Ever since Bad Level Design Contest (QLDC #0), Questionable Level Design Contest has been my favorite holiday. I really enjoy seeing all of the unique ideas people come up with. So, I decided to play through all the entries for the 2nd QLDC (not counting 72 hour QLDC or Bad LDC) and write up reviews. I tried to focus on the positive in my reviews. There's at least one level I didn't finish, and I busted out tools for many.
Authors are anonymous below for the sake of judges and anyone else who doesn't want them spoiled. There are minor spoilers in general. Of course, I don't mind if you reply about your level creation. I welcome your thoughts.
Here's 10 levels I like: 10, 14, 18, 28, 33, 38, 42, 59, 61, 63, 69.
Here's another 10 levels I like: 2, 6, 7, 8, 13, 15, 22, 27, 31, 36, 37, 49.
Also, 17, 44, 48, and 50.
Also, I like all of the levels and some of these levels might hurt you a little.
#1 – Daisy in the Lost Maze: Show/Hide
I like the concept of a rope glitch maze. I can see what they were going for as you have the power to redirect the fuzzies using the on/off blocks. However, I was more inclined to squeeze past them. I think there’s more that can be done with this concept, such as wider enemy variety or layer 2. The daisy sprite and the presentation are cute.
Note: Tool-assisted due to lack of patience on my part.
#2 – Law & Order: Mushroom Kingdom Unit: Pilot Episode: Tragic Fox “Tails”: Show/Hide
This entry particularly reminded me that watching a level is not the same as playing it, even if there’s not a lot of gameplay. When I actually played it, I was able to absorb the aesthetics, the writing, and the colorful characters. I like the premise. (I grew up on SVU.) It has the basic structure of a good story and it’s memorable. If it was longer and interwove gameplay with writing even more, I’d like it even more. So, I hope to play the episodes some day.
#3 – Super Golf Launcher: Show/Hide
The very slow retry made this much funnier for me as a viewer than as a player. If this gave some more leeway I could enjoy it for even more sections. As it stands, it’s cute and clever, but tedious to play. Good aesthetics though.
Note: Tool-assisted due to lack of patience on my part.
#4 – Strange Ruins: Show/Hide
Seeing a chaotic mixture of custom sprites with strange graphics is a hallmark of a good QLDC. The music is sublime. I was confused as to where to go and stumbled a lot due to lag, which felt very appropriate. I don’t understand the yoshi rooms, and I don’t need to understand them. I appreciate that the level rewards exploration and ends in a boss. Overall, good entry.
#5 – submission (the level where Mario can’t see): Show/Hide
I found this very difficult for some reason. Maybe I’m bad at following directions? The concept is funny enough I’ll be telling my friends about this one. People should try this level.
Note: I used Lunar Magic to cheat by seeing where I need to go.
#6 – Mario Starcatcher 2: Show/Hide
This one is like a mini-hack with fun physics and cheeky trolls. My favorite part is the backgrounds that are deep fried to perfection. It has a real classic feel to it. If I didn’t know better, I might think it’s a bootleg ROM. The pacing and challenges are well-tuned so that the level never gets stale and it doesn’t over-stay its welcome.
#7 – The level where you play as a bob-omb: Show/Hide
It’s satisfying to explode yourself again and again to create a path. Also, the repeated ability to take an extra hit with just a little bit of care leads to fun and easy gameplay. The aesthetics are consistently charming throughout. It seems like you’re expected to use L/R scrolling in the level, which I appreciate. I wouldn’t mind this being a much longer level.
#8 – TACAS: Show/Hide
At first blush this level feels like it’s precise with a lot of finicky tricks, but the further you go the more the level rewards improvisation and fast reflexes. It’s a sleek and attractive level with just enough fireworks.
#9 – coffee spilled on the cables: Show/Hide
I will always support the right of rom hackers to blind their players (with adequate warning). I generally like this creator’s wacky designs. I found the difficulty a bit inconsistent, which was kind of draining. My favorite obstacle was the lakitu-fishing boo double decker sandwich. The last screen was pure trolling.
Note: Tool-assisted due to lack of patience on my part.
#10 – ???3: Show/Hide
Experience in Lunar Magic really helps with SMW-based spot the difference. So, it made me feel smart for just staring at a screen for 5 minutes. I also appreciate the bonus level. It’s fun.
#11 – Super Mario Romance: Show/Hide
Dating sims are funny and enticing ludo-narrative endeavors. This one left me hanging, but I think that was intentional. The level has some actual gameplay in it, so I kind of wish it had more to it in terms of both writing and gameplay. Still, what’s there is charming and fun.
Note: This level has no exit.
#12 – Me’s Plains: Show/Hide
I appreciate how this hack gives you the chance to go back to the secret exit or the boss with no fuss. The secret exit has some cool interactions with yoshi eating berries and getting squished. It’s a bit short, but it has some charm to it.
#13 – 120 FPS Mario World: Show/Hide
One of many levels that I had seen several times before playing. I was a little tired when I played this, so I died a lot to dolphins and simple mistakes. Normally I like lag, but I didn’t love it in this instance. It was very chaotic, which I think is the point. It’s a stylish level; you really might think at a glance that the level is sped up.
Note: I didn’t collect the moon.
#14 – Sluggish: Show/Hide
Incrementally changing input delay is fascinating to me, since it gives you the chance to really feel out the changes. Input delay is an oft-discussed problem in the rom hacking world, so this level is topical and informative. It also really makes me think just how precise platforming is compared to most other genres. The font is superb and the level graphics aren’t bad either. The designer showed a lot of restraint, which helped deliver the punchline.
Note: I would have beaten easy, but I was really trying to beat medium. I got up to 20 frame of delay, but couldn’t clutch it out.
#15 – Super Mario Bros. 4: Show/Hide
This level intentionally messes with the player based on common play habits, which is a good joke. I can appreciate the dada-esque approach of tearing up what the player finds sacred and making a collage from the torn bits. I was truly longing for SMW physics, but by the end I could enjoy experimenting with these new physics. It’s a good reminder that variety is the spice of life. The level design emphasizes exploring the space and rarely cramps the player, which is good.
Note: I used save-states to make my own checkpoints. This gets a bit long in the tooth without checkpoints.
#16 – Super QLDC World: Show/Hide
This level reeks of old rejected kaizo. I can recommend this to big fans of stank. In this context, I respect the choice to put the midway before the boss out of reach. At first, I elected to use tools for this one, but I went back; it’s not so bad. I challenge you to get the 5 yoshi coins.
#17 – The Little Sprite: Show/Hide
This level is focused on sprites that follow Mario in one way or another. Having sprites (namely beans and shells) glued to Mario’s feet opens up new possibilities for how to navigate a level. You have to learn strange timing for how long you hold the jump button and how many jumps you do. That said, the sections with sprites in front of Mario were easier for me to navigate and route. They feel satisfying. I like that the surfing sections have some bite to them. I feel that this gimmick has potential for more levels.
#18 – Super Over World: Show/Hide
This has been a viewer favorite for the contest, so it clearly knocks it out of the park in terms of aesthetics and cleverness. The ASM is really impressive. That leaves the question: how does it play? Pretty well, I’d say. If I would make one complaint, it’s that it’s short. I’m not sure if this gimmick could really go for an entire hack, but there could be considerably more of this with even more cleverness. Of course, the best levels often leave you wanting, so suffice it to say this was one of the best.
#19 – Bizarro World: Show/Hide
It’s all about the simple pleasures, like map16 edits and enemies falling on your head from the sky. This level is simple but fun to play.
#20 – Quest for C3 2023: Show/Hide
At first I felt this level is pretty fun. It’s an interesting challenge to route your way through randomly splattered map16. However, I was dying too much to slopes pushed against other blocks. There’s also some softlocks. For QLDC, it’s fine. It’s a little funny. It’s a simple level though.
#21 – whoops I dropped my yoshi in the endless pit called qldc: Show/Hide
I like a trip to Hell every now and then. The overworld is especially charming on this one. This level isn’t too hard but the challenges are all amusing. High points for good aesthetics and being an easy level.
