When Hades was released for the Switch in September 2020, the entire gaming community started raving. It either ranked in or topped most year-end lists (including ours), and social media was ablaze. Yet I, somehow, held off on this phenomenon – until last week, which, considering what last week turned out to be, was probably a fortuitous decision.
But now: I’m hooked.
Usually, when I say “hooked,” I mean that I’ll play a game for an hour or two everyday between doing other tasks. But with Hades, Zagreus will make escape attempts for hours on end, and I will be on the couch, zombified, enthralled, completely losing track of time. My partner will come downstairs and tell me, rather pointedly, that he worked for an hour or so and then did an entire hour-long yoga routine, all while Zag and I worked ourselves up, just to fall to Hades himself for the umpteenth time. (Also, my partner is very tired of hearing me talk about this game. Hence this article. I am grateful to have such an outlet.)
Despite this kind of time-slip revelation occurring every single day for over a week, it has never ceased to surprise me. I have gotten cranky if I have been unable to play Hades until later in the day. I have recommended the game to friends, then felt a slight twinge of guilt because these friends have work they probably should do instead of getting obsessed with Hades.
There are countless reasons Hades is as addictive as it is. The most obvious is that it’s a cycle: Zagreus tries to escape, dies, and then tries again. These cycles get longer as you advance through the game – but your desire to play through at least two or three escape attempts does not adjust accordingly. Actually, the more Theseus owns you (I hate that man!), the more you just want to challenge him again.
I’m approaching my fiftieth run, yet I’ve beaten The Big Guy only once. Please do not tell me if this is good or bad. I suspect it’s bad, but part of the glory of the game is you don’t really know how you’re supposed to be doing, and I love it.
The game’s difficulty, combined with its forgiveness, is another of its greatest assets. There are very few games I’ve played where my improvement has been laid so bare. I remember the days (like, five days ago) when Bone Hydra always got the better of me. But look at me now, it’s mere child’s play! This progression feels awesome, feels like I’m accomplishing something. Even if I’m not accomplishing… well, my actual work.
Despite all this, Hades is not repetitive. Even now, I’m still uncovering shocking, juicy details in the narrative. It’s really a testament to the game that it’s never “just another run.” There are always prophecies to fulfill, nectars to dole out, details to uncover. Hades is a surprisingly rich world, and it’s sucked me in as deeply as most others are sucked into Bridgerton, or whatever is it that people not obsessed with Hades are doing with their time right now.
Yet, while my obsession with Hades is beginning to get capital-i Intense, and while I do genuinely need to start managing my time better, I’m deeply thankful for the distraction right now. Events around the country are not particularly… er… lighthearted at the moment, and I’m relieved I’m able to take it out on that stupid Bone Hydra.
So here’s to Hades, and to the obsession that will consume you if you choose to play it. Which, given quarantine and everything else, may not be such a bad idea. You owe yourself a good, consuming game every now and again. Especially now.