In games, as in the fridge, there is cheese and there is cheese. I had a chance to reflect on this over the last few days. Partly because my daughter has finally found a video game she really loves, and partly because I have been struggling to make progress in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Let’s tackle this in reverse order. Sekiro is a wonderful game. As ever, when it comes to From Software’s output, I am savouring the early moments, knowing that there is a point coming up when the shutter will descend and I will be locked out forever. I love the stuff From does: the elliptical storytelling, the circuitous, ox-bow maps, the precision – above all else – of the pacing, as you move this little lens of progress over the surface of a complex and evocative world. But sooner or later a boss will turn up and end my fun for good. I am still stuck just past Blight Town in Dark Souls, facing a hill that reminds me of the inside of a very old person’s ear, with a spider-lady waiting at the summit to do me in. With Sekiro, I am advancing through the burning remains of an estate with a boss ahead of me who… Well, let’s just say it’s not going to plan.
But at least I made it this far. And I made it because of cheesing. Cheesing, I gather, is the act of making progress in a game through unfair or semi-illegal or otherwise not strictly legitimate means, often using cleverness to bypass something that has been designed to hinge on skill. In Sekiro I cheesed my way pass an early mini-boss, the Chained Ogre (and if you’re early in the game, the rest of this paragraph probably counts as a spoiler), and I did this first by back-stabbing him after he’d gone searching for me and then turned for home, and then by standing on a ledge he couldn’t get to and hitting him on the head for what felt like forever.