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It'sa me, Kaizo Mario!

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
So that castle level I started yesterday is pretty long, huh? I spent another hour on it after the stream ended and I didn't see anything resembling an end to the first section. I got as far as the thwomp that seems to rebound off some phantom note blocks or something and I was very confused.

Starting to think I might permit myself to watch playthroughs of sections I'm having trouble with a little more freely. Just getting through these levels is already an accomplishment, I might not hold myself to discovering everything from first Mario principles.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
You were actually right by the end, there's just one more screen after that jump.

I don't think there's anything wrong in watching other playthroughs, for exactly the reason you said -- these levels are so hard that even when you know what to do, it doesn't change the fact that you still have to do it! I've run into plenty of spots where I found the setups confusing or couldn't figure out the timing of a jump, and having something to reference has been hugely helpful (even though it didn't make the actual performance any easier). In a game where levels can take upwards of two hours to beat even when you know how, the accomplishment still comes from getting across the goal tape. So what if you watched someone else do it first?
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Mike, I'm not sure if you were serious about wanting me to put my clear times in spoiler tags, but I'm gonna write this one as if you were.

So I beat the skytree part of the level today. I thought it was only going to take me half an hour or so, because it honestly didn't seem that bad, but it ended up taking me two hours. I was fine after the first hour, but then I started to get tilted, which certainly didn't help. I had multiple deaths due to a baseball-throwing Chuck spawning facing the wrong direction, which meant there was literally nothing I could do to avoid the baseball. Didn't feel good.

And that was just the first half of the level! I'm gonna have to play something insanely easy after Invictus is finished to feel remotely good about my kaizo abilities again.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
You know, you could always take a break to play something easier for a bit and come back later. Might even give me a chance to catch up! Consider doing a run back of a hack you’ve already completed and be amazed at how much faster it goes. Or challenge my QW2 time!

And I was actually a little serious about hiding your level completion times, I want to try a few blind and see how long they take me. I really like being able to compare with your times once I’m done, but I’d rather not know going into a level, I feel like it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Speaking of taking breaks from Invictus, I wanted to quickly test out a VGA switch I just bought, so I hopped back into Hyperion for a bit. I’ve got to be honest, guys, this hack isn’t really doing it for me. It’s fine, and the sprawling, multi-path overworld is fun to explore, but I’ve only really enjoyed a handful of the levels. I’ll probably keep at it because I’m a little over halfway done and nothing has taken me too long, terrible P-balloon level aside. But there aren’t that many levels that are hitting the happy spots in my brain, and a number of them I’ve found kind of irritating. Couldn’t really tell you why, aside from the overlong sections that a lot of them have. Guess I have slightly different tastes in these things.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Yeah, I know it's not thrilling to read variations on the theme of "this took me a long time and I felt bad". But I do feel like the game is whipping me into shape like a personal trainer. I may not always enjoy the process, but I'm willing to believe I'll be satisfied with the results. It's sharpening my skills in a way that I haven't really gotten from the last few hacks I played, and there's value in what I'm learning. I will work on having future Invictus posts be more than "game make me mad"!

In any event, I'm totally cool with hiding the completion times. I'm really curious to see if we'll still sync up on things as closely as we have until now! And sorry you didn't get into Hyperion, I hope we didn't overhype it for you. But as we've discussed before, not every game is for everyone, and that's cool.
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
I'm 13 exits into Akogare, and I'm really not feeling it. I guess everything about it feels bland to me, very meat and potatoes kaizo without strong level themes or creative setups to make things interesting. It really is just a set of levels filled with obstacles to me. I'm going to keep going, because I got this far, and it's not bad honestly, and I want to see it through. It's just...fine. And given the hacks I've already played, just fine just doesn't cut it.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Sadly, I think it's just the nature of the beast that we aren't going to be as easily impressed by new hacks now that we've completed a few. Like it or not, there are only so many tricks in the kaizo bag and we're probably getting to the point where we've seen most of them. I'm not entirely sure why Akogare is so highly regarded by the community, it probably filled a niche that wasn't as well-served at the time it came out. I still might end up playing it eventually, just because it's tough to find intermediate-difficulty hacks, but for now it's on my rainy day list.

