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Ten-Second Flashlight

In video games where the player is given a flashlight, it will come in one of two flavors; the Infinite Flashlight or the Ten-Second Flashlight. For some reason, once you activate your sole light source it lasts for mere moments. Perhaps they put in some near-dead batteries, perhaps it's solar powered, perhaps it's simply a cruel trick being played on the player's avatar. Whatever the reason, few if any, games have realistic flashlights with cells that last an hour or so and then must be replaced.

More shockingly, the Ten Second Flashlight will often recharge itself in half the time it took to discharge, leaving questions as to why they simply didn't double up the power source. If it doesn't recharge, you may have to rely on your Muzzle Flashlight instead. Typically, this kind of torch tends to shine a brighter light than the infinite variety to compensate for the short runtime.

Used to be Truth in Television in the flashlight's early years – the reason it has this name is exactly because it could only be "flashed" in short bursts, or the batteries would die at about the rate a safety match burns out. Technology Marches On, however, and with it came low-powered models that could last a few good hours... provided the bulb held (the regular incandescent one hardly would last a full battery charge). Finally, since The New Tens, LEDs can easily invoke a downplayed version of Infinite Flashlight: torches on low-output modes have ordinary batteries lasting days even when used nonstop.


  • In the classic computer game Maniac Mansion, there is a flashlight item that, when first acquired, is a Ten-Second Flashlight. However, when you acquire fresh batteries, it becomes an Infinite Flashlight.
    • Ironically, the ten second batteries can last you quite a while in the game as long as you're just exploring the darkness, but they burn out in a nanosecond if you try to use them in the single place in the game where you actually need a flashlight.
  • Justified in Déjà Vu II, as the game states that since your character took poor care of the flashlight, the batteries are corroded and have little power. The game also pokes fun at the battery technology of the 1940s.
  • The memorable Serpent's Grotto puzzle from the first game in The Legend of Kyrandia series involves clever use of multiple disposable Ten Second Flashlights. Serpent's Grotto consists mostly of a series of caverns with glowing Fireberry bushes growing at strategic locations throughout. Warmth (from Brandon's hand) causes the berries to decay and lose their glow (a Fireberry continues to give off light for exactly three screens when held); when they're on the cold floor, the decay stops and the glow remains constant. So Brandon must explore the Grotto by dropping Fireberries on the floor to light up otherwise pitch-black rooms. Get caught in a room with no bush and no berries, and the results are predictably unpleasant.
  • In a variant, the chemical glow-sticks from The Curse Of Blackmoor Manor will fail at least twice in a game, no matter how recently you acquired or activated them.

  • The lantern in The Legend of Zelda CDi Games Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: Wand of Gamelon lasts for just a handful of seconds.
  • Averted in Alone In The Dark 2008. Your two main inventory items are a pistol and a flashlight. The flashlight operates on batteries (which you find scattered throughout the game) and does eventually run out of power, but each battery lasts for a good few minutes, which can last you a while if you switch it on and off as needed.
    • Not to mention the fact that after you burn one of the evil roots (don't ask, it's complicated), you get an ability that makes killing enemies easy, as long as you keep your eyes closed. It's that kind of game.
  • In Fester's Quest, you keep on having to collect light bulbs so you can see inside the darkened sewers. Light bulbs shouldn't go out that quickly.
    • Possibly justified in that this is Fester Addams of The Addams Family we're talking about. He's not putting them in a flashlight, he's putting them in his mouth, which lights them. How long could you sit there with a lightbulb in your mouth while fighting aliens?
  • Tomb Raider 2 used flares, which lasted for a good few minutes before burning out and were plentiful. In the 3rd game, they last only half as long as they used to.

First-Person Shooter
  • Half-Life 2 and Episode One. A lampshade was hung on it in Half-Life 2: Episode One, and it was spoofed in the webcomic Concerned, specifically issue 20, along with the fact that in Half-Life 2, the flashlight for some reason uses the same power source as the "sprint" ability. Supposedly, the flashlight is attached to Gordon's H.E.V. suit, but how a light bulb drains power nearly as quickly as sprinting and pumping oxygen while underwater is anyone's guess. It's Played for Drama and horror in the "Lowlife" segment of Episode 1, where you and Alyx have to go through a tunnel filled with monsters, and she will only shoot at the farther enemies if you're shining the light on them.
    • Episode Two goes back to the first game's concept and downplays the trope, this time by separating the flashlight from the auxiliary power supply and giving the light its own energy gauge. A Hand Wave explains that the crash at the end of Episode One broke the flashlight, and the new one was an improvised replacement. That it's better than the original invokes a bit of Fridge Brilliance: it's been twenty years since the first game, and Technology Marches On, which would include better flashlights becoming available.
  • F.E.A.R.: Only the first game. The Infinite Flashlight comes in later installments. Although, it's in your best interest to leave the flashlight off if you don't absolutely need it, considering this is the one game where enemies will notice its light.
  • Unreal has flashlights that have batteries for a full minute only, and when exhausted, have to be replaced. It's likely that the ordinary torches you find lying around belonged to other survivors, and they would have been used, battered, or simply left lying for a long time. Later in the game, however, the player finds the searchlight, which, while not actually infinite in the game code, has enough juice in it to last until the end of the game, making it an Infinite Flashlight for all intents and purposes.
  • Halo, where the humans possess technology enabling interstellar travel, yet cannot make flashlights capable of lasting much more than the usual ten seconds, or even providing enough light to do anything other than give away your location to other players (play co-op and notice how much light reaches your partner's eyes compared to your own; this is how Real Life flashlights work, but for gameplay purposes it's useless). Actually made worse in Halo 2 - Master Chief gets an infinite flashlight, however it automatically turns off after about four or five seconds if he uses it while in an area with any level of light above "pitch black" (meaning you only really get to use it for that twenty-foot stretch of tunnel in New Mombasa). His Covenant counter-part, the Arbiter, has no flashlight at all, which can be particularly annoying considering his levels tend to be much darker than the Chief's.
  • The Aliens vs. Predator games are also worthy of mention. Despite giving you a flashlight, flares and nightvision, none of them last more than a minute.
    • Except for the most recent installment. You get an Infinite Flashlight, but now flares last for less time than it takes to empty a pulse rifle magazine.
    • The first game in the series, actually, allows unlimited use of night vision. It does disable your motion tracker, though.
  • Metro 2033 plays with this trope; your flashlight will always work regardless of your battery charge, but you're given a hand charger which can be used to make the light brighter for a few minutes. Considering most of the game takes place in pitch-black corridors, whipping out the charger every so often is helpful.
    • However, the night vision goggles DO only last for a few minutes before you have to charge. Justified in the sense that any working night-vision equipment, and the rechargeable batteries of same, will be at least 20 years old.
  • Doom 3: BFG Edition replaces the flashlight weapon from the original Doom 3 with a Half-Life style armor-mounted flashlight. True to the trope, it lasts about thirty seconds but recharges in about three, so you can keep the hallways lit pretty much forever as long as you flick the flashlight on and off over and over.
  • The Crysis nanosuit has a night vision set which last sixty seconds or so.
    • Crysis 2 combines night vision and infrared vision into "nanovision", which also helps see through dust and smoke. It draws from the same energy bar as Cloak and Armor Mode, lasting around 45 seconds from a full charge.

  • The flashlights in the Penumbra series devour batteries, each set lasting only a few minutes. The game explains this by saying that it's a really old, terrible flashlight. However, this applies to both your torch and another one that you find later on, so Phil must have really terrible luck. Fortunately, you have a glowstick that lasts infinitely and Phil's night vision is nothing short of stupendous. In fact, these two mechanics are so useful that you shouldn't need to use the flashlight more than ten separate times in both Overture and Black Plague together.
  • Silent Hill 4 does away with the flashlights used in the first three games; however, in the second visit to the Forest World, Henry must use a torch to retrieve a series of MacGuffins from a series of darkened wells. Normally, this torch will go out after traversing three screens or so, forcing Henry to make repeated (and dangerous) journeys back and forth to re-light it. However, if he makes a detour back to his apartment and soaks the torch in oil, it will last much longer, effectively turning it into an Infinite Flashlight.
  • In Alan Wake, this is a core gameplay mechanic. Most of the time, actually, the Flashlights do not drain quickly, and the battery will actually flat-out recharge... Except that you need to run it on a high setting to remove the darkness from enemies so that they can be slain - and one battery will only last around four seconds on this setting. Even Energizers won't keep going and going to prevent this.
    • Don't forget the flares! Road flares are made to last 15 minutes, but flares in the game last 15 seconds!
    • The implied in-game explanation is that whatever cosmic forces are battling over and with Alan are doing it. Channeling cosmic power through a D-Cell can't be good for its operational life.
  • Played wonderfully in Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason, where you find a soviet flashlight that runs long enough for you to forget how long its been on, and always seems to cut out just about when the creepy noise happens. You can then turn it on again instantly, to help change your pants.

Interactive Fiction
  • The Interactive Fiction title Zork has an electric lantern with a battery generous enough to finish the game with if you knew what you were doing. However its battery is finite and leaving it on when not needed will eventually run it down. This is a especially large problem since, unlike in other games, proceeding into darkened areas unaided is impossible, because more than 3 turns in the dark will get you eaten by a Grue.
    • Fortunately, Zork was usually kind enough to give you some kind of alternative light source ... though these tended to show up only very late in the game (Zork II) or be very easy to lose (Zork I and III).
    • Hilariously, Sorceror, set in the Zork Universe, has a potion that lets you see in the dark, and works perfectly as described. However, Grues have no problem with being seen...
    • The original Interactive Fiction game, Colossal Cave, also had a battery-powered lamp. Its batteries would last nearly the whole game, and could be stretched to last the whole game if you were clever. A vending machine found in the game would dispense new batteries, but at the cost of one of your treasures (all of which were worth points), forcing you to manage your battery life carefully if you wanted to get the maximum possible score.
  • Averted in the Interactive Fiction series Enchanter, where the Frotz spell (available from the beginning) turns any object into a permanent light source.

