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In virtually every video game with a pause feature, time stands still, enemies and environments freeze in their tracks, etc., and while at first this, being the very definition of a pause, might not seem unusual, when Fridge Logic sets in you can't help thinking about the fact that in many cases the pause screen is the same as the inventory screen, allowing a character to rummage in his Bag of Holding or Hammerspace and use items, equip different weapons, consume food or recovery items, and even completely change his wardrobe essentially instantaneously. Especially prominent in Role Playing Games, in which the player often spends a great deal of time in menus handling equipment or abilities.

Menus are the most common place for this to occur, but it often happens with certain other types of interactions. For instance, lock picking frequently gets done as a Hacking Minigame. In these cases, you may also be able to get this trope if you are able to play this to your advantage. You also very often get something similar with dialogue, but the player is normally locked into the dialogue and unable to do anything, See Talking Is a Free Action for details. Compare Real Time Weapon Change for a similar effect outside special screens.

All this comes under Gameplay and Story Segregation, except in some cases of Pausable Realtime.[1] This can also be a form of Acceptable Breaks From Reality; because it is very annoying form of game-over to be shot while you're trying to do something in the menu.

Examples of Menu Time Lockout include:

  • Multiplayer sessions usually does not have Menu Time Lockout since it would be quite annoying for everyone you play with, but the game may have it in Single Player. In Saints Row the Third you may check your cell phone while you fight 10-or-so enemies which pauses the game, but if a friend then joins you suddenly the game unpauses, but you're still on your phone. The result will be bloody.
  • Fable 3 This game takes this trope to ridiculous levels. There is no menu, you canonically teleport back to your secret hideout while your enemy is swinging his sword and peruse your collection of weapons and armor, equipping them at your leisure, and then teleport back into battle. Your enemy is still mid swing.
  • In the Metal Gear Solid series, all the protagonists apparently stop time when considering their inventory, changing weapons or using items like Rations. Holding a shoulder button down to pause the game is a good way to take stock of the situation in an emergency. In the Game Boy Color game, weapons and items can only be equipped after first pausing the game.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, Snake can switch his camo, alter the contents of his backpack (placing the other items in some kind of always-accessible Bag of Holding), heal wounds and eat things (all at the same time, if need be) instantly, since all these actions take place in a seperate paused menu (the Survival Viewer).
  • in Doom 3, you can log onto a nearby computer and read logs for 10 minutes, in the middle of a heated battle; the battle will continue after you are finished.
  • In Mass Effect, you can, likewise in the middle of a battle, make a complete equipment change, including your full-body armor and weapons, to yourself and your two sidekicks.
    • But averted (somewhat) in Mass Effect 2 where the hacking minigames take place in real-time and if you do it while being shot at you get dumped out and can't retry
  • Also half-averted with Knights of the Old Republic. while you can use a medpack or a stim and change your weapons in Menu Time, you cannot swap out your armor. You are also restricted to a single medpack per turn with Menu Time.
  • Resident Evil 5 averts this; time passes freely while the inventory is open. In both this and Outbreak, the reason is that it can be played online with other people, and it would be frustrating if a single person could just keep pausing the game. Although 5 does give the player a small mercy of letting them assign weapons and healing items to the four D-Pad directions for immediate access.
    • Earlier games in the series played this extremely straight, and it became an important gameplay mechanic as it allowed you to reload your weapons instantly without going through an animation.
  • Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity avert this. There are many points in the games when an enemy might sneak up on you and attack, while you are reading a terminal.
    • This also applies to the Aleph One redesign of the first Marathon, which uses Marathon 2 engine since the original source code was lost, but not the original Mac version. The lesson: never take your eyes off the motion tracker for very long.
  • The N64 game Golden Eye 1997 was a particularly mind-boggling example, where the menu was explained to be information on a watch made by Q (a watch that would change your weapons for you, somehow). So enemy would just stand and wait in the middle of a firefight while James Bond stared at his watch.
    • Inexplicably, they decided to avert this for when you look at the watch. While the time looking at the watch pauses time, pausing is not instantaneous while James Bond is in the process of tilting his head toward and away from the watch. Thus, you are vulnerable right before you pause and right after.
