Reading the comments on this article I was reminded of an old "death-evasion" mechanic that is somewhat similar to the one employed in PoP4 (in the sense that it doesn't brake the game flow) -- the Revive-o-Matic capsules of System Shock 2 and Bioshock! Some of you may even remember the comments of many PC-gamers on how this mechanic spoils the Bioshock experience.
I'm not ready to dwell on this issue seriously as it seems something from the realm of psychology (Gamer Psychology(c)), but I believe it goes well bound simple knee-jerk reactions.
Adam LaMosca said:
Failing, Falling, and Feeling
Mirror's Edge and Prince of Persia are both games in which you fall a lot, so why is one being called "punishing" while the other is written off as "too easy"?
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Adam, in your article you mention that "I think some gamers and critics can't see past their own emotional responses." and that makes me want to say "And why should they?"
I remember reading about how gamers felt more remorse after destroying the Companion Cube (an inanimate object) from Portal than after killing a Little Sister (a walking, talking child-like female homunculus) from Bioshock, the reaction to Cube's demise was explained by the effects of secluded environments on the human mind...
Anyway, I think that PoP's failure to invoke emotional attachment to the protagonist's companion is the game's fault alone -- if they've made the duet co-dependent, like having to protect the princess from enemies or otherwise loose her services for a set period or in-game segment (that's only an example), the game's seeming lack of deadly punishment would be mitigated to some extent.
P.S. I've just skimmed through a few reviews for both PoP4 & ME, and these reviews made me think that the level design and obstacle collision mechanic in these two games are entirely different kettles of fish.
Where ME relies on leaps-of-faith or proper distance judgment, PoP minimizes the player input handling jump distance automatically, and as this would seem the main cause of re-spawn in both games this would imply that they're incomparable in difficulty (at least for some people).