Knowledge Out Of The Blue
Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 9:46AM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Final Fantasy, Mega Man, Skill, Super Mario Bros.

Video games tend to design their challenges around a specific ratio or set of skills. From beginning to the end, the amount of skills you need may increase across the board, but for the most part significant changes in the ratio are rare. Rare, not non existent. If you take an action game like Mega Man, getting through each level requires more dexterity, timing, and adaptation than knowledge and reflex. It's common to get comfortable to this particular skill ratio/set. Sure, some enemy or level challenges alter the ratio temporarily. For example, enemies that take a lot of hits increase the rapid fire button pressing dexterity skill ceiling. Ticking time bombs increase the timing skill ceiling. Hard hat enemies and vertical corridors lined with spikes test reflex. Boss weaknesses and other secrets/tricks increase the value of knowledge skills. But there are times when the ratio of a skill set is greatly altered. In these challenges, the skill shift can make the core gameplay feel like a shift in genre. In other words, when you think you're playing an action game, all of a sudden, you're playing a memory game like Knowledge.  

The following is a list of games with challenges that greatly stress knowledge skills so much that the gameplay shifts into another genre so to speak.


Mega Man 10 Block Devil



In the same way that elegant solutions are easily disguised in games that merge two genres, significantly adjusting the skill ratio of a game has some unique effects on the gameplay experience. Being able to mentally switch from playing on edge in a platformer/shooter to reading through the depth/complexity of a puzzle challenge can be far more difficult than doing both independently. This is an issue of adaptation. The more you have, the easier the shift. Sometimes I'm so unprepared for a skill shift that I stumble through some relatively easy challenges. Some of the best examples of skill shifts alter the gameplay without changing the core mechanics. In other words, without going into a separate screen or mode, all of a sudden the gameplay is different and you may have to pull out your reserve knowledge skills out of the blue.  

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (
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