    • The later Game Cube/Play Station 2/X Box game James Bond 007: James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing gives this a justification. In the game it's called "Bond Sense", and it not only slows down time and gives you the option of selecting a new gun, but it also gives you a set of handy targets indicating certain actions. The best example is in the final level. If you pan up while in Bond Sense right when you're being marauded by a bunch of Mooks, you'll see a target on a button high on the ceiling. Lock-on to and hit the target and you'll get to drop an enormous armored crate onto your enemies. Flatten a few enemies to achieve a Bond Moment.
  • Bioshock is occasionally parodied for the fact that all its hacking is done by a form of plumbing minigame. You could reorganize the pipes to get turrets to fight for you so it became a common trick to quickly jump up to a turret and then alter it in the middle of a fight where you were outgunned and outnumbered. Also, in the console versions the game pauses while you're selecting a weapon or plasmid.
    • The sequel has a different (and easier) minigame, but time no longer stops while you're hacking things.
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution plays this straight with the menus and takedowns, but the incautious hacker will find themselves being shot in the back at some point.
  • The first four .hack games allow you to abuse the menu system to briefly think about which course of action is suitable for the current enemy you have. You actually have two menus, one for personal item/equip/skill, and the other is for party commands. Most of the time though, you simply just want to use the menu to cast spells and use items, even if this is apparently a real-time battle-based MMO. Apparently it got so menu-centric that the GU series repaired it, making using menus mostly unnecessary by having the Skill Trigger.
    • Not to mention that you could change your entire outfit - armor, gloves, boots, hats, the works - without leaving the menu. This let you keep a Hammerspace full of various equipment, run up to an enemy, and the monster politely waits while you change into the perfect outfit for killing it.
    • The GU games added a penalty of manually switching weapons or armor by having the character crouch for several seconds before drawing their new weapon.
    • The Japan-Only Fragment, which is an online version of the first quadrilogy averts this (by the obvious virtue of it being online). Ostensibly, the experience gained from the release of Fragment was a major factor in revamping the battle system in GU.
  • Oblivion takes this trope to an almost absurd level. Talking to NPCs completely freezes time around you and the NPC in question, allowing you to potentially carry on a conversation for eternity. The worst part is, any other NPCs behind the one you may be addressing will visibly stop dead in their tracks and wait until you have concluded your business, even if they are attacking you. Lockingpicking also pauses the game, removing any need to try to do it quickly or stealthily.
    • Then again though, this is actually part of The Elder Scrolls in general. Morrowind would freeze time whenever you spoke to someone, and would allow you to change your gear when you had the game paused. (But would stop you from changing a weapon mid-attack, for obvious reasons.) Skyrim doesn't freeze time when people talk to you (making for the occasional Funny Background Event) but you could still change your weapons and gear mid-battle. It's a highly recommended tactic in all three games to pause and then chug potions (or eat a bunch of healign food) before the enemies even attack.
    • This is actually parodied in a video, where a character says "Wait" when he's about to get attacked, drinks several potions to heal himself, switches out rings, readies up a magic, then says "And I'm set" and incinerates his opponent before they can even finish an attack.
  • The first Baldur's Gate averted this; Accessing the inventory screen un-pauses a paused game. The workaround was to play a "multiplayer" game with one character, which did have it. Because many players considered this a nuisance, the second game did not do this, but wouldn't allow you to change armor while in a battle.
  • Terraria plays this straight and averts it depending on if autopause is turned on or off.
  • Completely averted in Dead Space. Accessing your inventory, buying items out of vending machines, and even upgrading your rig does not pause the game around you. A careless player can easily get killed by a necromorph sneak attack this way.
    • It's even specifically used, as a certain enemy very late in the first game will only spawn when you use the nearby shop console.
  • A few of the Ratchet and Clank titles have the option to deactivate this when you're on the quick weapon selection menu.
    • The original one didn't even have an option to pause on the quick select in the first place, which was mighty inconvenient.
  • Normal mode in Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII.
  • All the Star Ocean and Tales (series) games let you open menus in battle; some of them even let you re-equip your character's weapon this way, instantly.
  • Vagrant Story.
  • Final Fantasy XII, since the game doesn't really keep track of whether or not you're in combat. This has the annoying side effect that you can't use items from the menu screen, to keep them from being a game breaker.
