Death has always been important in video games. It's a punctuation mark and a corrective, breaking up the action and letting us know where we're going wrong.
One thing it's never been, though, is realistic. Player death is a 'reset' button, and nowhere is that more keenly felt than in the hardcore platforming genre.
Now Square Enix is getting in on the act with 774 Deaths, a game that wears its monstrous difficulty proudly on its blood-stained sleeve. This is a game that revels in your frustration, and that lingers over every miserable end you lead your character to.
Adorned with 8-bit trappings, the game gives you 33 levels to complete. Each of these lasts for a matter of seconds if you manage to complete it in one life, but most of them are all but impossible the first time around.
Blocks give way without any notice, corridors you thought were safe fill up with spikes, leaps you were sure you could make turn into head-first lunges into scythes. And that's only on the traditional platforming sections.
Tilt-controlled levels see you hurtling down blade-sided corridors, with success and failure measured in single pixels. Walls close in on you, while gaps shrink so that any deviation from the right line will end in a gory last glance at your character's corpse. In short, you are in hell.
You will die
774 Deaths makes a gameplay point out of its unfairness. It's cruel beyond all comprehension, a spiked bat of constantly peaking difficulty that's repeatedly smashing into your face. Few will ever make it past the first few rooms, and those who do should be lauded as gaming heroes.
The victories you eke out with your shattered dead, whose lives are commemorated by an ever-increasing number on the loading screen, feel monumental. In game terms you've covered a few measly metres, but it feels like the culmination of a valiant uphill slog.
774 Deaths isn't what you'd call fun, but for those hardy few who see it through to the end it offers up the sort of satisfaction that few games could ever hope to. Just so long as you remember that your meagre successes are built on a pile of pixel-art corpses.