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Platform-Activated Ability

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"Cranky's Kong Pads. These are very important, so listen up. Stand on one, press the Z Button and be prepared to gasp in awe when one of my special abilities is activated."
Cranky Kong, Donkey Kong 64 instructions manual, page 18

Over the course of a mission or adventure, a video game character not only goes through Character Development, but also levels up to learn new abilities, gains access to locations that weren't available before, and expands their inventory by collecting new weapons and items. From the point of view of video game design, there are up to three possible ways to implement the execution of these actions: One, by simply equipping that item or skill and using it by pressing a button; this is the most common in platformers, role-playing, and action-adventure games. Two, by meeting a situational condition; there are skills that are oriented towards attack or defense and thus they can only be used during battle, as well as skills that rely on field exploration and thus wouldn't make sense to try to use them when facing an enemy or boss. It may even happen that they can only be used during day or night, or in presence of a specific character, and so on.

The third method, which is the one that makes this trope enter into the scene, is by meeting a positional condition.

It works like this: As the player progresses through a game, they'll probably find uniquely-marked pads or ground spots where something can be done. If the player is controlling the appropriate character and/or has acquired the appropriate object or skill, then it'll be possible to perform an action while the character is standing onto that spot. From a plot perspective, it may be justified in that the pad is explained to be the only thing capable of making the skill/item work (in case the latter wouldn't work elsewhere). From a technical standpoint, it's simply to regulate the use of the skill or item, as the potential to use it anywhere would turn it into a Game-Breaker unless the whole game was designed to prevent this.

In case the pad or marked spot isn't ready to use yet, the game will probably show it in a static, transparent, or inert state to indicate that the action it's suitable for cannot be done yet; either that, or they just won't do anything no matter what the character tries to do. In either case, the character will have to return later when they've learned the skill or gotten the item that makes use of the pad.

Since Tropes Are Flexible, it also counts if the ability or item can be used without a pad, but using it while standing in one either gives it a greater-than-usual effect, or a new function to make it trigger an event somewhere close to the character.

This trope is one of the possible ways to enforce progression-based tropes like Ability Required to Proceed, Broken Bridge and Songs in the Key of Lock. If the controls do something else when the player isn't on one of these platforms, then it's a Context-Sensitive Button.

Video game examples:

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  • Dandara:
    • Certain platforms in the Village of Artists only move if Dandara stands on the respective active button.
    • The Stone of Creation allows Dandara to leap much farther, but only from designated Creation devices.
    • The Stone of Intention allows Dandara to flip thin purple platforms, but only the one she is standing on.
  • Jet Force Gemini: In many worlds, there are octogonal pads that allow the playable characters to perform special actions or abilities, though all of them can only be used when meeting the right conditions; all of them are black and have a white-colored drawing hinting at their function, though the borders have color-coded square marks to make them stand out. These pads are:
    • Floyd Pads. Only usable after Floyd himself is found and repaired in Tawfret, they put the current character into an energy barrier and initiates a minigame where the player controls Floyd. The pad's border marks are yellow.
    • Jet Pads: Only usable after Juno and Vela have their armors equipped with Jet Packs and Lupus' jet engines in his feet are enhanced, these pads provide fuel to the pads/engines to fly upward; if they run out of fuel, the pads can be stood on for a recharge. The pads' border marks are orange.
    • Night-Vision Pads: There is only one in the game, and Lupus is the only one who can use it after scooping the nearby Night-Vision Goggles. It allows Lupus to wear the goggles in order to go through a very dark cave and reach a chasm that takes him to the rendezvous point where Juno and Vela are heading as well to confront Mizar. Its border marks are green.
    • Transformation Pads: Only usable by Juno and Vela (likely because they only work with humans or humanoid beings), these pads transform their user into a specific creature. The ones in Ichor and Mizar's Palace turn the user into a Drone to fool the enemies, and their border marks are colored blue. The one in Rith Essa turns the user into a Tribal, and its border marks are colored green.
  • MDK2: Dr. Hawkins can use his makeshift ladder only at cetrain spots designated by a small square of peculiar design on the ground.
  • Splatoon: Both Inklings and Octolings are known to perform Super Jumps that launch them onto distant parts as a means of transportation. In multiplayer matches, it's possible to do this at any moment to transport to one of the marked landing spots on the battlefield. In the single-player modes, however, the Super Jump can only be performed when standing on an active launchpad, whose ink will eject the user onto a predefined destination; this limitation is obviously implemented to preserve a linear progression in the levels. There are exceptions, such as when an Inkling retreats right after inflicting damage to a boss or, in the Octo Expansion of Splatoon 2, when Agent 8 launches onto the path leading to the surface right after being saved by Agent 3 from being gibbed by Tartar's blender.

