My mom is a dear, kind, and caring person, but she is not a gamer. Before, I discovered it was pretty hilarious to record her reactions to trailers for upcoming (and usually violent) games. But I think it’s time she graduated from previewing to reviewing.
And what better game for her first critique than Dark Souls II, a new title for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 that’s notorious for its punishing difficulty?
Below is an abbreviated transcript of my mother’s time playing Dark Souls II (the PlayStation 3 version). My words are in black, while hers are in red. Read on, and discover for yourself the epic tale of warrior the warrior.
[I hand my mom the controller.]
What’s all these buttons for?
[I laugh as she does a little counting.]
You forgot start and select. And that one too. [I point to the PlayStation button in the middle of the controller.]
[We wait as the system updates the game.]
Have you played the first Dark Souls?
No. The only thing I’ve played is Mario.
[We wait a while longer for the update.]
The suspense is killing me.
[The update finishes downloading and then starts installing.]
It’s installing now.
It’s got a 125 milli-bars?
[We wait a bit as the update finishes installing and then start the game. A notification pops on the screen.]
This game uses an autosave feature. Is that OK?
[My mom looks for the X button and pushes it. The game then starts a mandatory installation on the system.]
Oh, now that’s got to install.
Oh, lord. Why didn’t you call me when it was all ready?
I didn’t know there would be this much to it. Did you know that it takes this long to start a game?
What was it like when I was little? You just put the cartridge in, right?
Right. And started playing it.
This is technology now.
It was technology back then.
Yeah, but this technology is better … and it takes longer.
If it’s so much better than why does it take longer?
[We wait for the install as we admire the artwork shown — the same as in the picture above but with most of the sides obscured in blackness.]
Do you think this is going to be a cheery game?
A cheery game?
No. I think we’re in hell. Is he carrying a bazooka or a flute?
I think it’s a sword.
How does it look like a bazooka?
There’s an opening on the end!
Have you ever seen a bazooka?
I can see a flute, maybe. Bazookas are huge! Maybe a pistol.
Bazookas shoot rockets!
Yeah, little rockets.
Also, he’s wearing medieval armor.
Well, the way kids dress today, who knows.
How kids dress today? Like evil knights with bazookas?
In the underground.
[We wait for the install again.]
I could have dried and folded a load of clothes already.
[We keep waiting.]
Wake me up when this is ready.
[My mom shuts her eyes.]
Is it at 90 yet?
Yeah, it’s at 93. Almost there. OK, it’s done installing. Now it’s creating save data.
[My mom groans.]
That won’t take long.
I don’t think I’m going to have much data to save.
OK, press the start button.
Which one is that?
That’s the one that looks like play.
[My mom is about to push the PlayStation button.]
No, up to the right of it.
Yeah. The one that says start.
You said play.
I said it looks like play.
[The user agreement comes up.]
OK, push down on the d-pad. This is the user agreement. There you go. Keep doing that until you get to the bottom.
[My mom zooms past the wall of legal text.]
Are you reading all this?
Mmmhmm. I’m a speed reader. It means I can’t sue if something happens.
OK, push X.
It’s a half hour before you start the game!
[My mom selects the option to start a new game. A screen comes up asking for some preferences.]
Do you want blood on or off?
Push right on the d-pad.
[I then spend a few minutes explaining the differences between the d-pad and the analog stick. A new page of more detailed preferences shows up.]
Uh, we’ll just push X, because that’s a lot of options right there.
[The opening cutscene starts.]
You have to read and watch?
It’s just subtitles.
I still don’t know what all these buttons do.
I don’t know what they do.
Yes you do.
I haven’t played this game yet!
Well, you know what some buttons do.
Well, that one will make you move. [I point to the analog stick.]
Alright, well, what if I have to jump?
Watch the cutscene. Did you see that person’s face melt?
[The video shows a sparkling tree.]
That tree’s pretty.
Mmmhmm. Like twinkle lights. Oh, they’re bugs.
[Ghostly figures begin to fly around the screen.]
This is like Fantasia.
Don’t you remember? With the…
I remember, but no.
[A whirlpool appears, and the person in the video jumps.]
Why did he jump into that?
I don’t know.
What’s the object of this game? To get out of the hole?
[The actual game starts.]
You’re playing now.
OK. What am I doing?
[I point to the left analog stick.] That’s how you move. The right one’s the camera. I don’t think you have any weapons yet.
[My mom immediately moves the camera as high as it will go.]
Put the camera lower. I can’t see.
[She then puts it as low as it will go.]
That’s too low. I can only see the grass.
[She continues to fluctuate between the lowest and highest angles.]
What am I looking for?
You were on the path, and then you walked off it.
How do I get back on the path? Where’s the path? Here, let’s go back to the beginning.
Go back to the pedestal.
[We spend some time looking for the path.]
