A point within the action of a video game to which the player can return after play has been interrupted, especially by player character death.
Consoles made this method popular in the dark ages when they only had a few megabytes worth of flash storage (if that) and so couldn't do proper save/load like hard-drive-equipped PCs could. Nowadays we have consoles with hard disks and cheap flash memory, but checkpoints are still alive as an efficient method for enabling savegames without spending lots of resources implementing a dynamic save system, or for simply challenging the player.
Checkpoints may either be explicit, in the form of some sort of door the player must pass through or a station he must touch, or can occur implicity as the player reaches some point in the narrative or geography of the game.
Games can include several classes of Check Point which vary according to which sorts of play interruption return the player to that checkpoint. For example:
- A Save Point is a Check Point the player can return to upon loading a saved game
- In games which allow the player to stockpile extra lives, there can be minor checkpoints to which the player returns if he has lives in reserve, and less frequent major checkpoints to which he returns when he exhausts his stockpile. Returning to a major checkpoint having exhausted extra lives is often called a "Continue". Continues may be unbounded, or may have their own stockpile independent from extra lives. On arcade machines, continues can often be purchased for more coins.
- A game may set independent checkpoints for player death and for failing to complete some task (As in Super Mario Bros, where death returns the player to a minor checkpoint, but running out of time returns him to the beginning of the Game Level. Versions of the game which allow continues return the player to an even more senior checkpoint, which occurs at the beginning of each "world" grouping of levels).
- In racing games, checkpoints split the course into separately-timed sections, and if there is a time limit involved, it usually extends the time limit.
Generally, in games which are organized into levels, a checkpoint occurs at the start of each level. Minor checkpoints may occur within the level. In such games, the Game Level checkpoint is usually a Save Point.
Checkpoints are often coincident with a change of scene or location, as this is a technologically convenient place from which to restart the action of the game.
Game Shows in the Millionaire style have a similar mechanic. Getting a question wrong will send the contestant back to the last check-point's winnings; the difference is that in most cases, the contestant's run will end there.
Also see Check Point Starvation, for when these are few and far-between, or nonexistent.
- A lot of action games, in particular, first person shooters, will periodically save the game for you in the form of an auto save if the option of saving any time you want is available. This usually happens between map loads or other checkpoint-like areas.
- Halo, as well as its fan game, Halo Zero, use this.
- Super Mario Bros, as noted, featured an implicit minor checkpoint about halfway through each Game Level. By Super Mario World, this had evolved into a gate through which the player had to run to activate the checkpoint—if the player missed breaking the tape across the gate, death would return him to the beginning of the level.
- The James Bond Licensed Game From Russia With Love features a Save Point at the beginning of each level, and a checkpoint within each of the (typically short) scenes within the level.
- Racing games occasionally feature a Check Point at the beginning of each lap or racecourse.
- In games which do not scroll (that is, each screen is a set piece, a discreet chunk of game, where the player transitions from one to another atomically), each room serves as a Check Point. Examples include The Adventures of Lolo, Bubble Bobble, and Berzerk.
- Before Raz undergoes the climactic battle with the brain-tank and then with his own subconscious in Psychonauts, the game automatically saves itself as a check point, and its location is listed as "The Point of No Return".
- Justified in Black Velvetopia. Getting caught by the Bull in the street effectively knocks Raz back to the previous checkpoint.
- In the Crash Bandicoot platformers, Checkpoints come in the form of boxes with yellow C's on all sides. You activate the boxes by attacking them, and should you die, you will be returned to the last checkpoint you activated. The game also features distinct Save Points; Checkpoint Boxes only appear in the levels, Save Points only occur in the Warp Rooms.
- Twentieth Anniversary Pac Man World, a 3D platform game for the original Playstation featuring Pac-Man, had a shiny Pac-Man icon as level checkpoint.
- Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins had a bell that had to be rung for its midway checkpoint (which is not to be confused with the bell at the end that triggered a bonus game if rung).
- Sonic the Hedgehog once had a standard lamppost-style Check Point in his levels. Moving into 3D, the two Adventure titles turned this into a similarly-looking gate (which returned in the 2006 game). Other games throughout the series have used similar objects, but the limited 8-bit games instead depicted checkpoints as breakable computer monitors (like the items throughout the series).
- Also, if you made it to the checkpoint in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with enough rings, the lamppost-thing would activate a bonus stage, necessary to collect the chaos emeralds and become Super Sonic.
- Tomb Raider Legend and Anniversary had lots and lots of checkpoints.
- Okami has the occasional golden gate, usually located just before difficult encounters. Amaterasu can continue from the gate if she dies. Unlike the mirrors, the player cannot resume the game at these gates after quitting to the title screen or shutting the console off.
- In BioShock (series), you can save everywhere, but that didn't stop it from having numerous checkpoints that the player would respawn from after dying.
- Bioshock (and it's predecessor System Shock 2) is notable in that there's an in-universe explanation of how the checkpoints work.
- Ender's Game describes the Check Point system of a Fictional Video Game:
On his first death, his figure would reappear on the Giant's table, to play again. On the second death, he'd come back to the landslides. Then to the garden bridge. Then to the mousehole. And then, if he still went back to the Giant and played again, and died again, his desk would go dark, "Free Play Over" would march around the desk, and Ender would lie back on his bed and tremble until he could finally go to sleep.
