Game Diary - December 18, 2008: Mandatory Death

I forgot to charge my DS yesterday, so I didn't get any more time with "Chrono Trigger."

I watched some Lost Season 4 extras with my wife last night, so I didn't play any games on my console.

All the talk around yesterday's "Prince of Persia" Diary entry did remind me of a point I had wanted to make: one of the odder elements of Ubisoft's game is that the designers sometimes require you to kill your character.

These mandatory deaths are a necessary part of the game's collection process. After clearing a level of its Corruption plague, you are expected to traverse back through the level to collect orbs of light. Some orbs arrayed along the level's main path, some of it newly cleared by the dissipated corruption. Reaching other orbs requires some special thinking and acrobatics.

The collection of just a few orbs requires suicide dives. I was surprised by this. I can't remember any other game that has required me to plunge my character to his doom so that he could collect something needed for completion of the game. Your character doesn't really -- or even virtually -- die when you don't land a jump, of course. If you fail any jump in the game, the Prince's companion, Elika, flies over, extends her hand and pulls him back to safe footing. She even does that during these foolhardy jumps. By aiming your jump toward the light orb hanging in one of these chasms, you'll get the orb before she pulls you back. What would have been catastrophe instead nets you a reward.

Some games are designed for the player to fail a lot. If you play a "Sonic" game or "Mirror's Edge," you will learn to progress only through constant failure and restart. But not until playing "Prince of Persia" have I seen a game whose designers rewrite the rules of video game failure and turn bottomless pits from hazards into, in just a few cases, a cul-de-sac of reward. Good thing Elika is there to save your skin.

Next: My DS is charging. So, finally, I'm getting back to "Chrono Trigger."