to add anything to your meager collection and as such played it to death regardless of quality), plotting out that map was INSANE yet remains one of my proudest gaming achievements. In fact, maybe that's why I'm not a fan of modern-day trophies/achievements, having hailed from a time when we basically made that shit up ourselves (or at the very least didn't need the game to pat us on the head for doing something special/irregular - it was all very self-congratulatory back then, in my opinion for the better).
  • Logic - February 2, 2012 4:33 a.m.

    This has inspired me to not use walkthroughs anymore. :D
  • pin316 - February 2, 2012 4:09 a.m.

    awesome article... i must admit, for a period of just over a year towards the start of the current generation I found myself looking for information online. More often than not it was because I looked at the achievements for a game prior to actually playing it, noticed some sort of collection-based one (collect x flags/banners/feathers etc) and couldn't be arsed to spend ages looking for them myself. However, once I started on that slippery slope it got worse - I would get stuck in a dungeon/level and find myself thinking ' i'll just look up this little bit '. Thankfully I realised this was slowly destroying the enjoyment I get out of gaming. The moment of realisation was upon playing through the rerelease of Monkey Island...I got stuck on a puzzle and almost went to look it up, then I thought to myself 'hang-on - this is bullshit...I loved this game first time around and back then I didn't have no stinking answers to just look up - I had to figure it all out myself, and it was bloody fantastic fun doing so!' Now I don't even look at achievements until I've finished a game for the first time...the only one that really matters is 'completed the game', and I want it to be an actual achievement, not just an indication I can use google.
  • Y2Ken - February 2, 2012 midnight

    That's a damn incredible map there Justin. Good job.
  • RonnyLive19881 - February 1, 2012 8:44 p.m.

    That first pic was completely unnecessary and worked for the DS Zelda games... other than that great article! I remember making charts that that when I was little and taking notes when beating A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening(documenting the heart pieces and shells I have and where I got them on maps I drew) it was fun!... I bet it would be fun to do with Skyrim...
  • ThisIsMyFuckingThirdAccount - February 1, 2012 3:04 p.m.

    And, for just a moment, old GR did shine through.
  • Ravenbom - February 1, 2012 10:44 a.m.

    I'm all the more impressed for the fact you didn't use graph paper.
  • Rhymenocerous - February 1, 2012 10:16 a.m.

    I absolutely loved this little story Justin. Games just don't make me write stuff down anymore. I remember always making notes and stuff for X-Com, and sometimes (brace youreselves, dear friends), graphs. That's right folks, GRAPHS.
  • TanookiMan - February 1, 2012 10:03 a.m.

    Myst came with a blank notebook to use while playing. I remember trying to draw out a map for traveling in that metal machine/ship thing.
  • chriszewski - February 1, 2012 3:17 p.m.

    My Myst came with the hint (hold your hand) book. Tried playing without it but i din't get very far with my still developing, 11 year old brain.
  • sirdilznik - February 1, 2012 9:35 a.m.

    This brings me back to playing Bard's Tale games at a friend's house on his Apple IIe and drawing maps using graph paper.
  • Mcan50 - February 1, 2012 9:45 a.m.

    I used to do the exact same thing! Bard's Tale on Apple IIe was awesome!
  • minimaxi - February 1, 2012 9:29 a.m.

    Aah, ye olde hand drawn map. Last time I did that was in Alundra on PS1. Good times.
  • samsneeze - February 1, 2012 9:29 a.m.

    A bunch of old games I've played where I kept pencil and paper on hand even if the dungeon was something simple. Saved me a lot of trouble from having to backtrack back and forth between the same area. In all honesty, most problems are best solved off screen. I remember when I bought Pokemon Sapphire used and stumbled upon the braille setup west of pacifidlog, writing them down on paper made things so much clearer as to figuring out what was what. Heck my brother made an entire level in Re-Volt for the Dreamcast on paper before spending another two hours in the editor perfecting the track. And you know what? It bloody rocked.
  • samsneeze - February 1, 2012 9:30 a.m.

    Overall yes, doing things yourself is more gratifying than simply looking them up online.
  • ultimatepunchrod - February 1, 2012 8:37 a.m.

    Agreed. Figuring stuff out on your own is much more rewarding, but the gamesradar app is sooooo useful.
  • wingsdjy - February 1, 2012 8:22 a.m.

    This reminds me of when I created a hand drawn map for the final labyrinth in the original Legend of Zelda. My brother played the game, while I drew up the rooms and marked which walls could and could not be bombed, which enemies we encountered, and where the underground staircases connected. We used it to find the most efficient way to get to Gannon. Good times indeed. It's probably still in my mom's basement somewhere.
  • Tymiegie - February 1, 2012 8:01 a.m.

    Well done Justin. I don't think I'd go as far as drawing a map, but I do agree with the general sentiment of your interesting story. Sometimes games need to tone back their hand-holding. Keep up the opinion pieces. I'm a little tired of the focus on news.
  • pr0tostar - February 1, 2012 7:30 a.m.

    Dude... [place internet brofist here.] I did this when i first started FFXI/first MMO.cMy friends and I wanted to explore this 3-floor mine dungeon, and I drew out a map of like 2 of the floors before learning where to get the game's map. I still have it in an info folder I compiled before the wiki resource days lol.

Showing 1-20 of 25 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000