A bad video game is kind of like an ugly baby. You spend months waiting for it, staring endlessly at blurry pictures and reading page after page of information on it, crafting this wonderful image of it in your head. You might even dream about it, picturing yourself watching the title cards flash by, your fingers tapping the mouse in excitement. Then, review embargos are lifted and, in a bloody torrent of viscera and day one patches, it’s released into the world.
And it looks nothing like what you thought it would be.
We learn to love babies though. A deep seated biological imperative tells us that, no matter how obscene that little mewling creature is, it’s our job to ensure its survival. We must love it.
Why can’t we do the same with videogames?
I have a terrible secret: I kind of love mediocre videogames.
There’s no single thing that makes Brothers great. It’s not the setting (fantastic!), the story (classic!), or the soundtrack (sweeping!) All of these things, were they just put together, would be little more than a pale shadow of PS2-era classic Ico. Instead, Brothers manages to be more than just the sum of its parts.
What makes Brothers great is the deceptively simple control scheme. The left stick and trigger control the brown haired older brother, the right stick and trigger the blonde mopped younger. It starts off easily enough, with the smaller brother slipping through gates to unlock doors while the elder reaches switches just out of reach. Puzzles increase in complexity as the game goes on, but the controls do not, staying intuitive.
Controlling the older brother with the tried-and-true left stick feels effortless, a reflection of the kind of comfort with your body that only comes with age. The younger brother instead darts around, stumbling from place to place in a pale pantomime of his partner. It feels maddening at first, but you forge ahead.
It’s what having a younger sibling feels like. You’re perpetually the left stick, always sure and true, the fumbling of youth long left behind. Playing the game, it’s hard to not always find yourself leading with the elder brother, the left stick, the comfortable and experienced. Even when separated, I tended toward auburn teen instead of the young boy who wasn’t quite comfortable in his skin.
Amazing things happen with these controls, things that dip into the spoiler-y end of the pool, but which you’ll immediately understand when they happen. It’s this seemless blending of tactile feel and emotional theme that elevates Brothers into the realm of greatness.
You can tell a lot about a game from how rare its platinum trophy is.
It can tell you if the game was easy or hard, critically panned or universally beloved. You can tell if the multiplayer was tacked on or well integrated, if the player base is still active or if the servers are on life support. You can tell if the developers have certain things in mind for the player or if they were typing up the list while the delivery boy waited for the gold master.
In the case of inFamous: Second Son, you can tell that Sucker Punch is damn proud of their game and wants everybody else to love it as much as they do.
Ladies? People of color? Everybody else who exists outside the socially prescribed norms? This article isn’t for you. You can stop reading after the first paragraph and I won’t get upset. This article is really for the straight, middle class, by-the-books, white men in your lives. Go get them and sit them down in front of the computer. Put a beer in their hand, maybe a nice cup of tea if they don’t drink, and leave the room. I’ll wait.
Okay, have they left yet? Good. Here we go.
It’s hard being a straight white guy these days, I know.
Back in 2001, I was a huge Penny Arcade fan. I’d print out strips and paste them to my dorm room door, exhorting the few nerdy guys in my hall to read them whenever they’d walk by, even if they had no idea what Red Faction was and why jokes about lepers were so funny. For the first time outside of my small social circle, there seemed to be people who were making jokes just for me.
It was Penny Arcade that first made me feel like being a videogame nerd was something normal. I’m sure it did the same for a lot of people, either through the strip itself or via regular pilgrimages to whichever PAX happened to be closest. I know people who found family in the Knights of Arcadia World of Warcraft guild, who lost themselves in the volunteer spirit for the first time with Child’s Play, and who could probably indirectly credit Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins with saving their lives. It’s intense. It was important stuff. Was.
But today, I’m done. The Penny Arcade I fell in love with over a decade ago finally died today and I’m not waiting around to mourn.
So you want to earn the Platinum trophy in Knack. I understand. It seems like it should be a pretty easy trophy to score. I mean, it’s a character action brawler aimed at kids with an aesthetic that’s two parts Pixar and one part box-of-Legos-emptied-on-the-floor. How hard can it be?
Knack is a surprisingly brutal and unforgiving game that’s reminiscent of throwback platformers like Maximo. It doesn’t hold your hand, even on Easy and it hands out trophies like a stingy grandmother dolling out fivers in birthday cards, unwilling to give many up but recognizing the fact that it has to. While most games give a bronze out at the end of every level, Knack waits until you beat a boss…after every fourth or so level.
In short, Knack is a mean as hell about formally recognizing your achievements.
But that’s okay, because I’m here to help point you in the right direction. Welcome to the Knack Platinum Trophy Guide.