  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: In certain islands of the Caribbean, there are unique monoliths that are erected next to seemingly-unimportant stone pillars. However, the monoliths clearly emanate a unique energy, so if Edward stands on top of one and then enters through Eagle Vision, he can perform an astral alignment of the nearby stone pillars (and, if close to them, also palm trees) by positioning an arrangement of white outlines in the right position to synchronize them mentally with said pillars and trees. Doing this allows Edward to pinpoint the exact spot of a keystone buried underground, which he can then unearth and collect. Once all keystones are gathered, he can use them to unlock a vault in Tulum that guards the legendary Mayan outfit.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: There are three Medallions that grant powerful abilities to Link, at the cost of magic: Thunder, Quake, and Bombos. While all three of them can be used anytime as long as Link has enough magic, there are also two dungeons whose entrances are sealed off and need Link to use one of these Medallions to open them. The exact spot where Link has to stand on is marked in the ground by engravings that wear the likeness of the specific Medallion that is called for use: Thunder to unearth the entrance to Misery Mire and stop the perpetual rain in the Swamp of Evil, and Quake to make a rock shaped like a turtle's head disappear and unveil the entrance to Turtle Rock.
    • A Link to the Past: Randomizer in swordless mode adds a few more such engravings in the Ice Palace; they allow using the Bombos medallion even without a sword.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Zelda's Lullaby, by itself, doesn't do anything when it's played. However, if it's being played while Link stands on a floor marked with the Triforce, a magical effect will be triggered (sometimes it's a path that opens up, combining this trope with Songs in the Key of Lock).
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: Whereas Goron Link is capable of curling at high speeds almost anywhere, and Zora Link can swim underwater smoothly as well as cast electric barriers both in water and on the ground, Deku Link can only cast his signature move (Video Game Flight) by finding a Deku Flower to dive through its center and then eject upward. The Deku Flowers, in turn, come into two types: The standard type with pink petals and green leaves which launches Deku Link with moderate strength and height, and a special type with gold petals that is slightly taller and can launch him really high.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games:
      • In Oracle of Ages, Link learns the Tune of Echoes shortly after getting the Harp of Ages. It allows him to travel between past and present, but it only works when it's played while Link stands on a Time Portal. Later in the game, Link learns the Tune of Currents, which can be played from anywhere in the past era to return to the present, and it creates a temporary Time Portal so Link can use it in case he wishes to return to the past from the same spot as before. Finally, there's the Tune of Ages, which allows Link to travel between both eras freely, averting this trope.
      • In Oracle of Seasons, Link uses the Rod of Seasons to shift the surroundings' season from one to another (accessing each season requires imbuing a power from its associated spirit onto the Rod), but he can only do this while he stands atop a Tree Stump.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: The default function of the song Wind's Requiem is to change the direction of wind when it's played outdoors in the overworld. Indoors, it's useless because there's no wind to control... unless you spot a round eolic emblem in the floor. If you stand on it and play the song, a gust of wind will appear to unveil a treasure chest in a nearby marked spot.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap:
      • In this game, Link has the ability to shrink to a minuscule size with the help of Ezlo. However, he has to stand on a Minish Portal in order to perform this ability. Depending on the location, the Portal can be a tree stump (the most common, often found in the overworld), a rough stone pad (exclusive to Mount Crenel), a uniquely-crafted stone pad (found in most dungeons), or a pot (exclusive to Hyrule Town; some of these are upside down and have to be flipped with the Cane of Pacci).
      • As Link progresses in the game, he can find multi-colored floor tiles he can stand on to power up the Four Sword while loading a Spin Attack and create immaterial replicas of his likeness. Afterwards, he can unleash the Spin Attack and move alongside the replicas for a limited period of time to perform an action that would normally require more than one person.
  • LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham: Any Lantern can use Lantern pads to create hard-light constructs. These pads are also used in Year 2 of LEGO Dimensions, where characters such as Supergirl, Raven, and The Powerpuff Girls can also use them.
  • LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin:
    • The four main ninja and/or Lloyd can use Tornado of Creation pads to build something out of three sets of parts.
    • Lloyd can use Green Ninja pads to create constructs out of energy.
  • Luigi's Mansion 3: The Super Suction, a very powerful ability that allows Luigi to suck nearly everything next to him with an electrified wind vortex created from the Poltergust G-00, can only be activated when the Poltergust itself is plugged via a cord-like electric beam to a special socket which, depending on the case, is either erected from the floor or placed in a wall.
  • Princess Peach: Showtime!: Peach gains a special costume transformation when she stands on a circular stand with a glowing point of light, not only changing her current attire but also gaining moves based on the costume in question. Transformations include a swordfighter, a detective, a pâtissière, a martial artist, a ninja, a cowgirl, a figure skater, a Phantom Thief, a mermaid, and a space-themed superhero. There are several others hidden platforms within the game as well, leading to optional areas for Coins or Sparkle Gems.
  • Star Fox Adventures: The Rocket Boost Pads are small, sparkling square pads that are littered through Sauria. Once Fox learns the appropriate skill, he can plant Krystal's staff onto these pads to imbue energy that will make it (and Fox) move upward to reach a high spot. Also, in specific parts of DarkIce Mines and (after retrieving a lost item and giving it back to a character) SnowHorn Wastes, there are gray-colored round pads onto which Fox can stand in order to play a Dino Horn and trigger a special action, whether to summon a SnowHorn for a ride or make another pad to play the Dino Horn there and begin a sequential race that eventually opens the path to a Krazoa Shrine; the Dino Horn cannot even be played anywhere else, so its uses are ultimately limited.