As for me, I made some more progress in Invictus and Hyperion over the weekend. The biggest thing was finishing the thwomp castle in Invictus, which must have taken me a solid three hours. It's a really impressive level that I enjoyed a lot, although I did find the main section to be a tad too long. The boss fight was really scary at first, but it went down relatively quickly once I realized how repetitive the pattern was. I started into Plumber's Nightmare and made some very good progress (got killed by the falling fish on my best run), but I didn't knock it out in 45 minutes the way Lincolnic did. I've gotta say, for as much of a grind as this game can be at times, I'm enjoying it for the most part. Something about the way Juz designs a level really flows well for me, and the better I get the more fun I have in almost every level. The main exit in Sewer Smashing was a bit of a drag, but I think that's the only part that's really gotten on my nerves so far.

I also spent a bit more time with Hyperion, and that game is still hit and miss for me. Case in point, yesterday I played through the radioactive sewer and power plant levels, one of which I found mostly annoying and the other quite fun. The sewer was an interesting idea, but the actual implementation of the radioactivity mechanic I found to be finicky and inconsistent. The meter kept ticking up even after I removed the radioactive sources, which lead to a bunch of deaths that didn't feel deserved*. The back half was more fun, since it was just focused on a quick climb through a vertical autoscroller without really using the level gimmick. But the power plant level I found to be really good, a tasty combination of item juggling and timed platforms (my favorite mechanic this side of rexes!). I think I'm 2/3 of the way through the game now, although my exit count is only 15 because I had another switch palace decide to not collapse after I finished it. Anybody know the rhyme or reason for this? The same thing happened to me in Invictus, the red switch palace is still standing and I'm not getting a proper count for the number of exits I've cleared. I need my exits, man!

*Also, as someone who has studied the various ways that radioactivity can kill you, can I just say that no videogame has ever come close to getting it right? Like, not even in the same time zone.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
I think Mike is right and that Akogare is mostly a time-and-place thing, it definitely feels like there's a dividing line as far as what came before it and what came after. We have the benefit of looking back at it from our current kaizo renaissance, but it's worth remembering that it pre-dates a lot of the current level design trends we're used to now. Akogare came out in September 2018, the only hacks I've played so far that came out before it were Quickie 1 and Hark Bros. And they do feel pretty different! Even Invictus came out a month after Akogare, and that really shook things up -- in a recent video, Juz was saying that when he'd tell people he was working on a chocolate hack, they'd laugh and be like "Ew, I only play vanilla hacks". I think that was sort of the turning point where people really started using chocolate more heavily than they'd previously been. The only really popular hack with more unique/personalized level design I can think of that came out before Akogare is Grand Poo World 1, and I think even that one has a lot more traces of "old kaizo" level design compared to GPW2 or other things that came out in between. Even all of those early Chris G hacks don't feel that far removed from vanilla SMW. Akogare kind of feels like the scaffolding that later hacks built on top of.

I guess playing Akogare for me is kinda like listening to Elvis -- I get the historical context, but I'm too far removed from said context to appreciate it in the same way. Though for the most part I did actually enjoy the back half of the game much more than the first half. And for what it's worth, it's still Valdio's favorite hack!

I had some decent Invictus progress yesterday too, two more exits down. The second half of the skytree level was pretty fun and not actually too bad once you figured out the patterns. I had a couple of interruptions but I think I cleared it in about an hour. I would've been faster, but there's a disco shell that I got stuck on for a while. After that, I went on to clear the secret exit of the following stage in a cool 10 minutes. That was by far the easiest exit of the game I've played yet. Not sure if I'm gonna play more today, but the green switch palace is up next.

Case in point, yesterday I played through the radioactive sewer and power plant levels, one of which I found mostly annoying and the other quite fun. The sewer was an interesting idea, but the actual implementation of the radioactivity mechanic I found to be finicky and inconsistent. The meter kept ticking up even after I removed the radioactive sources, which lead to a bunch of deaths that didn't feel deserved*. The back half was more fun, since it was just focused on a quick climb through a vertical autoscroller without really using the level gimmick. But the power plant level I found to be really good, a tasty combination of item juggling and timed platforms (my favorite mechanic this side of rexes!).

