Sometimes it’s the core mechanic, other times it’s seeing the result of solving a puzzle, it can even be quick time events in a racing game. I like to think about designing games around the magic moment. This article has examples of some of the games that inspired me to take this approach when working on my own games.
Time reversal in itself feels like magic in braid, you can rewind the entire level if you’d like. Having the entire environment move with the press of a button is quite visually pleasing. But the magic moment is not so much completing the puzzle as it is discovering the solution and how the environment around you responds to your abilities. Now this can be said for most good puzzle games and the moment of understanding in The Witness (also made by Jonathan Blow) is almost as well done as Braid. For me the moments of discovering the different ways objects are manipulated by time are the best moments in this game or any puzzle game I’ve played.
Without the ‘Takedown’ mechanic, Burnout might be considered another NFS clone. And with the ‘Takedown’ mechanic it’s one of the most fun, if not the most fun racing game out there. You’re on a rampage – burning NOS and taking no prisoners you don’t want to just win, you want to destroy the competition. Blazing down the road, racking up the near misses to fill up your burnout meter, you see the car in 1st position, you’re gaining on it fast, you’re so close and with small but swift nudge, you see it fly of the road in a spectacular slow motion camera shot.
In Fez you play a 2D character living in a 3D world, just that concept allows you to imagine all the kinds of unique visual moments the game delivers. You can play the game to know the story, but the players ability to change their ‘perspective’ at any time to traverse the world kind of makes you think about the deeper message the game is communicating to its players. You have to change your perspective to see something that was not there a second ago. Switch the angle of the 3D world you are presented with the way forward.
Link to Part 2 here