#22 – QLDC judging level: Show/Hide
All I can say is I also had a visceral reaction to Tipsy Plumber BUT not because Mario is a cartoon character. We worry for Mario’s health as a middle-aged man with untapped potential, and it’s simply a waste for him to be “smashed with the boys” on a regular basis. It’s not something we like to see, but upon reflection we realize that this is Mario’s way of coping; it’s what he’s learned from our culture. And we spend some time contemplating all of the worse things Mario could be doing, such as murdering goombas or trying to “rescue” perfectly content princesses. We come to accept that this is what age does to some people, and we think back to the advice we were given in our younger days that we hope steers us to brighter years, and we become wise like the elephant.
Note: the knife thinks about us.
#23 – Super Super Mario World Mario Has To Play Sports: Show/Hide
The light item tricks were fun but simple. The trampoline sprite showed up in a few entries and caught me by surprise every time. My favorite obstacles were definitely the ones with the custom chucks. It was fun dodging the baseballs and dealing with line-guided chucks. I feel there’s more that could have been done with these gimmicks, but it’s nice to get the occasional short level.
#24 – Minimum Viable Entry: Show/Hide
I don’t have much to say about this one. I tried to look for secrets in the level, but didn’t find anything. Creators should feel free to put in as much effort as they want for a contest. But this level seems to be exactly as it’s titled.
#25 – Journey to the Fields of Kooper: Show/Hide
I enjoyed the scuffy cartoon koopas, and I think the overall aesthetics work really well. Clearly some effort went into this. The level design was also fun – approachable, but just enough danger to keep you on your toes. I was rather surprised that there was both dialogue and a custom powerup that felt pretty exciting. I ended up only using it once for a few seconds. The other places where you can get it can easily be platformed through without it. For that reason, I wish this level was longer, a little tighter, and a little more linear. Overall, a fun but short level.
#26 – Mega Mole Cave: Show/Hide
I never mind a quick mega mole ride. The interaction with stopping an infinite bounce shell was neat and I was hoping to see more unusual interactions like that. I like the use of disappearing blocks and fire flower, but the level feels really short considering all of the tools in use.
#27 – The Ant’s Pants: Show/Hide
This one really took me by surprise. Normally, when Mario’s physics are messed with it’s a kind of torture experiment or a joke, but in this case regrabs are preserved and the level design complements the increased jump height. It’s right up there with my favorite classics of hard standard like “stick mice.” The ants were a nice addition. They seem basically harmless but scare you a little. When I got to the auto-jump section, I got a little worried, but it wasn’t hard. This level could have been harder and longer, but I don’t mind how it played either way.
Note: I couldn’t figure out how to get the moon.
#28 – RHUBARB: Show/Hide
The writing in this was very much my cuppa tea, and there was so much of it. Mixing CYOA into other styles of gaming works weirdly well. (See: Frog Fractions.) I think some players will be disappointed at how it’s virtually impossible to win, or to even feel like you won. For me, I feel that’s exactly what QLDC needs, and we’re all enriched by having this level exist. The achievements feature, plus the way the quizzes function, is a great take on player feedback. Game design doesn’t always have to be a straight-forward request on the player to do a thing followed by a reward. Sometimes failure has its own rewards. You get a “final” “reward” just for playing this for 20 minutes. The meta jokes layered in from that “end,” and from the choices of culturally relevant music, and from the game design itself, create an unforgettable experience. Speaking of game design, the wall jump ASM in this hack is horrible, and every jump is like a little vignette, a story unto itself of struggle, reward, and pain. The gamer in me really wants a toned down version of this level that I can devour, but the artist in me can’t get over this thing. I adore it.
Note: I used rewind HEAVILY to reach the final screen.
#29 – Mario Picross World: Show/Hide
This was my first time playing Picross, and now I’m addicted. I approached this as though I couldn’t make any mistakes and avoided guessing. I think it helped me learn Picross, but this questionable variant rewards taking chances. There’s even one puzzle where the numbers don’t provide enough information. I did that puzzle in MS Paint. Each puzzle has very strong theming with music perfectly matched to its graphics. Some of the puzzles are abnormal and intentionally confusing. It’s also possible to soft-lock; though, start+select is enabled. I love variety in my games, so having a Mario level that’s actually just Picross is good in my book. The fact that you only have to do 5 puzzles makes this entry very polite.
Note: Mild tool assistance in the form of MS Paint, particularly for #10. All puzzles completed except for #21.
#30 – Item Babysitting: Show/Hide
In this case it’s actually laudable for a level to rend my ears. The level design is good – simple item tricks and you play as a yoshi, which is a fun spin on yoshi mechanics. I for one invite tank controls. The boss is actually mortifying. I wouldn’t change anything about the level, but it’s painful to play.
#31 – Sky Grassland High: Show/Hide
I believe I saw a level from this creator before for BLDC, which was similarly hard – maybe harder – but which also looked fun to me. The hitboxes on the pogo guys was a little bigger than I felt comfortable with, but besides that the level flows really well and is the perfect length and difficulty. It’s maybe too normal for what people want out of a QLDC level, but now I’m interested in this creator’s hacks.
#32 – Mario’s Rampage 3: Cycle of Violence: Show/Hide
This one weirdly worked for me. The physics are messed up, but it’s a bit more mild than in some other entries. I suspect the intention is to elicit nostalgia of flash games and other bits of 2000s web culture. The difficulty curve is pretty good. It starts out easy and gives you the incredible powerup of a knife, and then it throws a real curve ball where you have to grapple with the unwieldy jumps. The sudden requirement of carefully directing the knife away from the enemies was another fun challenge and a cute change. I appreciate how the entry was openly edgy.
#33 – spoopybloc: Show/Hide
I love to see vanilla glitches incorporated into smooth platforming. I’ve seen many levels of this style (minus the pseudonymous glitch) where you have to hit invisible blocks and perform a careful vertical climb. I’d call them tower climbing levels, but that implies a certain hack. That style combined with a broad routing requirement of coins works perfectly. I would enjoy a whole hack in this vein.
#34 – Mario’s Pathfinder: Show/Hide
This gimmick was tough to work with but I like the little bit of precision. I had a small brain moment and didn’t figure out a good way to get past the line of koopas. It’s a fair and fun level.
Note: Light tool assistance.
#35 – Keypunch Peak Tower: Show/Hide
This level looks like a mess of sprite stacks, but that’s just good questionable energy. It plays better than it looks. The jumps are mostly easy and the interactions with the boxing gloves are fun and intuitive. There is one part where you need to use a line guided platform and a boxing glove, and for whatever reason the platform just turns around or falls off the line nearly every time. Fortunately, the creator gives a skip following that. I was left wanting more of the boxing glove surfing and less of the inconsistent interactions.
Note: I used the skip, since the platform kept falling off before I could even get to the surfing part.
#36 – Tipsy Plumber: Show/Hide
This was well designed for the gimmick, forcing you to learn a new technique to deal with it at each jump. If the sections were shorter and a little looser, the average player of hard rom hacks could enjoy this more. The ASM has some nasty consequences that are hard to feel out. For example, when you press one direction, and then the other, and then quickly back to the first direction, it will ignore the input. It does something similar for jumps. I think it makes sense, but while playing it just feels like it’s eating inputs. I personally would have liked a slower introduction with some faster checkpoints, but I understand that that was not the creators’ vision here. I appreciate the thoughtful level design even if it’s not the most approachable level.
Note: Tool-assisted due to lack of patience on my part.
#37 – #5 Roy’s Castle: Show/Hide
This was a fun and active level despite being effectively an auto-scroller. I’m not sure what point all the doors played, aside from giving you a chance to get a little further. I could never beat the level after using one due to the tight timer. That might be the point and I can accept that. My only complaint is that the troll is really mean, but all things are fair in love and kaizo.
#38 – yo whats ur address: Show/Hide
I like that this entry brings ASM a little closer to the average player. It’s almost like an educational game in that way. The red herrings work well and teach more RAM addresses along the way. It also looks nice.
#39 – #1 Iggy’s Castle: Show/Hide
I like crab guy’s rocks. I almost skipped this one for being too hard. It’s not approachable, but it’s kind of cool. I have often pondered what other possibilities there are for items in SMW. This entry gave me ideas on that. So, I won’t write this entry off completely. Still, this entry could use more freedom to move and/or powerups.
Note: Heavy tool assistance.
#40 – Super Luna Game 2: Show/Hide
The pixel art is really cool and I appreciate the idle animations. This feels more like a demo for a game than a contest entry. Taking it as it is, it ends in an abrupt way, which is comedic in its own right. Some dreams are short like that. The mosaic effect doesn’t really bother my eyes, but it is a questionable choice. The room you briefly see towards then end is much more stylish.
#41 – The Fast Bear: Show/Hide
Pretty funny and there’s some gameplay? Sign me up. It's quick but it's fun while it lasts. The aesthetics are quality.
#42 – A Cheep Level: Show/Hide
I’m still not entirely sure how the fish movement works. My best guess is that it’s auto-jumping with a very low jump height and a call to RNG, plus some other subtle changes to the physics. If that’s so, depending on the setting the creator went with in the retry patch, it may be possible to intuitively and sub-consciously manipulate the RNG, controlling the fish’s jump height and speed without even understanding how it’s being done. The fact that I’m even considering that is a testament to this level’s brilliance. It somehow feels exactly like you’re a cheep cheep, and for cheep cheep aficionados this is a powerful experience. The aesthetics are purposefully designed to look low-effort and janky. In this case, I think it works well. The uninformed might seriously think that a cheep cheep was simply inserted into a crudely drafted level. By the end the quality of the design is totally apparent to anyone paying attention. The second section is a bit rough, but I think even that lends itself well to the overall experience. The level has staying power, and I think I wouldn’t mind spending more time as a cheep cheep.
#43 – Marisa takes a high step to glory: Show/Hide
This feels like an awkward beginner kaizo level, which is fun to me once I get used to it. I don’t like this wall jump ASM, or this camera, or the auto-sliding. I do like the graphics, the thwimp thwomps, the health bar, and the overall design.
#44 – Barrel Backwoods: Show/Hide
This is a well developed level with tough timing. I have still yet to play the DKC games, but I appreciate on some level that tough mechanics from retro games have become ingrained in SMW rom hacking culture. The placement of mushrooms and punishing obstacles is very good, and the level is a good length. I can’t say it’s my favorite or the most ambitious level, but there’s not much to complain about. It feels like it wandered out of a very good hack.
#45 – Mario Mini-Golf: Show/Hide
I know this is golf, but this is kaizo. I’m so bad at golf. This level could have used a feature like right click to die. That said, I put it down but then went back to it. It kept pulling me in. One must pay close attention to find the right angles and use the right amount of drive on each shot. The level design is varied to boot. One thing that bothers me about a lot of golf games is you can’t get very much drive, and that applies here as well. All in all, it’s good, but I am bad at golf.
Note: I used save states to give myself faster retry. Otherwise, RTA.
#46 – Super Mario Evades Taxes: Show/Hide
The creators came up with a surprising number of decent obstacles considering the gimmick. The level definitely has aesthetic consistency as well. The gimmick is another rough one. For me, it felt like the creators showed a good amount of restraint until the last section. In that section they introduce a new gimmick, which admittedly fits well with the main one. And then you must navigate a maze. The path is pretty straight-forward, but if you ever question what you’re doing you can easily go astray. This is interesting, but not something I generally desire in a level. I don’t know how this could be nerfed without some aspect of the level suffering, so it is what it is.
Note: Moderate use of rewind.
#47 – TEH EASIEST LVL!!!1: Show/Hide
Fakeouts are a good part of QLDC. The level starts with a joke and quickly evolves. It delivers fun yet approachable gameplay. The references to other QLDC entries are a nice touch.
#48 – shellshellshellshel: Show/Hide
A fun riff on Depraved Stronghold. There’s one long section that requires good focus and one chaotic section that is difficult to route, but comes with ample mushrooms. I think it’s a reasonable level that’s fun to learn. It has adequate RNG to demand improvisation. The long section has the most clever and intimidating setups. The level is so fun I would play more of it.
#49 – qu’est ce que c’est: Show/Hide
It’s always cool to see an arcadey setup come out of an interaction between normal sprites. It’s a 300 mushroom second speedrun level without much feedback as for whether or not you’re losing, so that’s questionable.
Note: I did not finish this one.
#50 – Some Light Reading: Show/Hide
It’s always charming to me when a level makes extensive use of vanilla mechanics. It’s short and sweet; in this case, it works in the level’s favor. If a player were to get stumped, the level still doesn’t take that long. The humor is solid and the platforming is fun. The moon is a little cursed with the route you have to take around one-ways. I think they tend to snap you to one side.
