Hop, Skip, Jump

The kinetic thrill of running, jumping, soaring and bounding over obstacles is one of the most incredible thrills a game can give you, if you ask me. Forget pumping lead into half-locust-half-man monstrosities or punching mythological creatures with boxing gloves made of Cerberus heads – I’ll take a death defying leap between Venetian rooftops any day.

I’ve been playing plenty of games recently, action packed, explosion filled, bullet riddled action epics like sequels to Just Cause, Assassin’s Creed and Crackdown, but found myself eschewing bullets and hidden-blades in favour of the more simplistic stimulation of leaping between balconies, navigating concrete jungle gyms and sky-diving from helicopters.

It goes back to the games of my youth, undoubtedly. The pixel perfect physics of Mario’s effortless leap must have been infused with as much time and meticulous effort as Infinity Ward would take on crafting the perfect machine gun, with the most vicious recoil, the most delicious reloading animation and the most primal roar.

Nintendo wasn’t going for the same level of realism as a typical Call of Duty weapon – I doubt a pudgy Brooklyn plumber could hop a manhole let alone a fire breathing regal turtle – but it made for a predictable platforming system that you could pick up with ease and ultimately master in time. Pick up any random Mario-cloning garbage flash game to instantly see how just how perfect Mario’s every leap, bound and elastic bounce is.

The plumber is still going strong on Wii of course, but outside of the candy coloured worlds of bumble bees and fluffy clouds, there are a scant few games that hope to achieve a similar liberating feeling of movement in more realistic environments, a distinct dirge of experiences I so desire. And when they do exist – in the guises of Venetian conspiracy theory Assassin’s Creed or mutant slaying comic Crackdown 2 – their leaps and bounds are always interrupted by ceaseless gunfire or nuisance guards.

Even in games that offer platforming in their purest form, including the latest legacies in the dusty dungeon delving Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider franchises, you’re often made to stop to deck a few skeletons or finish off some random tigers. It brings the flow of movement to a standstill, just to slap a gun in the protagonist’s hand on the box art, because guns sell games. And, hey, don’t even talk to me about Xbox Live Arcade’s “Lara Croft and the Unrelated Spin-off”.

Personally, I’m happy to just move, jump, explore and clamber. I’m satisfied with scrambling and content with climbing, so why must I gun down goons between frantic free running sessions? Isn’t there a developer out there brave and bold enough to do a Mirror’s Edge without the cops, or unleash a Crackdown that’s just about orbs?

Because I’d snap that up in a heartbeat.







2 responses to “Hop, Skip, Jump”

  1. Leon avatar

    I know what you’re saying – one of the worst things about sandbox games is that often half the buttons are mapped to violence – and I’m thinking, what if I just wanted to interact with this world in a non-violent manner? But then we get to the complex issue of AI characters actually having personalities and varied actions, rather than simple “attack player screaming random battle cries/insults”

    I can’t exactly see how such a game would work – after all the enemies in games often create the “challenge”, and I’m not a big fan of time limits as an alternative. A world such as Crackdown’s would probably bore me without the enemies, but to be honest I don’t particularly love the combat, either.

    I think the biggest challenge is getting game out of the rut that means that every game must revolve around defeating enemies – almost every game I can think of has some kind of opponent. But personally, I can’t exactly think of what such a game would do to be fun – simply running around collecting items sounds as though it would be a little tedious. And I definitely don’t want mini games!

  2. Michael avatar

    That would be an interesting idea but as Leon said it would probably become boring. Who can really say until it’s done though? 🙂

    Possibly the greatest gaming thrill I’ve ever had was in Crackdown, that long Agency climb and the rapid descent. And yes, I genuinely loved Mirror’s Edge though the enemies did tick me off immensely from, hmm, Chapter Six maybe? I suppose that was the point in terms of “power” difference between Faith and the cops but still, it did take from the joy of simply “running” free!

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