A brief history of (unintentional) unbeatable games

A brief history of (unintentional) unbeatable games

A promised patch should soon allow <em>KOTOR II</em> players to beat the game on Switch. “/><figcaption class=

Enlarge / A promised patch should soon allow KOTOR II players to beat the game on Switch.

Last week, the publisher Aspyr officially recognized the presence of a game-breaking glitch in the latest Switch port of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. That bug, which crashes the game after the “Basil Crash” sequence on the planet Onderon, has the uncomfortable side effect of making the Switch version completely unbeatable.

Although Aspyr promised that this game-breaking glitch would be fixed in the game’s next downloadable patch, many game developers have not had that option before. KOTOR II on the Switch is the latest in a long line of games that were literally impossible to complete (or get a full, 100 percent completion rate) when launched.

Here we are not talking about games like The Sims or Tetris which are designed to not have a winning condition and / or always end in failure for the player (although some games that seem to fall into that category are surprisingly powerful). We are also not talking about games where the player is forced to reset after ending up in a situation in the game where they can no longer make progress (TV Tropes has a massive list games that fit this description).

No, instead we are talking about games that should be beatable but for one reason or another can not be completed completely no matter what the player does (lack of using external cheating). Although the game’s short history has seen many of these games, here are some notable examples that should make Aspyr feel a little better about his latest KOTOR problem.

Sqij! (ZX Spectrum, 1987)

In addition to being unbeatable, the Spectrum port was in this sweet Commodore 64 game completely unplayable due to a programming error that caused the game not to respond to any keyboard inputs. But it may not have been an easy oversight.

Eurogamer has the story by the coder Jason Creighton, who was commissioned to make the Spectrum version of the game even though he was not provided with a copy of the Commodore original. When publisher The Power House insisted that Creighton do his best based on a map of the original game, he turned to a last-minute project written in Laser BASIC, rather than machine code.

While Creighton says he did not intentionally break the game’s controls, the unplayable mess still bypassed the publisher’s quality control and hit British store shelves at the bargain price of £ 2. Still sounds like a lot of money for a game where you can not move, but what do we know?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (MS-DOS, 1989)

For the most part, this PC version is a pretty faithful port of the famous difficult first TMNT games for NES, which was also released in 1989. For some inexplicable reason, however, a single block is missing in a level 3 sewer section, makes an otherwise trivial hatch impossible to clean. The supervision was fixed in time for the game’s European release in 1990but American players would have been stuck if they did not know how to cheat.

Chips challenge (Windows, 1992)

A version of Chips challenge level Spirals that have been edited to be beatable.

The fourth version of Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows is well remembered for this tile-based puzzle game, which in itself is a port in the original Atari Lynx from 1989. But that gate changed a single tile in level 88, removed a wall and changed a former dead end to an open corner. It in turn causes the level’s walker enemies to fly out of that corner in a straight line, blocks the player’s progress for good.

Supervision was fixed for subsequent Windows editions of the game, and although early players could technically skip level 88, they would do so with the knowledge that there was at least one level they would never beat.

X-Men (Genesis, 1993)

Those who played this action game from the early 90’s may remember an ingenious / frustrating puzzle in the later levels, where the game told the player to “Reset the computer.” After searching the room only for a reset button, smart players would hopefully find that they had to press the reset button on the Genesis console itself (spoilers for a 29-year-old game, we guess). The little trick worked because the Genesis reset button left some areas with RAM untouchedlets the game “remember” the player’s progress on reboot.

However, this inventive design trick became problematic when players tried to play the game on Sega Nomad. This is because the portable version of Genesis does not have a dedicated reset button, which means players are stuck when they reach the late game. And while some fans have gone to great lengths to fix the hardware problemit’s probably easier to dig out a classic Genesis and reach for that reset button.

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