I remember getting quite far in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time before turning to a guide. It was probably the Water Temple that did it; that topsy-turvy dungeon with rising-and-falling fluid levels was a nightmare – so much so I’m pretty sure it was altered in the Nintendo 3DS re-release. Patches weren’t a thing when I was eight-years-old, though – but Nintendo Official Magazine most certainly was.
I distinctly remember the publication giving away two pull-out guides; they were only small, the size of an iPhone, but they saved my life. I played the rest of the adventure, from the Water Temple onwards, following the instructions laid out conveniently before me – and it’s one of my favourite games of all time. But I want to talk about guides, and whether you can still truly appreciate a campaign when you use one.
Because whenever I turn to guides, I can’t help but question whether I’m playing properly. I’m trying to finish off Hitman ahead of the sequel, and last night I started Colorado. I always try to get the 'Suit Only, Silent Assassin' run out of the way first, which is a bit dumb because it demands hours of experimentation. And I was getting my ass kicked by all the soldiers in the American farm, so I decided to pull up a video and copy it.
The thing is, while I obviously didn’t figure it all out myself, I was still able to appreciate the level design and how this “perfect” run fitted together; I was having my hand held, but I definitely enjoyed replicating what I was watching on YouTube – and isn’t the most important part having fun? Don’t get me wrong, I realise Hitman is a series built around experimentation, but isn’t it also entertaining watching it be mastered and then trying to mimic that?
Not too long ago, I played through Day of the Tentacle Remastered. I’m going to be honest with you, I primarily wanted the Trophies, but I also wanted to see what this classic adventure game is all about. I ended up following a guide which pretty much told me step-by-step what to do; I was following instructions like flat-pack furniture. But again, while I wasn’t really solving any of the puzzles on my own, I felt I was still able to appreciate the design.
But is it cheating? Am I robbing myself of the full experience? Or is it okay to follow steps as long as you’re still having fun? I’ve made it sound like I’m always turning to walkthroughs, but I must admit I do it rarely these days; I think games have gotten better at finding ways to guide you, and so I don't often hit the brick walls that I used to. But what do you think? Is it fine following instructions – or do walkthroughs strip games of their inherent sense of experimentation and discovery?
Do you ever follow walkthroughs to finish games, or do you prefer to figure everything out yourself? Do you turn to them when you’re stuck, or have you ever used one from start-to-finish? Can you still truly appreciate a game – even if you’re being told exactly what to do? Follow the leader into the comments section below.