Ten-Second Flashlight


In video games where the player is given a flashlight, it will come in one of two flavors: its batteries run either forever or for a pitifully short time. This is the latter case.

Perhaps the batteries are near-dead, perhaps it's an inefficient light recognized as such in-universe, 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 at least a solid hour before needing a replacement.

More shockingly, most Ten Second Flashlights will actually recharge their batteries by themselves, and in in half the time it took to discharge them, 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 light source 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 '10s, LEDs can easily invoke a downplayed version of Infinite Flashlight: decently-sized torches on extremely low-output "moonlight" mode have ordinary batteries lasting weeks or even months. Even on not-so-dim settings, lights like the Olight S2, for example, can stay on in its Low modenote  for just shy of a whole week.


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    Adventure Game 
  • In the classic computer game Maniac Mansion, there is a flashlight item that, when first acquired, is one of these. 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 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 C Di 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 II uses flares, which last for a good few minutes before burning out and are plentiful. In Tomb Raider III, they last only half as long.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • The Half-Life series zig-zags the trope between titles.
    • The original title and Blue Shift have a downplayed case. Gordon's and Barney's lights have a limited runtime and recharge when off (all signified by how solid or transparent the icon looks), though it can stay on for a good three minutes and recharges in less than a full one. Same goes for Shepard's Night-Vision Goggles in Opposing Force.
    • In Half-Life 2 and Episode One, it's played straight, draining quite fast and recharging just slightly faster. A lampshade is hung on it in 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" and "oxygen" functions. Supposedly, the flashlight is attached to Gordon's H.E.V. suit and feeds off of a universal power cell, but how a light bulb drains power at just over half the speed as sprinting and pumping oxygen while underwater do is anyone's guess. It's Played for Drama and horror in the "Lowlife" segment of Episode 1, where Gordon 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, longer-lasting energy gauge. A Hand Wave explains that the crash at the end of Episode One broke the old 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.
  • The first System Shock game has a head-mounted lantern and infrared goggles that place a drain on your overall energy bar. The lantern, however, can have its intensity adjusted, allowing the power drain to also be adjusted.
  • F.E.A.R. and both Vivendi expansions use a very short-ranged and short-running headlamp. It's in your best interest to leave the flashlight off if you don't absolutely need it, considering enemies will notice the beam. From F.E.A.R. 2 and on, you get the other variety.
  • Unreal has flashlights that have batteries for a full minute only, and when exhausted, have to be replaced. It's likely that they belonged to other survivors, and they would have been used, battered, simply left lying for a long time, or all of the above. There are also the more common flares, which when tossed, burn for some 20 seconds. Both are the crux of Prisoner 849's illumination tools until she 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, be it the core campaign or the expansion pack.
  • Halo:
    • In Halo: Combat Evolved, 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 flashlights work IRL, 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 a 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.
    • Halo 3 finally averts this; your flashlight can be left on forever.
    • Subsequent games have dropped the flashlight all together, though Halo 4's Promethean Vision works similar to this trope; despite allowing you to do things like see through walls, it still doesn't last very long. For their part, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach do give you infinite night vision; ODST gives the soldiers without all the fancy expensive gene mods and nuclear-powered armour VISR mode, and Reach (a prequel) gives you a proper night-vision mode.
  • 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 and its sequel play 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 and certain enemies can be Blinded by the Light, whipping out the charger every so often is helpful. The night vision goggles play it straight: they do only last for a few minutes before you have to charge them. Justified in the sense that any working night-vision equipment, and the rechargeable batteries for them, will be at least 20 years old and kept in worse conditions than recommended by the manufacturer.
  • 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.
  • Prey: Tommy's Zippo lighter can stay on for only a short bit before its heat meter gets too full, then it lowers even faster. Justified in that Zippo lighters get too painfully hot to hold if they stay lit for more than 20 seconds or so.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • Zork has an electric lantern with a battery generous enough to finish the game with if you know what you're doing. Its battery is finite and leaving it on when not needed will eventually run it down. This is an especially large problem since, unlike in other games, proceeding into darkened areas unaided is impossible, because more than three turns in the dark will get you eaten by a Grue. Fortunately, Zork is usually kind enough to give you some kind of alternative light source ... though these tend 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.
  • Curses! uses the 'dying batteries' version. Finding the replacement batteries is a significant puzzle.
  • It Is Pitch Black has this as its entire premise: you're trapped in an abandoned antique store with a grue and have to keep a light source running at all times until you're rescued. Fortunately, the store has several light-producing items like a box of matches, an oil lantern, and a tap light — but this being an antique store, none of these items work for very long and you need to figure out the ideal order to use these items to survive.

    Party Game 
  • Played straight with the "Luigi's Ghost Mansion" game in Nintendoland — the flashlights have a limited charge, and you'll have to find another battery if it runs dry. Even the extra-large batteries run out in a minute if you leave them on continuously.

