This is a Public Service Announcement: Knockback Kills. If you think you or your friend’s retro game might be suffering from Knockback, get help immediately at your local MarioFoot clinic.
Seriously though, if there’s one thing more annoying than MarioFoot, it’s Knockback. How many times have you been killed in MegaMan, Sonic, Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania, etc. because you touched an enemy that immediately sent you flying three feet backwards and into the nearest pit? I couldn’t say myself cause I can’t count PAST INFINITY. (Hawks & bats in Ninja Gaiden, I’m looking at you)
So why do games have Knockback? Challenge you say? Yes, the all-mighty Challenge has reared his head again but this time he’s accompanied by his frequent cohort, Realism. Why is Knockback “realistic” you ask? Because physics. Physics tells us that an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless, wait for it, acted upon by external force. But here’s my problem, why does that external force have to be EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE?!? Sure, if I’m truckin along and get slammed by a running back, you can bet I’m not going to be in motion anymore, or at least not in my original direction. If I get body-slammed by a pigeon however, then I think I should be the one playing the part of “external force” and not the helpless ragdoll. This is where the Realism starts to break down, when every animate & inanimate object causes you to lose three feet of forward progress. A bat to the face or a stationary spike to the toe shouldn’t have the same inertial impact as a cannonball or a jetpack ninja.
Plenty of games, however, don’t suffer from Knockback and they’re just as challenging because they have to rely on creative level & enemy design to consistently up the ante from level to level. Knockback can easily become just a cheap and arbitrary way to crank up the difficulty to insane levels in an otherwise easy or moderately challenging game. Games like Mario or Donkey Kong Country manage to be fun and challenging without resorting to Knockback. There are even a few games that manage to use Knockback responsibly, either in moderation or in conjunction with Invincibility Frames. Remember, if you really want your game to be fun and challenging, but feel yourself being drawn to use Knockback, get help. There are certified game counselors available 24/7 at every MarioFoot clinic.