The joy of frustration is hard to find

Let’s just toss this right out there on the table. I’m hooked on Spelunky on XBLA. Ever since the game came out several weeks ago my gaming break time has been spent trying to push through this damn hard game.

It’s always been hard for me to find games that I could both be challenged by and enjoy at the same time. More often than not, the games I truly enjoy don’t exactly keep me up nights, and the games that challenge me are often not played again once I’m done with them.

Spelunky manages to do both. I’m near the end but can’t quite get there yet, but have no desire to move on right now. I’m going to do this, damn it. I’m going to complete this game.

It got me to thinking about the last time a game managed to do this to me. Best answer I could give came back in 1990 when I picked up the Konami ass-kicker The Adventures of Bayou Billy.

Those who say games “used to be harder” would find a lot of disagreement with me. Most titles on the good ol’ Nintendo Entertainment System failed to give me much playtime. I typically would rent a game on a late Friday night and have it completed by the time I returned the game on Sunday morning, and I can’t even go into how many times my parents got mad that they’d paid $50 for a game for my birthday or Christmas, only for me to beat them while we still have leftover cake in the fridge.

Bayou Billy was a tough one, though. The first time you played through it you never really knew what was next. The different kinds of levels could easily throw you for a loop, not to mention the zero tolerance for even a slight error. Oh, and by the way, who put that flippin’ jeep exploding rock in the middle of the damn road?

I know some old NES games weren’t exactly known for their high-end sound effects, especially when they tried to sound human, but I came to hate the Bayou Billy deaths. “UGGGGGHH!” he’d yell, followed by a little ditty that lasted just long enough for you to reach your arm up all the way in the air as you spiked your controller on the floor.

Flat out, the game pissed me off. A good game could be ruined instantly by a frustrating combination of things, often when I had good items to boot. Yet I kept on. The game CHALLENGED me. I loved it for that, even if I didn’t like to admit it at the time. Sort of a Sam-and-Diane thing I guess (that’s a Cheers reference for you young ‘uns. It was a TV show. Wiki it).

The day I finally beat Bayou Billy was a joyous one. You’d have thought I won the Super Bowl® (registered trademark of the National Football League). No 30 man codes, here, folks. No sir. In this game we had to rely on the lives it gave us. Who’s sayin’ “UGGGGGHH!” now, jerkweed?!?

I can only hope Spelunky can provide that same kind of thrill WHEN I finish it off. It will make every sudden impalement, ticked off shopkeeper and snooty shortcut building guy worth it, assuming I don’t accidentally scare my kinds when this lofty day comes along.

Better be worth it, as who knows how long it will be before the next game that gives me that joy of frustration.