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Menu Time Lockout

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Sure, they won't attack you. But they'll chatter about your stuff inside the luggage... Source 

In virtually every video game with a pause feature, time stands still, enemies and environments freeze in their tracks, etc., and while at first this, being the very definition of a pause, might not seem unusual, when Fridge Logic sets in you can't help thinking about the fact that in many cases the pause screen is the same as the inventory screen, allowing a character to rummage in his Bag of Holding or Hammerspace and use items, equip different weapons, chug potions, stuff a whole barrel of raw potatoes down their throat and even completely change his wardrobe essentially instantaneously. Especially prominent in Role Playing Games, in which the player often spends a great deal of time in menus handling equipment or abilities.

Menus are the most common place for this to occur, but it often happens with certain other types of interactions. For instance, lock picking frequently gets done as a Hacking Minigame. In these cases, you may also be able to get this trope if you are able to play this to your advantage. You also very often get something similar with dialogue, but the player is normally locked into the dialogue and unable to do anything, See Talking Is a Free Action for details. Compare Real-Time Weapon Change for a similar effect outside special screens.

All this comes under Gameplay and Story Segregation, except in some cases of Pausable Realtime. This can also be a form of Acceptable Breaks from Reality; because it is very annoying form of game-over to be shot while you're trying to do something in the menu. For obvious technical reasons, this trope doesn't apply to multiplayer games save for counted exceptions, and most games that apply this in single player mode drop it in multiplayer mode.

Video Game Examples:

  • Multiplayer sessions usually do not have Menu Time Lockout since it would be quite annoying for everyone you play with, but the game may have it in Single Player. In Saints Row: The Third, you may check your cellphone while you fight 10-or-so enemies, which pauses the game. However, if a friend joins you, suddenly the game unpauses while you're still on your phone. In that case, expect the results to be bloody.
  • Averted in Alone in the Dark (2008), although the monsters do seem to move a bit more slowly than they otherwise would whenever the player is accessing his inventory. This still doesn't help much, considering the inventory system is agonizing to use in a hurry.
  • A rare multiplayer example of this happens in Dota 2, which has a function that lets anyone pause the entire game for all the 10 players. This function has restrictions: it can only be used in ranked competitive matches, the match may only be paused twice (except for automatic pause when someone disconnects, with the purpose of giving the disconnected player some time to rejoin if disconnection was due to bad internet), it has a 4 second delay, and established player etiquette states that you should only pause if you have a very good reason; if you pause with malicious intent (e.g. disrupting a teamfight), you will be reported.
  • Fable:
    • Played straight in Fable with anything involving retrieving items, whether the Hero is using his inventory, pulling stuff out of Inexplicable Treasure Chests or containers, digging up buried items, using the Fishing Minigame to reel stuff out of the water...
    • Fable III This game takes this trope to ridiculous levels. There is no menu, you canonically teleport back to your secret hideout while your enemy is swinging his sword and peruse your collection of weapons and armor, equipping them at your leisure, and then teleport back into battle. Your enemy is still mid swing.
  • The Like a Dragon / Yakuza series allows you to pause and access your inventory and learn new skills at almost any time you're in control of your character. This extends to battles, so if a tough enemy's got you down on the ropes, you can simply pause to eat a few meals and chug a few Toughness Z's, and also learn that new HEAT action you happen to have the money or EXP for just for good measure.
  • In the Metal Gear series, all the protagonists apparently stop time when considering their inventory, changing weapons or using items like Rations. Holding a shoulder button down to pause the game is a good way to take stock of the situation in an emergency. In the Game Boy Color game, weapons and items can only be equipped after first pausing the game.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3, Snake can switch his camo, alter the contents of his backpack (placing the other items in some kind of always-accessible Bag of Holding), heal wounds, and eat things (all at the same time, if need be) instantly, since all these actions take place in a separate paused menu (the Survival Viewer).
    • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, unlike its spiritual predecessor Bayonetta, requires Raiden to pause in order to switch weapons because the console hardware needs some time to swap weapon data in the RAM, which also handles the near real-time slicing effects. Still, Raiden can go from kicking dudes with his sword to hacking them to pieces with a four-meter long spear made of Dwarf Gekko arms in what is effectively an in-game instant.
  • In Mass Effect, you can, likewise in the middle of a battle, make a complete equipment change, including your full-body armor and weapons, to yourself and your two sidekicks.
