Podcaster extraordinaire Matt Bliss joined Squidge to talk all about Hades, Super Giant Games, which creatures he’s make into plushies, and whether the world is ready for a version of WAP performed by Aphrodite.
The WT Lite series of episodes will be peppered in alongside the “standard” episodes, so keep an eye out for them. These episodes allow us to focus specifically on a specific game or series, and really focus on our guest’s thoughts. And whilst this episode was about the hack-and-slash sleeper hit that was Hades, Squidge wanted Matt to introduce himself to everyone
I am Matthew Bliss. I have featured on a couple of episodes for the the the Waffling Taylors podcast.
…But yeah, I’m delighted to be back on again in this nice little Lite edition. Hopefully I can be as much of a joy in your ear holes as Squidge is normally.
And yeah, this whole podcasting gig, it’s something I’ve been doing for a couple of years myself. As Squid struggles to retain his liquids, he’s just imbibed. I’ve had a few podcast on the go. My current project is one with my wife actually having just moved from Australia to Ireland. We’ve done a podcast about the move called From My Home to Yours and we share our emotions and experiences and all that kind of stuff. I’ve also had the one that brought me onto the Waffling Taylors I think was the Dead Drop podcast or Dead Drop Game News, which has been on hiatus for an unanticipated long time, though as you can imagine, me being away or trying to move to Ireland for as long as I have it has had to take a backseat. But I’m looking to bring it back.
So make sure that if you want to follow along with me and if you like what you hear in this episode, then yeah, from My Home to Yours or Dead Drop Game News.
how long did it take you to reach the surface and beat Hades for the first time?
Even though Squidge hadn’t played Hades, he’d done some research into it before recording this episode with Matt; and it turns out that it has an insanely long “completionist” time of 81 hours
So the first thing that Squidge wanted to know was whether Matt had ever actually finished this game. To be honest, that completionlist time makes it look like more of a full-time job than a hobby.
Look, it’s really hard to know.
As you said, Hades is one of those games that you just have to try and you get addicted to. You absolutely do. But you do have to take a bit of time to master it. So the first time round, and it was many years since I played it, it was a game that went into early access first, and I think I got it just before the early access window finished and it went into version one. So I’ve been playing it for a while. I think it probably took me like 20 hours to surface just because it is such a it’s hard to describe the difficulty.
It’s kind of like a Dark Souls thing where you play a game enough and you find yourself learning how to play it, and then you describe it to someone else and you struggle to find why it’s so hard for them to do what you can do, but have spent 30 hours trying to having to learn yourself. It’s definitely one of those skill based games. It is a rogue-like, though, so it is run based. So however many runs it takes you to get to the surface and the keep getting to the surface over and over and over again is the whole nature of the thing. But there’s always plenty to learn in there. And that’s where the 80 hours comes from.
This is something I forgot to check before we started this recording, but I’ve actually bought the game twice. I bought it on the Epic game store for PC. That was when it was in early access, and that was one of the secrets they had, too: it was only available on the Epic Store at the beginning. They did an exclusive deal with that for the first year, I think. And then it started to become available on other platforms.
But I’m just loading up the window now. So I’ve currently got 223 and a half hours on PC in Hades. And I have no idea how many hours I’ve played on switch because I don’t know if there’s a way to tell, but I would say it’s probably about the same. I found that the rogue-like is excellent in a handheld, so Hades really suited that well for me.
what makes Hades that good?
Hades is one of those indie titles that ended up vying for the many Game of the Year awards when it came out; putting it right up there with the AAA titles of 2020 - the likes of Cyberpunk 2077, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, DOOM Eternal, and the Final Fantasy VII Remake. So what’s so great about it?
Well, it’s a funny confluence of things.
The big mention here is Super Giant Games that developed it. The have been on a trajectory for probably the last ten years, I’d say at least prior to the release of this game because … all their games are of a similar aesthetic. You started off with Bastion - I think that was back in the Xbox 360 days, xbox 360 Arcade or whatever it was. Then you had Transistor, which was a different game again. And then Pyre, which is another different game, but again similar aesthetic. And then they have Hades to round that out. And if you haven’t heard of any of the three preceding games, that might be for good reason because it’s kind of a tale of them learning everything they needed to learn to get to the stage of Hades where they created almost the perfect game, or at least it seems like the perfect game.
It’s one of those games where you pick it up and it takes maybe half an hour and then you realize, "oh no, I can’t put this down, this is going to be a problem for me." And I’ve done that a couple of times with games. Sometimes it’s a delight to find that out, sometimes it’s true and utter terror. For example … Marvel Snap - that’s the one. That one I played for like maybe half an hour. In fact, I’ve tried it twice for half an hour and each time I’ve gone, "sorry, I have to uninstall this because it’s going to be way too addictive for me." Hades is very much the same, except it’s got a longer-than-five-minute window investment. Like each run could take two minutes or it could take 45 minutes. So when you get enough skill, you can invest more time in there.
Squidge wanted Matt to put on a game designer hat and see if he could think up a way to put Zagreus in another game:
If you had a chance to play a crossover between Hades and another video game, which would it be and how would Zagreus fit into the game universe? So an easy one, for example, would be Zagreus in Smash [Bros.].
What crossover would you put the in?
