In my first installment of this seemingly neverending series I joked about how easy Spiritual Warfare was. Of course, that didn’t last, and almost immediately the game cranked up the challenge dial to near “Screw You” levels. This being a Wisdom Tree game, naturally, the challenge mostly comes out of built-in unfairness, like a Math exam where almost half of a word problem has been cut off by sloppy use of the copier but the teacher is sadistic enough to deny you automatic credit for it anyway.
At least I have been able to totally kick-ass with the biblical questions, which is important, since I’ve been needing the health points and the odds of an enemy dropping a heart is about one million to one. It also gave me an unintentional ego boost. See, one of the questions asked…
…the “correct” answer is false. However, Jesus does say that divorce is acceptable in cases of “sexual immorality” (Matthew 19:9). I know more about Scripture than the people at Wisdom Tree! That’s…not much of a victory, honestly.
Anyway, once you get to the tougher areas of the Slum, and more so when you start out in the Warehouse region of the map, you start to see what the programmers had in mind when they were told to increase the difficulty for the kids. For one thing, instead of mazes in Labyrinths, the game presents mazes that involve going through buildings and passing through insultingly easy “puzzles” that consist of nothing more than pushing obstacles out of your way. The kicker, which only a truly bad video game publisher like Wisdom Tree can deliver, is that sometimes you go through all that trouble, fighting and pushing obstacles through two or three whole buildings in a row, only to find that you just end up at a point in the overworld that you could have accessed just by walking a few screens over anyway. Sure, you might pick up a cache of bombs on the way, but that’s it.
The game had been building up to this style of “challenge” and “fun” for a while, but it really comes to a head in the Warehouse area, which is at least 90% wandering around buildings and underground tunnels that mostly lead nowhere. It would be nice if the game gave you any indication of whether or not you’ve cleared an area, or if you had a separate map for each of the special regions, but they don’t, so the game becomes less of a “game” and more of an “infinite abyss of existential despair.” There are even points in the Warehouse region where you seemingly have no choice but to take damage.
See that tunnel where the thug is shooting bullets (as big as he is but whatever)? And that he happens to be shooting from the other end of where I’m climbing down? The thug does fire in a very predictable pattern, but NotLink definitely does not move fast enough to get to the other ladder before a bullet gets to him. Nor is any of NotLink’s weapons capable of reaching the thug from that distance. You could try to run over, get in firing distance, and run back to your original position before a bullet catches you, but that doesn’t work either since the bullets are faster than NotLink. Really the only option is to take the damage, count on the one-second invincibility that you get from being damaged, and use that to get to the ladder. The game just doesn’t leave you with any other option.
So, after dealing with things like that, I think I’ve finally worked out which buildings just lead to other easily accessible buildings (which is apparently most of them) and which ones actually lead somewhere. While again Spiritual Warfare doesn’t deign to inform you of your goals in any given area, the Warehouse region, while hard and annoying and frustrating and despair-inducing, is one of the few spots where you are mercifully given a clue as to what you’re supposed to do: find the Boots that let you walk on lava (yes, there’s lava just bursting through the streets in this game; I think this city has many more problems than just homicidal atheists). I get excited as I start to reach rooms and spots in the region I don’t recognize. Unfortunately, another sign is that the game ups its dickishness even more.
Case in point: a tunnel where apparently a squad of thugs have just been waiting around, just for a chance to see NotLink dead. The picture doesn’t quite convey the hopelessness of this scenario. The bullets are all but impossible to dodge, especially because the enemies fire them almost simultaneously, and you have to climb up and down three ladders until you’re anywhere close to the right distance needed to retaliate. It’s at this point that I no longer believe this is a game made for a Christian audience. No, it was a nefarious plot by Richard Dawkins to make Christian kids so disgusted with Christian video games they’d give up their religion, if not faith in any divine being entirely. “How could Jesus give his name to anything this unholy?” they’d say.
With such theories buzzing in my mind, I still made it, even though my almost full life bar has been reduced to a heart and a half. However, as I go through the exit my heart skipped a beat. I wouldn’t have put it past the programmers of this game, out of sheer sadism or incompetence, to create such an unforgiving area and have it result in the player just looping back to the main Warehouse region. As soon as I make it to the other side, I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s a new area! And given how hard it was just to get this far, the Boots must be just a couple of screens away. With the Boots, I can finally say I finished one more “level”, putting me one step closer to finishing this Old Testament-style plague on the human race. So I walk a couple of screens over and…