    • Still you can be clever here and switch your equipment just before a boss is going to use a certain attack on you, taking advantage of your armor's elemental affinity so as to block the damage or even better, absorb it. Thanks for the free HP, Ultima! You can switch characters too, but not if they're being targeted by something, meaning that you can't use this to avoid attacks.
    • You can even use the license grid during battle, and buy stat bonuses, spells, and Quickenings as well.
  • Though hacking and reading terminals don't fall under this either way, it's difficult to notice how extensive this in Deus Ex until one plays the multiplayer add-on, where swapping items, toggling augmentations and healing damage are very hazardous activities without elaborate keybinds in place.
    • Interestingly, while in dialogue NPC's can still move, but they cannot shoot. This results in enemies bursting into the room, taking careful aim at the player character, and patiently waiting for them to stop talking before filling them with lead.
    • Zigzagged in Deus Ex Human Revolution: accessing your inventory or upgrade menu would pause the game, but in all other instances, the game continues. Talking to people[2] and hacking computers becomes dangerous and potentially nerve-wracking when you need to avoid patrols.
  • The Kingdom Hearts series averts this to a degree. You still equip items, accessories, weapons, and abilities in the pause menu, but the game will give you a normal pause screen rather than the menu if you are in the middle of a fight.
    • This allows the games to avoid most of the Fridge Logic inherent in Menu Time Lockout. While not in battle, where time doesn't actually matter, you can go into the menu and use items from your stock. While in battle, you can't change weapons or armor and in order to get a restoring item, you need to go through a set of sub menus while still avoiding getting killed, much like searching through pockets.
      • The other games have assessed this. Searching through your pockets for the right item (or magic) lead to many a player get killed (Especially in the early-game before you get the Cure spell), and it was part of why the Phantom was difficult. (As it more or less forced you to constantly open up the magic tab unless you brought Donald and let him do it, which would make it harder) In the other games, you can shortcut the items to a menu. This can be interpreted as the player character having these items ready ahead of time so they don't have to search in their pockets to find them.
  • Averted again in the 2008 reboot of Alone in The Dark, although the monsters do seem to move a bit more slowly than they otherwise would whenever the player is accessing his inventory. This still doesn't help much, considering the inventory system is agonizing to use in a hurry.
  • Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas had this as well, which was important if you needed to pause the Deathclaw reaching for your face in order to pop some Stimpacks or Buffouts. Or change out of Power Armor, repair something, then change back. Impressive.
    • This is, sadly, a carryover from the first two games, which while they assessed a small penalty for accessing the inventory, allowed free reign once you had it open.
  • The first two Mega Man games had this as an actual offensive/defensive (respectively) tool. In the first, if you paused and unpaused rapidly, large attacks like the Elec Beam would register several hits instead of one (this being the only real way to beat the Nintendo Hard Yellow Demon). In the second, Mega Man's weird little transformation blip animation would allow certain small projectile attacks to pass right through him-- again, almost mandatory for a certain late-game boss.
  • Cave Story's pause menu allows for such things as reading a lengthy letter, equipping/de-equipping jet-packs, consuming life pots, checking map and last but not least, changing weapon. All while the game is paused.
  • In Castlevania games starting with Symphony of the Night, you can pause and view the menu at any time to change equipment and whatnot, even if Dracula is in front of you, preparing to kill you. In SOTN itself, however, healing items had to be 'equipped' on your hands and then be used by using the 'attack' button, while the enemy could continue moving and attacking you: potions take several seconds to restore your health when used and food items are thrown on the floor, where you need to pick them up again to be healed.
  • Half averted in Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar where the storage room and menu do not pause the clock but the cooking menu and dialogue windows do.
  • Played mostly straight in Dragon Age; a character can change armour and weapons in the middle of a battle, and there's even a convenient weapon-set-switch key that switches to the other set even without the help of a pause button. However, a mage playing as an Arcane Warrior will find that most spells can't be cast with a sword and shield, requiring real game time to sheath the sword, switch to a staff, draw the staff, and cast the spell. Since items are equipped sheathed when in pause mode, there's no real way around this.