The interesting thing about the game, the game Hades being a little bit different is that it’s isometric. So I was trying to think of games that are of a similar style that it would be very easy for it to fit into. And funnily enough, Diablo crossed my mind.
And then the mysterious cow level from Diablo II, which also made its way into Diablo III as well. I’m not sure if it made it into four, actually, but it might be a very interesting kind of purgatory kind of thing to get the main character from a Diablo game into a small encapsulated area that might be from a special rainbow portal or something - I don’t know what the do in D Four these days.
And that you have to fight Zagreus. Kind of like the third level of Hades where you fight someone who has very similar powers to you. They can summon some of the godly powers that Zagreus has access to during the game. So, yeah, just being able to fight him and he’s a very cheeky bugger, that Zacharius. I reckon it would be kind of funny in the same way that the mysterious cow level was in DII, it was something a bit out of nowhere.
And that lead on to Matt sharing a minor plot spoiler for Hades. We won’t quote it here, so you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out what it is. This is what we referred to earlier in our “Spoiler Warning” section above.
Create a level for me
In keeping with the game designer theme of the previous question, Squidge wanted Matt to come up with a whole new area in the game:
If you could create a new area in the realm of the Underworld for Zagreus to fight through on his way to the surface, what would you create and what would the boss of that area be?
Firstly the area:
I reckon there’s room for a bit of platforming which doesn’t really exist in the game. It’s very much a fight your way through. There might be some weird environmental things that you can snag on or that you can’t dash over or anything like that, but I think a level that’s placed in the sky but has disappearing ground, kind of like clouds. I think that would be really interesting to see.
A bit more of a serious answer than I’d normally like to give on this show. But one of the things that had me a little bit taken aback was how few environments there are in the game. To be fair, you don’t need that many. The game is very good as it is, but you only have four areas that you try to get through and none of them have any platforming or things that push you to fail that aren’t related to the battle. So I think a disappearing floor on a series of environments would be really good.
And the boss?
Well, look, the Hades game has a very Greek motif to it. It’s all the Olympian gods from Greek mythology, so I reckon there would have to be a Titan of some kind.
The Titans get a quick mention in the story at some point, but they are a major component of the Greek myth. So I reckon if the environment was sky based with the clouds as the ground that disappeared when you ran on them too much and it was going towards the top of Mount Olympus, and the Titans were know, you might fight one of them at the top there, I think.
I can’t name any, I’m not going to pretend I’m a major historian of Greek mythology, but yeah, just pick one if you know one that one.
If you were to organize a karaoke night in the house of Hades, which character would surprise everyone with their superb singing talent?
Well, if you played Hades, you’d know a couple of characters that would do this like really easily. There’s a couple of musical ones: Eurydice and I can’t remember the name of the other one.
…But I’m going to say it’s Achilles, which is a quiet and reserved character. You’d think of him as the warmongering kind of thing from know, Troy with Brad Pitt and all that. But no, he’s a quiet guy. He’s kind of just sitting in the back letting Zagreus do his thing.
I reckon he could bust out a bit of Tom Jones, a bit of "WAR. Huh. Yeah. What is it good for?" Anyone who’s played Hades thinking of Achilles doing that? I think it’d be hilarious.
If you could design a completely bizarre and unconventional boon, what wild effect or power would it bestow on Zagreus?
I reckon there’s an opportunity for Zeus and Ares to have a combined boon where it would enable Zagreus to throw whatever weapon he picks for that run at an enemy. But if he misses and throws it out of the environment or the enemy dies and he can’t retrieve his weapon, then he’s missing it for the rest of the run. So he can’t use whatever he had, he has to just punch things for the rest of it.
It is dance off time. Who wins the dance off? And what’s the dance move called that they use?
Now, you’re going to have to tell me off if this is a bad one, and if you include it, I certainly hope you included this preface to it as well.
I think that the two gods, as part of that party that would be dancing, what would be the best dancers of the lot would probably be Poseidon and Aphrodite. And if you’ve played the game, you know that Aphrodite is a little bit sensual, she’s wearing very little, she’s a slow dancer. But in competition with each other, Poseidon being the water god, I think things would get a bit wet, they’d get a bit messy and she would win with a Twerk on the very same level as WAP, I think.
Get some WAP beats out there and yeah.
After the … interesting conversation about Aphrodite and WAP, Squidge wanted to know about whether Matt could think outside the box and turn one of the enemies into a cute companion:
If you had the opportunity to turn one of the formidable enemies into a cuddly, pet or companion, which one would you choose and how would you envision a transformation?
I was thinking bosses would be the most interesting thing, but there isn’t that many of them. So perhaps the best thing to pick, let’s just go full cute and cuddly mode.
There’s actually a lot of Blob based bosses. Not bosses, enemies. They’re like big kind of gargantuan things that kind of slime their way about a little bit, but they’d be nice to have in the bedroom to just sit into while you sit down with your handheld version of Hades.
And yeah, now, look, I can’t refer to them by name, but there’s one in particular in the first level 0 Tartarus - which kind of walks around slowly and then will aim at you and then quickly zoom at you that it’s a big fat thing. It looks like it’s got blonde hair on top or something. I’ll probably pick that one. Something big and big and chubby and cuddly.