What gets your goat: Jumping puzzles

Still of ‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’ from Youtube video by Casey NSeven

The scourge of my gaming experience

By Bex Peterson, Editor-in-Chief

The third installment of the fantasy RPG Dragon Age saw a few exciting added mechanics to the game: a top-down combat system, a fast travel option, and—perhaps most excitingly—the ability to jump.

The developers also added a whole bunch of collection quests in Dragon Age: Inquisition, to a decidedly lukewarm response. I consider myself a completionist to a fault, so you’d better believe that I will take long breaks from saving all of Thedas to collect every fractured shard and mosaic piece scattered across the map. It’s a bit annoying, but the annoyance is compounded when some of these collectable items are placed in hard-to-reach areas, forcing me to complete my least favourite of all gaming conventions (aside from the dreaded escort mission): jumping puzzles.

Now, let me start off by saying that I don’t hate all jumping puzzles. As was pointed out to me by a friend, there are some clever ones in the Legend of Zelda series, and a few others exist in other games as well. If the “puzzle” aspect is having to look at the resources around you and figure out a way to get yourself from Point A to Point B when the answer isn’t readily apparent, that makes perfect sense to me as a clever way to get the gamer thinking. The jumping puzzles I loathe are the ones that rely on how many times the gamer is willing to jump from miniscule platform to miniscule platform, with infuriatingly low odds of your character landing on the precise five pixels allotted to keep them from falling to their doom again.

These jumping puzzles aren’t necessary mechanics of the game the way the ones in Zelda or many side-scrolling platform games are. It feels like they’re just slapped in, no matter how janky or unreliable the jumping mechanic in the game is. I love that you can jump in Inquisition, but believe me, it’s not exactly a skill I’d be willing to stake my Inquisitor’s life on.

I think some game developers get that jumping puzzles are far more frustrating than fun, so they try to make the stakes low—which honestly just pisses me off more. If I see something sparkly at the top of a pile of rubble, tree trunk, cliff face, what have you, I’m going to want to get my hands on it. The harder you make me work for it, the more I’m going to think it’s something worth having. If I spend half an hour of my life jumping and falling and jumping and falling and finally clawing my way to the loot only to find that it’s just a few pieces of in-game currency or a completely useless low-level item—which has absolutely happened to me before—I will not be pleased. I will, in fact, probably start crying.

As long as characters can jump, I’m sure there will be jumping puzzles, and I’m sure there are people who will enjoy them. However, I personally think they’re a giant, frustrating waste of time, even if I can’t bring myself to ignore them because… well… what if there’s something really cool in that chest on top of that big pile of precariously-balanced rocks?