Description: One of the first examples of a climbing game morphing into a single-screen platformer.
Conveniences: Enemies that kill the player are removed from the screen, often making a particularly difficult room easier to traverse.
Annoyances: The order in which the coloured keys are meant to be collected is very specific, creating some scenarios where it’s impossible for the player to proceed.
Standouts: An excellent sense of exploration and cohesion despite severe hardware limitations.
Whenever an airship boss is defeated in Super Mario Bros. 3, a wand drops from the top of the screen. Picking it up is required to move on to the next world, but doing so in mid-air is not.
Despite this, jumping for the wand is a common behaviour. It’s fun to sync up Mario’s ascent with the wand’s descend, fascilitating a dramatic grab that culminates with Mario falling back down to earth and saving the day.
It’s a very satisfying moment, but there are no gameplay ramifications to simply letting the wand settle on the floor before picking it up. Jumping for it is simply hard to resist.
- A representation of an optional action that does not result in any significant gameplay reward, yet is commonly carried out by a large percentage of players.
Let’s take a look at a couple more examples.
In the original Mega Man games, end-level bosses are always prefaced by an empty, single-screen room with two doors. These are a clear indicator that the end is just beyond the next turn, at which point many players choose to jump straight into the boss’ lair.
When Mega Man connects with the door, the action freezes as the entrance opens up and the screen scrolls to reveal the final segment of the map. There’s no reason to jump at the door, but it results in some areal acrobatics that firmly deposit Mega Man in the next area with punctuating, “It’s on!” flair.
Street Fighter III
Many fighting games used to disable collisions or simply cut-off player input whenever a round of combat ended. Street Fighter III was one of the first to buck the trend, enabling the victor to execute a few extra moves following his opponent’s loss. This proved quite satisfying as it allowed the winner to finish off a combo — a naturally stylish string of attacks. Furthermore, it represented a contrast to the rest of the game by providing a short window of time during which some free hits could be scored.
I don’t believe these “bonus shots” increased the super bar meter or affected the end-battle grade, but if they did, the rewards were minimal.
Doorways in Metroid Prime are triggered by the player shooting them, at which point they open up after a variable amount of time (usually between 0-6 seconds). The reason for this is to hide data being streamed in the background, which leaves the player largely idle. At this point, concern over whether the shot was registered — and plain frustration — tend to set in, resulting in more blasts bombarding the door.
Unlike the other two examples, this is more of a “get on with it” behaviour that helps to vent frustration rather than being satisfying in itself.
These irresistible actions seem to be largely accidental; as far as the games are concerned, there’s no reason for players to engage in them. They can be quite important to the overall experience, though, and once identified, they often become a defining part of a series or genre.
Are there any “irresistibles” you engage in on a frequent basis?
Description: An RTS that feels a bit like controlling all four characters in a multiplayer game of Diablo.
Conveniences: The story is largely delivered through voiced text boxes that appear between missions. Although these pop-ups block some of the navigation, they still allow the player to access the inventory and level up individual units.
Annoyances: Pathfinding attempts to automatically position units in cover, and previews their destinations with coloured indicators. However, it also tends to position units on both sides of cover, often leaving parts of the squad completely exposed.
Standouts: A combination of mechanics from various genres help to enhance the single-player RTS template.
Description: A fun tower defense variant on the often-ignored DSiWare Store.
Conveniences: Falling health powerups are spawned on the top screen, giving the player plenty of time to spot them and get ready to grab ‘em as they descend.
Annoyances: Occasionally an entirely new enemy type will be inserted into the list of oncoming waves, largely invalidating all the weapons that were set up to deal with the previous enemies.
Standouts: A graph paper aesthetic captures the typical starship doodles that often seemed to materialize during math class.
Description: Resident Evil 4 in hell.
Conveniences: The outline of the healthbar begins to flash and drain while exposed to darkness, giving the player a clear indication of when the real damage will begin.
Annoyances: Poorly balanced one-hit-kill sequences; various game breaking/crashing bugs.
Standouts: A juvenile but often humourous Grindhouse vibe.