    • However, you can have two different sets of weapons equipped, switching between them with a single key. So your Arcane Warrior can have his melee weapons equipped in one slot, and his staff in another, switching back and forth as needed with a single key.
  • Completely averted in Demons Souls: pausing the game stops nothing, so either make sure to secure the area beforehand (Bosses will not hesitate to kill you while you're opening the game menu; something Zero Punctuation laments) or be proficient in selecting and using items while moving (the game lets you do that). The latter is essential for survival in Player-Versus-Player.
    • Returns with a vengeance in Dark Souls. Hope you don't mind changing your entire weapons loadout and tactics mid-battle! A common tactic is to place weapons that you often use together in "clusters" in the item menu, thereby making cycling through them easier.
  • Guilty Gear X2: Overture normally averts this, but there is an option to turn this on. Makes the game much easier.
  • Matrix for X-Box. Pausing reality is expected in the Matrix. Plus, walls are now see-thru. There's a bad guy!
  • Present in the first Animal Crossing; averted in the DS and Wii games. For example, in the latter, bees are harder to catch in a net.
  • Averted in Infinite Undiscovery. The menu does not pause the game, so you better hope you don't need to use items or adjust any options in battle. This is made worse by the fact that your NPC party members -- who can use items freely and instantly -- can't use Mana restoratives for some reason.
  • Stonekeep pauses the game in the inventory screen, letting you change equipment or use as many healing items as you need to fully recover your HP.
  • Horrifyingly averted in Dungeon Master, which absolutely never paused to give the slightest mercy from enemies nor your party's Hyperactive Metabolism.
  • In keeping with its multiplayer-geared design, Diablo notably lacks this effect, with all menus inset to the Main Window, where the game can still be played while fumbling through items and skills.
  • Averted in Just Cause 2. When defusing a bomb or "removing" someone from a vehicle, time continues on around you, and you can/will get shot at.
  • Unintentionally averted in Steam versions of Test Drive Unlimited 2. Opening the Steam overlay results in the game continuing behind the overlay. Not good if you are doing those damn licence test and someone decides they want to talk to you.
  • Subverted in Rune Factory 3 quite cruelly. During the normal game using the Quick Menu feature makes time stand still giving you as much time as you need to pick items, change weapons and any other equipment. However during the Brutal Bonus Level you don't have such luxury having to carefully sort you recovery items or else you WILL NOT have enough time to eat them before the enemies or simply the boss pummel you to death which most of times is brutal and fast enough and oh, you don't get the full pause menu there so don't even think about trying it.
  • The two Shining Soul-games for the GBA also averted this, due to them essentially being like Diablo-clones. You had to retreat to a safe corner if you wanted to use healing items or change equipment during dungeon-crawling, since the enemies were happy to attack you while you look at your stats or inventory.
  • The Zelda series even does this when you use specific items (mostly using potions and other bottle-contents). Or play an instrument, open a chest, etc.
  • The cell phone menu from Silent Hill: Shattered Memories averted this. This makes trying to access the map while running away from the enemies (you cannot fight them) rather frightening, especially since the lead character slows down whenever he's using his phone.
    • The only place where this is even close to played straight is if you open up the detailed, full-screen map. In this case, you can keep walking while the map is up, and the monsters will keep following you, but they won't attack until you exit the screen. This is far from a reliable way to deal with them, though, since you're basically blinded and the levels are designed so that you have to exit the map at some point.
  • The first Buffy game on XBOX had this, which combined with her not suffering a Final Death unless a (usually drawn out) Finishing Move is used, and the game is considerably easier with the ability to heal up.
  • Parodied in this Buttersafe comic.
  • A strange MMO example in Final Fantasy XI. While talking to an NPC or interacting with a field object, the passage of time completely stops for purposes of tracking your status effects. This has become widely exploited for stretching out what were supposed to be short-lived bursts of incredible power, such as the scholar 2 hour ability, for quite lengthy periods of time and avoiding wasting time on your Primeval Brew.


  1. Life doesn't grind to a halt when you change your clothes, but your body isn't helplessly paralyzed for a few seconds every time you perform a task that's not one of your top several most commonly done either.
  2. As an aside, you have to actively set up a situation where you can talk to someone while other people attack you
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