Major Tim: Good, now get out of there.
Solid Santa: Are you kidding me?! Now I have to do it BACKWARDS?
Major Tim: Yes, I have to artificially extend playtime somehow.
Subtrope of Remixed Level.
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 catch 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-to-right, upside-down etc.). This also qualifies if the level axes have been flipped (i.e. floors become walls).
- 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, and indeed several games have utilized both methods, sometimes simultaneously.
There are several reasons why the development team might re-use the level geometry in this manner:
- The level really has potential for re-use, as much of the environment can be played very differently from a different angle and with little alteration (for example, the first level has the player get in a ship, which starts to sink during intermission, so the second level has a whole level tilted and partially flooded, making the once easy-to-access entry way become a lethal trap and force the player find another way).
- 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 that they are approaching it from a different angle/entrance, or in the case of flipped geometry, a literal interpretation of a Mirror Universe situation.)
- The dev team was lazy.
- The dev team ran out of time to develop unique geometry for every level.
- The level contents (items, enemies etc) are randomly generated, including start and end points.
- The level is a Nostalgia Level, and this is used to give a twist to the original design.
- The dev team needed to keep file sizes down.
In addition to the flipped geometry small alterations can be made to the level itself, either to accommodate extra features not present in the original level, or to justify the re-use of the level geometry by showing how the level has changed in comparison to the last time it was used, such as damage or new background objects left behind by people/creatures that have occupied the area since you were last there.
Compare Backtracking, where the level is exactly the same as before, only you're going through it in the opposite direction.
- In Episode 5 of Life Is Strange, one part of the Nightmare Sequence is the same as the school corridor scene at the beginning of the game, but people move and talk backwards (except for Max herself, who moves normally, but still talks backwards), the music plays backwards, and all the texts on the interface are mirrored.
- 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.
- Devil May Cry 2: Lucia's first mission basically makes her retrace Dante's first mission in reverse.
- Devil May Cry 4: Most of Dante's playable portions in the main campaign have the same levels Nero went through during its first half, but are played in reverse direction and contain some minor alterations or additional gimmicks.
- Right after going through the Salvation level, The Force Unleashed II has the player go through the level backwards, starting at the boss room. What makes this level different from the one just before is that the ship is now in the middle of a battle, so you have to deal with missiles shattering the hull, stormtroopers boarding the ship, and parts of the ship collapsing outright as you make your way through a level you thought you mastered.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, after defeating Ganondorf, you have to go back down Ganon's Tower while it's collapsing. The main difference being that the stairwells are blocked by debris, forcing you to go down the outside of the tower instead.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has a variation where different ports of the game are flipped relative to each other. The game was originally developed for the GameCube before Nintendo decided to also release it for the Wii and incorporate motion controls, which they felt was natural for things like swinging Link's sword. The problem was, however, that most people would want to make the motions with their right hand, and that Link was traditionally left handed. They couldn't just flip Link's model, since that would interfere with animations, level design, etc. which they didn't have time to redo, so instead they just flipped the geometry of the entire game to make Link right-handed in the Wii version. The HD Updated Re-release for the Wii U uses the original Gamecube orientation for its normal difficulty setting, and the mirrored Wii orientation for Hero Mode. The 3DS Enhanced Port of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has the game's world become flipped in the Master Quest mode, which also makes Link become right handed.
- In The Phantom Menace, Level 5 consists of Obi-Wan escorting Queen Amidala or rather, her decoy Sabé from the Naboo Royal Palace to the Hanger. Level 10 is split between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's battle with Darth Maul, and Padmé and her guards fighting their way back to the palace from the hanger, occasionally running into an NPC that Obi-Wan helped.
- 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 Mirror Mode, which require the player to race on the exact same track, except flipped horizontally. An extremely nasty version of the Mirror race is in Mario Kart 64's Toad's Turnpike. The traffic, which you raced alongside with, is now in reverse.
