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In a video game, Ratchet Scrolling occurs when the game screen only scrolls in only one direction and prevents the player from backtracking.

This is similar to an Auto Scrolling Level, except that the scrolling does not occur by itself, but in response to the player's movement through the level. Like the nature of a mechanical ratchet, it scrolls forward freely as the player moves, but 'locks' in place and prevents the player from backtracking.

Lesser versions may allow the player some degree of backtracking, but only to a certain distance or recent checkpoints.

Easily becomes a form of Fake Difficulty, especially when the screen is ratcheted vertically, where any platforms that disappear even a few pixels off the screen edge may leave Bottomless Pits in their wake, in defiance of all logic.

In early video games, Ratchet Scrolling was a way to improve performance. If the player could only scroll in one direction, game objects and enemies could be created when they enter the screen and erased as soon as they scroll out, reducing memory usage. A Forgotten Trope now, but was once common, particularly in Platform Games.

Note that the name has nothing to do with a certain Autobot Medic or a well-armed Lombax.

Examples of Ratchet Scrolling include: