Playable loading screens aren’t a new idea. They’ve been around since the Commodore 64, a fact that makes Namco’s ‘90s patenting of the idea seem like a brazen case of absolutely no-one paying attention whatsoever. Rarely though, do playable loading screens provide anything more than a brief, unrelated distraction during that awkward period of time between ‘Too long to do nothing’ and ‘Not long enough to go for a wee’.
But ‘rarely’, as anyone with even a basic grasp of English will understand, does not mean ‘never’. Okami was perhaps the first to give its loading screen play tangible, ‘real game’ value, its button-tapping minigame allowing the player to accrue more of its Demon Fang currency. Rayman Legends drops you into a silhouetted transitional world on the way into levels, within which you’re free to run, leap, and practice a few advanced leaping techniques. Sometimes though, you’ll find a flying heart-container. Smash it before the level loads, and you’ll start with a health buff. And then of course, there’s Bayonetta’s excellent training dojo, which smooths the edges of the game’s progressive combo system by providing a safe, happy place in which to try out new moves.