- Mario Kart Tour does not have flipped courses but does feature the occasional track where you go in the opposite direction. Also done in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe when Paris Promenade and Sydney Sprint from Tour, as well as DS Peach Gardens, returned as part of the Booster Course Pass, as portions of all three are driven in reverse. Even before that, some missions in Mario Kart DS had the player drive in the opposite direction.
- 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. The San Francisco Rush games also had these settings.
- Kart Rider has Reverse tracks, where certain courses are played backwards. However, since courses tend to have points of no return, there are added ramps and obstacles. A fixture of every Reverse track is a set of poles just before the finish line that you can crash into if you're not careful.
- LEGO Racers the fourth, fifth, and sixth circuits are the same as the first, second, third, but with the race tracks mirrored, the tracks raced in reverse order, and with the boss racer replaced with a tougher one.
- The first Green Plant course in F-Zero GX is shaped like a Mobius strip, meaning you traverse each section both rightside-up and upside-down.
- The final unlocked difficulty in Wave Race 64 has you racing each track in reverse.
- Test Drive 4, 5, and 6 all have reversed versions of their point-to-point courses.
- Jet Moto 3 has reverse courses that also have their names reversed.
- Every course except the final one in StreetPass Mii Plaza's Slot Car Rivals game reappears in which the racers go in the opposite direction, though with modifications in some of them so it's possible to finish them. Whereas the normal versions are set in the day, the reverse versions of these courses are set in the evening, nighttime, or in turbulent weather.
- Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 5 has Extreme VS Mode, in which in addition to the Interface Screws that conceal advantage meters, remaining distance counters, etc., all of the roads are raced on backwards (except on the non-divided Hakone course), meaning that you're driving such that the opposite direction of the route is on your left rather than the rightnote , racing on the "Inward" side of C1 in the "Outward" direction, etc. This may not seem like much of a hassle at first, but some routes have unique hazard in one direction only, and the Osaka and Nagoya courses become very different beasts as outside of Extreme VS Mode, there's no counterclockwise variant of either route.
- San Francisco Rush's console versions allow you to reverse or mirror each course, or even apply both effects. In addition, the Circuit mode not only has you race on the vanilla variants of each course, but also each course's reversed, mirrored, and reversed-mirrored versions.
- Daytona USA series:
- In the original game the player can turn around, then complete laps and even full races by driving in the reverse direction (all the other racers will still be driving forwards, which means avoiding them as they drive towards you will be necessary). There is a "REVERSE" warning that flashes in the middle of the screen, but after several seconds it moves into the corner.
- In 2001 each track can be played normally, reversed, mirrored, or mirrored and reversed.
- The three new tracks in Daytona Championship USA are reskinned mirrored versions of the originals.
- Shrek Smash N'Crash Racing: There is a mode that can mirror the tracks.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and 3 do this sometimes with their Spec Ops levels, with several of them being areas you play through in the campaign (two in MW2 are even taken from levels from Call of Duty 4), just played from the 'end' of the level to the 'start'.
- This trend started in the original Modern Warfare, notably "All Ghillied Up/One Shot, One Kill" (former is stealth, latter is action) and "Safehouse/Heat" (fighting your way uphill to reach Al-Asad, then storming back downhill through the territory that the Ultranationalists recaptured, due to the landing zone being moved), 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.
- Modern Warfare 2 also does this within its own campaign, with "The Hornets Nest" and "Exodus" being reverses of "Takedown" and "Wolverines" respectively.
- And further back in the original Call of Duty, there was Ste. Mere-Eglise and Ste. Mere-Eglise-Day. The first was at night and had you clearing the German AA guns from the occupied burning town, hence the alternate name "Burnville". The second, during the day (hence the alternate "Dawnville" name, used for the multiplayer version) with the fires burnt out and some areas blocked off by rubble, consisted of pushing back the German counterattack and taking out their mortar crews.
- 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 series in general. In Halo 2, "The Oracle" and "High Charity" are Flood-infested reverses of "The Arbiter" and "Gravemind", respectively, Halo 3 had "The Storm" and "Floodgate" 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 (2011) 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.
- In Portal 2, the Dual Portal device is lying in the fire pit from Portal. After grabbing it, you navigate backwards through Chamber 19's (now-dry) river of Grimy Water.