- The entire Strong Bads Cool Game for Attractive People series has only one point in which Strong Bad can die, but in order to reach this point, you have to touch a check point (as video game reality has merged with the main Homestar Runner world), so his death isn't even permanent. However, he can't keep any items he picked up between touching the check point and dying, so the puzzle is how to get the item he wants safely across - which involves having Strong Mad throw the check point to various locations. Twice.
- The PC version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone had "save books" scattered throughout the (very linear) gameplay, which were incredibly frustrating in that they were fairly far apart. Getting to the next save book was occasionally a severe test of patience. The subsequent games avoided the frustration by drastically reducing the required linearity and providing a few permanent save books in different parts of the school, such as the Gryffindor common room.
- LittleBigPlanet has an interesting variety of checkpoint. Walking by one activates it, and each checkpoint has a set number of lives. If a player dies and uses all the lives, they have to restart the entire level. The life count is reset after activating a new checkpoint. Also, the game has not one, but three (four since Creator Pack 1 came out) types of checkpoints: Entry Barrel (also the initial spawn point; four lives), normal Checkpoints (also four lives; not as fancy-looking as an Entry Barrel), Double Life Checkpoints (Exactly What It Says on the Tin; eight lives, and has two glowing rings instead of one. All Checkpoint types have one (or two) rings around them that show the number of lives. When it's flashing red, you're on your last life and must get to a new checkpoint or reach the Scoreboard fast!), and the new Infinite Life Checkpoint, which has one ring but allows infinite respawns, and has the infinity symbol on it. There is no Infinite Life Entry Barrel. Another interesting twist is that (in local multiplayer at least, possibly also in online multiplayer) players share lives. Each player death means one less for the whole group. But there is a bit of a breather: If all but one player dies when a Checkpoint is flashing red, but the last player reaches a new one, all players respawn. And as far as this Troper can remember, Prize Bubbles (the items that hold new collectibles, like stickers and objects to use in level creation) are stil retained even if the player has to restart a level. The Try Again action (which sends a player back to the last Checkpoint by literally popping the Sackboy) uses one of the available lives. All Story mode (and most player-created) levels, excluding Survival Challenges, have a "No Lives Lost" prize if a player survives a whole level without dying or resetting. (Survival Challenges don't have this because to finish the level, the player must die.)
- Klonoa features them in the form of floating clocks in bubbles that the player must burst to activate.
- In Battlefield-type shooters, you often have check points on the map that can be captured by either team. When a player's character dies, he can respawn in any of the captured check points. This allows players to jump back into the action instead of having to run all the way from home base to where they died. Naturally, sometimes you must spawn at the home base (especially if there are vehicles there that you wish to pilot). This works in Star Wars: Battlefront as well.
- In Borderlands, saving is handled through passing by special lamp posts that turn green when they are finished recording your stats. The lack of quicksave/load was a bit of a shock to this troper, having just come off of Fallout 3 and Risen.
- Done interestingly in Fur Fighters because while you do also have your standard checkpoints throughout the levels the bubbles where you change characters also acts as a sort of save point.
- The PC game Jazz Jackrabbit had literal check points: yellow signs with red checks on them that changed to white with Jazz's face on them when shot. Jazz Jackrabbit 2 replaced these with jack(rabbit)-in-a-boxes (with red checks on them).
- The PlayStation 2 game Primal used teleportation gates called "rift gates." These were a last resort checkpoint only. How it worked was that if Jen (the main character) ran out of energy gems and health in a monster form, she'd revert back to human form. If she ran out of health as a human, she'd be put into a "near death" state in her physical body (the game was taking place in a spirit world). At that point, you, as Scree, would have to race to the nearest rift gate to bring her back. Although there was no visible clock, this was a Timed Mission, so if you didn't make it, Jen died. (If you did, then once Scree brought her back through, he'd admonish her, "Take better care of yourself!")
- Check points in Purple usually take a form of purple hexagon signs with a question mark. Touching these would replace the question mark with an icon representing the level and can be turned back off by attacking them.
- Demon's Souls has one checkpoint that spawns at the end of every boss fight, dividing each level into 3-4 sections.
- Ballance has check points in the form of round bowls flanked with a pair of torches, which light up with purple flame when your ball passes through. If you lose a life you respawn at the checkpoint, but if you lose all lives you need to restart the elvel. (Extra life bonuses DO respawn when you lose a life, thus theoretically allowing you to remain immortal if you are careful.)
- Call of Duty used checkpoints in the form of auto saves since the beginning, but this had the problem of occasionally putting you in an Unwinnable situation if this was your only save and the game decided to save right before you died. This got fixed in later games when it finally went to a checkpoint only system.
- Bug!! featured unique checkpoints for each level. Insectia used a flower that opened, Reptilia, Splot and Quaria used signs, Burrubs had a snowman who raises a flag, and Arachnia used a pillar that lights up on fire.
- Adventure Island has check points in the form of numbered signposts of which there were four in each level. They were absent in Adventure Island II and III though.
- The Lion King had these in the form of fingerpaint images of Simba.
- In Aladdin, checkpoints took the form of blue vases that flipped around to reveal the Genie's face.