This past few weeks I have been playing two games, between my regularly scheduled Twitch streams and the couple of games from “the Games from my backlog collection”, Super Mario 3D World and BattleBlock Theater. Super Mario 3D world was picked up when I went out to pick up the Wii U and I bought BattleBlock Theater was one of the games bought during the spending frenzy of the most recent Steam sale.
But both games are incredibly fun and that is in part because of the amazing level designs from the creators. As written before Mario scored some brownie points for jumping in with very little instructions with the first levels, and Battleblock theater has just some repeating animated signs that gives you just the right about of info.
Both game’s levels are built with two experiences to get through each level/stage. The basic point-A-to-point-B path where you hop, jump and bash your way through to the end of the by touching the flagpole in Mario or in Battle Block Theater, getting three green gems (which you practically stumbleupon through the stage) to unlock the exit door or for the more challenging players who are playing through the same stage fo for the tougher routes for more rewards.
You can test your jumping and deductive skills figure out where and how to get to the three Green Stars and one stamp in each stage to unlock the boss stages and special stamps to post online the Miiverse. With the tougher levels comes more challenging unlockables and those requirements to unlock more rewards with Mario gets tougher and tougher when you try to unlock the additional bonus levels in Mario and in Battleblock theater you can get challenge yourself to get the three to four additional green gems and the golden ball of yarn to unlock more customization heads and weapons to use in future stages.
To go back to my Super Mario 3D Land post both of these games handle hidden areas and secrets perfectly. Both games gives you the first secret or key to hidden area in either in a previous stage or earlier in the stage for you to stumble upon and allowing you to keep that in mind while platforming in later levels. When I was playing Mario with my brother he was constantly amazing how I instinctively knew where to look for the green stars and stamps were first time playing the level and spotting the potential for any secret passages in the Battle Block Theater.
And good level design transcends just one title, there is an achievement in Limbo that rewards players to explore the left side of the map at the start of the game when I was streaming Ducktales (Woo-oo!) for the first time the other night I had to constantly remind myself and the viewers that it was my first time picking up the game because I was constantly finding all of the secret heart constantly finding all the heart containers and Mrs Beakley’s secret rooms in every stage without a strategy guide.
If I was to hazard a guess on why this happens and why it is so easy for a trained eye because back when platformers like Castlevania, Mario, and Mega man were made on the NES and SNES, the such limited hardware and memory space that game developers were working with that they did not have the luxury of putting unnecessary blocks, platforms, and scenery into their games. So If the players saw something out-of-place there was a good bet that if they investigated it they would be rewarded by the game developer’s Easter eggs, and that tradition of building levels just continued throughout the gaming generations.
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