- In the second-to last level of The World Is Not Enough (N64), "A Sinking Feeling", you infiltrate a submarine. The final level, "Meltdown", starts where the previous left off, but the submarine is sinking and turned vertically, so you have to climb upwards out of it, invoking both versions of this trope.
- In Doom 3 you have to backtrack to Marine HQ in Mars City after the demons are unleashed, with many doors and stairways blocked off by the damage.
- The secret level for the original Doom Episode 3 was, at first glance, a room-for-room repeat of the first level of the episode, but with the original final room expanding into a boss arena when you hit the switch—the rest of the level has you going backwards through it, with all the rooms similarly expanded and with new enemies in them.
- Datadyne Central: Defection and Datadyne Central: Extraction in Perfect Dark. The former is a standard espionage mission, descending the skyscraper, while the latter is an Escort Mission back up to the rooftop, with tons more enemies, including a Future Copter and Cassandra's Amazon Brigade, and the player's path restricted by barricades and locked doors. Later, there's the Area 51 Rescue and Escape levels. Perfect Dark Zero has Laboratory Rescue/River Extraction and Trinity Infiltration/Trinity Escape.
- Marathon: Fell does this multiple times. "We Corpses All Sing" revisits "A Merging of Shadows" with a different starting point and without the vacuum conditions, "The Face Below The Puddles" begins at the endpoint of "Nox Quondam" and retreads some of that level's geometry, and in "Vessel in the Depths" you start on the large ship from "No Whisper a Man Could Hold" and go through space to a smaller ship mostly identical to the one in the original level. Ditto "Phaidros' Eighth Guest" and "How the Stones were Placed".
- The Marathon 2 level "Sorry Don't Make it So" reuses the geometry of the M1 level "Pfhor Your Eyes Only", with the player starting at the opposite end of the map and several new rooms added. In turn, "Hang Brain" from Infinity is a reversed and remixed version of "Begging For Mercy Makes Me Angry" from M2.
- In Marathon: EVIL, the penultimate level "Schmackle" has a mirrored version of itself occupying the same space as the normal version. The final level, "Life's End", uses the reversed path variation, both in respect to the previous level and in the fact that you have to backtrack through the whole level to the exit after triggering a Collapsing Lair scenario, with a few Monster Closet ambushes along the way.
- In the Courier 11 scenario, the aptly named "Deja vu, sil vous plait" is "On the Green" in reverse.
- In Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, after rescuing Cohen and disarming the bomb at the Convention Center, you have to go back through the exhibition hall, which is now filled with terrorists.
- Overwatch's annual Archives event has special game modes, Uprising and Retribution, which feature this trope. Uprising has the strike team travel backwards, then forwards, through a modified version of King's Row, while Retribution has a different team travel backwards through a modified Rialto.
- The Unreal Tournament mod Operation Na Pali has remixed versions of the first three levels from Unreal: "Rrajigar Mine", "NyLeve's Falls" and "Vortex Rikers". In all of these levels, 046 must start from what would be the ending of these levels and make their way back to what would be the beginning.
- 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.
- In Final Fantasy XIV, some of the hard mode dungeons start at or near where the final boss was, and work their way down to where earlier bosses were. However, avoiding the use of this trope as a cheap palette swap, the visuals and appearance of the dungeon have changed to reflect the time that's passed and events that have occurred since you were there the first time, to the point you may not recognize some areas that you saw in the normal version when you enter them again.
- Done for effect rather than gameplay in World of Warcraft and the second half of the "Return to Karazhan" dungeon. The area immediately after the fifth boss, the Curator, is upside-down and has you walking on the ceiling. Look up, and you'll see unreachable enemies from the original Burning Crusade version of Karazhan patrolling the "floor".
- Super Mario Bros.:
- The fourth, fifth, and sixth stages of Dark Castle, the final level of Kirby's Dream Land 2, are literally mirrored (and harder) versions of the first, second, and third stages respectively. Part of stages 3 and 6 are maze-like Autoscrolling Levels, and getting through the latter without getting trapped and crushed between the wall and screen edge requires memorizing the path from the former.
- Transformers: Convoy no Nazo: Stage 6 is Stage 3 going down instead of up, and Stage 10 is Stage 8 going up instead of down.
- Both types show up in NES Remix.
- Many levels in Sonic Adventure 2 occur in different areas of the same location, and often reuse parts of layouts that are sometimes in reverse. Examples include Tails' Prison Lane to Eggman's Iron Gate, set on Prison Island; and Sonic's Crazy Gadget to Tails' Eternal Engine to Eggman's Lost Colony, set on the ARK.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) uses this in Shadow and Silver's iterations of the same levels Sonic went through. Shadow's Kingdom Valley has a part that is Sonic and Silver's done backwards, while the End of the World level is made up of various different pieces of previous levels, sometimes played backwards.
- Some of the DLC content involves playing through stages in reverse.
- VVVVVV has an unlockable Flip Mode, which flips the game world vertically.
- Ori and the Blind Forest has you backtrack through the icy section of the Valley of the Wind after escaping the Forlorn Ruins, only this time, Kuro is stalking you and there are new barriers to be cleared. Then during the final Escape Sequence, Kuro chases you through several familiar areas of the forest, which now have encroaching lava flows and falling volcanic bombs.
- In David's Kong, a DOS Donkey Kong clone, you have to carry the Damsel in Distress back to ground level after rescuing her, with the addition of holes in the girders that you must jump over.
- Rayman Legends has Invaded levels, which are time trials of stages you've played previously, but often with completely different enemies, and some of them require you to go backwards through the stage.
- Mega Man Zero, thanks to its Metroidvania overworld, has a couple of examples.
- The "Retrieve Data" mission has Zero trekking back to the Underground Laboratory (the very first area in the game, and therefore the series) to find missing data. The level starts at the boss room, has a boss battle at Zero's capsule area, and then when the defeated Boss pulls a Taking You with Me, Descending Ceiling style, he has to run through the level again.
- The midpoint mission is a Boss-Only Level, where the villains send a giant Drill Tank to rout the Resistance. Again, it starts close to the Boss room of a previous mission (the 2nd level Boss before the standard mission selection is even available), and Zero has to destroy the tank before it reaches the Resistance Base.
- The Old Save Bonus "Episode Metal" in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II that you get by having an Episode I save takes Metal Sonic on a journey through one act versions of Mad Gear Zone, Lost Labyrinth Zone, Casino Street Zone, and Splash Hill Zone in that order. In other words, the reverse sequence of zones from Episode I. The ending then has him give chase to Sonic and Tails, setting up his role as an antagonist in Episode II.
- Sonic Mania Plus adds Encore Mode and a new set of special stages to go with it. These stages are significantly more challenging and also involve playing through the backgrounds of the original stages in reverse order.
- In Spyro: Year of the Dragon, the Egg Challenge "You're Still Doomed!" is going through the route of the previous Challenge, "You're Doomed!", but now with even harder enemy layouts.
- In Yoshi's Crafted World, each course has a "Flip Side", which starts you at the end and has you traverse backwards, with the perspective turned around to reveal many visual elements of the course that are not visible from the obverse side. The main goal of each course's Flip Side version is to find three Poochy Pups and bring them to the goal within a specified target time.
- The first driving stage in The SpongeBob Movie Game has SpongeBob and Patrick escape from Bikini Bottom as Plankton starts taking over. The last stage before the final boss has them return to the Krusty Krab by driving the same course but backwards through what is now "Planktopolis".
- Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time has every level, including the boss levels but not the Flachback Tapes, come with an N. Verted mode. Besides mirroring the level, N. Verted Mode also has a unique visual gimmick unique to the world (i.e. Salty Wharf is Deliberately Monochrome until it is painted by the player's actions, Mosquito Marsh has a film grain, etc.) and the Hidden Gem is always in a new location.
- The Dragon Age series:
- 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.
- Dragon Age II 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.
- 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.