I agree with you 100% on these levels. The radiation mechanic was a cool idea, but it felt really inconsistent to me as well. Ultimately the first half of the level just kinda tiresome to me. I think the level where you have to keep Mario moving or else he freezes to death was a better implementation of a similar mechanic. The power plant level was just some good solid platforming, plus it has that rad Sonic song for its soundtrack that everyone likes. It's a good time!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
You must be past the halfway point in Invictus by now, then? I think there are 22 exits in all and I've got 7, so if you aren't there you will be soon. Great work! I have a feeling we will emerge from the other side of this hack as changed players.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Thanks! Yeah, 22 exits total. I think I'm at 14 right now? I'm pretty sure there are four more exits until I move to the final overworld screen, four exits there, and the other two are from the nexus level. I may finish this by the end of the month!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Riff 2 is out! I saw Barb and Tofu were playing it, and I expect it will be all over Twitch for a week or two. The one level I saw was a ghost house with a neat fast-horizontal-scrolling layer 2 gimmick. There were parts of the layer 2 that were solid and parts that weren't and you switched them by hitting switches along the way, causing hazards to disappear and platforms to pop up. From what I've seen of Riff 1, that hack is pretty tough, but I don't know how the sequel compares. It would be cool to play the new hotness for once, if it's within reach for us.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
From what I saw of ThirdWall and some other folks playtesting, Riff 2 is probably a bit beyond our skills right now. But I'm excited to see the final game!
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
A little deeper into Akogare, and one thing I can appreciate about it is that it's getting to be a little more difficult than the other hacks I've played. The setups are very basic, but the challenge is getting enjoyable.

It's rough to watch Riff 2 from the sidelines, but we have stuff at our level possibly to look forward to this year! Hark 2, Bunbun 3, Akogare 2, Amper's unnamed next hack maybe? The zeitgeist is in reach.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
It's great that there are so many mid-level hacks coming out soon, but that won't stop me from breaking myself on the rocks of GPW3 for at least a week or two whenever that comes out. It won't be pretty...
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Yeah, I think Hark 2 is supposed to be coming out any day now. I'm definitely curious to see how Chris G's design sensibility has evolved.

I'll probably try GPW3 at least once before it makes me throw my controller out the window!
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
My goodness does Akogare get much better in its second half. 25 exits down and the difficulty took a sharp, but welcome, turn starting at maybe the forest levels. The castle in particular was quite a challenge, though I got through it. Now for those last three exits...
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
My goodness does Akogare get much better in its second half.
Finally, someone understands what I've been saying! I'm pretty sure that's the point in the game where Mega_Scott said "Okay, now I can start making some real levels." I think you should be just about up to the P-switch level now, which for me was the toughest. Godspeed.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
What I understand is that I'm not excited to play 25 boring levels to get to 5 good ones. 😐

Haven't had the energy to tackle Invictus this week, the kid is back at school and we're adjusting to having a busier schedule again. I did tick off a few more levels in Hyperion during Joe's XStation stream last night, which I think puts me at 18 exits? I didn't love the plant castle (more due to the presence of disco shells than to any real issues with the level), but the haunted forest level after that was pretty good. I also made it a good way into the ghost house, which was fun, but I didn't finish it because it was time for Nerts! Online. I expect I'll keep an easier hack around for when I need breaks from Invictus, so once this is done I'll be on the lookout for something similar to replace it. Bun Bun and/or Bun Bun 2 is high on my list, but if Hark 2 comes out I might give that one a shot.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Oh, I didn't mean that like "finally, vindication" -- just "now I'm not the only person who's experienced this". But I absolutely see how my post could've looked, sorry. Definitely not trying to push something on you that I know you don't want to play!

I think I had the opposite reaction to those levels than you did. I liked the plant castle a lot, but I didn't like the haunted forest too much because I hate Boo rings. Although having finished Cemetary Bloom in Invictus, I now know that Boo rings can be so much worse. Speaking of Invictus, I did the green switch palace yesterday (no yump, RIP the run). I really thought I was going to get through it in about half an hour, but instead it took me an hour and twenty. It doesn't look like a rough level, and it's very short, but the jumps (especially at the beginning) are so much tighter than they look. Cool level, but it felt kind of punitive at the top. Up next: ice level.

I think the Bunbun games are next on my list as well, but I'm also keeping an eye out for Hark 2. I kinda feel like I need to finish Invictus before I move on to another hack, though. Now that I'm closing in on the final third of the game, I've got a little bit of momentum and I want to keep that going.
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Bunbun is still my favorite vanilla hack, and Bunbun 2 is next to be played after Akogare is done!
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Double posting because the ice level is down. I'm not sure exactly how long it took me (if I had to guess, probably around two hours? The first half definitely was about 45-50 minutes) because I had some interruptions again, and once I got into the second half of the level the B button on my controller started sticking*. You might be surprised, but it turns out that's pretty bad for playing kaizo! Beyond that, the level itself wasn't too bad. The very beginning of the level is a bit slow, since you have to purposely stall to wait for a snake block wall to clear out. And there are a couple of weird jumps in the second half that I feel like I never quite got the hang of, but outside of those there wasn't really anything rough. Also, the penguins are super cute! Dare I say, I almost had...fun? This was another level where Juz added something to the 1.1 patch that didn't exist in the original version, but I'll let Mike discover that when he gets there.

The double jump level is next, which I only looked at for a second. Seems like it's gonna be tough to wrap my brain around -- every single kaizo level is built around regrabs, so I want to do them basically on every jump, but that's just not possible here since you'll jump again. Gonna be an interesting one.

I gotta say, now that I've only got six exits to go (not counting the nexus bridge), I'm actually pretty fired up to finish the game. I probably won't be getting through more than one exit in any given day, but I'm feeling good about it. The end is in sight!

*I had to open the controller up (which was a pain) because I was afraid the rubber pad under the buttons had gotten torn, but it seems like the button cap itself just had some schmutz around the bottom. The rubber under that button did look like it had more wear than the other ones, and the X/A buttons do feel a bit snappier than Y/B, so I might look into replacement pads just in case. Man, I thought this was only supposed to be an issue for old SNES controllers!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Kaizo players will never be free from the pain of controller issues. Just give up and build yourself a hitbox!
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Got through the first of the bonus stages in Akogare, and yeah, it was tough. It was basically "that one trick that infuriated me at Comfort Zone, but through an entire level". Which I didn't mind too much honestly? The segments weren't hugely long, and I eventually grokked things enough to make it to the goal tape.

Next up: Celestial Rex
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Hey, I finally 100%'d Akogare! Those last few levels were quite the challenge, but I pulled through. I'm especially proud that I beat the cape level given I haven't had a ton of cape experience. All in all, the last half of the game made up for the bland first half, so I'm ultimately glad I played it, but I'm ready to move onto hacks with more interesting setups.

Speaking of, on to Bunbun 2!
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Nice job! The special levels are definitely a step up from the rest of the game, and the cape level especially has some really tricky spots.

I have a feeling we'll see Akogare 2 sooner rather than later, I saw Scott was streaming today and he was working on the room order for his final castle. I didn't watch because I find watching Lunar Magic to be pretty boring, but the little bits I have seen look neat. I also watched Barb finish Riff 2 this morning, which looked like the best hack I may never play. There were so many really cool levels in there, it's a shame that I'm gated off by the difficulty. A couple of the levels took over an hour for Barb, which probably would be like three or four days for me. Ah well. Maybe some theoretical Future Me will be good enough one day.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Hey, I was in the stream when he finished Riff 2 too! I liked the final puzzle, it was a nice twist on the secret passcode thing that Barb himself did in GPW2. I agree that the hack looks very hard, although not as bad as the worst ones I’ve seen. The bigger turnoff for me is the lack of instant retry and the fact that you get the full death jingle every time you die. I can’t imagine putting up with that in a difficult hack in 2021.

Good job on the hundo, Snake! I’m still keeping my options open for once I finish Hyperion, if Akogare 2 drops around then I might give it a shot. As for original Ako, I have a feeling I’ll play a level or two whenever I don’t know what to play and don’t feel like starting a new hack. I expect it’ll be on the back burner for quite some time, but it almost feels like I HAVE to play it eventually. It’s the most ubiquitous hack out there, which is saying something.

I’m still picking away at Hyperion in short bursts, I think I have like 4 exits to go. It’s been a big week, but I might finally return to Invictus tonight or tomorrow to see what’s beyond Plumber’s Nightmare. Taterholic just started Invictus the other day and I’m going to try to stay ahead of her, at least for a while. She plays way more hours per week than I do, but I have a bit of a lead and this could be a good way to keep motivated during the harder stretches.
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Okay, I'm four exits into Bunbun 2 and there's a ridiculous amount of creativity with the setups here. What sio does with layers is just magical, and some stages reuse themselves in very clever ways. I think I might like this one better than Bunbun 1 if this keeps up.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Kaizo pals, I am pretty psyched to report that I've finished the final two levels of Invictus' any% run. The double jump level was okay (clocking in around an hour forty), but the final any% castle was super fun. Every part of it was fun! I was worried that the mechanic the level's built around (vertical screen wrap) was going to be really hard to get used to, but everything was really well indicated and it was mostly just learning patterns. Got through it in about an hour and ten, with probably half of that spent in the first room. Once I got comfortable it felt like the rooms got progressively easier as I went through them. I even made all the up pipes first try!

Kamek awaits.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Wow, huge congrats on the any%! I hope to join you there in about two months or so.

Snake, keep us posted on Bunbun 2, it’s definitely high on my list of hacks I’m interested in.
 
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