As any born-again Christian will gladly tell you, we all walk around a little empty inside.
Some people fill that space with their job, with the success of their progeny, their well-rounded pursuits and hobbies or their prodigious collection of unusual pornography. Reading this it’s fairly likely you fill it with games – or if you’re like me, your game collection. Then one day I came to the light; when I found I could fill it with a little DS game called Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes.
It called out to me. As a shameless (or at the very least, unapologetic) pre-owned and rental gamer – it was rare enough that I buy a game on release, let alone without researching thoroughly its reviews and meta-score. Yet here I found myself – case in hand, day one – the events that had led to this uncharacteristic purchase only accountable as some kind of consumerism-based black-out.
I knew I would love it; from the moment I heard of its combination of match-three puzzling and unit-positioning strategy I was hooked – as sure as a five year-old who has just grasped the concept of a Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat ice-cream station. Some preternatural instinct told me this game would scratch an itch I’d only just realised I had.
Needless to say I completed it twice, played as every character and unit combination and assisted with a large part of the grinding work on my partner’s game when she needed levelling up. I’ve devoted at least a hundred hours to a game few people have played, and the majority of those were long before the far more popular HD edition was released.
A beautiful love story, I’m sure you’ll agree, but when the relationship inevitably ran its course (What? I’m a young guy. I can’t let myself be tied down to just one game) that familiar ache returned, and worse for the knowledge that it was possible to live without it. Heroes of Might & Magic, Bejeweled, Advance Wars; are all great games, none of which could quite satisfy that old hunger. It’s the same frustration I felt as a younger man, watching the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and being reassured that there was always Charmed – a stake in the heart if ever there was one.
As a serial monogamist it’s not the first time I’ve been left with these withdrawal symptoms. In the past I have naïvely tried to fill the gap Shadow of the Colossus left in my life with Twilight Princess, replace Resident Evil 4 with Resident Evil 5, Kingdom Hearts with every disappointing portable sequel. Of course it never works – a round peg in a match-three strategy game hole.
I am of course not alone in finding a particular thirst for a single game. There’s a reason millions dedicate hours every night to Call Of Duty, Halo and World of Warcraft. In the past I’m afraid to say I’ve scoffed at them for wasting so much time on the same game when there are hundreds of new experiences out there; but now I see they’re the lucky ones. Their addiction at least guarantees a regular resupply and a community of fellow devotees that understand the withdrawals between each fix. I doubt there is such a support network for a late-gen DS release turned sleeper-hit download title.
At least my partner understands my pain. She too has a similar monkey on her back – Picross DS. There may be supplementary patches in the form of Colour Cross and Picross 3D for her particular brand of cold turkey, but ultimately we’re both in the same boat. We both experience that gnawing feeling when playing an – admittedly enjoyable – new game: that it just doesn’t get you like ‘they’ did. In her words, she will sigh wistfully that it’s one of those games ‘I still think about sometimes’.
You could say it’s a blessing. To have a guaranteed joy button that never fails to offer a quick blast of entertainment. An evergreen game you just can’t play to death, as hard as you try. My only concern is that I just might – and then what will I do?
So please, this just became a cry for help. Tell me if you too have a sweet-spot game, and what you do to curve that craving. Do you just give in? Or do you off-set it with a variety of supplements? And most importantly of all, please, tell me if you have an alternative to Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes.