Difficulty By Acceleration

When gameplay gradually goes into fast forward as you progress. The core gameplay mechanics stay the same, but everything speeds up, forcing the player to react with quicker reflexes to stay alive.

Historically, in older games, fast forwarding was often used to compensate for a limited number of levels—when they ran out of new levels to show you, they'd have you play through the old ones again at a faster speed. Nowadays, it's still standard issue in action/survival-type Puzzle Games like Tetris, and one of the most popular ways to add Dynamic Difficulty to an Endless Game, including many Endless Running Games.

If you're lucky, the controls (player character / cursor movement, key repetition, etc.) get faster too, allowing you to keep up. If you aren't, you're eventually felled by the controls' lack of responsiveness.

Subtrope of Dynamic Difficulty. Compare Kill One, Others Get Stronger.


Examples:

Video Games

  • The race sections of Battletoads get faster and faster towards the end of each level.
  • Breakout is one of the earliest examples of this trope, dating all the way back to 1976. The ball speeds up as the player destroys more bricks.
  • Part of the package in Burnout, where over the course of the Career Mode you would unlock gradually faster cars. The hardest part about the Super and Special class cars isn't the tracks, but the speed of the cars; you would have less time to react to corners, walls and oncoming traffic.
  • Critical Mass uses this in most of its gameplay modes.
  • In Duck Hunt, the ducks fly faster every level.
  • Fruity Frank: If you started on "slow", the speed progresses to "fast" in 5-6 levels, but doesn't increase further.
  • Frogger. The cars that move across your path in the first half of the screen and some of the turtles in the second half can increase in speed after you clear a screen.
  • FunOrb includes several games that do this, including Bouncedown, Deko Bloko, Lexicominos, Geoblox, Pixelate, and The Track Controller.
  • Galaga gets faster and faster as you progress.
  • Most Game & Watch games work this way, although they often reset back to a slower speed after a certain number of iterations.
  • Jetpack Joyride twists the trope: the power-up vehicles usually dial back the scroll speed to give the player a chance to adjust to the change in controls. Depending on how far the player's current run lasts, the speed may decrease or increase again on losing the vehicle.
  • With Number Munchers level 19, the troggles move faster.
  • Pac-Man gets faster and faster on higher levels, continuing until the Kill Screen.
  • Prohibition: If you manage to survive long enough killing gangsters, the game will eventually loop back to the first enemy... with the timer (and nothing else) going down faster.
  • The original video game "Pong". Every time a paddle hit the ball, the ball would speed up slightly, increasing the difficulty in returning the ball.
  • Robot Unicorn Attack does this.
  • Run N Gun has this.
  • In Stampede Run, the game gets faster every 1000Ms.
  • The special stages in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 do this the longer you remain in the stage, with music to match.
  • This was a lucky accident in Space Invaders. Just rendering all the sprites of the enemies was a heavy load for CPUs of the time, but as the player killed more aliens, the computer was able to devote more cycles to moving the enemies, making them faster. Of particular note was that the game designer was unaware that the slow speed was a processing issue, and deliberately set the game to a high speed to compensate. He didn't realize his error until he started playing and shooting at aliens. He liked the effect though, and deliberately left it in.
  • Star Castle, by Cinematronics. The game speeds up as time goes by, the only difficulty increase in the game.
  • In Subway Surfers, not only does the player character move faster, but so do oncoming trains! This does make jumping the gaps between trains easier to a point, and also means that the player gets more mileage out of magnet and jetpack power-ups because more coins scroll by to collect in the same time interval.
  • Super Crossfire speeds up each time you reach a checkpoint, making it more difficult to dodge the enemy shots.
  • Temple Run plays this straight.
  • Tetris, the poster child for the Falling Blocks game, is a classic example. In Nintendo's Tetris games, the pieces will eventually reach fall speeds that are so fast that it is impossible to move a piece to the extreme left or right, resulting in a Kill Screen. In SEGA's Tetris games, the max fall speed is even faster, but to compensate, pieces can land on the stack or the floor and still move around for a short period of time. In Tetris The Grand Master, the Spiritual Successor to SEGA's games, pieces will eventually hit instant drop speed. Later non-Arika Tetris games such as Tetris DS would eventually implement instant-drop speeds.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo even on 'Easy mode' while Neo gets faster later on, so do most of the enemies, especially the harder ones.
  • The microgames in WarioWare are ludicrously simple, so this is the main source of challenge. There's also speedup within some boss stages — a notable example is Kat's boss stage in the original, where red and blue platforms speed up and slow down the game respectively when jumped on.
  • Zone races in the Wipeout series. Your speed increases slowly and gradually, and the only way out is to crash.
  • ZooCube plays it straight.

Non-Videogame examples

  • In Dune Messiah, Alia's combat simulator attacks faster and faster the longer she manages to evade it. Eventually, she manages to evade long enough for the simulator to go off the rails and start dishing out potentially lethal blows.
  • In Enders Game, Ender briefly plays a space combat simulator. He quickly tires of playing against the computer, because the AI plateaus and from then on it just keeps running the same strategy with increased speed until no human reflexes could keep up.
  • The Irate Gamer exaggerates this through Manipulative Editing — when he says that the Kool-Aid Man video game for Atari gets faster in later levels, he cues sped up gameplay footage.
  • In Williams Electronics' not-quite-a-Pinball Shoot 'em Up Hyperball, the attacking enemies move faster as the player advances in levels.