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Don't Miss The Jump

Throughout the past few weeks life's stressors have roared loudly and effectively stomped out much of my gaming time.  As a result I found myself in a gaming funk and unable to enjoy the little game time available to me.  When I chose from my current game rotation no title was successful in pulling me out of the perpetual headaches that are rooted in endless, hard to meet deadlines.  Instead, Batman Arkham City is a fantastic game but not the perfect gaming experience that others enjoy, Half Life 2 was fun but I am not particularly ready to jump into the episodes, Lost Odyssey froze my progress when I zeroed in on collecting all 19 crystal shards in the Crimson Forest while I lacked the wherewithal to tackle the task.  But I was hesitant to place yet another game in my disc drive.

My search for a game to pull me out of my living room for the duration of my brief gaming time led me to two very different titles. 

Doodle Jump definitely needs a coffee themed level.  The monsters are overly caffeinated already anyway. 

My mobile gaming experiences are essentially the free ad-filled versions of the mobile market's AAA titles.  Such as Angry Birds in all of its incarnations, Candy Crush, Cut The Rope, Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride, and Doodle Jump all cycle through my time spent huddling under my umbrella waiting on the city bus (it is Pittsburgh after all).  I am a cheapskate in mobile gaming because I prefer to spend my limited gaming cash towards titles and amenities on my Xbox 360.   

Many of us are gamers who began our gaming experiences with the classic gameplay of platforming.  We leaped from rock to rock avoiding lava (a lot of lava), quicksand, swamps, or simply nothingness.  We bit our tongues and scrunched our shoulders concentrating on timing our next jump correctly.  

Fly Doodler fly!  Thankfully flapping my arms is not required for the mobile device version or I would get some stares on the bus. 

With my brain fried from my daily life activities, while commuting to and from work on the bus I can hardly spare the brain function to read my stack of unread books.  I turned to my smartphone for solace but even Candy Crush's pattern finding gameplay required too much from me.  Instead, I became bizarrely hooked on Doodle Jump.  A simple mobile game, the Doodler is always jumping up and by tilting the smartphone's screen we direct him in sideways directions while always aiming for the next platform.  Along the way, we fight monsters by firing projectiles from Doodler's nose.  The first missed platform results in death by a tumble into the empty nothingness and we start again at the beginning trying to beat our high score.   Naturally as a video game we come across power ups such as shields for protection from monsters as well as springs and rocket packs for faster upward mobility. 

A change of theme alters the game with soccer balls or Easter eggs becoming the nose projectile.  Different themes feature new platform types from breakable wood platforms to deadly hanging icicles to platforms that move once when jumped on. 

Deja vu anyone?  Same ideas, fancier graphics. 

As I scanned the library of games on my Xbox 360 as we do when looking for gaming inspiration I happened upon Doodle Jump For Kinect, a demo I downloaded on a whim.  Suddenly feeling adventurous, I prepared for turning on my Kinect by pushing back my coffee table and recliner.  In the Kinect version rather than tilting the television I step to the left or to the right to control Doodler.  With Even stepping side to side, with Doodler's continuous jumping I felt the classic platforming tension of aiming that requires holding my breath in order to play.  Raising my arm fired projectiles, the Kinect platforms occasionally shrunk,  and checkpoints saved upward progress with the goal of reaching the flagpole on the a final platform (sound familiar?).  The familiar rocket pack was a pair of wings an by flapping my arms Doodler soared upward.  I felt silly and ridiculous but laughed and am seriously considering the $5 purchase as a fun party game.

Gotta have "Faith" in order to make those jumps (I crack myself up). 

Now refreshed, my new sense of adventure led me to pop back into my Mirror's Edge playthrough.  I believe that the game is overall short with speed runs and time travels lengthening the experience.  However, I get stuck and after 30 minutes in the same checkpoint area I stop and my return to the game can take weeks or months.  Eventually, guilt makes me return because the game is a beautiful quirky title that shines (literally) with its minimalist 3D environments juxtaposed against its 2D cut scenes. 

All too true.  I complain about the button sequences in Mirror's Edge and about the one button fits all approach in Assassin's Creed.  Good luck pleasing gamers (or me) developers.    

On this particular day, with my appreciation for platforming I quickly found the needed path in the Mirror's Edge sequence that previously stumped me (climbing through the scaffolding while avoiding the helicopter guns).  The nature of the game is to run very fast while fluidly climbing, leaping, rolling, as well as the occasional punch to the groin which all comes to a screeching halt when the jumps required are not clear or the platforming requires a complex button mash.   

At one point, my eyes scoured the environment for my next flying leap and I was anxious to maintain my momentum.  But an electric fence that I just leaped from one building to the next to avoid stopped my progress again.  I stood clueless looking for that moment of parkour inspiration and my girlfriend suddenly uttered the classic gaming tip (she is smart like that), "Push the button."  "What button...oh, that big red one...got it."  My electric fence problem was solved. 

Add a helicopter to this scene and you will see the scene of my constant demise.  Also, FPS games love helicopters.   

Finally feeling comfortable with the building jumping mechanics I continued running until I was finally stumped again in combat.  I can disarm and kick but there are a lot of blues (the in-game term for guards) who all want to take me down and thus far the blues are winning.  Hopefully, months will not pass before I reload the checkpoint.

My foray back into platforming, a basic gaming memory for many of us gamers, reinstated my gaming excitement.  During the following days I followed Deadshot's bullet trajectory in Batman Arkham City, accidentally ran past a very valuable save point that resulted in a nail biting boss battle in Lost Odyssey, and spirit walked through an alien spaceship in Prey (not to nitpick but spirits can press buttons?). 

The City is beautiful and fond of solid, bright colors when the white paint is not available. 

Bouncing onto platforms may be different than in years past but essentially we still have the opportunity for the same baseline gameplay.    Time does not stand still and while our old experiences are remade with current technology the same fun applies whether I am Doodler with a life goal of jumping or a renegade running on the mirror's edge of society or a plumber able to traverse the very pipes that I repair. 

Even during this past week as my gaming time eroded to work deadlines and I cheer myself on excited for my day one purchase of the August 28, 2013 release, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows.  Still, remembering the sheer fun I had returning to gaming's jumping joy puts a smile on my face in the dark early morning hours of my bus ride to work. 

My thanks to all for reading, time spent gaming and writing about gaming are fun additions to the day.  I appreciate you taking the time, as we all have things to get done, to read here.   

Do you play Doodle Jump or Mirror's Edge?

What is your favorite platformer?

What type of frustrations with a game makes you stop playing and makes you reluctant to return to the game?

 

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