    Platform Game 
  • 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 & 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: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! - once Enguarde pokes it, it will give off enough light for you to see for a few seconds before it goes back out.
  • Mega Man Zero 2 has a variant in two areas of a specific stage where there are invisible crystal platforms over a long row of non-stop spikes. A mirror-like object follows you through those areas, changing color at random intervals and releasing flame-like enemies in whichever color it currently is when you hit it. Whichever platforms share the color of those flame-like enemies remain visible until they move off-screen after a few seconds or you kill them yourself.
  • Jason's flashlight in Shadow Complex expires in about two or three minutes and then recharges to full in a couple of seconds. Due to the somewhat slow drain time and speedy recovery, it's more forgiving than other video game flashlights.

  • 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).
    • Skyrim averts it, making all torches infinite. With them in the Misc. section, and most items there unable to be used, you'd be forgiven for forgetting or not knowing you can equip them. That said, there's also the same night vision, as well as the Magelight spell, which summons a ball of light.

  • 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 for good.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga 2, the Light Ball is an item that works as a lantern for a short while (one full Kagutsuchi or Solar Noise cycle, depending on the game). If you traipse around in the dark where you're supposed to use them, you're going to be ambushed at every single random encounter, putting you at a major disadvantage.

  • 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.

    Survival Horror 
  • 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. Interestingly, Requiem replaces this with an Infinite Flashlight, supporting the theory that it's a Journey to the Center of the Mind.
  • 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 burning 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. Flares aren't much better, lasting roughly 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 portable illumination appliance 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.
  • Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator on the Wii has essentially two types of gameplay: Lock and Key Puzzles, and this. You'll find batteries for your ever-depleting flashlights — and sometimes even other flashlights — throughout the areas to allow you to continue exploring; just like Shadowgate, the minute your light source goes out, it's an instant game over.
  • Wick has the candles. They deplete and must constantly be replaced. The exception is at 5 am when there is only one candle which lasts indefinitely, not that it's of much help.
  • Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Moira's flashlight can be used on a wide beam mode for lighting up dark areas, or a more focused one to dazzle enemies. It lasts indefinitely if used for general area illumination, but when focused, the power has limited duration before she has to stop focusing and let it recharge.
  • The Plastic Torch in The Forest lasts for close to ten minutes in real time, but produces a very small cone of not very bright light. You're better off wrapping cloth around a stick or any of your axes and lighting it up for a torch with a bright and wide radius of light that'll last for two minutes or so (longer if you craft it with booze, presumably soaking the cloth) as long as you don't strike at anything with it.
  • The flashlight in LIT lasts for only a minute or so. Not exactly an issue for the most part, as its only purpose is to let you scope out the room without venturing into the insta-killer darkness.
  • Ripley's headlamp in Alien: Isolation eats rapidly through batteries. Even so, you're likely to be swimming in batteries before long, as since hostiles can notice the light it provides, it's only gonna be used sparingly.
  • Your flashlight in Tattletail loses power pretty quickly, justified in that it's an incandescent Faraday "shake" light that doesn't hold much charge, and since it's 1998, it's running on an incandescent lamp instead of an LEDnote . You can shake it to recharge it, but this makes a lot of noise that can attract Mama Tattletail, and if you look right at her it goes dead instantly. The secret ending grants you a Golden Flashlight that is brighter and lasts longer.
  • In the short indie game The Last Light, Sophie's flashlight lasts for about 30 seconds, fizzling out in the last 5 or so. It can be manually recharged in less than 10, but that is still too long, as ten seconds is more than enough for the smoke thing lurking in the dark to catch up and kill her. Flares, though certainly not infinite, do last considerably longer, and are a better option when traveling through long stretches of lightless metro hallways, but are very limited in number (Sophie can carry only 5), clunkier to light up, and can be easily wasted. The flashlight is best left for quick peeks into darkened corners or passing through short dark sections.

    Stealth-Based Game 
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots features a flashlight attachment for weapons, which Snake will not actually leave on for two secondsnote  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 
  • The eighth Nintendo Adventure Book, Flown the Koopa asks at one point if the player found a flashlight so the Mario Brothers can safely explore a dark basement. Since you're reading about it on this trope's page, you probably don't need to be told about how it dies after a few steps and they get chewed on by a swarm of Mega Moles.
  • 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.
  • 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. Even knowing that they're only actors and not actually zombies, having your torch 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 lights of their own.
  • Those 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 available for modern mobile devices like tablets and smartphones use the camera flash LED, and if the device doesn't have one, turn the screen itself bright white. Though such devices are not optimized for providing constant light, so the battery drain is alarmingly quick.
  • Most flashlights with variable outputs will have the highest setting draining the battery in an hour or so, sometimes even less than that. The lower settings play Infinite Flashlight as straight as real life allows.
  • In regards to the same modern flashlights, they can actually be ten-second, fast-recharge (whether they turn off entirely or just drop a fraction of the overall output varies from model to model) for one reason: overheating. However, good luck finding a single work (not just videogames) that takes that into account or a creator that knows that.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Bob makes a big deal out of carrying a flashlight (after having been caught in the dark in an earlier adventure), only for the batteries to die in the middle of a cave full of Bigfeet. This happens to him explicitly so the narrator can say, "It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue."