Everyone knows that it's not how long it is, it's how you made it long. No, that's not right… anyway, it seems that games have to contain at least 15 hours of single-player gameplay these days or everybody feels short-changed. Just look at the argument we had over Vanquish. But there are two ways of making a game longer. One is easy – recycle content. The other is awesome, and that's where this lot come in.
Add a treasure hunt... like Super Mario Galaxy 2
Galaxy 2 is one of the best games I've ever played. Not only does it have just as many fresh ideas as its groundbreaking predecessor, it doesn't feature any superfluous content. And just when you've got all 120 stars (which already have some sweet re-use of levels with the Prankster Comets) and feel like you've got your money's worth, you realise you're in fact only halfway through the game. It's green star time.
Above: Damn straight you did
This changes the challenging levels into one of childhood's most treasured pastimes - a treasure hunt. Your only clues to the stars' presence are the noise they make when you get close and the light they emit.
Bouncing across lava on your scorched bum to reach your prize, perfectly timing a triple-jump on a moving platform to reach insane heights… almost every single one is a test of how well you know the mechanics of the game.
And come the end, you're given access to the Grandmaster Galaxy, which added another 7 hours onto the game for me. Why? Because it's just so damn difficult. In short, it all turns the game into something fresh and new. Let's face it, after 120 levels, a change is as good as a sequel. Just look at the enormity of the game in this post-win Wii message:
Above: As if it wasn't hard enough getting all those gold stars the game near doubles in size. But brilliantly
Instead of… Super Mario Galaxy
The first Galaxy gave you a special reward for finishing the game - Luigi. So you could do the whole thing again, only in green. Yeah, I didn't do that.
Above: "Wow, did you? Aw, Luigi, you shouldn't have. No, really"
Add rankings... like Bayonetta
I've been playing Bayonetta again recently, just checking that I hadn't gone mad when I mentioned back on TalkRadar UK #52 that it was the best game of 2010 so far. Turns out I hadn't gone mad - it's still freakin' amazing. But while even the greatest directorial flair can't necessarily sustain repeat playthroughs indefinitely, there is one thing that does - a ranking system.
Bayonetta's is incredibly strict, yet also one of the fairest in any game. You got hit by an enemy? OK. But you can't have a Pure Platinum trophy. Nope, sorry mate, better try again. You can still get a Platinum trophy (not the PS3 kind, a level reward), sure, but not Pure Platinum. That's reserved for those who truly master the combat.
Above: Getting Pure Platinum on every level with every difficulty is not a challenge to be taken lightly
No-one could say the game is short on their first playthrough, but adding in this kind of replayability turns the amount of time needed to truly complete it something like… a million hours. Yes, an actual million hours. OK, so that's 124 years and therefore longer than any human being has ever survived, but that just shows you how hardcore a challenge it really is.
With a score table that ranks you on every difficulty level on every stage and several sub-trophies to master in each one, there's an obscene amount of replayability to be had. I admit, so far I only have one Pure Platinum trophy, but I am very proud of it.
Instead of… Dante's Inferno
Dante's Inferno, which lets you play through the game again, only with your magic and most other items carried over. Still, at least you get to relive the nightmare, eh?
Above: You could argue Dante's Inferno was long enough as it was. More nipple knife babies, anyone?
Add online challenges... like Burnout Paradise:
I'm not talking about straight online multiplayer here. Apparently, the developers found that the online features such as Road Rules were almost universally the last thing people did when they were playing Burnout Paradise. But when they did play them, they were in for the long haul.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is incorporating this into the game in a much more prominent style - it'll affect everything you do. But it doesn't need to be that way. Addind decent online functionality can give any game legs - just look at Trials HD.
Instead of... Need For Speed Carbon
Carbon congratulates you after you beat all the challenges by suggesting you do it all again, but choose a different car at the start. WHAT?
Above: There is still lots of things to do in the game. Like learn grammar, for instance. Jeez...