- In Gurumin, the levels 4 and 5 of each world are reversed versions of level 2 and 1.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, if you side with the Legion, the path through Hoover Dam is reversed from the other allegiances.
- In Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, the Cipher Lab is essentially played backwards from how it was played in Pokémon Colosseum as the Shadow Pokémon Lab, with Ein's lab now being one of the first rooms visited.
- 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. (Although this may have been more for the sake of consistency than saving on art assets.)
- The mission that re-introduces Shaundi in Saints Row IV is set aboard the Morningstar jet from the prologue of the previous game, starting from the open cargo bay and returning to the cockpit.
- A notoriously tricky section of R-Type III on the SNES requires you to fly through a convoluted set of pipes while dodging magma streams, fight a miniboss, then do it again backwards.
- Gradius 1's fourth stage is an upside-down version of the first stage, with many more enemies and bullets.
- The Fortress stage in Gradius IV turns sideways halfway through.
- Stage 6 in Gradius V has the level geometry tilt in various directions, followed by scrolling backwards. The final stage is a mirrored version of Stage 2, since you're now playing as your future self from that stage.
- Time Bandit has levels numbered 1A-1D, 2A-2D, up to 4D. B levels are flipped top-to-bottom relative to A levels, C levels are flipped left-to-right, and D levels are flipped in both directions. There are often other minor changes, such as the addition of one-way doors.
- Transformers (2004) (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.
- In the first level of Syphon Filter, you rush to the bottom platform of a Metro station in an attempt to disarm a bomb. In the second level, you climb out of said station after the bomb goes off, while dodging Men on Fire. The trope recurs throughout the series, such as in Rhoemer's Base, also from the first game, and Aljir Prison and the Agency Biolab from the second game. Also in the second game, you revisit Pharcom Expo Center, and the route you take is roughly the reverse of that in the first game.
- In Duke Nukem: Zero Hour, the third stage, "Nuclear Winter", is a reversed post-apocalyptic version of the first stage, "Mean Streets". After that is an alien-occupied version of the intro stage.
- P.N.03 has this at the end of Level 9, itself a remixed version of Level 6, where you have five minutes to retrace your steps to the previously-locked exit after defeating the Load-Bearing Boss, and new enemies have appeared along the path.
- In Mission Impossible 1997 for N64, the second half (action) of the Embassy mission is a reverse of the first half (stealth), and the final mission revisits the submarine base from the first mission with a reversed path.
- Dawn of War II occasionally flips the orientation on its maps for different levels, but it only really clicks if you turn the camera to the the usual angle. Some levels are also part of the same map with different camera bounds (so slooking around the edges of a Chaos-filled level will reveal frozen Wraithguard from an earlier Eldar level, etc.).
- A common cheat in the Ratchet & Clank franchise is mirrored levels, which causes everything to be flipped across the Y-axis.
- In Ghost Recon: Future Soldier's second mission, you first stealthily clear out an enemy-infested refugee camp, then travel to an airfield to stop a cargo plane from taking off. After the plane goes down, you have to trek back to the camp to retrieve the black box, plus the terrorists have retaken the camp and a sandstorm hinders your vision.
- Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion has the level Labyrinth Station, which is a reversed version of the main game's tutorial level. In addition to being played in reverse, the level has a darkened atmosphere and features enemies that weren't present before. This allows for fresh challenges in a familiar area; for example, the final segment has you taking cover from an Octosniper along the same straight narrow corridor that was previously used to teach the player basic movement.
- BIONICLE Heroes for the DS has a level which is one of the previous levels, only upside down.
- Once the player has beaten all the planets on Thrust, they then get to replay them, except with gravity pulling the ship upward rather than downward.
- The Magic Mirror in the Glider PRO room "Looking Glass" leads to an upside-down version called "ssalG gnikooL".
- Pangya where several courses are other courses with tee and green swapped.
- In Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number's Hard mode, all the levels are flipped around (including the cutscene locations where you don't actually fight anyone!).
- Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction: The final level for the USCM is the Alien's first level played in reverse.
Now, read these examples again from bottommost to topmost.