May 6th, 2011
Didn’t take long did it?
Back in January I finished playing Metroid Prime Hunters for the DS and had written up some notes on the game. I wanted to focus on the game’s structured exploration. Here is more or less what I wanted to say, minus substantial, validating examples.
The game is broken up into several planets that the player must go to twice each. Exploring certain planets will give the player the beams they need to open doors on other planets. The beams/doors are a lock and key approach which facilitate the player having to return to each planet a second time. Each “journey” to a planet contains 3 parts: obtaining the artefacts, a boss battle and an escape, with the former most being the largest portion of the three. Since there are 3 artefacts, this initial portion is then broken down into thirds. But it goes further still.
The DS isn’t a technical powerhouse, so to create the perception of a large scope while not running the hardware into the ground, each planet is only a handful of 4-8 large rooms connected by small passages. Considering how much processing is needed to render and store these large rooms, they’re mined for all they’re worth through this lock and key approach. Each room is locked several layers deep when the player first enters. The player then needs to do a variety of tasks, namely, clearing enemies and activating locks to peel back the layers and open the room completely.
As we can see, from the game as a whole to each individual room, Metroid Prime Hunters is broken into a series of micro-objectives that manage the gameplay. Whether it be go to a planet, get an artefact or beat this enemy to open this part of the room. What this highly-managed system does is create a contrived sense of progression. The player only ever needs to explore for themselves in small steps before another task opens up. So, in the end Hunters feels clinical and inorganic. Contrast this to the game’s console brother Metroid Prime where the player is given a whole area, several rooms or an entire sub-terrain to explore and find clues.