The inspiration for this week’s column came from a rather unusual source – it isn’t every day that a potentially nasty accident inspires an article about video games, after all.
The facts are these: I was driving home from work along my usual route, listening to my merry tunes, when out of the fog and the darkness loomed, of all things, a human leg. For the briefest of moments it appeared to be suspended, disembodied, in the air at about bonnet level, its booted foot pointed straight down towards the ground.
In that instant, it seemed as though the mysterious glue that keeps reality neatly cobbled together had suddenly become unstuck; like a character in a Philip K. Dick novel, I began to feel a curious twinge of paranoia in that split second – what was this bizarre artifact from another dimension?
It transpired, as I swerved to avoid the spectral appendage, that the truth was rather more prosaic than it first appeared; the apparently disembodied leg belonged to a man who, for some unknown reason, had decided to bend down behind a parked car to pick something up, leaving his foot sticking out into the road like a demented ballerina.
For some reason, the incident reminded me of all those weird moments we occasionally endure, when the coding that lurks behind our favourite (or not-so-favourite) video games goes awry, and we get stuck on a piece of scenery or dissappear through the floor. Here then, is my list of memorable dodgy moments…
Goldeneye 007Year: 1997 Platform: N64 Glitch: Magical railings Not a real glitch as such – more of a programming flaw, really – this was nonetheless quite amusing and rather useful once you’d found it. In the whacky world of Goldeneye, skinny metal railings provided as much protection from bullets and explosions as a solid brick wall – hide behind one, and not only would you be safe from enemy fire, you’d be miraculously hidden too.
Tomb Raider: UnderworldYear: 2008 Platform: Wii Glitch: Trapped Lara Graphical glitches are one thing, but bugs that render a game impossible to complete are in a different league altogether. For reasons best known to its programmers, the Wii version of Tomb Raider: Underworld lacked a vital lever on one of its final stages, leaving Lara trapped for eternity in a Thai catacomb
Jet Set WillyYear: 1984 Platform: ZX Spectrum Glitch: Endless loop of death In the early days of gaming, when bug testing was perhaps less thorough than it is today, it wasn’t at all uncommon to encounter a glitch or two. Jet Set Willy contained one of the most irritating: falling too far in certain areas of the game (usually in situations where Willy fell from one into another) would leave you in an inescapable death-and-respawn loop which repeated itself until all your lives were gone. And because this was 1984, when games were brutally hardcore, you had to start all over again from the beginning.
HazeYear: 2008 Platform: PS3 Glitch: Disappearing everything It’s difficult to pick out one solitary glitch from a game so full of them, but the ‘disappearing everything’ bug took the biscuit. Certain parts of a level would fail to load on occasions, leaving the hapless player floating in empty space.
Zelda: Ocarina of TimeYear: 1997 Platform: N64 Glitch: Spooky horse riding A rare occurrence, but if Link tried playing the Ocarina while riding his trusty steed, Epona, he would occasionally find himself floating several feet in the air rather than sitting safely on his saddle.
Streetfighter IIYear: 1992 Platform: Arcade Glitch: Invisible handcuffs The improbably coiffured Guile had a bizarre trick up his sleeve that almost certainly wasn’t meant to exist – throwing an opponent and immediately executing a flash kick would (if you timed it correctly) result in the hapless victim’s wrist apparently stuck to Guile’s for the rest of the bout.
So there you have it: a few of my favourite glitches – or at least the ones that sprang to mind after a strong, nerve-steadying drink…
Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.
15 January 2009