Thursday, July 30, 2009

I, Gamer: Cobra DIEangle

Mike here, on my sophomore post and realizing I should give my rants a bit more substance than making them into pseudo-walkthroughs. I'll try to make this a bit more focused, and add a few images for the hell of it. I'd like to talk about another Rare game, a classic from the late 80's when they decided that making games meant to break and dissolve the sanity of anyone who may have been willing to try them. One in particular stands out from my childhood as being awesome yet so incredibly evil. It was Cobra Triangle, an action/racing title that takes place on what I'm almost sure is the River Styx.

The game has no apparent plot aside from you're on a boat motoring through various streams and canals. I wouldn't doubt that Rare sacrificed all storyline to cram as much challenge into the game as possible. The result is twenty-four increasingly hellish levels with various goals with eight different challenges throughout. The gameplay is something I can best describe as R.C. Pro-Am, a previous Rare title, set on water and with more variety aside from racing, though this game does have a few such levels. The racing bits are the easiest in my opinion, and I find this ironic because I usually suck at racing games in general. It's not that they're cakewalks, and there are a few mean parts where you're required to take a leap of faith and hope you don't land on solid ground (which instantly blows you up no matter how soft the surface looks), but compared to fight... say, a scary sea monster, like the one featured on the title screen, racing is nothing.

Hell, taking on the dragons or the sharks or the giant enemy crabs aren't even all that bad. At least you're able to continue on the spot if you have enough bonus lives. Also, it does not hurt to grab every power pod you can find. Acting in a power-up system quite similar to Gradius, you cycle through the power-ups of increased speed, more powerful guns, homing missiles, and temporary invincibility. Isn't it frustrating to know that all your efforts to succeed can be foiled by your time running out? This is likely to happen in the Reach the Finish levels, where logs and whirlpools of doom (which would also appear in level 5 of Battletoads), and later instant icicles all impede your progress. Or what about the Destroy the Mines levels, where you have to drag explosives into the safe area while dodging this obnoxious prick who keeps trying to steal them back from you? Though, perhaps the most hated of all stages are the ones where you have to... ugh, Guard the People.

You worthless little dipshits can sink for all I care. Why would you go swimming in waters inhabited by hostile enemy ships and UFOs?! No, that's not a mistake. Amidst the abductor boats are saucers that fire homing paralysis missiles at you, stopping you for a few seconds which is just enough time for the ships to run off with your precious human cargo. For the most part, the game's relatively fun, but these stages are just far more infuriating than they should be. Maybe it's just my inherent hatred of protection missions where you're the sole force against a bunch of immobile jackasses who can't be assed to even pick up a small weapon for defense. However, I think I hate the Jump the Waterfall levels even MORE than guarding the people.

You die so fast on these stages that it feels less like a challenge and more like a slaughter. It's bad enough the ramps that you need to hit to jump the falls move left and right and it takes intense reflexes and a dash of luck to hit the ramps, but some pipesqueezer* saw it fit to place whirlpools in front of most of the ramps to boot. You might as well strap a bloody bomb to the hull of the boat that explodes if you drop below forty miles per hour while swimming on toxic waters full of jagged metal! The difficulty in CT feels very artificial and arbitrary at sometimes, and it doesn't help that you only have three continues amongst whatever lives you can find. Hell, I used to think that this game had unlimited continues until I realized that I used a Game Genie to give me infinite tries... and I STILL quit on the damn thing! That's right, I couldn't even beat CT with a Game Genie, and until I do that, I can't even hope to take on the thing in earnest.

There are some bonus stages that offer you more lives and pods to marginally increase the odds of you getting to see the end of this game, which act as the game's only reveal of mercy. You are offered no quarter otherwise. Cobra Triangle is an ambitious game that ultimately collapses under its own crushing pressure. It may offer old-school arcade-style fun at a fast pace and without any narrative, but if you're aiming to actually clear all levels, you will have to be devoted to beating it as an insane cultist is to a false messiah. Now if you're simply aiming to achieve a high score and no further, then I would recommend this endurance test to see how far you can get. Only the most insane need apply to kick this game's entire ass, and while my mind's getting there, I'm not locked in the loony bin just yet. If there's any game that's going to send me there, I swear on a stack of Nintendo Power issues that this game will be the foremost factor.

(Thanks to GiantBomb for providing the images.)

[* = "Pipesqueezer is a dubious adjective taken from the animated Super Mario World show. How it got past the censors, I don't know, but it's become a favorite word of mine.]


  1. Rare was know for making stupidly hard NES games back in the day. But to be honest I think many old school gamers long for the old days, when games made you want to smash you controller and curse profusely. Now all games are just cakewalks you call roll over in a few hours with little to no replay value.

    P.S. They could get away with saying "pipesqueezer" back then because it was the 80's and you could get away with anything then. :)

  2. Rare did seem pretty sadistic games back in the day. I think I rented Snake Rattle 'n' Roll 3 times as a kid and never quite beat it, always making very slight additional progress with each rental.

    I agree that we kind of long for this abuse sometimes. I think the closest we've come to lately is Bionic Commando: Rearmed, but I'll admit aspects of the game are a lot easier than the original (like unlimited continues). Actually, the new Bionic Commando was pretty damn hard, just not enjoyable enough to warrant retrying the same 5 minutes of gameplay over and over.

    Another thing I think Rare had going was a very unique control feel. I remember all the Rare games having a unique control that felt different than other similar games: Battletoads was an expansive beat'em up, and the beat'em up sections had a floaty but responsive feel. Snake rattle'n'rolls diagonal perspective took some time to get used to, then it was second nature.

    I say bring these titles back, for better or worse.

  3. I always hated the difficulty in classic Rare games. Does Battletoads have more than 3 levels? Most gamers never found out. Think of all the work the developers put into making huge portions of the game that almost nobody would ever actually see. Challenge is only fun up to a point and then it gets frustrating.