  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:
    • One of the moves Banjo and Kazooie can perform references the use of Shock Spring Pads to jump higher, being a justified case of how they use their Up + B Special attack. The pad gives them an extra boost for the jump (and it's more effective the longer the move is charged), and the pad can also cause a small amount of damage to anyone placed below it as it falls down. A clever player can even use the pad to gimp an opponent who tries to prevent falling on a pit.
    • In the Spring Stadium stage, there are orange-colored platforms with arrow signs at the edges and one hovering in the center. By default, these platforms don't do anything and nothing special can be done while standing on them; but from time to time, they'll be powered up by the stage and colored green while shimmering. If a character jumps while standing on the platforms during this state, they'll gain a boost that not only makes them jump higher but also imbue them with a tackle that causes damage to any opponent who touches them during the jump. If that opponent already took too much prior damage, they can be potentially KO'ed with the jumping character's tackle.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Bayonetta 3: Normally, Bayonetta can summon a large Demon Slave for a limited time that is indicated by the purple-colored magic gauge in the screen (and that gauge will deplete more quickly when the creature takes damage from an enemy or boss). However, in certain chapters, there are artifacts Bayonetta can hit repeatedly to make them project a luminescent purple mark in the floor. If Bayonetta stands atop this mark, she'll be able to summon a Demon Slave for an unlimited period of time, since the magic gauge will not deplete. This becomes handy when in need to solve a puzzle or activate a mechanism that requires an extensive use of the Demon Slave in question, or sometimes to defeat enemies solely with it during a Verse or challenge (and because Bayonetta is standing atop the mark, the Demon Slave will effectively be invincible during combat).

