Gaming

The Origin and Physics of the Double Jump

The other day we were having a family game session on the PS4, which means we were playing the light-hearted adventure game Knack. Though it's not really any sort of revolutionary title, being little more than an update of Crash Bandicoot, it is a bright, joyful spot in the increasingly dark and violent world of gaming that I can share with my four-year-old daughter. Whose HDMI port do I have to kiss to get a colorful cartoon character not named Mario around here these days?

With her little hands what usually happens is one of us will control the movement of Knack with the left thumbstick, and the other will be in charge of the punching and jumping buttons. You can get a fair amount through the game on easy mode this way, and it's a neat way to each hand-eye coordination and cooperation.

On this occasion the Kid With One F was the buttoner, and she was getting us through the first level perfectly when she asked, "Daddy, how come Knack can jump in mid-air?"

I had honestly never thought about that. Who the hell came up with the idea of the double jump anyway? It seems like the laziest programming ever devised. Made the level impossible to beat because the ledges are too far apart? Just jump again in mid-air! That should do the trick. Of course, that does beg the question of why you can't just keep jumping until your legs give out, essentially giving you the world's second most ridiculous form of flight right after Mario turning into a raccoon.

Of course, some games do try and give a reason for the double jump. Castlevania titles are especially good about it. In Portrait of Ruin Charlotte Aulin will bust out a witch's broom for the second jump (Though Jonathan Morris apparently doesn't need one to do it), and in Symphony of the Night Alucard uses his cape as bat wings to accomplish the task. In Vectoman the lead character has rocket boots, and these double as a devastating attack.

Most of the time, though, there is no real reason for it, and sometimes it gets to ridiculous levels. Under the right circumstances in Dissidia: Final Fantasy Zidane can perform a triple-decuple jump, which I think we can all agree is madness.The Fairly Oddparents title Shadow Showdown just straight up took the piss out of the concept when they used it, saying "Double Jump. That's right, forget everything you know about the laws of physics and jump again in mid-air."

Piece continues on next page.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner