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Back in 2005, author Steven Johnson wrote a book titled Everything Bad Is Good For You. It was his attempt to refute the notion that today's pop culture, especially video games, act to dumb down the American public. Video Games, Johnson argued, have become so complex that they actually stimulate our minds, not dull them.

Video game creators agree. Fortunately, they're willing to help you out.

As technology has grown more sophisticated, video game puzzles have become increasingly complicated. This is true regardless of genre: These days, platforming puzzles tend to involve the player character running up a wall, performing a backflip, grabbing a strategically placed rod, swinging two or three times to gain momentum, yada yada yada, driving a motorcycle over a pool full of dolphins.

This can be hard for a player to figure out, so the game's camera will frequently pan around the screen, silently tracing the correct route. This tracing the puzzle route with the game's camera is the Puzzle Pan. It's up to the player to actually take it. As noted, this isn't restricted to platforming puzzles. The solutions to more "mundane" puzzles will also be indicated by a strategic camera zoom.

This is a more sophisticated form of Notice This.

Examples of Puzzle Pan include:

Action Adventure

Action RPG

  • Kingdom Hearts, in the race at the start of the game.
  • Avalon Code likes this as well. at one point, what it shows is actually the 'hard way', though.

Casual Game

  • Before a level in Plants vs. Zombies, the camera pans right, and you see a mix of zombies representing what types you'll likely see next round, which helps the player decide what plants to pick.

Hack and Slash

Platform Game

  • The 3D Prince of Persia titles
  • Various Metroid games. Specifically, the Prime series.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Super Mario Bros..
    • Mario Vs. Donkey Kong
  • American McGee's Alice inverts this at one point. Right after the camera finishes panning over a new area, the Cheshire Cat makes a comment to the effect of "...the proper way of things is a mystery to me. You, too?" The very fact that the camera has stopped moving (and that the Cat's comments have been of dubious sanity and mixed value thus far) keeps you from noticing that the Cat's eyes are pointing out the pattern you need to follow.

Puzzle Game

Stealth-Based Game

  • The Assassin's Creed series makes extensive use of this technique, especially in the crypt/vault/tomb sequences where the game emphasizes rapid and precise platforming more than murder. It can go too far, though, such as when the camera pans across to a jump you're supposed to make, but also throws off your aim because the directional controls are relative to the camera, not the character.

Strategy RPG

  • Wild Arms XF, though technically neither a puzzler nor a platformer, is really a puzzle game masquerading as a strategy RPG. It gives you an overview of each battlefield before you attempt it, often with some helpful hints from your resident strategist (though these get useless very quickly).