I’ve come to believe that when it comes to gaming, “difficulty” comes in two forms. The difficulty can stem from the design of a level or from the opponents that we face within that level. Personally, I much prefer to play a game where the difficulty stems from the design of the level as opposed to the enemies that occupy it. It has to do with a perceived sense of fairness. The level doesn’t change. Therefore, any failure would naturally be my fault, but in a game in which the difficulty stems from the enemies themselves, my failure can come from any number of random elements inherent in combat. One form of difficulty is predictable, the other is not.
Guacamelee encapsulates this dichotomy. It’s a 2D Metroidvania game that evokes both types of difficulty and the stark contrast between them.