    • But averted in Mass Effect 2 where the hacking minigames take place in real-time and if you do it while being shot at you get dumped out and can't retry.
  • Averted with Knights of the Old Republic. while you can use a medpack or a stim and change your weapons in Menu Time, you cannot swap out your armor. You are also restricted to a single medpack per turn with Menu Time.
  • The original Marathon plays it straight - the world stops whenever you read one the game's terminals - but Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity avert it. There are many points in the games when an enemy might sneak up on you and attack while you're busy reading. Always keep an eye on the motion tracker!
    • This also applies to older versions of the Aleph One fan port of the first Marathon, as the Aleph One engine is based on the Marathon 2 engine. Newer versions of the port re-implement the magic time-stopping terminals, however.
  • James Bond:
    • The N64 game GoldenEye (1997) was a particularly mind-boggling example, where the menu was explained to be information on a watch made by Q (a watch that would change your weapons for you, somehow). So enemy would just stand and wait in the middle of a firefight while James Bond stared at his watch.
    • Inexplicably, they decided to avert this for when you look at the watch. While the time looking at the watch pauses time, pausing is not instantaneous while James Bond is in the process of tilting his head toward and away from the watch. Thus, you are vulnerable right before you pause and right after.
    • The later GameCube/PS2/Xbox game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing gives this a justification. In the game it's called "Bond Sense", and it not only slows down time and gives you the option of selecting a new gun, but it also gives you a set of handy targets indicating certain actions. The best example is in the final level. If you pan up while in Bond Sense right when you're being marauded by a bunch of Mooks, you'll see a target on a button high on the ceiling. Lock-on to and hit the target and you'll get to drop an enormous armored crate onto your enemies. Flatten a few enemies to achieve a Bond Moment.
  • This was an actual gameplay mechanic in earlier Resident Evil games. There were two ways of reloading your gun: by pressing the Fire button with your magazine empty, or by pausing the game, going to the inventory section and combining your gun with your bullets. The former took a few seconds of in-game time, which could spell the difference between life and death during a fight; the latter, to the contrary, was instant in game time. Skilled players would therefore implement a functionally bottomless magazine by mentally counting their shots during a gun fight and reloading from the pause menu instead of triggering the reload animation. This mechanic was eventually scrapped in 4; later, Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil: Outbreak would completely avert this by having time pass freely while the inventory is open.
  • BioShock is occasionally parodied for the fact that all its hacking is done by a form of plumbing minigame. You could reorganize the pipes to get turrets to fight for you so it became a common trick to quickly jump up to a turret and then alter it in the middle of a fight where you were outgunned and outnumbered. Also, in the console versions the game pauses while you're selecting a weapon or plasmid.
    • The sequel has a different (and easier) minigame, but time no longer stops while you're hacking things.
  • The first four .hack games allow you to abuse the menu system to briefly think about which course of action is suitable for the current enemy you have. You actually have two menus, one for personal item/equip/skill, and the other is for party commands. Most of the time though, you simply just want to use the menu to cast spells and use items, even if this is apparently a real-time battle-based MMO. Apparently it got so menu-centric that the GU series repaired it, making using menus mostly unnecessary by having the Skill Trigger.
    • Not to mention that you could change your entire outfit - armor, gloves, boots, hats, the works - without leaving the menu. This let you keep a hammerspace full of various equipment, run up to an enemy, and the monster politely waits while you change into the perfect outfit for killing it.
    • The GU games added a penalty of manually switching weapons or armor by having the character crouch for several seconds before drawing their new weapon.
    • The Japan-Only Fragment, which is an online version of the first quadrilogy averts this (by the obvious virtue of it being online). Ostensibly, the experience gained from the release of Fragment was a major factor in revamping the battle system in GU.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Played straight throughout the series. Opening the menu freezes the game time around you, allowing you to change weapons, ready spells, change armor, gulp down potions, eat several hundred pounds of food, etc. Depending on the specific game, entering conversations with NPCs, picking locks, and engaging in Item Crafting (Enchanting, Spell-Making, Alchemy, etc.) may also freeze the game time.
    • NPCs also benefit from this: attack a sleeping guard in Oblivion and their armour and weaponry manifest on their body before they even sit up in bed.
    • Parodied in several web comics and videos regarding Oblivion and Skyrim. These typically show a character saying "Wait" when he's about to get attacked, drinking several potions to heal himself, switching out equipment, readying up a magic spell, then saying "And I'm set" before incinerating his opponent before they can even finish an attack.
