Games you can't parse

There are some games that, visually or mechanically, you just can‘t wrap your eyeballs or brain around. I am most interested in the ones you can’t visually parse (could be for colorblindness reasons even), but if it‘s a design one you’ve got to be able to describe it well (like if you want to take a stab at describing the battle mechanics in resonance of fate).

Anyway! Here's spinpair, a game I've tried so hard to be able to look at but just can't. I know what's supposed to happen but:

  • - the "opposites" don't always look like opposites to me, especially the top and bottom fill ones.
  • - the fact you can rotate (spin!) the spaces 4 ways AND you have to pay attention to two (pair!) pieces at once is super tough
  • - it starts getting faster really quickly.
  • I just can't wrap my head around it. I've got another puzzle game I'll post later, but here's spinpair for now!

    Ohhh, I like this topic! I like all the strange little games for my strange little brain. I‘m going only mention a couple because doing a quick rundown of what I would put in this category I already got like 10+ games, so I’ll drop them bit by bit to let everyone participate.

    Also: this a thread I think has to a degree some overlapping with yeso's [thread about esoteric and off-beat games](, because weird games are to a degree are bound to be hard to read and understand, so I personally will try to avoid stuff that was already discussed in that thread unless I have something interesting to say about them from this perspective.

    So! Let's start! First off, I think Jeff Minter's stuff is going to show up here sooner or later, so we might get that out of the way, even though his games are generally more intelligent and well conceived than they look in making the player understand what's going on, but I'd like to mention **Polybius**.

    This is a game that I think belongs here for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is a VR title, or at the very least it's VR compatible, I think what happened was that it was initially released as a VR title but got a later patch making it compatible with regular screens?. In any case this is the way I played it and hooooooly cow (literally, because this game has a lot of cows, bulls and bovine animals in general for some reason!). It's an experience that starts low, with a first couple of levels that are kind of a softball to ease you in, then it starts ramping up, the mechanic and audiovisual ideas start stacking up, and by the end at the session everything gets so dense, rich and hard to parse through you don't even know who you are anymore. Also, it's a really good game! A fun arcade and immediately enjoyable game that also does a lot of interesting things with its aesthetics, definitely recommend it. Even without a VR headset!

    @“JoJoestar”#p77622 Hmmm this looks suspiciously to me like a game that you were able to visually parse! Or at least you didn‘t describe the part where you couldn’t?

    @“exodus”#p77623 Did you check the video? It ramps up after a bit. The flashing colors, the sound design and the way the whole sensory landscape builds up is what makes it hard to parse for me. It gets so complex and overwhelming it becomes very hard to distinguish for example the enemies from the background, the physical obstacles from the actual enemies or what is actually moving towards you VS what's a static element of the level.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding the idea for the topic and you mean games that are hard to read even knowing what the concept and mechanics are supposed to be? Or maybe it doesn't translate well from VR to a youtube video, I don't know, but for me it's a game I had a hard time figuring out what was going on with it.

    @“JoJoestar”#p77625 no, I think you‘re fine actually! I originally intended it to be games you can’t progress in because you can‘t see or understand what they’re doing, but I think this counts anyway - there‘s lots going in and it’s hard to know what anything is, so it works!

    @“exodus”#p77627 Phew, I‘m glad I didn’t smear the thread so quickly :_D

    And yes, in that sense I guess it's a weird one because, first, it's an autoscroller, so you make progress even if you don't want to or have any idea about what's going on. And second, because as I said, Minter is a smart developer and the game design actually accounts for the sensory overload by making for example your hitbox extremely small and the enemies' very big, or by giving a constant suply of 1ups. But yeah, it's a real trip and very confusing! Specially on VR.

    I actually had another game posted but removed the message after seeing I wasn't maybe quite getting it haha, I made a backup so I'll restore it later after some other folks join the conversation I think!

    i’ve been playing that super mario bros and there are bushes in the sky and clouds on the ground and i don’t understand

    This is evidently more of a « me » problem than the game design’s fault but I am simply too stupid to handle any form of multitasking micro-management. RTS were OK until Z and Warcraft 2 but Starcraft was already too much. Fortunately – and that’s not something I expected to say back in 1998 – I outlived them all! Ha!

    You were okay, Z, you were okay. This is not a problem of disliking the genre either. (I hate tower defense games, for instance, but they are slow enough for me to handle them.) I genuinely love the idea of real time strategy, I just can’t handle the "real time" part. Obviously their natural evolution and eventual patricide, MOBA, are also a big no-no for me.

    Great topic idea!

