Today I'm gonna try to stay off the computer--a solid day of clickfest yesterday left me with a sore clicky hand. Which sucks, because everything I need to do is digital. Oh, well, this is the price I pay. Lousy gameplay still, but so clever. It burns!
For example, one of the finest upset sequences in this sort of game I've ever played. You make your way through the viking tomb, you slay undead by the score, you collect the keystones to open the door, and you get to the endboss. The endboss is a twelve-foot-tall undead viking skeleton sitting on a throne with the last key you need in his hand.
Everybody on earth knows what happens next. You grab the key, he comes alive, you fight him. It's beyond obvious. So obvious, in fact, that instead, you kick the skeleton in the shins repeatedly while saying "I know you're awake. I'm not an idiot! I know what's going to happen if I grab that thing!" and finally the skeleton grudgingly admits that yes, it's awake, you've ruined its surprise, and then sits and sulks, until through a combination of verbal abuse and a hot Valkyrie, you wind up haranguing the giant skeleton and its sledgehammer through the tomb, so that it can kill all the other undead and prove itself valorous enough for Valhalla. It had such endearingly goofy battlecries when confronting the other undead--"Who's tomb is this?! That's right, it's MY tomb!"--and the whole scene was so wonderfully unexpected that I giggled through the entire sequence. You never actually fight him at all. It was a great alternative to Another Damn Endboss. It required nothing much in the way of extra programming, it used all the same features that existed in the game already, but out of probably hundreds of thousands of animate skeleton encounters I've had in the course of my video gaming career, this is the only one I remembered for more than five minutes.
I think the worst problem with video game writing is that it's done by committee. It's the same reason that a lot of movies suck. Creativity by committee isn't. The death of adventure gaming can probably be tracked to that exact fact. And it's a cryin' shame, really, because getting a good writer on a game and letting them actually do their job makes all the difference in the world.