  • Banjo-Kazooie: There are two round-shaped pads that are respectively tied to two of the moves the eponymous duo can perform when taught by Bottles: The green-colored Shock Spring Pads (which have the drawing of a bird's foot), allowing Kazooie to briefly duck to boost a tall Spring Jump and reach a high; and the blue-colored Flight Pads (which have the drawing of three red feathers), allowing Kazooie to fly. In both cases, the pads are shown empowering her with bright sparks (green in the former case, red in the latter), and neither the higher jump nor the flight are possible without these platforms.
  • Banjo-Tooie. In addition to bringing back the Shock Spring and Flight Pads (since the bear and bird retain all abilities learned in the first game), the game adds two new examples:
    • The Split-Up ability allows Banjo and Kazooie to separate from each other so they can explore the current level individually. However, it's required to stand on one of two platforms (which, respectively, are colored blue with Banjo's face and red with Kazooie's) to perform this ability. Specifically, Banjo has to stand on the blue platform, which then positions Kazooie on the red one. Not coincidentally, the platforms' colors reference the Red Oni, Blue Oni dynamic between the characters.
    • In each level, Mumbo Jumbo can receive a Glowbo and become playable to explore the world while Banjo and Kazooie wait for him in his hut. While he can perform powerful spells, he can only do so in-game when standing on certain luminescent pads that show his face. And with a couple exceptions, a pad disappears when every possible action related to it is completed and Mumbo's magic isn't needed anymore in the vicinity. The pads also make Mumbo perform a different spell depending on the current level, and the glowing lights that illuminate said pads will have different colors to reflect this. Namely:
      • Isle o' Hags: Heal a sick character (white).
      • Mayahem Temple: Summon a gold-colored statue to control it (purple).
      • Glitter Gulch Mine: Levitate enormous objects (green).
      • Witchyworld: Grant electrical energy to a device to make it work (blue).
      • Jolly Roger's Lagoon: Oxygenate the whole lake to allow Banjo and Kazooie swim beneath indefinitely (yellow).
      • Terrydactyland: Enlarge objects or dinosaurs (cyan).
      • Grunty Industries: Perform an EMP to make a device malfunction, being effectively the opposite of Witchyworld's spell (red).
      • Hailfire Peaks: Revive a deceased character (pink).
      • Cloud Cuckooland: Perform a rain dance (orange).
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge: Unlike in the previous games, the Wonderwing ability can only be performed when Banjo and Kazooie stand onto red-colored pads (showing a Gold Feather) and the A button is pressed. Also, as with all the other special moves present in the game, it has to be relearned because the overarching Time Travel led the duo to forget it.
  • Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time: There are several platforms marked with symbols that can be used to access new areas of levels. However, Bugs has to learn magic incantations (one for each platform type) from Merlin to activate them, which necessitates Backtracking to collect goodies in previously-visited stages.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day: This is famously how the game displays the trope-naming Context-Sensitive Button. As Conker makes his way back home, he'll find round marks on the floor (often colored gray) with letter B written in the center. If Conker stands on such a mark and the player presses B, then he can make use of an object that is called for use, ranging from a slingshot to kill some beetles to a bazooka to obliterate a killer Tediz; in other cases, Conker does something without using anything at hand. It's important to note that some marks won't do anything at first even if B is pressed, as a different action or Event Flag has to be performed beforehand for it to work.
  • Crash Bandicoot:
    • Crash Bandicoot (1996): As Crash progresses in the levels, he may occasionally find small, immaterial icons shaped like gems that hover in the air or next to pits, and don't appear to serve any purpose. However, once he finds a gem whose color matches that of these icons, they'll materialize and turn into bigger, solid platforms. Thanks to this effect provided by the colored gem, Crash can access parts he couldn't before. Depending on the case, the platforms are either static and Crash simply uses them as support, or will move as soon as he stands onto them to transport him to a new area. The standard colorless gems lack this attribute, except for the platforms in the penultimate level that unlock the hidden ending (even then, each platform requires one colorless gem to materialize, due to the latter's weaker power).
    • Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back: Starting from this game, only the colored gems can materialize platforms upon being collected, which now appear as luminous outlines that cannot be interacted with physically at first. Also, they now take him into full-fledged areas that double as Death Courses. As a side note, the Skull Pads work similarly, but they operate under a different trope to be enabled.
  • Donkey Kong 64:
    • One of the abilities each Kong can learn from Cranky requires standing on a blue pad showing their face so it can be used. Without learning that ability, the pad will be transparent and useless: Donkey's pad launches him to the skies, in which he can travel across Blast Barrels in search of a Golden Banana, Bonus Stage minigame, or a star-shaped emblem that triggers a special event in the current level. Diddy's pad allows him to use his tail as a coil to jump very high. Tiny's pad teleports her to a part of the level no other Kong can access. Lanky's pad inflates his body so he can hover upward and reach a high spot. And Chunky's pad gives him temporary Invisibility to make certain objects and assets appear.
    • While the instruments the Kongs receive from Candy can be normally played to create a sound wave that defeats all surrounding enemies, their most prominent use is while the Kongs stand on purple-colored pads that show the drawing of the instrument that has to be played while the Kong in question stands onto the pad: Bongo drums for Donkey, electric guitar for Diddy, saxophone for Tiny, trombone for Lanky, and triangle for Chunky. When the music is played, the pads trigger some sort of event, usually making something open (thus combining this trope with Songs in the Key of Lock).
  • Draconus: The morph slabs enable Frognum to morph into Draconewt and back. You need to possess the morph artifact beforehand.
  • Jak and Daxter:
    • Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy: In some levels, there are blue-colored platforms called Precursor Launchers that grant a large jump boost to Jak, allowing him to reach high sports or grab items that would be unreachable otherwise. However, these platforms can only be used while Jak has blue Eco flowing through his body (and when Jak goes through a source of blue Eco, the flow only lasts for a limited time, so he has to run onto the platform ASAP if he wishes to use it).
    • Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier:
      • Eco Construct power can be used at will to attack enemies once it is acquired (for which purpose it can improved by auto-tracking and damage upgrade), but its main purpose is to create paths forwards, which is done by using it over a small spot on ground covered by yellowish-green crystals.
      • Eco Rocket Jump power can be used anywhere and upgraded into offensive ability, but using it on spots with yellow flame makes the performed jump much more potent.
  • Monsters, Inc.: Scream Team: Earning all bronze medals in the Urban Training Field levels will grant the usage of certain trampolines (that were previously visible but phased out and transparent) for Spring Jump. Earning all bronze medals in the Desert Training Field levels will enable the usage of dash panels in the floor (previously turned off) to run faster.note 
  • Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando: Standing on a fuel pod allows Ratchet to fly for a limited time once the Levitator upgrade for Clank is acquired.

