In the past I’ve spoken of Annoying Game Mechanics, of those that we find in games and after so many uneven implementations we instinctively groan when we see them again. But not all game mechanics are annoying, not all have good and bad moments. Some mechanics are just freaking AWESOME!
These Awesome Game Mechanics don’t need further tweaking. They’re the pinnacle of innovation and refining. Sure, you can build on them and add new features, but there is nothing left to fix about them. They are nearly if not completely perfect.
The first one of these I’ll talk about is Pickups:
Best Examples: Doom, Tomb Raider, Mario Bros, The Binding of Isaac and many others.
By Pickups I don’t mean collectibles nor do I mean any item that grants a permanent or long lasting bonus to the player. Instead, they’re those items you collect around a stage or world and which give you a boost or replenish some of your resources. Pickups are temporary or last until the player screws up.
Pickups for power-up give you a boost to your abilities, they let you fight harder or grant you special skills to overcome certain challenges. Maybe they make you bigger and stronger, or even give you temporary invulnerability—and that’s only counting Mario Bros. Think of the Ys games, where potions dropped give you a boost in experience gained or attack power, or the now famous ‘S’ gun from Contra. These items make you better at what you do, or at what you’re trying to do, but if you get hit, or you die, or their time passes, then their effect is lost. You need to do whatever you can to keep them going. These items not only let you be better but they also push you to do it. You’ll want to keep them for as long as possible and so you’ll be faster, stronger or more attentive.
Restorative pickups let you keep going. They give you a chance to fight another day or a bit longer on this one. It’s not just health they restore, but also your other resources. Call them arrows, or ammo clips, or med-packs or just hearts, these items restore you to fighting form. You can keep going for a bit longer, to recover from that mistake you just made. That Axe Wielding servant of Ganondorf hit you? Just drag him near the pillars and take those hearts, they’ll keep you going while you learn to properly dodge.
While there are ways to make pickups too powerful or unbalanced, no one can argue on the mechanic’s basic design. Items with a tangible benefit, something that will give you another chance, make you stronger or simply restore you. There’s nothing to argue about the mechanic, and thus it’s an awesome one. Every game you find them in, it’s a joy to pick them up. It makes you feel great when you get one when you need them the most. The boss is one bomb away from death, but you’re all out, so you destroy a pillar or a vase or kill an enemy and then you see it, the last bomb you needed! Not many other mechanics fill us with as much joy as the right pickup at the right time!
They can also be equally infuriating, such as getting arrows when you really need a heart, but that’s random drops, not pickups, a mechanic that is perhaps equally awesome in how it plays with our hearts.
I leave you with this long video of my latest broadcast, showing Ys: The Oath in Felghana and The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, two games with this awesome mechanic:
(Featured Image Credit: Cristiaso)