2006 addition: this section contains numerous edits.
This factor determines how much movement a player can enjoy without power-up items or upgrades. More movement equals more freedom and potentially more ways to interact with the environment.
Grand Theft Auto – one of the best selling games ever – has freedom as its backbone. Remember, that we humans like to express ourselves – see the success of MySpace and W.O.W as prime tools of self-expression in an interactive environments. The more opportunities we/players have to express themselves, the more immersed in the experience we’re/they’re likely to be.
You’ll notice that even in the 8-bit era – more than 12 years ago - Mario allowed you plenty of movement and self-expression, allowing no less than nine actions before power-ups, within the constraints of two buttons.
One commonality throughout Crash and all Sonic and Mario games analysed, is the ability to bounce off enemies - and in Crash and Sonic’s cases, containers. This often allows the player to use the momentum gained from the bounce, to reach otherwise unreachable areas. Otherwise, the player can bounce onto another enemy or container, possibly in a sequence of bouncing on enemies/objects exclusively to reach a very HTR area or score bonus.
On a side note, 2D Sonic grants players the ability to scroll the camera and thus gain extra visibility for areas above or beneath Sonic’s default visibility – a rare feature in 2D games.
Including camera control – now removed - as a character’s moveset seemed valid at time of writing, but I would not consider it as such in the present unless it impacted gameplay more dramatically – like the visors in Metroid Prime or the binoculars in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
This feature is an important one to consider in regards to a game’s accessibility; the less a player has to learn mentally and physically, the more accessible the game becomes – challenges of the game world permitting.
Super Monkey ball is a perfect example of this, as the entire game is controlled by the d-pad/analogue stick alone and is immediately understandable from the start, yet it’s scope for mastery is huge and very much relies on the level designs and their increase in challenge to keep the game challenging.
Thankfully, we have a commonality that shows and as you can see, most of the games studied use two buttons (excluding camera control). This is especially prominent amongst the top sellers. Of course in Crash’s most recent games, Crash has a third movement button and of course Mario does too, but the difference between the two, is that Mario can perform a dozen moves with the three buttons, and Crash only manages around half that.