Move the camera left or right, not just up or down.
Is it over here?
I don’t know. Walk over there.
[Another player’s ghost shows up and starts running off.]
[My mom does, but she runs in a constant zig-zag.]
Why are you constantly zig-zagging? Walk straight!
I’m trying to follow the path!
You can walk through the grass!
Oh god, I have to go through this bridge. I hope I don’t fall off.
[Two seconds later and my mom has crossed the bridge.]
Hey! I did pretty good!
[The bridge takes us in front of a creepy house.]
Press X to open?
You’ll open the door.
[We enter the house, which is full of old-looking women who talk a lot about how we’re cursed and stuff.]
[We watch a cutscene. They ask for my mom’s character’s name.]
OK. You have to name your character.
[My mom groans.]
Push X and put in your name.
[My mom sighs.]
Why are you sighing like that?
What am I going to put as my name?!
Whatever you want!
[After some time and laborious navigation of the PlayStation 3’s digital keyboard, my mom settles on warrior. Yes, with the lowercase w.]
Warrior. Is that your name?
[The cutscene continues. Now my mom has to design her character.]
Now you have to make your character.
[My mom lets out a long sigh.]
You can make a girl if you want.
[She sighs again.]
What’s wrong? It’s not going to be naked like that [referring to the preview of our character, who only wears a cloth around a his waist]. You don’t want to be a girl?
You can make yourself muscular.
[Fearing my mom has had enough of character customization, I try to get her to move on.]
OK, now what class do you want to be? Do you want to be warrior the warrior?
[And so it is.]
Ok, go to gift. You can pick a special gift to help you. A life ring, a human effigy, a homeward bone, a seed of a tree of giants… .
[My mom picks the life ring.]
Why did you pick the life ring?
I like rings.
[The cutscene continues. The old women start talking more about our curse.]
They would be more happy if they went to the dentist.
[The cutscene ends.]
Oh god, I have to move again.
[My mom opens and closes the door a few times before leaving the house. Soon my mom is walking through a creepy forest surrounded by sharp ledges.]
Can I jump?
No, I don’t think you can jump in this game.
[My mom falls off a cliff.]
Ooo, this vibrated.
Yeah, the controller vibrates.
Oh, I died. I earned a trophy.
You got a trophy for dying.
Am I done?
You’re supposed to die in this game a lot. I want to see you fight something at least.
[My mom respawns.]
Maybe you have a weapon you can equip. Push start.
[I spend a lot of time trying to help my mom navigate the complex menu. Even I’m not sure how to equip the weapons in our inventory. My mom refuses to give me the controller. We eventually give up and head into the forest again.]
Oh, I go backwards when I push the O button.
That’s good. You can dodge people.
[My mom runs off another ledge and dies.]
You’re just getting your bearings.
[We respawn again and go back into the forest. My mom goes through some creepy mist and encounters some zombie-like creatures.]
Uh oh, look out.
[My mom just runs past them.]
Who are these guys?
They’re trying to hurt you.
But I did nothing!
We have to figure out how to equip your sword.
Equip my sword?
Yeah, you have a sword. They’re chasing you.
[My mom runs off another ledge and dies.]
OK, we’ll equip your sword this time, and you’ll be able to fight them.
I have to start all the way at the beginning again?
You didn’t even get very far!
Yes I did!
No you didn’t, you walked like 10 feet.
[We go into the start menu again and try to equip the sword. We still can’t figure it out. We leave the menu and I tell my mom to just push all the buttons. She eventually pushes left and right on the d-pad, which equips her sword and shield.]
There you go, now you can attack people. You ready to go beat up those people now?
[My mom goes back into the forest.]
I can’t walk and fight at the same time.
You don’t have to.
They’re probably hiding now because I have a sword.
[My mom then promptly runs off another ledge and dies.]
Oh, dang it! Do I have to get the sword and thing all over again? That’s why I don’t like this game. It’s frustrating! My blood pressure is probably going up.
I just want to watch you fight them. Look, you still have your sword.
[My mom goes back into the forest and through the mist. She encounters the zombies again.]
Hey, you killed that one!
[My mom continues to hack away.]
You got that one too. You have their souls now.
Oh, look out behind you. He’s going to knock you off the ledge. Turn around.
[My mom kills the zombie but keeps swinging her sword anyway. Eventually, the momentum of her attacks send her over the edge.]
You were too enthusiastic.
Well, how do I know when he’s dead?
His life is empty.
Do you want to play some more?
No. Do I have to?
No, you’re done I think. What did you think of Dark Souls II, mom.
Well, if you know how to use a controller, then I guess it’s alright. I still like Mario.
What did you like about it best?
That I could kill people with my sword and shield.
What did you like about it the least?
It takes too long for the game to start.
If you have to give the game a score out of 100, what would you give it?
That’s not bad. Thanks, mom!
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