#51 – Mario Goes To The Fridge To Get A Glass Of Milk: Show/Hide
It’s an incredibly short entry with a decent amount of effort put into it. Part of me wants some Easter eggs or funny lines of writing, but I acknowledge that brevity is the heart of comedy.
Note: I ate everything in the fridge.
#52 – Never Enough vBlank: Show/Hide
I found the puzzles mostly good and amusing. The message box says that each puzzle should be self-contained, but I brought an item from a previous room for half of them. I’m not sure what the intended solution(s) are for most of them. The level would benefit from a tutorial explaining what each block does. Also, there should be a warning about flashing. The last puzzle and the boss itself are the most elegant puzzles out of the batch.
I noticed that with experimental films there are many cases where the editing includes fast cuts with varying brightness, which I think could be harmful to some viewers. For the same reasons I wouldn’t say that those edits should never be done, I won’t say that flashing in games should never happen. However, in both cases I believe there should always be a warning. The only flashing I found really concerning in this level is right at the beginning. After that, I think it’s fine.
The level is definitely interesting and leaves an impression. It feels like a classic ghost house. Rotation in 2D games introduces another variable reminiscent of having a third dimension, which results in (even more) endless possibilities.
Note: Heavy tool assistance due to trial and error and not wanting to repeat the puzzles (which mostly have low execution requirements).
#53 – KEKSLIDE the level: Show/Hide
I think this is a visibility gimmick wrapped around an otherwise normal level. That said, I like the level design. It has a good difficulty ramp with challenging obstacles. The layer 2 section feels properly maze-like despite being a short hallway. The vertical section keeps the player active as well, blocking their path if they go too slow. The gimmick works well with the level design. Overall, it’s a fun and simple level.
#54 – I Hate Music: Show/Hide
This level is really tough but it’s satisfying to find the strats for it. The moon in particular is insane, requiring a spin-jump off of a noteblock. It uses the classic jazz background that often comes with noteblock levels, further scarring those saxophones into my brain. Careful timing on noteblocks is a skill that I’m always learning. It’s not quite in the top five hardest of the contest, but I won’t be forgetting this level any time soon.
#55 – Awesome! Way Cool!!: Show/Hide
Another short one. The design isn’t bad and there are some fun ideas in there. To list them: falling through pink triangles, funny sliding koopas, lakitu cloud that becomes automatically accessible due to a disco shell, well-placed kicking koopas.
#56 – Alfreb Eimsteim’s Theory of Relativity: Show/Hide
I scoured this level for a way to play the boo factory section at more than 1 FPS. I’m not altogether convinced there is a way. Okay, so this is the one level I didn’t complete. I’ve watched others play through it. It’s a beautiful and charming level, and I’m sure viewers love it. I wish I could actually play the beautiful and charming boo section at full speed, but I’m done looking. I give it my stamp of approval.
Note: I failed to prove my worth to society.
#57 – Inside the Box: Show/Hide
The level is long and could use more checkpoints. It also has a really obscure interaction at the end that could use an explanation. All that said, it’s a compelling series of challenges. The gimmick might work better for a pure puzzle hack, but the tight platforming isn’t bad. The creator might have packed in too many ideas, but the depravity builds over time. This adds some entertainment value. There is some cheese here and there, so I wouldn’t call this polished. In conclusion, I like this level.
#58 – poubele: Show/Hide
Forcing my way through a note block maze is strangely fun. It helps that it’s not really a maze. It’s funny figuring out how to move forward with the note blocks constantly bouncing me backwards. Ultimately, the podobo and thwimp were too much for me. I couldn’t despawn them and a note block spin jump isn’t really viable for me. I also died from being shoved into a wall or falling out of the level pretty often. So, it’s not the best level to play RTA, but it’s fun aside from that.
Note: Light tool assistance.
#59 – SMW Randomizer: Show/Hide
I asked the creator how this level functions, and it’s about as straight-forward as you might imagine. The level is populated by random blocks in a ratio that’s suitable for gameplay. I believe based on my experience that it alternates sections, since it seems to produce more slopes at times and then more vines at other times. I was surprised that the level actually has a sense of progress, and it nods to vanilla to boot. All that really matters though is how fun the jumps are, and they are often very fun. I might be coming back to this hack.
