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An infrequent method for Painting the Fourth Wall in video games is to disguise a menu interface as a level unto itself, which the player can navigates using their game character and actual gameplay controls.
So, instead of navigating an abstract cursor across a set of icons and text labels that correspond to the various menu options, the protagonist essentially is the cursor, and the player approaches and interacts with menu options the same way they would interact with actual, in-universe objects. "New Game" and "Load Game" might be presented as literal doors for the player character to walk through, literal buttons to stomp on, literal crates to smash, literal blocks to slide around, or so on.
Note: This is distinct from games featuring creative menu-cursor icons (such as the protagonist's head, hand, or full body sprite) but whose menus are still navigated in the traditional manner of highlighting/clicking on text labels or icons; a Playable Menu must be navigated using actual gameplay controls and in-universe interactions.
Also note that the following tropes, while related to the concept of Painting the Fourth Wall, are not considered examples of a Playable Menu:
- Justified Save Point: Checkpoints and/or Save Points manifested as in-universe objects, like using a typewriter to save your game in Resident Evil.
- Attract Mode: Demo gameplay that proceeds automatically, even if it takes place in the background while the player navigates a traditional menu overlay (Pitfall 3D).
- Hub Level / World Map: An actual level used to connect other levels via pathways, warps, or portals (possibly with a Save Point for good measure). Please describe the hybrids between main menu and the Hub Level only if it's indeed something special (and not just save/load screen).
- Mini Game Credits: Playable credits (The Typing Of The Dead), which are an interactive form of Credits Gag.
- Earth 2140 uses fully panoramic menus and briefing screens, all movable with mouse. Yes, of course, you still use your mouse to pan the camera and press these "heavy concrete panels", but you sure get into the skin of commander already, huh?
- Super Cosplay War Ultra, partially as the result of being programmed on Fighter Maker 2002 engine, allows you to choose one of the four singleplayer modes... by hitting cosplayers that represent these modes. Oh yeah.
- Psychonauts has this for the main menu, in the form of the brain with several doors.
- The pause menu of Fable III is an extradimensional space (complete with butler). The player character moves around inside to manage inventory, check quests, and examine the map.
- The Time Warp of Dr. Brain had the Space Invaders section.
- Super Mario Sunshine's file select screen has Mario on a 2-D plane, with the files selected by hitting blocks. Mario can use all his regular platforming moves to play around the blocks.
- BIT.TRIP BEAT, CORE, VOID, and FLUX.
- McKids allows you to control the character on the main menu this way also.
- If this is your first adventure, select "Learn"!
- Or, if you won't move him left to the above mentioned tutorial, Marshal will automatically enter the "Play" portal.
- The first Quake I is one of the earliest examples of using this trope, combined with Hub Level. Reason? Well, you choose the difficulty level by entering one of the portals. After that, when you're inside the episode select part, it starts acting more like a Hub Level... Although it's the only part where you can access the Nightmare difficulty.
- Quake takes it to the next level by allowing you to play the Hub Level in deathmatch mode.
- Spyro The Dragon 2 consists mainly of level selection hubs and has nothing to do with this trope. Nothing, except this curious example: in the home of the first world, Hunter may propose you to switch the camera from active to passive and vice versa.
- Likewise, Zoe will do the same in the first homeworld of the third game.
- Used in a little Game Maker fangame, Bowser Jr..
- Latest versions of Sauerbraten do throw you into the "multiplayer map by default", should only you run the executable, but the catch is this: press ESC to summon the options menu, and you not only may point the menu buttons with your crosshair... you may actually freely walk around them.
- Several I Wanna Be the Guy fangames that use I Wanna Be The Engine or its variations as a base. But not those that throw you into the game DIRECTLY after the game starts running.
- Subverted in I Wanna Be The Shrine Maiden: you have two options to choose from: "Start" and "Tutorial". "Start" is self-explanatory, but when you try to jump on "Tutorial"... Splat. Okay, let's just say the main menu IS the first level after all.
- I Wanna Be The Better Er- Engine has got a regular Load Game menu, but, at the same time, allows its' users to have difficulty selection passages, as well as the point where you may redefine the controls "on fly".
- I Wanna Be the Fangame starts the player out in a difficulty selection room. The harder the difficulty, the more Spikes of Doom you have to jump over to get there.
- Takeshi's Challenge, from the creator of Takeshi's Castle. Moreover, you don't even have to leave the menu in order to get an ending! Just punch the title screen 20000 times and you're done.
- Sachen's NES games that require lightgun tend to do this for the game selection screens.
- Spelunky's menu is a large cave chamber... with only two doors (and the Hub Level, if you unlocked the shortcut), a flare you can toss around and logo you can jump on and off (you can't die this way, no matter how much you try).
- Magi Nation uses it. You can even reach the New Game+ option by a secret area that you need a later-game item to access.
- System Shock 2 has character creation/background chosen by several stages of walking into one of 3 exits. Complete with specific cutscenes.
- The bar/starship in Starcraft II guiding you through missions, upgrades and story.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has a playable difficulty selection screen.
- Katamari Damacy to some extent: the save game select screen uses the in-game controls; and while the Level/Character/Operation select system (Select Meadow, Space Mushroom, etc.) do not, they are playable in their own way.
- Call of Duty Black Ops - the main menu actually has the player strapped to a chair, with the options appearing on a TV nearby, though it acts more like a traditional menu once you select one of the options. You can also repeatedly hit a button to break out of the chair and explore the room you're in.
- The menu of Scribblenauts doubles as a sandbox mode.