Like, what's the perfect balance in a puzzle game for you? Do you want to be stumped for 30 seconds? Or do you want to go to sleep, still thinking of the answer?
How about an action game? Do you want to die the first time you meet a boss? How many times?
Or do you prefer pastoral cakewalks that don't test your gaming skills?
I think gaming was probably a bit too difficult in the NES era (to give more 'value', probably), but I find a stiff challenge really refreshing these days, due to the changing environment. I guess it makes more sense that developers now allow people to see more than the first couple of levels, but I do feel that most games are somewhat pointless without any sense of challenge (although there are exceptions, like Animal Crossing).
I guess it comes down to the reason you play games. Some people play games to escape to another world for a while. I play them mostly for Carnival-esque thrills, to quicken my pulse in an enjoyable way. And I need some form of challenge. Otherwise, I get little satisfaction from playing the game (Wind Waker). At the same time, I don't like being stuck in the same place for too long. I think puzzle balance is perfect when it takes me 10-20 seconds max to think of a solution (but I still have to think about it). On the other hand, I don't really enjoy puzzles that are just a matter of laboriously executing an obvious solution. For my tastes, Twilight Princess was perfectly balanced in terms of puzzles (but not combat). Professor Layton got a bit too punishing at times - especially the bonus puzzles. I love Picross, but some of the gigantic puzzles are kind of frustrating. (It may just be that I don't know the advanced tricks yet, though.)
I'm playing Shiren and Super Mario RPG (both for the first time) right now, which makes for a stark contrast. I've never really enjoyed traditional RPGs, because they don't seem to require any thought. Just tedious grinding. The strategic options seem pretty much non-existent, when you face the exact same configurations of enemies with the same abilities over and over and over. The Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series manage to be fun in an arcadey way, which makes them bearable for me, even though they are fairly easy. Ditto for Mega Man Battle Network. And while Super Mario RPG has some of those aspects, they are less polished and impactful, and the battles seem a lot more repetitive (and plentiful). It feels like I'm just repeating the same battle over and over. Because I am. Over and over. It's an okay game (especially for the time), but it kind of feels a bit tedious to me.
Shiren (DS), on the other hand, is ALL strategy. Sure, you may be able to coast through some of the earlier levels, but when you reach the more deadly areas - god damn. Every STEP you take is a strategic decision. You're always on your toes, because if you don't make intelligent use of the specific items you have against the specific monsters you encounter, you WILL die. And that makes the game tense and gripping, even though the mechanics and aesthetics are super-rough and basic. It can seem unfair at times, but most deaths are avoidable. After dying, you generally realize that another strategy would have worked, which is especially good training for hoarders like me that end games with 100 health items and full grenades, when given the chance. Most RPGs get easier and easier as the game goes on, which is kind of a funky, improper difficulty curve (it may be 'empowering', or whatever, but it's not like the genre exercises any other gaming muscles, like a Metroid game, which has a similar inverse curve). Not Shiren, though. That line just keeps on slopin' upward.
I guess Shiren plays more like a (super-hard, random) strategy RPG, a genre that I HAVE always enjoyed for its tactical focus. One interesting wrinkle is that enemies in that game have fairly complex behaviors, and you won't know what they are until you encounter one. Much of the time, you will die and then have to start the game over, a little wiser. You'll get a little farther, and probably have to repeat the cycle again and again. That is sort of unfair, I guess, but I haven't checked any FAQs, or anything, because that aspect of Shiren sort of enthralls me, even though it should frustrate me. Like Mr. Driller. It's ridiculously difficult, but it keeps me coming back for more, instead of repelling me. Shiren really is a fascinating game. The balance and randomization make it nigh-infinitely replayable.
Anyway, how about you guys? Are you masochists or do you enjoy fluffy bunny games?
@Mr_Mustache Hehe, cool! That happened to me in Prof Layton and Braid recently. I didn't solve them on the first try, but it only took a few tries and the puzzle clicked, when I had spent an hour or more debating the solution previously.
Trace Memory for me. I was wandering around for 2 weeks trying to find some stupid item to do what I wanted, and it turned out to not be an item, but some other way to solve it.
I switched to Manic Miner because I was stuck in NEQ...
Picross just got to the point where I'd fall asleep from staring at it rather than making any progress. Myst was before Gamefaqs, and at the end I got stuck and dug around in the disc looking for videos that I hadn't seen. That was the only place I was stuck though. Riven I got stuck and just gave up. :p Exile is in my closet, never opened.
Trauma Center was the most frustrating though, so much that I had to just get rid of the game.
Zack & Wiki I got stuck on a couple bosses, when I didn't even know what I was supposed to do. So I looked it up because it's too much work to go through the whole level to get to the boss each time you die. :p
I was thinking while beating Spirit Tracks that in "experience"y games I like to beat the end boss the first time. Especially if there's a second part to it. Like in Ocarina of Time (still the ultimate experience game to me) when he turns into Ganon. I beat that part on my first try and am very happy that I did because if I'd died it would have taken me out of the experience.
That said, in most games I want a challenge, something that's satisfying when you finally pull it off and get rewarded with the credits.
More recently...hmmm...MegaMan 9 frustrated me to the point I stopped playing it. Spirit Tracks was damn tough as well...some of the puzzles HAVE to be amongst the most difficult in Zelda history. I finished Darksiders about a month ago in approximately 19hrs, I would say that game had just the right amount of difficulty; sometimes I had to literally pause the game and sit and think until i figured out what to do, but never to the point of frustration.
heck yeah, unless it's that dumb I'm stuck moment. Like when you have been playing a game for hours and can't figure out how to solve a puzzle, so you put it down for the night and come back to it in the morning and solve the puzzle in 2 seconds :) Banjo - Kazooie, Chrono Trigger.. I'm talking about you two!!