Friday, August 7, 2015

Isometric Platformer

Now that video games have been around for several decades, we've seen many different genres as well as countless hybrids between multiple genres.

Normally, I would say that a good game could be made regardless of the genre, but I am now of the opinion that there is no such thing as a good isometric platformer, nor will there ever be I suppose.

Let me recount a tale for you.  I was searching the Interwebs for a top-down Metroid type game.  I saw some folks mention a game called Scurve: Hive.  It was a game that strangely launched on both the GBA and Nintendo DS.  The game sounded oddly familiar to me, so I opened my box of NDS games and found that I already had a copy that I had apparently found in a bargain bin for $10.

Scurge: Hive

I popped it into my Majora's Mask New 3DS (gotta flash my nerd-cred!) and gave it a go.  While I generally like the coloring, enemy design, weapons, and environment, there was one thing that really bothered me that made the game near-unplayable for me.

Platforming.  In an isometric game.

What does a platforming game consist of?  Jumping from platform to platform using precise timing and coordination.

Using precise timing and coordination!

What does the isometric view entail?  A camera projection that makes everything the same size regardless of distance or height.

Regardless of distance or height!

What happens when you mix precision jumping with a camera projection that prevents you from judging platform position?  You get a terrible game, that's what!

Flash forward a couple months to the current day and I recently got Rare Replay on my Xbox One. Included in the collection are several old isometric platformers from Rare.  While I will admit that the use of lighting and shadows in Snake Rattle 'n Roll made it not as frustratingly difficult, others, such as Knight Lore are abysmal.

Rare Replay

Snake Rattle 'n Roll
Knight Lore used a monochromatic artstyle that made the isometric plaforming incredibly difficult.  It took great effort for me to be able to figure out which platforms were where.

Knight Lore
While I can't seem to find any screenshots from Scurge: Hive of the specific spot that was annoying enough to make me want to throw my 3DS on the floor, here are a couple that kinda give you an idea:

In summary: Never make an isometric platformer!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dude you're wrong.
Landstalker on megadrive is probably one of the best games to anyone who's played it when it first released. And the isometric platforming aspect of the game is one of the reason.