What is a Platformer Game?
A platformer, or platform video game, is one that traditionally features two-dimensional graphics in which players control characters who jump or climb between different platforms on the screen. It's a subgenre of the Action category, which is one of the many different types of video games.
You can also think of the platformer as a side-scrolling video game, with the most famous platformer being Super Mario Bros. (and all of the many, many sequels), but there are hundreds more, including Jumpman, Pitfall, Sonic the Hedgehog, LittleBigPlanet, Doodle Jump, Sound Shapes, and, my personal favorite, Super Meat Boy.
Platformer games are pretty easy to create using Multimedia Fusion and are a great way to get into video game design (and here are the fundamentals of character design for those interested in a different game aspect).
Here are some of the basic platform types that you’ll encounter when playing or creating a game of your own. Note, this is just a small sampling of all of the platforms that exist! These can even be mixed and matched with each other to make more interesting and difficult challenges.
Platform Video Game Examples
1. Standard Platform
The standard platform is the building block for the entire game. There are different variations, depending on the which title you play, but the most common feature is that characters can stand on the top and cannot jump through the bottom. In Super Mario Bros, the standard platform is sometimes breakable, if the character is large.
2. Jump Through Platform
The second most common platform (and sometimes most-common!) is the jump-through. This platform allows single-direction bypass, meaning that players can jump through the bottom and stand safely on the top. Icy Tower (an iD favorite) and Doodle Jump are almost exclusively jump through platforms.
3. Slippery / High Resistance Platform
Adding a material to different platforms is a great way to change the difficulty for the player. An ice-covered platform is slippery, meaning that the character slides with little resistance. These platforms can also be covered in oil or metal—anything that implies a low-friction situation. Another material-based platform will slow down the character or cause jumping strength (the fundamental control in platform games) to be lessened. This can be due to high grass, molasses or any other crazy concoction that will increase friction or stickiness.
4. Sticky Platform
Some platforms are so sticky that the character can actually defy gravity! Sound Shapes has a great example of this, as brighter surfaces allow the character to roll around upside down or up walls.
5. Conveyor Belt Platform
The goal of altering platform behavior is to create an interesting and difficult situation for the player. The player depends on predictable character control and adding new variables enhances the experience. A conveyor belt platform automatically moves the character one way or another, normally toward something perilous. These platforms have been used for decades to (literally) throw off over-confident gamers.
6. Disappearing / Reappearing Platform
Game design can be difficult because although you want to make the game challenging, you cannot make it impossible. Platforms that disappear and reappear give a sense of danger and, if placed well, a set path to success—all without preventing eventual success. Frogger (which technically is NOT a platformer) has disappearing and reappearing turtles to jump onto on the second half of the game board.
7. Falling Platform
Falling platforms are temporary structures that fall or decay after a certain amount of contact with the character. These prevent repeat play, so they are normally used in situations where the player will inevitably have to start over on failure. Nothing is worse than losing an essential path and still being able to play because the platforms don’t reappear!
8. Balanced / Leaning Platform
LittleBigPlanet is a revolutionary platformer that incorporates realistic physics into the game. Many of the platforms are leaning or balanced from a rope or other form of suspension. These react to the characters “weight” and movement. Other games use balanced or leaning platforms as timing puzzles that require the player to move toward peril and jump away at the right instant.
9. Bouncy Platform
Some games, like Sonic the Hedgehog, have entire platforms that bounce (see the Casino Night level!) These can either act like a trampoline, with different bounce heights that build or as a single bouncy experience. Designers use these to compromise the player’s control or to give them access to areas that are difficult to reach with a normal jump.
10. Moving Platform
Moving platforms are probably the most difficult to program, but can ultimately be the most satisfying platform type. Platforms can move horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or on a set path. They can go back and forth or even change direction based on where the character is standing. These platforms, when placed appropriately, really make for some satisfying challenges and worthwhile gaming.
Build Your Own Platform Game
This summer, discover the basics of game design and create your own platform game. We offer a variety of video game development camps for kids and teens. Level up at one of our 150+ prestigious campus locations!