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GoNintendo Thought: Recognizing and celebrating the cinematic platformer

A genre that deserves your attention

I finally have an excuse to write about my favorite genre! Hopefully I make a compelling case for why you should check the genre out, all while being honest about its pitfalls. As always, thanks for reading.

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飞艇群二维码平台Any entertainment form has its hit genres, and gaming is no different. First person shooters, sports simulations, and action adventure titles are some of the biggest gaming has to offer, which pull in millions upon millions of gamers every single year. Then there are other genres that will woo major success from time to time, but usually hang just outside of the "average" gamer's view. Work your way down the genre list even further to find game types that had critical/commercial success at some point, but never hit constant mainstream attention. That's where the cinematic platformer comes in.

飞艇群二维码平台Cinematic platformers are obviously a subset of platformers in general, but what sets them apart? It's honestly quite hard to boil things down, but I believe there's a few elements that can be found in nearly all examples of the genre. Cinematic platformers tend to focus on a realistic approach to animation and mechanics as compared to traditional platformers. Take a game like Super Mario Bros., where character movements are exaggerated, you have a set amount of lives, and controls are spot-on. A cinematic platformer gives you a character that moves extremely realistically, you have unlimited lives/continues, and controls are at odds with the animation.

There are some other elements that you usually find in cinematic platformers that aren't often a part of traditional platformers. It's quite common to see fleshed-out storylines in cinematic platformers, as well as a focus on solving environmental puzzles. Cinematic platformers are much more focused on a slower pace and thinking things out than traditional platformers, which require on-the-fly maneuvers and twitch skills.

While there are no doubt thousands of traditional platformers on the market, cinematic platformers are far less abundant. Truth be told, after skimming various catalogs of game releases, it seems there are less than 50 cinematic platformers in total! There may be some titles that kind of blur the lines between cinematic platformers and other genres, but tried-and-true cinematic platformers are hard to come by.

飞艇群二维码平台When you take a step back and analyze the hallmarks of a cinematic platformer, you can see why it's not exactly gaming's most popular genre. Cinematic platformers are usually tough as nails, and require an absolute ton of trial and error. That process of trying and retrying areas to get things right is all about puzzle solving; learning what you can and can't do in order to achieve your goal. Sometimes it's an environmental puzzle, and other times it's a series of specific jumps and dodges you need to do to avoid incoming attacks. Without a doubt, cinematic platformers require you to have a ton of patience.

飞艇群二维码平台As mentioned earlier, cinematic platformers also put a big focus on character animation, but this comes at the cost of player input. Characters will move in an extremely realistic manner, which comes from painstaking animation processes. Some developers animate their characters by hand frame-by-frame, which takes countless hours, but the results give you something gorgeous. Other developers use rotoscoping techniques, which also result in lifelike movement. Rotoscoping is the act of filming a person or item moving about in the real world, and then taking that footage and tracing over it to get an in-game animation. Either approach gives absolutely fluid and gorgeous results, but the player is often stuck watching animations play out, meaning they can't adjust character movement/input at any given second. Again, this leads to frustration for players who are used to the stop-on-a-dime controls of traditional platformers.

If you've never played a cinematic platformer, reading a description of the genre makes it seem absolutely abysmal from a gameplay perspective. It just sounds like a platformer that plays worse and frustrates you more! Who in the world would want that?! It's certainly true that those aspects are part of the genre, but cinematic platformers have something else going for them that traditional platformers rarely do. Those elements also tie into the 'cinematic' part of the genre name.

Cinematic platformers are always telling a story through gameplay. Again, let's take a look at Super Mario Bros.. From the beginning to the end, you're running and jumping through the Mushroom Kingdom. While the game is a blast, it's not exactly an achievement in engaging storytelling. Cinematic platformers take great interest in telling a story through the locations, character movements, and animation in general. All of these come together to build a universe that feels alive, and creates a connection with the player that goes beyond the average platformer.

飞艇群二维码平台Cinematic platformers actually have something in common with classic cartoons. There was an age where cartoons spoke to the viewer through the use of music and animation, and there was very little in the way of actual dialog. The way these elements were woven together to create a story was pretty amazing, and cinematic platformers continue that tradition. While cinematic platformers do dabble with bits of dialog from time to time, more often than not, the game itself is doing the speaking. You feel emotions from watching the realistic animations of the characters, running through the lush environments, and piecing together the story as you solve puzzles and adventure on.

