Created By: Adbot on April 7, 2013 Last Edited By: Adbot on May 11, 2013

Level In Reverse

This area looks familiar... wait a second. This is that other level, backwards!

Name Space:
Page Type:
With the cost of development for video games going up, it's understandable that the dev team would want to find a way to cut corners. As such, a lot of game content becomes recycled. It's easier to miss and/or explain with small things, but with something as large as a whole game environment, players might start to cotton on.

Some decide to cut corners elsewhere. Others try to hide the recycled geometry better.

The two major ways that developers try to hide re-used level geometry are:

  • Flipped levels, where the level geometry is flipped (Left turns become right turns, up becomes down etc.)
  • Flipped paths, where the direction the player traverses the level is changed (i.e. the player starts at what was the end of the level, and has to move towards what was the beginning.)

Note that these two methods are not mutually exclusive.

There are several reasons why the development team might re-use the level geometry in this manner:

  1. The dev team was lazy
  2. The dev team ran out of time to develop unique geometry for every level
  3. The level description requires the use of previous level geometry, with different enemy placements, objectives etc. (for example, the player is going back to an area previously visited, except is approaching it from a different angle/entrance, or in the case of flipped geometry, a Mirror Universe situation.)
  4. The level contents (items, enemies etc) are randomly generated, including start and end points
  5. The dev team needed to keep file sizes down

Compare Backtracking, where the level is exactly the same as before, only you're going through it in the opposite direction, and Remixed Level, where the new level is the same as the old level, but altered in some fashion.

Note that while all Level in Reverse examples can be seen as Remixed Level examples, the inverse is not true.


Action Adventure Games

Driving Games
  • Racing games tend to have reverse versions of circuits, as driving the circuit in one direction quite often has different challenges to it than driving it in the opposite one.
    • Need for Speed 2 had a setting which, if checked, meant you drove every track backwards.
    • The Mario Kart games have the Mirror Cups, which require the player to race on the reversed versions of tracks to win.
    • Re-Volt featured a particularly jarring version of this trope, having not only levels that were back to front, but also mirrored levels (swapped left-to-right). As well as reverse mirrored levels.
  • LEGO Racers has three levels which are previous levels, inverted left-to-right.

First Person Shooter
  • Modern Warfare 3 does this with its Spec Ops levels, with several of them being areas you play through in the campaign, just played from the 'end' of the level to the 'start'.
    • This trend started in the original Modern Warfare, however it was justified then as in between the levels that shared the geometry, the player character for these levels had not moved, but new enemies had arrived.
  • The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct does this with its randomly generated scavenge missions.
  • Halo: Combat Evolved had the first half of the game playing through various levels, and the second half playing those same levels backwards, as you were fleeing/fighting the Flood.
    • This trend seems to be somewhat popular with the Halo series. Halo 3 had The Floodgate and The Storm being reverses of each other, and Halo: Reach had the levels The Package and ONI: Sword Base sharing similar geometry, but with different start points.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 has a campaign called Hard Rain, which has the players reach a gas station half-way through, and then go back along the path they used to get there, except now a monsoon has hit, imparing vision and communication.
  • RAGE has several instances of having to go back to previous areas in order to retrieve something not gotten the first time, such as the two visits to Dead City. Once for an upgraded defibrilator, the other to get info on The Authority.
  • Duke Nukem 3D has an addon pack called Nuclear Winter, in which the first two levels are the first two levels of the standard game, played backwards and with a christmas theme.
  • The level immediately following your acquisition of the dual-portal device in Portal 2 is the final test chamber of the original Portal, only in reverse and in disrepair.

Massively Multiplayer Online games
  • Toontown Online has a section called the Goofy Speedway, where you race on one of 18 tracks. 9 of these tracks are reverse versions of the other 9 tracks.

  • Super Mario 3D Land has several of the special stages using geometry from the regular stages, played in reverse.