  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has a required minigame involving minecarts, obstacles, diamonds, batteries... and a flashlight that starts dimming the moment you start. But the flashlight isn't for Mario's direct benefit; it's so you can see Luigi's obstacles and diamonds. The bouncing batteries need only be collected to start being effective; no changing is required.
  • Crash Bandicoot games have a variation where there are usually one or two pitch black levels per game. The levels contain stationary insects that glow, lighting up their surroundings and will start following Crash if he goes near them. After a certain amount of time the insects will fly away, leaving the level pitch black again.
  • A gimmick in Sonic 3 And Knuckles' Sandopolis Zone, Act 2 is that it's dark, and various switches can be pulled to make it light for approximately ten seconds. Ghosts start chasing you when the lights go off.
  • Gleamin' Bream in Donkey Kong Country 3 - once Enguarde pokes it, it will give off enough light for you to see for a few seconds before it goes back out.

  • In Dragon Quest, the torches that you can by from the store only lights a tiny 3x3 square and burns out at ridiculously fast levels; later, you can learn a lighting spell with a larger range and lasts much longer.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Oblivion, the player has access to torches and racial abilities that enable them to see in the dark. However, these last for only a few minutes at most, leading to strange questions as to how exactly these people are supposed to be turning their eyes on. There are a few pieces of equipment that have permanent night vision or ambient glow, which act as Infinite Flashlights.
    • In Oblivion however, the torches last around 15 minutes, which is reasonable when combined with the fact that they're weightless and readily available. The main drawback is not being able to use a shield or two-handed weapon (Morrowind light sources had the same disadvantage, except most light sources had durations more in line with this trope, and weren't weightless).

  • Averted in Angband: even wooden torches will last for a while, provided you buy them from the general store. A brass lantern will go further on flasks of oil and gives more light too. A few Fantastic Light Source artifacts provide light indefinitely, although they can be Lost Forever.

  • Both Trauma Center: Second Opinion and New Blood feature operations in the dark (under different circumstances). As the operations progress, the sources of light continue to fail until the player is left using a camera flash to get a good view of the patient, and trying to continue from memory until the flash recharges.

Stealth-Based Game
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots features a flashlight attachment for weapons, it lasts less than two seconds and is essentially useful only for temporarily blinding hostiles.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, meanwhile, has a flashlight attached to the USP gained during the Tanker chapter that will last as long as you're aiming it, but which Snake will only actually turn on in three rooms.
  • In Escape from Butcher Bay, Riddick is usually equipped with an Infinite Flashlight mounted on a shotgun. After he falls into the Pit, however, his flashlight's battery is damaged, and he has six minutes to run through a maze of tunnels, fighting off wailing, naked ghouls, while his only source of light gradually dims. When Riddick finally receives his eyeshine, it's a godsend.


Non-Video-Game Examples
  • A non-video-game example from The Goonies: Data activates his "Bully Blinders" because nobody else brought a flashlight to the cave. While the intense light does indeed blind the rest of the gang for a few moments, it also burns out the batteries just as quickly.
  • Real life example. The Alton Towers theme-park in the UK does Halloween themed events, including growing its own cornfield to cut a maze into. Before going into the cornfield each group of participants is given a pair of flashlights (for the front and back of the group) all of which have been given nearly empty batteries to enhance the scary effect. Even knowing that they're only actors and not actually zombies, having your flashlight die on you while in a cornfield at night, when you can hear the screams of the groups further along is, if not terrifying, extremely immersive. It's for that reason that participants are kindly asked not to use any flashlights of their own.
  • Those Real Life hand-crank LED flashlights, once their batteries have worn out sufficiently, tend to only last about a minute before needing a recharge. If you crank them fast enough, they will indeed recharge in considerably less time than the light lasts, but it is easier to do so with them off and not pointed in front of you, meaning they function almost exactly like video game flashlights, with the added drawback of being quite noisy and needing both your hands free to recharge them. Why aren't there any video games where you're stuck using one of these?
  • Flashlight apps are available for modern mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. They use the camera flash LED, and if the device doesn't have one, turn the screen itself bright white. Naturally, such devices are not optimized for providing constant light, though, so the battery drain is very fast.
  • Most flashlights with variable outputs will have the highest setting draining the battery in an hour or so, sometimes even less than that. The low settings play the Infinite Flashlight trope as straight as real life allows.

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