For my first post of the New Year I want to discuss an idea for co-op gameplay. The inspiration for this comes from Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.
For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it is a pretty standard action platformer in the oldschool castlevania vein (guy with whip runs jumps and whips the undead) but has added an AI support character who dutifully follows our hero around when summoned, supplementing his physical attacks with her magical abilities.
At any time in the game you (the player) can summon or dismiss the support character to your side (she magically teleports in and out instantaneously). You can also toggle between controlling either of the two characters at any point -- the second character will switch to AI mode, or disappear if dismissed.
The game features a co-op multiplayer mode where each player controls one of the two characters. I did not try it yet (I should and will) but I'm assuming it is 'traditional' co-op - that is, both players have full control over the characters' abilities and movement. How the developers handle the camera if there is a disagreement over which direction to go is, of course, an issue that anyone developing a co-op game has had to face at some point...
What I'm wondering is whether or not there is a market (and any existing examples of) a "Big Brother" style of co-op, whereby the support character is playable by a human partner but with limited control.
Taking POR as an example, the AI could still control the movement of the support character, ensuring she was always following behind the 'main' player but would not do any forms of attacks -- those would all be under the control of the second player. The "Little Brother" could feel engrossed in the gameplay and story simply by pressing the attack button at the right time, allowing him to participate much more actively without slowing down the progression of the game.
My wife occasionally likes to watch me play action adventure games where she can get into the story -- Resident Evil 4 was a favorite for a while -- but when I put the controller in her hand she was petrified and hated every second of it. If Ashley had been implemented with this Big Brother Co-Op system in mind, my wife could have happily participated in the story without becoming overwhelmed.
Is this a mechanic that has been implemented in other games that I am unaware of? If a game offered _only_ this form of co-op, but not the more standard 'complete control' format, do you think there would be resistance on the part of consumers? Do people play games with a non-gamer watching and wishing they could participate?