Friday, June 8, 2012

The non-necessity of lives in modern platformers

As long as we have had platformers there has been some limits placed on how many times the player can miss his jumps and fall in to the abyss until he is presented with a Game Over screen. In the early platformers like Super Mario Bros this strict limitation made sense, their short length made it a necessity. With the next generation of platformers like Super Mario World, levels were instead too plentiful to force the player to start over from level 1-1 if he was bitten by a Piranha Plant one too many times. So the player was allowed to save his game at some select locations, for example after finding that well hidden exit in those all too confusing Ghost Houses.

After playing a fair bit of Rayman Origins I have come to feel that this half step was a bit too conservative; there is in fact no need for lives at all in today platformers. Rayman Origins has a system where the player is allowed to respawn at the latest checkpoint as many times as necessary to beat the level, there is simply no concept of lives at all in the game. The surprising thing is that this works perfectly fine and takes nothing away from the experience. One could argue that this would make the game less challenging, but it is a cheap way to turn up the difficulty.

In many ways limiting the number of tries the player is restricted to forces the developers to turn down the difficulty. With a system without such restrictions some truly difficult near impossible scenarios can be designed, since the player will be allowed as many tries as needed to master them. This is a type of difficulty that is better fitted to platformers. They are not meant to offer a survival horror like experience where the player fears death, but one where the player feel totally bad ass for having pulled off some super tricky jumps sequence. I can't help to wonder if Super Mario World and many of its contemporaries from that golden age of platformers would have been more enjoyable with a system more like that of Rayman Origins.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Best of E3 2012

With all of the big E3 press conferences over I have put together a list of the games shown that I'm excited about and is very likely to purchase. They are the following:

New Super Mario Bros U (WiiU)
Rayman Legends (WiiU)
Epic Mickey Power of Illusion (3DS)
New Super Mario Bros 2 (3DS)
Paper Mario Sticker Star (3DS)
Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon (3DS)

They all have somethings in common, things that are very revealing about my fairly narrow preferences when it comes to video games. They are all for Nintendo platform, 4 out of 6 are even first party Nintendo titles and all those first party titles are Mario games. 4 out of 6 are side scrolling platforming games with the other two (Paper Mario & Luigis's Mansion) arguably being some sort of platforming hybrids.

It should be very clear from this list that I am absolutely in love with Mario, he is my favorite video game character. Not so much for his 'brilliant' character design but for the consistent quality of the titles bearing his name.

As I have gotten older my tastes in games have become ever more conservative, I love Nintendo games because they play and most importantly feel the same way Nintendo games always have. Sure there are added gimmicks to change up the experience but the essence stays the same. You might have noticed that Pikmin 3 is not on my list, even if this is a Nintendo title it is a bit too unorthodox for my taste.

Epic Mickey and Rayman Legends are not Nintendo games but both are 2d side scrollers, a genre I was raised on and with obvious appeal to someone like me who is not fully comfortable with the turns main stream gaming has taken the last two generations.