Role Playing Game
  • Dragon Age 2 does this with its dungeon environments, although sometimes you don't get the full expanse of the level, but you can still tell it's the same geometry, as even though you can't get there the minimap still shows the rest of it.
  • Two of the DLC packs for Dragon Age: Origins used the Cadash Thaig area, except one started at the southeast exit and ended near the statue in the northwest, while the other started at the statue and ended at the southeast exit.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has two versions of this in one: The inverted castle is not only played with the same level geometry, only upside-down, but you start the inverted castle from the Dracula fight room, and work your way 'upwards', thus utilising both methods of masking the reused geometry at the same time.
  • The Disgaea titles have Dark World and X-Dimension map variants that may or may not rearrange the placement of the Base Panel and monsters.

Sandbox Games
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had two levels inside Madd Dogg's mansion, one near the end of the game, and one near the start, with both levels having you go in opposite directions through the mansion itself.

Third Person Shooter
  • In Transformers: Prelude to Energon (The video game based on the Transformers Armada TV series) has one level where you fight your way through a space ship. The next level is the same ship, only the ship is now nose-down and you start in the bridge, which is where the last one ended, fulfilling both methods implied with this trope.

Misc. Games
  • BIONICLE Heroes for the DS that has a level which is one of the previous levels, only upside down.
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • April 7, 2013
    [Racing game] Re-Volt has not only reverse version of circuits, but also "mirrored" versions, with the layout inverted left to right. (And, of course, reverse mirrored versions.)
  • April 7, 2013
    oops didn't read ^
  • April 7, 2013
    Doom Episode 3's secret level starts off the exact same as the first level. In fact, everything's the same as it last was. But the moment you step in the portal, expecting the level to end, the walls then drop and you see rockets...and a Cyberdemon to use them on. As you walk back through the level, you'll find more expansions to the familiar rooms, with more enemies showing up as you find look around to find the real exit.
  • April 7, 2013
    ^ Not An Example, sorry.

    BTW, we're going to need a better title.
  • April 7, 2013
    • Two separate DLC packs for Dragon Age Origins reused the same location this way: in "The Stone Prisoner", you enter Cadash Thaig from the south-east and fight your way through to the big statue in the north-west. In "Witch Hunt", on the other hand, you start right next to said statue and make your way towards the south-eastern exit, collecting Plot Coupons along the way.
    • Need For Speed II allowed you to drive every track backwards with a corresponding game setting.
  • April 7, 2013
    Previous Map, Backwards?

    First Person Shooter:
    • RAGE's single-player campaign sends you back through several levels to run them in reverse, usually because the quest giver needs something you didn't find on your first pass. One example is Dead City. The first time you go through you're looking for an upgraded defibrillator, and due to changes in the level geometry due to explosions and the like during that trip, when you have to go back to Dead City for information on the Authority you travel through it backwards.
  • April 7, 2013
    Old Level, New Direction as a title maybe?
  • April 7, 2013
    The Mirror Cups in various Mario Kart games.
  • April 7, 2013
  • April 7, 2013
  • April 8, 2013
    Left 4 Dead has the Hard Rain episode where you fight through a small town, industrial ruins and farm areas... Then it begins to rain hard, and you have to fight back through all levels again.
  • April 9, 2013
    I have added the examples given in the replies to the main article. They might need some more formatting, though.

    If you guys have any further suggestions for alternate titles, I'd love to see them. The ones so far have been:

    Previous Map, Backwards Old Level, New Direction Level In Reverse

  • April 9, 2013
    Super Mario 3 D Land does this a lot. About half of the Special Stages are normal stages in reverse.
  • April 9, 2013
    In Castlevania Symphony Of The Night, breaking the spell that controls Richter Belmont unlocks a new area: the same castle, turned upside-down.
  • April 9, 2013
    BIONICLE Heroes: in the DS version, one of the levels is simply the previous level upside-down.
  • April 10, 2013
    Ah, one more Halo one.
    • Halo 3 and Halo Reach use this once each: the level "Floodgate" is "The Storm" backwards, and the first half of "The Package" is "ONI: Sword Base" again.
  • April 10, 2013
    I'm going to rename this to Level In Reverse, though I am concerned this might be seen as similar to Backtracking. Also adding the examples above.

