It’s All Fun and Games
Another simple truth about video games is that they are meant to be fun. Even the more difficult games that make you wonder why you bought it in the first place have, at times, their own certain degree of fun, albeit in a slightly masochistic way. Grouping up with friends should, therefore, increase that fun, right? Unfortunately, it turns out that that’s not the case for all the co-op games that were released last year.
The Rock Bands and Guitar Heroes are, by far, some of the biggest selling co-op titles out there. It’s not really a secret why, either. Who could say no to putting together a rock band with a few friends and taking the world by storm as you play along to your favorite songs? It doesn’t matter how musically talented you are, it’s not about that. It’s simply about hitting the correct buttons at the right time and more or less carrying a bit of the tune to get you through the song. Whether or not you can play through a song on hard or expert has little to do with being able to just play the song and have fun. Of course, this experience could easily go another way if the co-op part of the game makes it more frustrating or needlessly difficult to play than playing it solo.
While it may seem a bit odd to be saying that co-op can ruin a game on a site devoted to co-op gaming, it is an unfortunate truth. Playing through a game like PixelJunk Eden with a friend, you might just find yourself asking your friend if he wouldn’t mind putting down the controller and stepping away from the video game. It’s not necessarily the fault of your friend, or even the fact that there is a co-op mode, but a combination of all the mechanics of the game. A game that is great and fun to play alone doesn’t mean it will be the same with a friend. All the elements that make the solo play fun may very well be the same elements that make it frustrating to play with a friend. Camera movement, control schemes, interesting physics, and other gameplay mechanics don’t always translate well into adding a “Player 2 Press Start” at the top of the screen. Games are meant to be fun and playing with others is meant to be fun, but if a game is primarily designed around a solo play experience, it should think twice before adding a “co-op with friends” line to the back of the box.
Here's to 2009
The co-op releases for 2008 have, for the most part, been great. Since Co-Optimus was started a year ago, we’ve seen a relative surge of great co-op games, with one game in particular receiving high praise from many enthusiast press outlets. While not every game could be a real winner, for every instance where the co-op experience was lacking (Fable II) or lead to more frustration than cooperation (Resistance 2), there were those games (Gears of War 2) that showed co-op gaming is still a desired game mechanic for many gamers. With 2009’s first big co-op release right around the corner, here’s hoping that this year’s co-op games will continue with the great trends of last year’s hottest co-op games and be even better.