The absolute WORST water levels - ClassicRadar
Summer's a wonderful time of year. There are barbeques to be had, long naps to take, and a huge backlog of games to catch up on while we wait for the magical AAA dump truck to come around, just as it does every October. But summer's also a pretty hot time of year. Now, we could just go hop in a pool to cool off, but our frail, gross bodies aren't exactly fond of the water. Nor are our fingers of water levels.
The best water levels are arguably ones that don't affect the way a game plays: At least then great games aren't crippled by sluggish controls and a totally-not-fun air timer. In any case, we thought it time to revisit a ClassicRadar piece written by alumni Brett Elston about the most ill-conceived idea to ever fall our beloved medium, with a few new additions to keep things feeling fresh. Prepare to take a dip in the worst water levels games have to offer.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The regular game: So-so platformer with four playable characters. Jumping was loose, enemies were kinda cheap and it was hard as balls, but as young uns we forgave all this because it was OMGTMNT.
The water level: A downright rude attempt at utilizing the turtles natural reptilian abilities. As water-faring creatures, youd think theyd be able to navigate tunnels with ease, but of course the controls are sluggish and unresponsive, leading to tons of unnecessary damage from electrical beams, rotating death poles and stinging algae that line every possible surface. Excessive obstacles in an area that handles like shit? Sounds awesome.
Super Mario Bros.
The regular game: A revolutionary platformer that helped revitalize a collapsed video game industry, and make Mario a household name.
The water level: We grew up playing Super Mario Bros.--it's a cherished game that will forever be of great importance. But if you happened to perform a series of jumps and odd tricks just so, you'd find yourself stuck in the infamous Minus World, a rehash of an admittedly just-fine water level, but with a twist: it never ended. This demonic realm mocked your every attempt to swim to freedom; should you successfully reach the end, it would warp you back to the beginning of the stage, creating an endless loop that could only be escaped by powering down the NES. Talk about evil.
The regular game: A gorgeously animated side-scroller with unconventional level design. Eventually spawned sequels, an animated series and a toy line.
The water level: Drops Jim into a slow, obnoxiously clumsy dome that you have to carefully guide through treacherous, pointy caverns. The domes made of glass, so even the tiniest bumps chip away at it until the bulb collapses, killing Jim and forcing you to do it again. Oh, good.
Star Fox 64
The regular game: Classic interplanetary shooter that still stands as the franchises strongest entry. Most of the levels take place in space or on the surface of an alien world, allowing your ships agility to shine through with evasive maneuvers and combo-stringing abilities.
The water level: The Arwing sits back while you hop in the Blue Marine, a sub built without any lights to cut through the deep ocean. The result is a murky, sloppy and predictably difficult level in a game otherwise known for free-flying fun. Nintendo returned to this area in 2006s Star Fox Command and left the Blue Marine docked at home--maybe to install proper equipment for some kind of future debut?
Skies of Arcadia
The regular game: Beloved RPG with a charming cast, memorable world and colorful graphics. If we were to dip into the clich well and call something a romp, this would be it.
The water level: Much like TMNT and EWJ in that its another gloomy submerged maze that controls like butt. You plod around with stumbled hops like youre on the goddamn surface of the moon, and can only exit by walking up obscured ramps, all while exploring mundane, visually indistinct rooms. Further issue--Skies suffers from an alarmingly overactive encounter rate, which makes meandering through this underwater cave doubly horrendous. We almost viewed the dive suit as a chance to play without having to worry about constant random battles, but uh, well take repetitive sword fighting over walking slowly in utter confusion.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The regular game: Groundbreaking sequel that expanded what a videogame adventure could be. Just point Link to the horizon and youre guaranteed a memorable journey.