    I've also added the subcategory to this trope, where the level geometry is reused, but it is 'flipped', i.e. the upside down castle in the CS:Sot N example, or the mirrored tracks in the Re-Volt example.

    I just found the page for Remixed Levels. As it is similar, but not exactly the same to this trope proposal, I've added a link to it in the description. If this does get launched, it should probably be marked as a subtrope of Remixed Level.
  • April 10, 2013
    ^In that case:

    Racing Games:

    • The second three campaign levels of LEGO Racers use the same maps as the first three, but they're flipped left-to-right and you drive the tracks in the opposite order from before.

    Also, you're going to sort and categorize the examples before launch, right? I'll give you a hat if you go ahead and do it.
  • April 11, 2013
    OK, so the folder feature does not work on YKTTW. I know that now.

    Took a peek at one of the other YKTTW articles, to pinch some formatting code. Should be alright now.
  • April 11, 2013
    ^Nope, folders and custom titles don't work in YKTTW. Just remember to add the folders when you launch. And as promised, have a hat.
  • April 12, 2013
    • The Dark World / X-Dimension levels from Disgaea games use the same map as their normal levels counterpart, but with much stronger enemies and much more complex Geo Panel placement, some of which may as well be an entirely new level. Some of them fits this trope, however, by having the Base Panel be located where the boss is in the original level, and having the enemies be located where the Base Panel originally was.
  • April 13, 2013
    Is it bad form for the original YKTTW submitter to add a hat to their own project? As I write this, it's sitting on 3 hats, and am wondering if I should add one myself.

    As it is right now, all it really needs is more examples.
  • April 13, 2013
    The Christmas add-on for Duke Nukem 3D, Nuclear Winter, involved replaying the first two levels of the original Duke, backwards and with a Christmas theme.
  • April 15, 2013
    • Dead Space did this a few times with the Medical Deck and the Bridge Deck. Dead Space 2 featured these same two decks.
  • April 17, 2013
    I'm going to need someone to confirm that Dead Space one. As far as I can remember, the times that the Medical Deck and Bridge are re-used, they are played in the same direction as they were the first time.
  • April 17, 2013
    I suggest as a name "Backwards Stage Rage"

    Oh, also Toontown Online has Goofy Speedway, where you race karts. There are 18 tracks. 9 of these are the backwards versions of the first 9.
  • May 10, 2013
    Small bump. Mostly to get enough attention on it to get the last two hats it needs. I'm confident enough to launch it now, but as I am the writer of the article in question, I'm probably too biased to add a hat.

    Also, I'd like to get an image for this article before it launches, and I think that Castlevania Symphony Of The Night would probably be the best example to illustrate the trope. Sadly, I don't have the capability to get the image myself, so if any of you would be willing to help in this regard, it'd be appreciated. It's a small detail, and the article would be fine without one, but it'd be nice to have one.
  • May 11, 2013
  • May 11, 2013
    Would something like this be a viable image? I think getting a side-by-side comparison of an actual room in Castlevania would be better, but that most likely requires some original effort to stage screenshots and Photoshop them together. It wouldn't necessarily be clear from an Inverted Castle image alone that "you've been here before with everything right-side-up."
  • May 11, 2013
    Looks to me like Stone Tower Temple in Majoras Mask fits this trope perfectly. Just like any other Zelda dungeon, once you defeat the boss, you get the item you need to continue. Standard stuff, right? But this time, the item (Light Arrows) flips the entire dungeon (and the tower) upside down! It really is cool. Maybe this is related to Gravity Screw?
  • May 11, 2013
    That image you provided Ultramarine Alizarin will suit, though my original idea was what you'd mentioned. Though, it could be hard to make it look like a proper example, and not a simple case of Gravity Screw.