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So what makes a platformer "fun"?


dogbert
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What is it that makes the likes of "Ratchet & Clank", Jak & Dexter & Mario64 stand out from the crowd of wannabies?

 

What's the elements that make your favourite platformers "fun"?

 

And to counterbalance it, what's the elements that make your most hated platformers "teh suck"? Besides the camera - that's a given for every shite platformer out there!

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Good thing: Mario 64's wonderfully smooth controls. You always feel that you can get him to go exactly where you need.

 

Bad thing: Tomb Raider's painfully imprecise ones. I'll leave poor old Resident Evil alone, as at least we don't have to jump in that, but lining rickety old Lara up to jump a gap, and pressing jump that quarter-second before you actually reach where you're jumping so the animation can start is just horrible. Still, no need to worry about pixel-perfect jumps when you can only jump every half square or so...

 

Good thing: Jak 'n' Daxter's approach to lives. We've all got savepoints anyway, so why limit the gamer's experimentation by only offering them 3 lives? You're never that far from an extra life, or at worst the beginning of the level where you'll continue on again, in Mario Sunshine, but it does feel the need to take you out to the continue screen and waste your time regularly just to rub it in.

 

Bad thing: Jak 'n' Daxter's opening 20 minute, unskippable cutscene. It took me three attempts to find time to wade through it when I first got the game.

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  • 1 month later...

I hate the collecting aspect of most platformers. Why are there thousands of crates scattered about and why are some of them full of money? I was bored with Ratchet and Clank due to the near constant need to smash crates in order to collect enough nuts and bolts to buy new weapons. I especially hated the money collecting in Rugrats Royal Ransom (an otherwise good game); why do these diaper-clad tykes need bundles of cash? I liked collecting the dalmations in Kingdom Hearts as they were either a surprise to find or you could see where they were and they required ingenuity to reach. Jak and Dexter was a great platformer and collecting the orbs was relevant to the storyline. The same is true of Sly Cooper and Dr. Muto. Collecting seems to be a creative shortcut that relieves the developer of thoughtful level design or character motivation.

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1) Control. Precise and responsive controls are requisite for a good platformer.

 

2) Decent difficulty arc. Some are just frustrating. Some are perfect.

 

3) Environment variety. Lava world, snow world, forest world, *yawn*

 

4) Ability variety. Jumping is good and all, but the addition of some cool weapons, flying / coasting, and all that is cool.

 

5) Check points. Nothing is more annoying than having to start a level from the beginning because of one mistake. Check points are key.

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Control. Period. If a game controls well it's already doing half of what it needs to do right right. Even a modestly complex gaming experience is nothing to pick up if the control's done right. Look at Yoshi's Island, there are a ton of moves you can master and have to use in that game, but once you have them down it's nothing to be a leaping, butt-stomping, egg-tossing machine.

 

The control works perfectly to do what it tells you to. The second control starts to become imprecise or drift from the player, the player gets frustrated. No matter what a game has, if it doesn't have control it's got nothing.

 

Length and originality is nice. Super Mario 3, prime example. You have a wide variety of worlds and a number of them have ooh and ahh factor (i.e. the giant level). Then, instead of just one level based on the concept, you have a number of levels based solely on this world and they are fun and challenging to different degrees.

 

Power-ups generally are fun, but they need to be designed to add something to the game or a level, not show off a graphics thing. Mario Sunshine being an exception since it's actually a blast when it takes your power-up away :P. If the power-ups fun, bring it back a second time or a third to be used (i.e. the race levels in Earthworm Jim [note: they were NOT fun]).

 

Being able to adapt a playing style is nice too. If I want to blast through the level on foot and take on everything that moves, let me. If I want to sneak around and hunt down secrets and get rewarded or avoid parts of the level, give the option. Again, not to single out Mario, but a number of levels have warps, pipes, flight areas, etc, that give you tremendous freedom DESPITE going left to right.

 

Oh, and my best suggestion for a platformer: for pity's sake, be 2D :P.

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  • 1 month later...

My favorite platformer of recent years has to be Sly Cooper.

 

Why? It was fun and not overly inflated.

 

Nothing felt tacked on for longevity sake.

 

You could collect things but didn't HAVE to. In most cases there were multiple ways to get around things. Certain abilities helped, but were not required to unlock to progress.

 

Super Mario Sunshine had its moments but most of the levels blur together. It had weird difficulty spikes too. It would be easy for an hour then you would hit something you would have to retry 15 times to get by.

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Zathras: I loved Sly Cooper, but strangely I loved Ratchet & Clank even more. The variance of the levels and different types of play and strategies for that game made it probably my favorite platformer of all time, and I've played a lot of them.

 

When the demos came out, I was sure Sly would be the better game of the two, but in their final manifestations, I just loved R&C - the weapons and variety were second to none. Plus, the levels where you play as Clank, shepparding the little robots, or as giant Clank, were some of the coolest levels in a platformer ever.

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I've never had a chance to play games like Sly or Ratchet & Clank since I sold my PS2 a while back for an xbox. I still wish I had the PS2 for games such as these.

 

My list of things that makes a platformer good are:

 

1.) Control- precise & intuitive

 

2.) Gameplay- give me good gameplay over graphics

 

3.) Uniqueness- (is that even a word?)

 

:)

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I think Pharmboy nailed it.

 

I've been playing Yoshi's Island on the GBA, and it's nothing less than stellar. Controls are smooth, the character moves quickly and precisely, and you have enough ways to dispatch enemies that it never gets overly repetitive.

 

I also second the notion that a Platformer must be 2D. Something about having to coordinate jumps to both the character and the camera that turns me off. Lining up the character for a jump is enough, don't make me line the camera up, too. It's murder on the game's pacing - and I love platformers that can move quickly.

 

One thing I never want in a platformer is excessive backtracking. Keep the progress straightfoward and devote the variety to the boss fights, neat puzzles, and environments. I especially hate backtracking when it's used as a substitute to real content and length.

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