A PTB reader e-mailed me recently with an intriguing question:
If you were to create the ideal video game to suit your personal tastes, what kind of game would it be?
But seriously, although a lot of "Subspace" hit the mark for me, it's not quite my idea of the ideal game. For me the ideal video game is an action/adventure platformer. It's in 3D but with a 2D camera angle, making it a side-scroller in the style of New Super Mario Bros. or Sonic Rush. A hub world provides access to the various levels. Not all levels are reachable from the start of the game. The game is for a powerful home console to take full advantage of shiny visuals and technological horsepower. Characters should be colorful, animated, and full of expression & personality. The game requires control sticks and buttons to play, so there will be no shaking of Nintendo Wii remotes in this adventure.
The focus is on the gameplay: running, jumping, flying, or however else the hero gets around. We will not be shooting anyone in the head during this adventure, thanks. The story is engaging, yet not in the way of the action. Brief cut scenes (which can be skipped after viewing once) would move the plot along between levels now and then, and while the gameplay is 2D, the cinematics are full 3D. The game need not be a sequel, but if it were, the characters should be treated fairly and true to their established personalities. Plot twists are fine as long as they make sense. The hero must be a likable character, although excess attitude is not the aim here. After completing the game for the first time a second quest becomes available, either with a new playable character who works a little differently than the main character (Luigi's mode in Super Mario Galaxy) or rearranged levels (The Legend of Zelda's second quest). Replay value is important. Truly excellent games transcend the closing credits.
There are a few power-ups to aid the hero and they recur in levels (much like Super Mario Bros. 3's quantity and availability). It's impossible to lose the game permanently because I failed to pick up an item in Level 2 that's required in Level 83. Learning new maneuvers during the game is fine, although everything in the game must play a part of the action at some point. There are no useless items or locations that are teasingly revealed yet inaccessible (I'm looking at you, Banjo-Kazooie). Completed levels are replayable, sometimes to backtrack for a new item (shades of Metroid) and other times just because I want to run through a level again for fun (hello, Super Mario 64).
Multiplayer isn't necessary, although there could be an option to play with a second player in the main adventure. An E3 demo of New Super Mario Bros. featured a completely different two-player mode than the option we actually saw in the finished game. In the lost mode, Mario and Luigi competed simultaneously to reach the goal/flagpole, sometimes actively opposing one another and other times providing assistance. I'd like to see something like that again. Online play isn't required either, but would be worthwhile if it were included. It's important that unlocking everything in the single-player mode does not require playing the multiplayer mode.
Wrapping things up, the game releases on time (a long development period is fine and even preferred, but once a release day is announced, the date sticks), and while the basic package is available for the traditional cost, a special edition that includes a collectible trinket and a CD of the memorable background music is available for a few dollars more. There's no need for expensive limited edition packaging either. I want the goodies inside the box and not the box itself, after all. The game is then released in all the major regions in a timely fashion so that gamers around the world have the chance to enjoy the adventure without the hassle of importing the game and working around region locks.
They just don't make games like this anymore. Actually, they may have never made games like this at all. Perhaps that adds something to the allure as well.