Double Jumping: Mid-Air Leaping’s Chatterbox
Double jumping: when a character jumps once, and then jumps again while airborne. It’s a game mechanic that has survived for nearly two decades since the release of Dragon Buster by Namco in 1984. Since then, double jumping has been a featured game mechanic in several games such as Team Fortress 2, Castlevania, and Crash Bandicoot: Warped. However, there are times where the double jump doesn’t cut it, either. Super Mario Sunshine features triple jumping, and most recently the character Wrastor in Rivals of Aether can quadruple jump. Mid-air leaping has certainly grown from its seeds planted in the 1980s.
The obvious fact that air isn’t solid makes this type of leap truly impossible. Yet videos of people on YouTube attempting to double jump show that people try anyways. Some of these videos show people attempting to push themselves off the air, while others are edited to look highly realistic, like the one shown below (the jump occurs around 1:07):
Okay, so maybe launching into the stratosphere isn’t exactly what would really happen. But videos like the above tell us the double jump has earned its place as a novel video game skill. There’s several ways that mid-air leaping has integrated itself into games.
Collecting Items or Unlocking Features
Many characters can’t double jump at all, or at least not on their own. Possessing certain items, such as powerups or collectibles, often grant characters the ability to double jump. Konami’s Castlevania, a video game series focusing on a clan of vampire hunters that clash with the vampire Dracula, is a great example of this. A certain item collected in the games give playable characters the ability to jump in mid-air. In one case, characters find relics that give characters new abilities. Without collecting a relic, it may be impossible to reach the end of the game. In Symphony Of the Night, Alucard needs to get the Leap Stone to double jump. Other installments of Castlevania might need players to acquire souls instead of items, as Soma needs Malphas’ soul to unlock double jumping by defeating Malphas in Dawn of Sorrow.
In Symphony Of the Night, double jumping is necessary to reach places that couldn’t have been reached before. Preceding games to Symphony had actual levels, but this particular installment allowed the player to revisit old areas. This was often required here, as the Leap Stone would be found after continuing past the Long Library. With double jumping now part of the player’s skill set, more areas can be reached by double jumping to a certain place found near the Long Library.
Molding to Characters’ Abilities
At a structural level, an upwards force of a certain amount is acted on a character when a certain button on a controller is pressed. When jumping in mid-air, characters are technically pushed again by another force acted on them. What the character appears to do is up to the game designers: are they jumping, or performing some other form of mid-air ascension? Some characters are given abilities that are similar to the idea of double jumping, but relate more to their traits, such as Raz in the LucasArts game Psychonauts. Raz is a ten-year old boy who stows away to a summer camp from a circus. At the same time he arrives, a plot is unfolding at this camp, and Raz uses his gifts in order to put a stop to these evils. He is able to manipulate psychic energy, reflected in how the player explores in Psychonauts. As a character who wields psychic powers, he can create and bounce on a bubble of energy after leaping into the air. This “psychic energy bouncing” of sorts is another form of double jumping, even though the idea is to be propelled upwards from something other than a solid surface. Instead of jumping off an existing stationary object, one is being created at the moment the player makes a second jump. Combining the concept of double jump with the use of mental energy makes more sense to a character like Raz.
Psychic energy bouncing is one of two powers that Raz begins the game with, besides being able to create a large hand to strike objects with. It aids in exploration and collecting future skills later in the game. The need to double jump is not necessary as in Symphony Of the Night, but is useful in taking on the Psychonauts world right from the beginning.
Existing in A Certain Setting
Some characters simply can double jump because the time and place where they exist allow them to do so. Game mechanics often blossom from the brainstorming of game play ideas. These ideas then become part of the character’s makeup, and the world it lives in needs to accommodate for these traits. Small and large platform games alike have been known to show off double jumping as a typical move that players would use. Take the Robot Unicorn Attack series originally developed by Spiritonin Media Games, for instance. The object of the game is to keep the robot unicorn alive as long as possible in this neverending-running style platformer, with three lives granted per game. Double jumping and dashing are the two basic abilities the unicorn has. The controls menu listed on the title screen states how players can jump and double jump. There aren’t any reasons as to why the unicorn is able to jump in midair, but it’s simply inferred that it’s possible and players should know this.
Without double jumping, players wouldn’t be able to make it too far. Even more so, the difficulty increases as you play and that second jump may become necessary. More importantly, it’s more difficult to rack up points without double jumping. Robot Unicorn Attack players need to jump to higher ledges and more widely spaced platforms to stay in the game. There’s also rings to jump through and crystals to collect in these hard-to-reach areas.
Since the birth of Dragon Buster, double jumping has marketed itself in many ways. Today, people are now starting to question whether double jumping is possible outside of the video game. Doing a simple Google search leads to multiple forum posts, videos, and online discussions about this particular topic. In a way, it begs to question why double jumping is so widely discussed. On Kinja (Talk Amongst Yourselves), RedHotPeak writes about his double jumping encounters in the video games they played in the article “D’You Dig Double Jumping?” Giant Bomb hosts several forums, many talking about how neat it would be if double jumping in real life was as easy as pressing the spacebar. And of course, several videos of double jumping shenanigans live on YouTube. All of these media contributions reflect how popular this topic is among the gaming world. All thanks to how double jumping present itself in games today, either through items or character traits, or the game’s environment requires the player to jump lengthy distances. It’s important to note the necessity of double jumping also varies depending on the game. However, double jumping is only the beginning of what has been in store for mid-air leaping. Triple and quadruple jumping, and even Kirby’s balloon-hopping ability, all show how the idea of jumping is expanding. Surely, games will continue to introduce new possibilities on mid-air leaping, continuing to defy gravity for several years to come.
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