The world of cinematic platformers is also a genre steeped deep in mystery. More often than not, you're thrown into a situation where you have no idea what's going on. You know very little about the main character, you have no idea where you are, and you don't a clue as to what to do. It's this mystery that frustrates some players, yet compels others. Figuring out how gameplay mechanics work without hints helps build a better connection with the game. Learning about the rules of a universe by playing gets you closer to the action. The trail of breadcrumbs with the story keeps you intrigued with every step you take. It's all about making it a little further, seeing a bit more, and learning what's going on behind the scenes.

While there may not be many cinematic platformers available, there are actually quite a few within that small pool that have become big names, if not major achievements for the game industry. Titles like Prince of Persia, Out of This World, Flashback, Oddworld, Limbo, and Inside have garnered major praise throughout the years, and continue to woo players. Prince of Persia and Out of this World were amazing technical achievements for gaming, Flashback took stories in the genre to the next level, Oddworld gave cinematic platformers an entire universe to play with, and Limbo/Outside raised the bar for the genre as a whole. These are the best of the best when it comes to the genre, but there are countless others worth your time.

飞艇群二维码平台I know cinematic platformers will never be a truly huge genre. I don't even think they'll ever be a 'big' genre, and that's okay. While I would love to see them get a bit more love, I think the genre asks a lot of the player. They require patience, time, and a bit of obtuse thinking, and I completely see why some people have no interest in that. That said, for those who are willing to try something new, there's some unbelievable worlds waiting, and all it takes it one positive experience in the genre to make a lifelong fan.

The Switch is a perfect platform to get a fantastic cinematic platforming fix. The platform plays host to Inside, Limbo, Oddworld, The Way Remastered, Flashback, Out of This World/Another World, Stela, Ministry of Broadcast, and next week, The Eternal Castle: Remastered. Some of the best of the best in the cinematic platformer genre is just one click away on the eShop, and cheaper than they've ever been. If you're willing to give something new a try and experience a genre that dares to do things differently, your Switch is a fantastic gateway.

There's a reason why the cinematic platformer genre continues to this day, even if the output is somewhat slow. These titles resonate with a certain group of players, and the experiences created stick in the minds of those players for years to come. You could be just one game away from your new favorite genre.

Categories: Consoles, Feature

Comments

飞艇群二维码平台another great opinion piece.

One that i agree with completely

飞艇群二维码平台A thing I truly love about (some of) these games is that, even if the games have great artistic visuals yet not too complex and little to no text/story telling, you can still project your own mind onto them. And as you mentioned that you "start from scratch" with not knowing who or where (or what) you are and you just have to find out and just jump into it... And DAMN could those game be vicious (looking at you Another World! ;) )

Today's overly scripted, filled with fancy cinematics and voice acting titles takes away your own creative input into the games. Like you are "forced" to see the game from the creator's view. Which can of course , be good if the game is good (I can't stop praising Nier:A), but some games might be kinda ruined like FF7R looks like to me so far. I haven't played it yet, but from the first trailer I loved it so many ways but something put me off also. I could just be nostalgic though..

飞艇群二维码平台I base my comments mostly on my experience with Another World and Flashback since those are the two I have played the most.

jayem
Tue May 05 20 07:55pm
Rating: 2

I'd also like to add another cinematic platformer to the list on Switch that is very overlooked on pretty much any platform: Rain World. It is definitely one of the best games I've ever played and a gem that everyone should give a chance, or two.
It is a very brutal game but one that makes you actually think like a prey surviving in a harsh world, which is pretty much what the game is all about. The game also rewards intelligent observation of your surroundings and behaviors of both hostile and neutral creatures.
It might be very offputting (and even I only really realised its beauty 3 restarts in), but it deserves more of a chance than many other games and it saddens me to see how overlooked it is. Just don't look up much about it, I believe that much of the beauty of the game is figuring things out on your own because it pushes a kind of moreintelligent mindset that not many games do..

飞艇群二维码平台Thanks for the tip. Never heard of it, but looks pretty good from the pictures and what you write about it...

It might take a while to click with you, but give it a fair chance and respect the game's design and you just might enjoy it a lot. It gives off a feeling of isolation that I don't get from many other games and experimentation is heavily incentivized, kind of like Super Metroid in a way. Hope you enjoy it.

