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A Detailed Cross-Examination of Yesterday and Today's Best-Selling Platform Games

August 4, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 21 of 31 Next

Power-Up Types

Lists the types of improvement and enhancement a player’s character can experience.

Asides from the as-standard temporary invincibility found in all games, SMB3 has a bouncing projectile power-up, a flight ability which grants an additional close-range frontal strike attack, a stealth ability which grants a quick-fall and a suit which improves Mario’s swimming ability.

In short, there is no obvious attempt at going for a specific theme, bar maybe enhancing Mario’s abilities – jumping to flying, attacking to projectile throwing, etc… - with abstract imagination.

2D Sonic sticks to basic speed up, temporary invincibility and a one-hit shield, which also protects Sonic from drowning underwater. Also, once collection of a set of seven bonus Quota tokens is complete, you gain access to the Super Sonic ability, which is activated every time your finance reaches 50 and diminishes when your finance – now acting as a second by second timer – counts down to zero. You can add to the timer by collecting more rings, which adds another interesting sub-property to the finance tokens.

3D Sonic also has the same set of power-ups as 2D Sonic, only due to the extra dimensions involved in finance collection, he now has a second shield with magnetic properties. This means that nearby finance is vacuumed and collected by simply being within a certain radius - as Sonic’s finance is made of metal.

3D Sonic can also achieve the Super Sonic ability, but instead of earning it through the collection of seven Quota tokens, 3D Sonic gains it through full 100% completion of all sub-character quests. Upon fulfilling this task, a new sub character quest is revealed and it stars Super Sonic.

Rayman’s world contains attack-based power-ups and a shrink/grow mechanic for specific in-level puzzles. His other power-ups are skill upgrades, which add a holistic range of new nav-skills. These include a dash, a ledge hang, a hover ability and a punch which – if charged – increases in distance and power.

Crash has only the one power-up, which a re-activatable temporary invincibility power-up. This is granted by collecting three hit-points in succession – without being hit mid-way through. It can be reactivated indefinitely, provided you have two hit-points already and collect a third.

Jak and Daxter’s power-up system seems based around combat game power-ups, where speed, power or overall ability is upgraded. Upon finding a specifically coloured emitter, Jak can be gifted with a speed-up, which includes the ability to open special doors, platforms, jump-pads and other movers carrying a special symbol. Jak can also receive a projectile ability and improved power and range for his attack moves. All these power-ups come with a time limit, which can be added to sequentially by finding more emitters of the same colour. Mixing colours merely resets the timer and makes a new one for the last power-up collected.

Mario Sunshine’s power-up system is arguably the most original. Within the first five minutes into the game you gain a support tool, which amongst adding to Mario’s offensive repertoire, has an interchangeable navigational option:
Each power-up fits within a theme of directional advantage:

  • One presents a speedy advance in any directed horizontal direction
  • Another gives a considerable boost in a vertical direction
  • The third grants a hover ability, which is designed for navigating wide gaps between platforms.

Either of these options remains in Mario’s skill set until the player changes it by way of opening the infinitely re-usable power-up boxes.

2006 Addition: NSMB Mario has some unusual power-ups. Being able to turn into a shell allows you to move horizontally at speed and break blocks from the side, though a ricocheting duality means only twitch gamers will master this for long-term level navigation as it causes easy falling into killzones. It seems mostly useful for uncovering specific, otherwise unreachable secrets and moving more nimbly in the underwater levels.

Mini Mario is vulnerable to instant death, but can perform higher and long jumps. He can also run across the top of a body of water, overall making him incredibly nimble and sprite-like and also a joy to control. He can enter exclusive secret areas in this form and is thus mandatory to find certain quota tokens in some levels.

Super Mario and Fire Mario remain the same as they’ve always been, with a new duality added onto Fire Mario’s projectiles, whereby killed enemies are turned into a unit of finance.

Standard Invincibility is the same, but now two other forms of invincibility:

  • Giant Mario: Activates a mini-game whereby you must destroy as much onscreen stuff as possible to build up a green bar. The more units the bar fills, the more Extra lives will be rewarded to you when time runs out. If things onscreen run out, you can butt-stomp the floor and more will appear.
  • Silver Invincibility: Works the same as the standard invincibility, but finance spawns in your path of movement, meaning running and jumping at speed and length fills the screen with potentially hundreds of coins. It occurs rarely, whereas Giant Mario can be found quite regularly and Gold Invincibility tends to be hidden in an invisible block on almost every stage.

Power-up repertoires are clearly where the games show differences between each other. There are hardly any similarities between them, bar titles from the same series. The one common theme throughout the majority of these titles however, is that when all the power-ups in the one game are looked at holistically, they tend to be geared toward deforming or enhancing the full range of a character’s default powers and navigational skills.

2006 Addition: NSMB’s power-ups seem more abstract and have more crudely designed exclusive secrets than previously found in most games. It’s probably the only game that contains three types of invincibility, with one allowing you to deform the level using your destructive size and power in a freely integrated bonus-mini-game. Overall, the amount of power-ups is large and again, possibly indicative of a current design trend to reward players as much as possible. As we all know, being empowered in a game is a very rewarding feeling. New powers and abilities also help to keep the experience fresh.

Article Start Previous Page 21 of 31 Next

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