    This is probably not going to be a popular answer but, for me, this is where I put the Guilty Gear series after the first one and X and most other Arc Sys games. I love fighting games and I respect Arc Sys for their style and craftsmanship. But it's just too hard for me to tell what going on when I play these games. Everything is so fast and flowy, shapes and colors appear and disappear out of nowhere, the "weapon attacks" don't look like weapons half the time, I can't tell what's going to hurt me because it's a damaging strike/object and what's not going to hurt me because it's just special effects. It's all just very maximalist and a little too much for me to settle into. I'd like to like the new ArcSys stuff and maybe one day I will! But for now, this is where I'm at.
    [upl-image-preview url=]

    Dead Cells. All the glowy effects make it very difficult for me to see what‘s going on. It becomes so frustrating so quickly. I’ve put too much time into the game, I‘ve never beaten a boss, and I think I’m pretty decent at side scrolling action games. It really feels like beating my head against a wall, so it's not a game I will likey ever play again.

    _Hades_ has a similar issue, but it doesn't get to _Dead Cells_ level until late game, and only with certain boon combos. I was able to ID the problem ones, avoid them, and progress through the game quickly.

    I've tried to play Vangers about a half dozen times and never succeeded in figuring basicaly anything out

    It's bizarre, sure, but my brain has a hard time figuring out how to play it when it looks like it kinda sorta should be a top down racer

    Also not sure if words count, but I‘m totally unable to process more than a small amount fantasy jargon. I found FF XIII totally unplayable for this reason. Completely mystified about pulse, cocoon, grand pulse, fal’cie, l'cie, eidolon etc

    Hopefully this isn‘t against the spirit of the topic, but as far as mechanics I’ve never been able to parse in any game they're featured in, sliding puzzles:

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    Nothing in games makes me feel dumber than these. I always feel like I'm just bashing my head against the wall, rotating the same tiles in a circle over and over until I eventually stumble on the solution. Never feels like I've "solved" them, just brute forced through. Cannot make my mind, idk, see the steps ahead required to get every piece where it needs to be.

    As far as not being able to parse visually (and i don't mean the language):

    turn down your speakers for the gameplay on that one

    I love the bit generations series, but I don't think I ever truly figured out this one

    most modern FPS games I have no idea wtf is happening. not a fan!

    Okay so… Sentinel Returns, for the PSX.

    Listen, I don’t even know what to tell you about this one. I don’t even think I can begin to describe this game because, honestly, I don't even understand what's is supposed to be happening here. Even though I own a physical copy of it which I have played several times at this point. I think should be around somewhere (I’m not going to look for it though).

    This is a game that, same as Polybius (mentioned above), was attached to a peripheral. It was either light-gun compatible or designed for a light-gun, like the G-con 45 or any of the off-brand ones. I don’t remember playing it with a gamepad but maybe it was possible? It’s... kind of an RTS??? And chess? But not any of those things actually??? An RTS where you place weird geometrical shapes and structures over a map with a pistol pointed to the screen (lol), in very strange, barren and vaguely cronenbergian Myst-like environments. As I said, I don’t even know what the heck is going here, what they were going for, or what I was supposed to do.

    I don’t think it was a good game all things considered, or at least it didn’t feel that way the couple of times I have struggled with it, but maybe I would have liked it if I managed to dig deeper? I'm resistant to say so because if you look at the video, the issue is not poor on-boarding or mechanics not being properly explained. Take for example the way you move through the environment, which you do by stacking strange flesh towers in order to teleport from one place to another (I feel weird even just describing it!). And yet still, it feels like something interesting, like, I _want_ to understand it, it's enticing. At the very least, is an unique and interesting curio, and really one of a kind.

    I should try to find that copy!

    @“JoJoestar”#p77672 it‘s a cool game but yeah the rules are novel and the sequel has a disorienting (but cool) visual style. It’s a puzzle game btw

    The first game has a simpler look to it, which makes it more legible

    I'd put _The Sentinel_ alongside _Vangers_ and _The Void_ as games in which parsing is part of the game

    Contrast I suppose to The Witness which is about players getting their heads around things but it's clinical and antiseptic

    @“yeso”#p77674 Really strange they went for this nightmarish flesh constructs theme considering how the original game looks! Now that you said it I actually remember reading that in a review at the time, I got my copy around the time it was released, definitely during the PSX era.

    Is this what you want?

    I stopped playing Deadly Towers for the NES after about 5 minutes. The stage design looks like you move the character in a 3-D environment, you and the enemies are in 2-D. My brain wants me to think that I should be able to just move around or behind the enemies and not get hit, but because the game actually plays in a 2-D environment, I just get pummeled and die quickly.

    Also, if you fast forward into the playthrough and see the character fighting in an environment with stairs, this design gives me motion sickness.

    Yeah, that's the stuff! Also sorry to everyone for locking the thread - total finger slip accident!!