Too old for runnin’ and jumpin’

As a newly subscribed member of the Xbox Game Pass community, I’ve been dabbling in a couple games that are now freely available to me, that previously I may not have touched. One of these games is Super Lucky’s Tale – a Super Mario + Banjo Kazooie mashup.

Lucky is a cute little fox on a quest to collect clovers (instead of Stars, Moons, Jiggies, Coins etc…). The game is okay. It’s pretty, and has just enough challenge to warrant my lasting attention. However, it doesn’t hold a candle to it’s predecessors. It’s unfortunate, too, that it released in the same window as Super Mario Odyssey.

But it’s left me curious as to what it is about family friendly or ‘kids’ games that is so appealing to the ageing gamer population – myself included.

The core gameplay of Mario has remained the same since it’s first 3D outing back in the 90s with Super Mario 64 – you run, jump, stomp and collect stars. Why is this as compelling as it was over 20 years ago? Surely it can’t be 100% nostalgia driven…

I know that Mario games are better designed than other kids games – they’re tighter, more refined. But it’s still a rudimentary game centred around running and jumping. On the market today are seriously accomplished games with engrossing stories and depth in gameplay, but year after year, gamers clamber to play the next adventure starring the little Italian plumber on a quest to save Peach from Bowser.

And here I am, happily plodding through Super Lucky’s Tale, fully aware there are more accomplished family platformers available, but unable to find a good reason not to push forward.

I think the real reason is numbers and our (gamers at large) compulsive nature to see numbers rise. All kiddo action-platformer games have this one small detail in common: progression is tied to numbers – have you collected enough of ‘X’ to proceed to the next level? Worse yet, a lot of these games include the total amount of collectables available from the start. I might have been happy with 25 clovers…had I not seen there were over 100 to find! It’s a tactic used by many games across many different genres, but there’s something so alluring about kids games. It could be the bright colours, or the lack of abrasive language? It could be the playful innocence that acts as counterbalance to the violence of other popular games! Or maybe it’s that the numbers touted onscreen always seem within reach. Just another level… Just a few more jumps…

Whatever the science, I just can’t get enough of running and jumping. And if you want to hear someone much more eloquent talk about the art of running and jumping, have a look at this new video from Hop, Blip and and Jump with Jared Petty. Until next time…

Best wishes y’all.

Sean

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