Posts Tagged door

The Irresistible

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.

irresistible, adj.

  1. 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.

Mega Man

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.

Metroid Prime

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?

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The Trap Door Bits


The multi-purpose trap door.

The Trap Door is an old claymation TV series that also got a videogame treatment. It’s particularly noteworthy because it came at a time when videogame genres were not that well defined. This resulted in some unique mechanics transplanted directly from the show.

The highlights:

  • The game contains only basic movement, and the ability to raise/pick-up or lower/drop-down various objects.
  • There’s no inventory or in-game menus of any kind.
  • The game is split into multiple missions, each one involving creating a different meal for “the thing upstairs.” Making these meals involves navigating a handful of screens that comprise the castle and utilizing the various bizarre items and monsters at hand.
  • Only a single item can be carried at any one time, but items can also be flipped upside-down. This often results in other items falling out, which can themselves also serve as containers for other items, and so on.
  • Raising/lowering a lever opens/closes the titular trap door. You have to open it to let certain monsters out, and quickly close it to keep others in. If something is standing on the door while you open it, it gets launched into the air.


    Your overlord has the oddest cravings...

  • Although the monsters that come out of the trap door directly relate to your current quest, they’re still randomized and give off a feeling of wonder — you never quite know what to expect next.
  • Part of the HUD is a constantly growing meter that represents your overlord’s impatience. When it reaches the top in easy mode, the mission is switched (each mission requires making a different dish), but on the hardest difficulty you simply get the game over screen.
  • Certain objects are too big to be picked up, but they can be pushed around the environment. Properly positioning them is part of numerous puzzles and goes hand-in-hand with the context-sensitive process of dropping items (they can be placed back on shelves, dropped into other items, thrown into the trap door, etc.).
  • Jumping down the trap door kills you.
  • Picking up the talking skull will cycle through a series of clues dealing with the current mission.
  • Monsters can travel from screen to screen and even interact with one another, i.e., the ghosts — for some reason — will hunt down the worms that you use as ingredients.


    Sending up a finished meal.

  • One of the trap door creatures hops around and is used to squeeze juice from a vat full of eyeballs. Another one breathes fire and can be tricked into boiling a cauldron of slugs. Another one still will fly around and will need to be stunned by launching something at it using the trap door. Once hit, it will become stunned and will lay an egg onto a frying pan, a key component of one of the dishes.
  • A drop-weight in one of the rooms can be used by manipulating a lever — this allows the player to crush objects and kill rampaging monsters.
  • Once all the dishes are done, you have tidy up. This actually involves throwing every item in the game into the trap door and getting rid of all the creatures! Your skull buddy is not exempt from this either, screaming “wheee” as he gets catapulted into the air and “owww” on his way down.
  • At the end of The Trap Door, you’re paid by having “the thing upstairs” lower (using the same dumbwaiter you used to send up food) a safe. To open the safe, you need to crush it with the drop-weight, adding a nice element of interaction to the game’s conclusion. Raising it all the way up, though, will destroy the safe and its contents!

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