3 Plus 2 Days of Reviews: Friday… ish.

So, first, the Nintendo Direct. For those of us who have been dedicated for 20 years (well, okay, 20 next year, which is the anniversary for when countries outside of Japan got the first game), the Pokemon series is going to launch the next games in the popular series, Pokemon Moon and Pokemon Sun. I’m left with many thoughts. There’s the fact that there’s a strong reminder of Mega Man Battle Network 4, which named its two versions Blue Moon and Red Sun (and yes, the color motifs for the announced Pokemon games match). There’s the fact that Cresselia is already the Lunar Pokemon and Volcarona is already the Sun Pokemon, not to mention the pairing of Solrock and Lunatone… will they be sure to make the new legendaries distinct from what we already have?

Oh, one nice bit of news – those who get the Virtual Console version of the Gen I games will be able to transfer what they catch to the just-announced Gen VII games. Though before you get excited, I’d like to point out that I remember full well exactly how to create an unlimited number of level 1 Mewtwos “legally” in Red and Blue. I’m not the only one. I predict the devaluation of any of the original 151 very shortly in trading arenas.

Anyhow, that’s something to look forward to in the future. In the meantime, more levels.

Montyzuma’s Revenge – EE1E-0000-01CD-6866

This surface Super Mario Bros. 3 level is trying to tell a story about Mario crash-landing in mole territory, but I think the plot is a bit muddled. Honestly, the “crash landing” part doesn’t really seem to fit, instead just featuring a Fire Clown Car that nothing can reach. Fortunately, it’s not really necessary, as the level manages to have just the right level of claustrophobia – the peaks and valleys in the tunnels with the Monty Moles are just large enough to allow Mario freedom to fully jump, but narrow enough that the player needs precision to make it out. Most of the setpieces lead into each other well, with the exception of the finale, which feels a bit convoluted and perhaps tacked-on. I kind of have the sense of what was being attempted, but I think a more straightforward goal sequence would have been better. Still, the issues with the level are minor – it’s a well-built and decently challenging level overall.

Chick Quest – D088-0000-01CD-F5C3

Well, the name alone lets me know we’re in for a rousing start – we all know how much respect is carried by the term “chick” outside of the context of baby birds. This underground/castle Super Mario Bros. level gives out plenty of mystery mushrooms to have Peach solve a bunch of puzzles to reach the goal. It’s a brutal marathon in no small part because too much of the level requires running in blindly, as well as plenty of single-space platforms to demand the most precise of jumping. The puzzles aren’t particularly challenging – mostly, it comes down to figuring out where the right element was hidden on the screen. I will give that it has some excellent aesthetic setpieces, but too much of the level comes down to trial-and-error gameplay, and looking at the well-designed level sections isn’t worth pushing through frustrating gameplay to see.

Pelagic Sanctuary – D924-0000-01D3-9779

Okay, first off, I never expected to see the word “pelagic” used, let alone properly, in a Super Mario Maker level. Well done. As those with a wide vocabulary could guess, this is an underwater level, in the Super Mario Bros. style. And quite simply, it’s one of the most beautiful underwater levels I’ve seen. The aesthetics are top-notch, using directionally solid platforms and solid level elements in tandem to make it feel like Mario really is going through a fine aquatic refuge. The enemy placement and density is solid without being overwhelming, and there are even a few secrets that are well placed in the level, including one at the very end that was satisfying to grab. Underwater levels are hard to get right, but this one nails it.

Cannonball Mayhem – 546B-0000-01CE-69B0

Ordinarily, autoscroll levels bother me for much the same reason tracks bother me – I hate feeling like I don’t have control over how the level advances. This Super Mario World airship, though, shows that autoscroll can help a level feel complete. It helps that the scroll is at the lowest speed – you still have some freedom to look around and move for dodging and minor exploration. Not only that, but the autoscroll helps what is often an issue on levels featuring lots of cannons – by controlling the scroll speed, the designer controls the bullet pattern such that a player can’t mess around with it to make it too easy (or nigh impossible). The level also features ample power-ups without going overboard, to give a bit of a buffer for mistakes without making the level too easy. About the only flaw I can find is that the corridor is a hair on the narrow side, which does restrict everything Mario can do in these situations. Jumping is much less frequently the right option, even though it’s still Mario’s signature ability. Still, a solid level, and one worth a run.

Iron Maiden – 1C42-0000-0106-09FC

When the level starts with an invisible block on a rail that can bounce you into a pit of lava, you know you’re dealing with a troll level. This Super Mario Bros. castle level fits the bill – warps that force you to repeat segments, invisible blocks where you would need to jump, having to use fire bar placements as platforms… several setpieces on this level are built not just to be difficult, but to deliberately trick or otherwise annoy the player. It’s a shame, too, because the heart of the level is a solid and not entirely easy maze. This would be a fun harder level without the surprise traps, but with them, it becomes an exercise in frustration and guessing, and only those dedicated to clearing such levels will really get anything from clearing this one.

Monty’s Mile – FEA8-0000-01D2-076B

It’s just a Monty Mole set of levels, I guess, with this surface Super Mario World level also heavily featuring them. This level isn’t so much trying to tell a story, though, as it is getting a player to choose one of several ways to clear a level. I enjoy that it branches several times, and that each path has its own ways of challenging the player. That said, the enemy density is a little on the low side, and there are enough power-ups where this level honestly feels like it could have used a bit more challenge to really highlight the different aspects of the level. In particular, once you get Yoshi, the entire level becomes a cakewalk – featuring enemies that are easy for Yoshi to handle when also including him really takes the challenge out of a level. Overall, this level is still fun, and it’s neat to explore it, but this is one of those rare times when I feel that making it a bit harder would have made it more fun.

Did I do that?? – 824F-0000-01D5-1B41

Seeing Steve Urkel’s catch phrase as a level name did not exactly inspire confidence, and this Super Mario World surface level is definitely meant to have you shouting for whoever caused it to happen. It’s full of narrow passages with enemies, sections where you have to time jumps perfectly (like on early setpiece that requires you to catch a POW Block in midair that’s being thrown from a pipe into a pit – twice), and several spots where bad timing can shoot you back to earlier in the level. The big problem for a level like this is twofold. One, it’s rather long, and it not only requires you to hit several difficult set pieces, it requires you to do so without messing up too many times to get to the end on time. Two, the actual challenges in the level aren’t very well put together. They’re hard, sure, but they’re not particularly well-assembled or memorable. This level feels too much like the creator just threw a bunch of level ideas together and wanted to see what would stick. There are a few good sections in the level, but I’d much rather take it apart in build mode and take what works to make something better.

As always, if you want a review, make sure your level is posted here, and drop a comment. Until next time, when I space out my reviews a little more.

About the author

32_Footsteps

30-plus year veteran of the Koopa Wars. The things I've seen, the levels I've played... let me tell you of them.

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