The Invisible Hand of Super Metroid

"You will stay in this room until you learn to run. It's a harsh school, and students of modern game design may feel that the game should have just printed it out - Hold B to run. This is just not how Super Metroid rolls. It will never let go of the illusion that you are on your own. It will hold you by the hand, but it will never admit it."

  1. I’ll have to come back to this when I have more time, but as someone who thinks Metroid-likes are the greatest, this is a lot of fun to read so far.

    I like this insight:

    Whenever a Metroid player aquires a new power-up, her mind races back in time in a way not unlike what happens at a turning point in a movie. When a secret is revealed we are forced back through the story to mentally review everything we’ve seen so far, sometimes changing the interpretation of entire scenes.

  2. One of the interesting side-effects of that is that as you become savvy about the metroidvania genre, you start seeing those future flux points as you encounter them — the look of a too-high or too-long jump that you know you can’t make but suspect you eventually will, the conspicuous too-small passage or too-thin or cracked wall, the various miscellaneous staging elements that cry out “I am interesting!” while being at first encounter manifestly inaccessible. There’s a whole grammar of Not Yet in metroidvania level design.

    Which is an interesting and good thing in some ways, but also a little bit of a liability, because you’re stuck either leaving new players disoriented (they haven’t learned that anticipatory vocabulary) or leaving seasoned players unsurprised (because they know the butler did it, and how, and when, and with what, all of it five minutes into the film).

    I enjoyed VVVVVV’s enthusiastic lofi inventiveness in part because of that; the gameplay was so reductive in terms of it’s core mechanic (literally just move left and right and flip gravity) and the design so lo-res and unadorned that Cavanagh could invent random bullshit twists on the metamechanics of any given puzzle and make them work just fine in a way that might seem overly silly if done in a Metroid or Castlevania game.

  3. A game that might tickle your fancy, cortex, is Escape From Puppy Death Factory, an excellent free Flash game from last year that’s up on Adult Swim. It has a sort of Metroid-like feel to it — early on you’ll even see areas that look like they’d be reachable if only you had some other actions/powers in your quiver — but it turns out that your supply of actions/verbs is completely static throughout the game. Instead, as you play and explore, you’ll end up figuring out other ways to use the one power you have at your disposal (swapping your position with another object on screen), and so you get that Metroid feel but it’s your own facility with the game that’s expanded, not the set of character abilities. Heartily recommended.

    (Should I have written @cortex? I think that’s a functional thing here.)

  4. @nobody — @[username] is indeed a functional thing, although I’m not sure to what degree it is as used thing because [quoting snippet of text + including cite for quote] to indicate a reply has been inherited from other sites. An evolving culture of use, I suppose.

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