飞艇群二维码平台Funzies: Just downloaded AKANE and found it a bit too much for a tired me 2:30 in the morning (well, night for me)... Unsure if Rain World would be, but it's on my wishlist... Might just DL it and test it out tomorow... I sure liked the looks of it.

飞艇群二维码平台But music was good too, eh?

飞艇群二维码平台I absolutely love Rain World. It nails that vibe you get from cinematic platformers. I was shocked to see so many negative reviews about that game when it came out. Most of those reviews complained about the lack of direction from the game, as well as the controls. Two hallmarks of cinematic platformers, without a doubt!

飞艇群二维码平台I should have mentioned that game in the piece. Definitely give it my stamp of approval. I own it on both PS4 and Switch!

I saw that it was citicized for being too unfair and unpredictably so and also resetting the whole game at the slightest mistake maybe ? I'm not sure about that, I can't remember what put me off in the reviews I saw. I think some said it had some amount of rogue like element maybe ? Like a generated map or something ? Or maybe it was just that it is nearly impossible to finish because it was discouraging to the point where you could invest hours in and ruin everything in an instant.

飞艇群二维码平台Anyway, it looked awesome and I remember not giving it a go in the end because of some of the criticizm I saw around.

Completely agreed with this RMC. Love the genre.

飞艇群二维码平台Inside is definitely the best cinematic platformer for me, just phenomenal. Equal parts beautiful and terrifying and so much more memorable than many games made with multiple times its budget and scope. If I had to make a list of 5 games to introduce somebody who’s never heard of a video game before to the medium it’d definitely be on there.

mlt-malavida
Wed May 06 20 04:10am
(Updated 1 time)

I think Flashback's added value to the genre was more than just exploring more complex stories. I think it really was the next evolution after Out of this world.
I'm trying o figure out what sets Flashback apart from most of these. I think it is less linear for starters. Where most cinematic platformers have you tackle one environmental puzzle after the next and each screen seems like an enigma before you move on to the next, Flashback had some amount of backtracking and free roaming in parts of the levels before you move on to the next part. All of that plus a bit more focus on action, and thanks to that a bit more varied gameplay but without compromising on the stiff controls the genre typically offers.

All of that is a matter of finding the right amount of this and that and the right mix. Add more action than Flashback and you need to change the controls for more fluid combat and end up with something that does not fit in the genre anymore. Add more free roaming than flashback and you end up with a metroidvania.

飞艇群二维码平台Anyway I think that's what sets Flashback apart. It is less linear than most others and more varied. Eternal Darkness and Out of this world are really good at making you feel the coherence of their universe and they make you feel like you are part of a world that exists without your input, but they are still linear. Oddworld did that also exceptionnally well, plus it had some amount of backtracking which made it feel a bit more like Flashback. Most cinematic platformers fall into the trap of feeling like this screen is 1-1 and the next is 1-2 and you never backtrack and it ends up feeling a bit monotonous like it is just a set of enigmas you have to solve. Of course it is not necessarily a problem but I would love to see some games exploring the possibilities of the genre beyond just one environmental puzzle after the next.

Anyway that's my two cents, apart from those you mentionned, I would add out of the top of my head Eternal Darkness (PC/PSX/Saturn), Bermuda Syndrome (PC) and Blizzard's Blackthorne which actually has a SNES version and is brilliant and a bit more action oriented. It's on PC also.

飞艇群二维码平台Firstly, as a platformer gamer, cinematic platformers are the worst with only few of them stand out.

For one thing, the goal is not always straightforward which can be time-consuming.

Then there's the problem that there are never any collectibles that you can get in these games as all they are are just you and the puzzle and the item you need to clear the puzzle. Collectibles are things in platformers because they make the game less lifeless and make the levels filled with stuff rather than being completely empty like how these games tend to have. And lastly, there's hardly any platforming you do here, and when there is platforming(that is jumping from platform to platform) Its mostly puzzle rather than being more of a straightforward thing like how many platformers do.

飞艇群二维码平台To me, its a good thing that these platformers are scarce because otherwise, platformers would not be anywhere fun. And while some might see this as a way that platform games can have engaging stories, you have the Adventure genre to fill that role as well as RPGs. In a Platformer, I want a point a to b platformer and that's it.

I would like it if it had good story but that's ok because that's not the point of platformers.

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