  • The first Baldur's Gate averted this: accessing the inventory screen was in real time, so if you were in a fight, your character would continue to hit and be hit. Even if you paused previously, the inventory un-paused the game. The workaround was to play a "multiplayer" session with one character, which did have it. Because many players considered this a nuisance, Baldur's Gate II did not do this, but wouldn't allow you to change armor while in a battle. Still, you could instantaneously swap weapons, potions, shields, helmets, and any other gear while paused.
  • Terraria plays this straight and averts it depending on if autopause is turned on or off.
    • Having it off can have its advantages as you can click an item and then place/use/swing it by clicking, making the An Interior Designer Is You part much easier.
    • Having it turned on can also have the advantage of being able to pause in a dangerous spot/during a blood moon. It also leads to one of the most potent bugs in the game, allowing you to bypass potion cooldown.
  • Completely averted in the Dead Space series. Accessing your inventory, buying items out of vending machines, and even upgrading your rig does not pause the game around you. A careless player can easily get killed by a necromorph sneak attack this way. The only action that doesn't do this is saving the game.
    • It's even specifically used, as a certain enemy very late in the first game will only spawn when you use the nearby shop console.
  • All the Star Ocean and Tales Series games let you open menus in battle; some of them even let you re-equip your character's weapon this way, instantly.
    • You can even use the license grid during battle, and buy stat bonuses, spells, and Quickenings as well.
  • Averted in both The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II. Crafting weapons and healing all take place in real-time, so you can be ambushed during those animation sequences; In Part II, Clickers (blind Zombie enemies that need to be dodged with stealth) can even hear you opening your backpack/inventory if you are closeby on high difficulties. Workbench upgrades play this straight mostly, though there is one specific pre-scripted scenario in Part II where youíre ambushed from behind and forced into a fight. Also if you try to use one if you havenít completely cleared out a section of enemies, youíre likely to get jumped.
  • Final Fantasy
  • Final Fantasy XII, since the game doesn't really keep track of whether or not you're in combat. This has the annoying side effect that you can't use items from the menu screen, to keep them from being a game breaker Still you can be clever here and switch your equipment just before a boss is going to use a certain attack on you, taking advantage of your armor's elemental affinity so as to block the damage or even better, absorb it. Thanks for the free HP, Ultima! You can switch characters too, but not if they're being targeted by something, meaning that you can't use this to avoid attacks.
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII: The whole game is on a timer, but the game clock stops when you open the menu. You have limited menu access during battles (healing items, Energy Point abilities and Bestiary), but the game pauses for these too.
  • Though hacking and reading terminals don't fall under this either way, it's difficult to notice how extensive this in Deus Ex until one plays the multiplayer add-on, where swapping items, toggling augmentations and healing damage are very hazardous activities without elaborate keybinds in place.
    • Interestingly, while in dialogue NPC's can still move, but they cannot shoot. This results in enemies bursting into the room, taking careful aim at the player character, and patiently waiting for them to stop talking before filling them with lead.
    • Zigzagged in Deus Ex: Human Revolution: accessing your inventory or upgrade menu would pause the game, but in all other instances, the game continues. Talking to peoplenote  and hacking computers becomes dangerous and potentially nerve-wracking when you need to avoid patrols.
  • The Kingdom Hearts series averts this to a degree. You still equip items, accessories, weapons, and abilities in the pause menu, but the game will give you a normal pause screen rather than the menu if you are in the middle of a fight.
    • This allows the games to avoid most of the Fridge Logic inherent in Menu Time Lockout. While not in battle, where time doesn't actually matter, you can go into the menu and use items from your stock. While in battle, you can't change weapons or armor and in order to get a restoring item, you need to go through a set of sub menus while still avoiding getting killed, much like searching through pockets.
      • The other games have assessed this. Searching through your pockets for the right item (or magic) can leadto many a player get killed (especially in the early-game before you get the Cure spell), and it's part of why the Phantom is difficult in Kingdom Hearts (as it more or less forces you to constantly open up the magic tab unless you brought Donald and let him do it, which makes it harder). In later games starting with II, you can shortcut the items to a menu. This can be interpreted as the player character having these items ready ahead of time so they don't have to search in their pockets to find them.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout and Fallout 2, it took 4 Action Points to access the inventory in battle, less with the Quick Pockets perk, but you could do anything there once it was open.
    • Averted in Fallout Tactics: Opening the inventory is free, but you spend Action Points for each specific action you take. Quick Pockets instead halves the AP cost for these actions.
    • Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout 4 freeze time entirely whenever you open your menu, letting you change equipment and use consumable items as much as you want—in the first two, you could even reload your weapon instantly by taking it off then equipping it again. This let you spam stimpaks pretty much infinitely unless you suffered a One-Hit Kill, which is why Hardcore Mode in New Vegas and all difficulties of 4 have healing take effect over a few seconds when the menu is closed.
  • The first two Mega Man (Classic) games had this as an actual offensive/defensive (respectively) tool. In the first, if you paused and unpaused rapidly, large attacks like the Elec Beam would register several hits instead of one (this makes the Yellow Devil, an otherwise long and difficult boss, a total joke). In the second, Mega Man's weird little transformation blip animation would allow certain small projectile attacks to pass right through him; again, almost mandatory for a certain late-game boss.
  • Cave Story's pause menu allows for such things as reading a lengthy letter, equipping/de-equipping jet-packs, consuming life pots, checking map and last but not least, changing weapon. All while the game is paused.
  • Castlevania
    • In games starting with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you can pause and view the menu at any time to change equipment and whatnot, even if Dracula is in front of you, preparing to kill you. In SOTN itself, however, healing items had to be 'equipped' on your hands and then be used by using the 'attack' button, while the enemy could continue moving and attacking you: potions take several seconds to restore your health when used and food items are thrown on the floor, where you need to pick them up again to be healed.
    • This was clumsily inverted in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, where the right stick is used to scroll though your healing items and equipment, even though they're readily accesssible from the main menu and pressing a button to use one there just causes the game to pop up a notice saying "please use the realtime menu to manage your items". Thankfully it was removed in the next PS2 game and not present in any of the later later ones.
  • Zig-zagged in Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar where the storage room and menu do not pause the clock but the cooking menu and dialogue windows do.
  • Played straight in Dragon Age: Origins; a character can change armour and weapons in the middle of a battle, and there's even a convenient weapon-set-switch key that switches to the other set even without the help of a pause button. However, a mage playing as an Arcane Warrior will find that most spells can't be cast with a sword and shield, requiring real game time to sheath the sword, switch to a staff, draw the staff, and cast the spell. Since items are equipped sheathed when in pause mode, there's no real way around this.
    • However, you can have two different sets of weapons equipped, switching between them with a single key. So your Arcane Warrior can have his melee weapons equipped in one slot, and his staff in another, switching back and forth as needed with a single key.
  • Completely averted in Demon's Souls: pausing the game stops nothing, so either make sure to secure the area beforehand (Bosses will not hesitate to kill you while you're opening the game menu; something Zero Punctuation laments) or be proficient in selecting and using items while moving (the game lets you do that). The latter is essential for survival in Player-Versus-Player.
    • Returns with a vengeance in Dark Souls. Hope you don't mind changing your entire weapons loadout and tactics mid-battle! A common tactic is to place weapons that you often use together in "clusters" in the item menu, thereby making cycling through them easier.
    • Goes to being played straight in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Since the game is a purely single-player experience, it doesn't facilitate a need for it. Unlike the Souls games, however, you can only carry a limited amount of each item until you rest and restock from storage.
  • Guilty Gear 2: Overture normally averts this, but there is an option to turn this on. Makes the game much easier.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo for Xbox, PS2, PC and GameCube. Pausing reality is expected in the Matrix. Plus, walls are now see-thru. There's a bad guy!
  • Accessing your inventory causes bugs to freeze in place in the first Animal Crossing, as well as in New Horizons. Averted in other entries in the series, where the bugs continue to move. This trope makes it much easier to catch bugs which are fast and/or aggressive, since you have plenty of time to equip your net.
  • Averted in Infinite Undiscovery. The menu does not pause the game, so you better hope you don't need to use items or adjust any options in battle. This is made worse by the fact that your NPC party members — who can use items freely and instantly — can't use Mana restoratives for some reason.
  • Stonekeep pauses the game in the inventory screen, letting you change equipment or use as many healing items as you need to fully recover your HP.
  • Horrifyingly averted in Dungeon Master, which absolutely never paused to give the slightest mercy from enemies nor your party's Hyperactive Metabolism.
  • In keeping with its multiplayer-geared design, Diablo notably lacks this effect, with all menus inset to the main window, where the game can still be played while fumbling through items and skills.
  • Averted in Just Cause 2. When defusing a bomb or "removing" someone from a vehicle, time continues on around you, and you can/will get shot at.
  • Unintentionally averted in Steam versions of Test Drive Unlimited 2. Opening the Steam overlay results in the game continuing behind the overlay. Not good if you are doing those damn license test and someone decides they want to talk to you.
  • Subverted in Rune Factory 3. During the normal game using the Quick Menu feature makes time stand still giving you as much time as you need to pick items, change weapons and any other equipment. However during the Brutal Bonus Level you don't have such luxury having to carefully sort you recovery items or else you WILL NOT have enough time to eat them before the enemies or simply the boss pummel you to death which most of times is brutal and fast enough and oh, you don't get the full pause menu there so don't even think about trying it.
  • The two Shining Soul-games for the GBA also averted this, due to them essentially being like Diablo-clones. You had to retreat to a safe corner if you wanted to use healing items or change equipment during dungeon-crawling, since the enemies were happy to attack you while you look at your stats or inventory.
  • The Legend of Zelda series even does this when you use specific items (mostly using potions and other bottle-contents). Or play an instrument, open a chest, etc. Averted in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with the main weapons and potions, which are accessed by means of Real-Time Weapon Change.
  • The cell phone menu from Silent Hill: Shattered Memories averted this. This makes trying to access the map while running away from the enemies (you cannot fight them) rather frightening, especially since the lead character slows down whenever he's using his phone. The only place where this is even close to played straight is if you open up the detailed, full-screen map. In this case, you can keep walking while the map is up, and the monsters will keep following you, but they won't attack until you exit the screen. This is far from a reliable way to deal with them, though, since you're basically blinded and the levels are designed so that you have to exit the map at some point.
  • The first Buffy game on XBOX had this, which combined with her not suffering a Game Over unless a (usually drawn out) Finishing Move is used, and the game is considerably easier with the ability to heal up.
  • Parodied in this Buttersafe comic.
  • A strange MMO example in Final Fantasy XI. While talking to an NPC or interacting with a field object, the passage of time completely stops for purposes of tracking your status effects. This has become widely exploited for stretching out what were supposed to be short-lived bursts of incredible power, such as the scholar 2 hour ability, for quite lengthy periods of time and avoiding wasting time on your Primeval Brew. This was patched out sometime around 2012/13 specifically to avoid these exploits.
  • Minecraft also averts this with its inventory screen, making inventory management very important to the game. It's played straight with the Esc pause menu but only in single player.
  • This happens when you use the quick select in the Ratchet & Clank series, although you can turn it off sometimes. Ratchet & Clank (2002) didn't even have an option to pause on the quick select in the first place, though.
  • Averted in ARMA with the Inventory menu, although gear and object picking up/moving/dropping (almost entirely via said Inventory menu) are carried out practically instantly.
  • Averted in Unturned where the game continues to move whether the player is in the inventory, or the options, even in single player.
  • Both played straight and averted in Final Fantasy VI: With the "wait" option enabled, time is paused while going through the Magic and Item menus. However, it is NOT paused in the main battle menu.
  • In Blaster Master, similar to Mega Man, Jason's grenade launcher continues to deal damage when the game is paused during an explosion, which can quickly take down many of the bosses, except for the Giant Enemy Crab in Area 5.
  • Descenders applies this during a normal race, but averts this during Practice Mode; instead of completely pausing the game, it slows down time. Yes, you can see your character colliding, being expelled away from your bike and ragdolling through the air in slow-mo if you "pause" in Practice Mode while riding towards an obstacle or a wall.
  • In the Ys series, entries such as Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Ys Origin allow you to do this when fighting mooks in dungeons (playing this trope straight), but disallow this in boss battles (averting the trope).
  • Averted in ZombiU. Browsing your inventory takes place in real time, leaving your character vulnerable to attack.
  • Get in the Car, Loser!: The player can access healing items in battle by pressing the pause button, in case Sam's healing actions aren't enough.
  • Tormented Souls: The game action pauses when you open the menu, but the game timer keeps on going. Be aware of the distinction if you want the Achievement for speed running the game.

Non-Video Game examples

  • In the Noobtown books, whenever Jim looks at his character sheet, he goes into what he calls "menu time" where everything around him is slowed down to a barely noticeable crawl. He isn't sure if others have this ability. He is surprised and shocked to learn that the demon Shart operates in "menu time" by default, which means everything that happens around him must take forever. A few hours' hike through a forest lasts almost a month for Shart.