  • Cadence of Hyrule: Starting from Hyrule Castle, the heroes can find grey round pads with curved arrows colored green and purple in the floor which, upon being stood on, allow the currently-active character (whether Link or Zelda, but not Cadence as she cannot access the dungeon in question) to summon the other in their place. This becomes essential to prevent certain color-coded enemy attacks from inflicting damage (namely, the flames from evil statues and the noisy musical notes from Octavo during his boss fight will hurt Link if they're purple but harmless if they're green, and vice versa in the case of Zelda; thus, using strategically the pads to switch characters will prove essential). Before this point, it's not possible to swap characters during gameplay except when standing in front of a Sheikah Stone.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • Etrian Odyssey:
    • In all dungeons in the series, there are luminescent spots onto which the player's character party can stand to mine for ore, chop plants or gather items like fruits and vegetables (the exact action is mentioned by the game, which suggests you to use the appropriate icon to mark the spot in the map). There are skills that, depending on the case, either allow a character to make use of one of these actions in case they don't know how to do so yet or boost the benefits of chopping/mining/taking (like finding rarer items) in case they do; it all depends on each character's corresponding class. The spots can only be used a few times before running out, but after a day passes they're replenished.
    • Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth: In addition to having the usual spots where the characters can perform their Taking, Mining and Chopping skills to obtain items, the game adds luminiscent spots in specific water moats in the dungeons that indicate where the party can fish (as long as at least one of the characters has the Fishing skill unlocked).
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: Early in the game, Mario unlocks the ability to fold into a paper airplane on designated platforms, allowing him to glide across long distances. Much later, he gains the ability to use different platforms to fold into a paper boat.

  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time: If you plant a plant on a Gold Tile, it generates Sun, which can be used to plant more plants.
  • Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate:
    • Unholy Call places 3 pentagrams on the board in random spaces. Stepping on one of these gives you an extra turn and deactivates the platform, activating all 3 resets them and gives a +2 boost to your firepower that lasts for the floor.
    • Undercover Mission places a waypoint on the upper side of the board that when landed on, will allow the Black King to sabotage White's pieces in a debilitating way. This effect can be selected by the player, ranging from deactivating a White card, lowering the max HP of all of White's units by 1, getting free ammo and refills, or damaging the White King.
    • Just like in Chess, any White Pawn that gets to the bottom rank will promote into a higher-value piece.

Non-videogame examples:

  • In Chess, if a player manages to take a pawn to one of the tiles of the opposite end's row (where the other player's army begins), they'll be able to summon a fallen piece that isn't a pawn. In the context of the game's theme, this is because the pawn is earning a promotion, allowing it to acquire a new hierarchic title and thus the attributes and mobility that are associated with it.