One of the most divisive video game mechanics is the timed mission. Being tasked with achieving a goal or series of goals within a game can be challenging enough. Adding in the stress of having to do so within a limited time is often enough to drive many gamers over the edge. I totally get that feeling; I have that one particular level in Super Mario Bros. 3 burned into my mind for life. There are a lot of different ways timers can be used as a fail-state situation, and the following titles are some fun and innovative examples of turning an annoying trope into a thrilling experience.
Jedi Knight – The Falling Ship
This level, from Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight (seriously, that’s what it’s called) is one of the most memorable I’ve ever played. Not only are you racing against the larger clock of getting off a ship before it crashes to the surface of a planet, but you’re also working with the rotating ship; waiting for a wall to become a floor so you can get into a duct, or timing your fall so you’re sliding rather than freefalling to your death.
I don’t even remember how many times I did this level back when I played Jedi Knight, but it was a lot. On one hand, this level doesn’t hold up that well because of its late-90s level design and samey looking environments. It’s super easy to get disoriented and lose a bunch of time. Then again, that’s part of what makes things so effective as you’re scrambling back to your ship. As much as this sequence made me want to turn in my lightsaber back in the day, it definitely earned my respect for being crazy innovative for its time.