Well, I felt like continuing the whole 'Build a Better [Genre]' while I've got gaming in my head. Plus, it's a little wearing to keep doing doggerel. Need to find a bit of skeptical inspiration. But that's for another post. Anyway, platformers are one genre where I tend to stay firmly entrenched in the mainstream: Mario Brothers, Mega Man, etcetera, so suggestions for other games would be nice. The most recent platformer I played was Super Paper Mario for Wii, and they delivered on most fronts. I'll be using it as a big yardstick, so forgive me if I miss out on something.
1. You don't have to go 3D: I firmly believe that 2D platforming is very much alive, and can still be filled with new innovations. 2D simplifies things greatly, and that's especially handy when it comes to jump puzzles. Relevant note: I enjoyed Metroid Prime in 3D, but I enjoyed Metroid Fusion and Zero Mission more. I think a 2.5D Metroid would be awesome.
2. She's got her father's eyes... and her mother's forehead ridges: I think platformers can hybridize with just about any other genre. Super Paper Mario did a great job mixing it with RPG. Hmm... Platformer and Shmup... Imagine I could think of something that already fits that description. (*smacks self* Duh. Contra, Metal Slug, etcetera.)
3. Cut down on hairline jumps: You know the kind I mean: The ones where you have to jump at the very edge of a platform to make it, otherwise you get instant death? Let's have fewer of those. I can appreciate them in Mega Man Powered Up's challenge mode, but I'd rather not face a series of them in regular places.
4. What challenge means to me: I prefer challenge to be in the form of confounding puzzles, elaborate enemy evasion, pattern anticipation and recognition, and that sort of thing. Challenge shouldn't come solely from making gaps a little bit longer, landing points smaller, and addition of insta-kill spikes.
5. Spikes & Miscellaneous Pointy Things 101: First: Can you think of some other deadly object to put there? Before you say 'lava,' make sure it matches the environment. Good example: King Arthur's World had some wizard-ruled cloud worlds. The deadly pits were filled with groping zombies (presumably animated by the evil wizard), hungry for the brains of your men. Second: Spikes hurt because you fall on the pointy-end, so with some spike arrangements, it should be possible for me to walk across. I once played an old Prince of Persia (like?) game where you could careful-walk across spike traps, or carefully lower yourself onto one from a ledge. Third: Some spikes can be atmospheric. I've seen some cases where insta-kill spikes are strictly decorative and impossible to fall on. They still make me uncomfortable.
6. Endurance, not perfection: One thing I liked about Super Paper Mario was that you had hitpoints: As long as you performed well in an overall sense, you were fine, and could get through a level. Messing up would, at most, put you at a disadvantage in the next area. In some platformers, you had to perform perfectly to get through the later levels, leading to many deaths and hair pulling. I'd prefer one very durable life over several fragile ones. Save the fragile lives for challenge modes and the like.
7. Narrative: Just like with space shooters, I like to feel that there's a relationship between levels. One thing I'm kind of annoyed at: Mega Man teleportation. It feels too artificial, especially since I can't think of it being involved in the plot anywhere. It's like it doesn't really exist in the game world, and is just shorthand for the characters walking around.
8. Customization: Those of you who've read the other two entries may have seen this coming. I like being able to tweak my characters, especially on the fly. They offered this in a number of the later main line (MM8 and Rockman & Forte) and X series, but it just didn't strike much of a chord with me.
9. Plot & Breathers: I like doing moving platform acrobatics, spike dodging, and all that. Otherwise, I wouldn't be talking about the genre, but I need some breathing time: Have some relaxed moments in a town with no deadly stuff, just some relaxed pace puzzles.
10. Does this even make sense?: In the acid-trip world of the Mushroom Kingdom, I can accept bricks hanging in the air for no reason. That's not so easy for other genres: Would it make sense for a fortress that regularly has friendly troops moving through it to have open spikes in main paths? Wouldn't sturdy, manual trap doors make more sense?