From Academic Kids

(Redirected from Power-ups)
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Upon contact with this Super Mushroom, Mario earns 1000 points and doubles in size

In video games, power-ups are objects which add extra abilities to the game character, and/or increase the player's score upon being collected. The character typically picks up power-ups simply by touching them.

In the early games, they were often in the shape of coins or fruits, perhaps in homage to the symbols used in fruit machines (slot machines). In today's games, their shapes and general appearance may vary depending on the game's genre/plot, or even according to the power-up function itself. Often a hierarchy is established by color, in order to distinguish weaker power-ups from stronger ones of the same type.

Examples of power-ups from famous vintage games:

  • Pac-Man: The fruit, which provide extra points, and the "power pills", which allow Pac-Man to attack the ghosts pursuing him.
  • Bubble Bobble: The many objects, mostly food, which enemies transform into upon being attacked.
  • Mega Man: The weapons earned from the bosses upon defeating them.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The shields, speed boosts, and temporary invincibility earned from smashing into the small monitors scattered around the zones. The rings and Chaos Emeralds aren't usually considered power-ups, however.
  • Mario: The Super Mushroom, Starman, Feather Cape, etc., which typically emerge from "?" blocks when they are bumped from below. The coins aren't usually considered power-ups.

Certain kinds of power-ups are very common, seen time and again in many different games. These include:

  • Speed boosts (which can be temporary, permanent, or cumulative)
  • Invincibility (nearly always temporary, otherwise it diminishes the challenge of the game. Invincibility comes in two main forms - either the player character becomes intangible to harmful things, or it becomes lethal for enemies to touch. Invincibility is also sometimes called 'invulnerability'.)
  • Shields (usually a "force field" surrounding the character)
  • Smart bombs (weapons that destroy every enemy on the screen at once)

Power-ups in shoot 'em ups

Scrolling shooters are a genre of game in which power-ups play a major role, because of the varied arrays of weapons that tend to feature strongly in these games.

There are two common power-up systems in shoot 'em ups. The simplest system is the 'instant effect' kind, the same as in most other games: upon collecting a power-up, the player immediately receives whatever the power-up provides.

The other is the 'selection bar' system, pioneered by the game Gradius in 1985. In this system, all power-ups are represented on a menu bar, usually located at the bottom of the screen. For example, the selection bar from Gradius looks like this:

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Gradius selection bar

In games that use this system, there is only one main kind of power-up item. The purpose of this item, when collected, is to move a highlight to the next power-up on the selection bar. When a power-up that the player wants becomes highlighted, they may activate it, causing the highlight to move back to the beginning again.

To continue the Gradius example: when the player collects a power-up item for the first time, the first power-up (a speed increase) becomes highlighted.

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Gradius selection bar with first power-up highlighted

The player may now activate this power-up to increase their speed, in which case the bar will revert to its original unhighlighted state. If, however, the player does not activate the power-up, and collects another power-up item, the highlight moves to the next item, a missile.

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Gradius selection bar with second power-up highlighted

The player may now activate this to receive a missile weapon, again causing the bar to revert to its unhighlighted state.

Traditionally, more powerful power-ups are placed toward the end of the bar, so that the player must do more work to obtain them.de:Powerup fr:Power up


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