Levels and Worlds
Platform games are split into distinct areas, known generally as levels. Sometimes, these level comprise a larger subdivision known generally as worlds. Sometimes these concepts are given different names (in Sonic the Hedgehog, “Zones” are made up of “Acts”) but it is the same basic idea. Sometimes, at the end of a level, you will encounter a boss, while other times it only happens at the end of the world. Levels are sometimes accessed from a map or a hub world.
Maps and Hubs
In some platformers, you simply progress linearly through the game. In others, however, you can choose which levels to tackle in which order. In 2D games, this usually manifests itself as a map that visually shows where levels are located in the game world. Usually, you have to follow set paths through the map, while still having some choice as to the order of the levels. Hub worlds are the 3D equivalent. A hub world is almost a level in its own right; you can freely walk around and explore. Scattered around the hub are the entrances to the other levels, some of which require some prerequisite to be completed before they will open.
Map in Super Mario Bros. 3 and hub in Super Mario 64
Collectibles are items that cannot be used by the player, but are very important nonetheless. There are two types of collectibles: infinite and finite. Infinite collectibles are copiously scattered across levels, and generally serve to reward you with an extra life once you collect 100 of them. In Sonic the Hedgehog (manifested as rings), they also act as your health. Finite collectibles have a definite number. They have myriad uses: they might simply affect your completion percentage, or their collection might act as a key to something else.
Power-ups give your character new abilities or protection. Common power ups include shields, invincibility, and new weapons.
Sonic with a shield, next to an invincibility item. Kirby must inhale enemies to gain power-ups.
The worlds of platformers are populated by many enemies. These enemies usually have predictable movement and attack patterns, and can often be defeated in one hit.
These are the objects from which the genre gets its name. Platforms are exactly what the name suggests, but they often float in midair with no visible means of support. Platforms can sit still, move back and forth or in a more complex pattern, or collapse when you jump on them. A platform’s behavior is often indicated by its appearance. Keep track of what sorts of platforms do what as you play the game.
Throughout platformers can be found many objects that cannot be attacked and are therefore not enemies but which can still hurt you. These are exactly the same sorts of things you would avoid in real life; fire, spikes, falling weights, and other such things.
Don’t hit the spikes–and don’t fall in the lava!
Bosses are a specialized form of enemy. They are generally larger and take more hits to kill. Their attack and movement patterns are longer and more complex. Typically, they appear at the end of levels or worlds. Sometimes, a slightly less dangerous form known as a mini-boss will appear in the middle of a level. At the end of the game, you will typically face the main villain in the game’s most difficult battle against the final boss.
Two final bosses: Bowser and Dr. Eggman.