#60 – Flappy Mario: Show/Hide
Setting aside the janky controls, this level is pretty fun. I now have a desire to make a level with the SNES mouse, so let’s just say this level inspired me. There are some really tight jumps in the first bullet section. I’m not sure I love that. It also would certainly be easier if the mouse followed the camera. Still, it’s a fun design and the aesthetics are nice.
#61 – Banzai Mario World: Show/Hide
This is one of the purest hard platforming levels in the whole contest. The level design is spot on for promoting just a few routes through each obstacle. I really appreciate the ASM and aesthetic touches that went into this. I’m not sure what else to say. It’s fast. It’s fun. It’s banzai.
#62 – Moving Hole Forest Starring Tails: Show/Hide
Another level that makes clever use of vanilla interactions. This one has some character to it with the ass-first Tails sprite. You have to stay active for a lot of it due to spinies, but then you get a generous amount of freedom to line up some of the hole jumps. Sometimes it’s kind of weird how you need to do a bean wrap trick even though the bean is hidden behind leaves. Overall, fun and well designed.
Note: Light tool assistance because I’m very impatient.
#63 – Aw, Pits! Now With 100% Less Soup: Show/Hide
I believe good SMW troll levels are usually just collections of ASM strung together as a series of jokes, and that’s basically what this is. I really couldn’t handle the flying section, but strangely I want to see more levels with it. The writing was all good by me and I laughed on the inside.
Note: Light tool assistance because the flying is so fiddly.
#64 – 5 Stages of Grief: Show/Hide
I should be the last person to complain about levels being tough or long, so I won’t ^_^ This is a very good level. It’s not quite as rough as some other levels in this competition (e.g. Tipsy Plumber), but it runs the gamut in terms of challenges: slopes, movement gimmicks, funny escort obstacles. The meming and custom character make the level a bit more memorable. Classic anti-climactic boss makes the level not too long.
#65 – Mount Acrophobia: Show/Hide
This level feels to me like highly toned down kaizo, or rather a JUMP level. In other words, it’s a linear level built around a gimmick with moderate execution requirements (that is, you want to be decent at Mario before playing this). The mild puzzling you have to do keeps the level fresh throughout. I tend to duck a lot in standard levels anyway, so this level feels good to me. I think this hits the sweet spot where any romhack player can have a fun challenge from it. Beginner players can struggle through it and learn a little about SMW in the process, and veteran players will tear through it but still enjoy it.
#66 – Need for Beanz: Show/Hide
This level is really silly and I swear the casino is rigged. There’s a brief story in this one about a man who needs beans, and I appreciate that. The car chase is a little rough. I think having a cut scene right before it without a checkpoint isn’t great. It’s also confusing sometimes to tell what’s solid/semi-solid and not, but maybe that’s intentional. The level flows well and looks nice.
#67 – HD City: Show/Hide
I’m not sure what to think of this level. It’s one of many levels that’s designed to make you think that the creator is inexperienced. However, I wasn’t fully cognizant of the fact that the creator was telling an elaborate joke until the end. The gameplay is mostly bridge building, which isn’t really fun. The last time I played a bridge building level in QLDC I had a bit more fun. (Or was that Bad LDC?) Still, props to the creator for giving me the wrong expectations and then surprising me with the bullet bills at the end.
#68 – Mario is ?able: Show/Hide
I paid close attention to the rules for each section, and yet I still had to learn the hard way. The level is a great presentation of map16 edits. The bob-omb generators and the side-bounce noteblocks add some trial and error to a level that’s already designed to confuse you. It’s pretty good.
#69 – level right here…: Show/Hide
The level starts out wacky and cerebral, then it turns dark and foreboding, and then it’s differently wacky, and then you fight a boss, and then you win. It’s a nice pace. I like how there’s a satisfying mix of puzzling, platforming, and funny interactions. There’s a gimmick that’s used all throughout, but the art is so front and center that you could easily forget about the gimmick. It starts to become second nature. I want to see more of this gimmick or work with it myself.