The water level: The go-to shit water level thats become the standard all others are judged against. To mimic water, the controls are muddled and every action slowed to a crawl, which we can all agree is the biggest gameplay pain in the ass known to man. Its also dark and hard to differentiate one area from the next, though the biggest hurdles are from the actual structure of the dungeon itself. You cant swim up or down at all. You equip iron boots to sink and trudge along the bottom, then unequip the boots to rise back up to the surface. This requires you to pause, go to the equip screen, select the boots, back out and then slowly. slowly sink to the desired location.
Conker's Bad Fur Day
The regular game: A delightfully lewd action-platformer following the drunken adventures of a sex-crazed squirrel.
The water level: A god-forsaken maze of underwater darkness. Apparently the developers at Rare thought it would be enjoyable to explore a frustratingly dim labyrinth while evil robot fish things chase you around. If that wasn't annoying enough, you have to manage both your oxygen levels and your headlamp's battery life--which is to say, if either of them run out, you're screwed.
Kingdom Hearts II
The regular game: Mind-blowing tag-team between Disney and Square-Enix that blends two distinct empires into one legendary action-RPG. Oh wait, thats the first one. The second is like that with more moping.
The water level: Unique, in that it does pull a water level by drastically changing the way the game is played, but in this case its not with impractical controls or a fidgety camera. Instead, you have to sing along with Ariel, Sebastian and the rest of Atlantica (from The Little Mermaid) as countless fish prance around to a busted-ass rhythm minigame. Weve established that one of the key annoyances of all water levels is the drastic change in how the game handles, both in character controls and the in-game physics. Kingdom Hearts II manages to avoid these ongoing problems by completely switching the genre with a lazy, torturously long minigame. Which is worse?
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
The regular game: Breathtaking run-and-jumper that took the best parts of Tomb Raider and dragged them out of the 90s.
The water level: While the rest of the game makes you feel like a daring adventurer capable of leaping through ruins, scaling walls and disarming trigger-happy villains, this effing jet ski handles like a pregnant dump truck on ice and forces you to stop dead in the water to shoot. If youre going to take the time to make a raging rapids level, and force us to sloppily churn a path through a river loaded with rocks and bombs, at least let us fire off a couple of rounds while were zipping along. As it is, stopping allows the flowing water to push you backwards as you attempt to line up a shot, making this the worst PS3-exclusive water level to date.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
The regular game: Pits the entirety of the Marvel universe against its biggest villains in a four-player brawl-fest. Basically a modern-day Gauntlet with super powers.
The water level: Rather than just let you roam around Atlantis freely thanks to some magical Dr. Strange spell, you have to creep through the water as if youre flying through syrup. As with every single level on this list, its not horrendous in short bursts, but the amount of time they force you to cope is unreasonable. Ultimate Alliance relies on a lot of backtracking, so youre often grabbing keys or flipping switches in one area and then retracing your steps to some previous room. Not an immediately repugnant device, but when youre floating along at a snails pace, even Mephistos fiery hell sounds better than soggy old Atlantis.
The regular game: Luscious first-person adventure that finally made you feel like a lone bounty hunter marooned on a deadly planet. The whole world is your playground, which sadly must include some kind of water area.
The water level: Fugly, dark, and downright troublesome. As with most Metroid games you eventually find gear that lets you move through water as if it doesnt exist, but until then you have to trudge near-blindly through a submerged spaceship while enemies knock you off any platform you manage to find.
Sonic the Hedgehog series
The regular game: Run right really fast.
The water level: Bring Sonic to a screeching halt and force you to breathe scattered air bubbles to stay alive, completely ruining the breakneck pace of the entire series. When you build a franchise around speed, you need to stick to it. We suppose the idea was to take speed away just long enough to make us miss it, but if thats the case, it backfired horribly. Plunging us into dreary levels devoid of any sense of acceleration or the rush of a good loop de loop only makes want one thing--to stop playing. And thats pretty much how we feel about water levels in general.
Are your most hated water levels on this list? What did we miss? Or do you not mind them all that much? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you're looking for more, check out 8 reasons Assassin's Creed games are secretly about cats and the normal stuff we can't see without thinking about video games.