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It'sa me, Kaizo Mario!

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Horses (which, in my head, is called Horsels) feels like a hack for the Lungfishes and GlitchCats of the world, but I'm not sure it's fit for general consumption.

I've actually been thinking a bit more about how we categorize kaizo difficulty. I keep seeing "intermediate" difficulty thrown out for a lot of hacks, and I feel like it's essentially meaningless. Comfort Zone isn't as hard as GPW2, but it's a lot harder than Akogare, and both of those are often described as "intermediate". There's got to be a better way to split these things up!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I still believe in my 5-step difficulty rating system, which would put Comfort Zone into the same tier as stuff like Invictus and Waterworld (3/5). Not that I’ve played Comfort Zone, but you see what I mean.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
You know what, I think I'm done with Comfort Zone. I don't think I've actually had fun since the second exit, and I'm just getting exceedingly frustrated by every jump being the tightest jump in the world. I just spent an hour and 20 minutes in the second half of the fourth stage and it just feels mean (to say nothing of the fact that the background music is literally just the main riff from the underground theme over and over again). Most hacks I've played feel like as hard as they might be, you can still feel the creators wanting you to succeed (even GPW2). Comfort Zone feels like any success comes despite Orka's best efforts. And, like, it sucks to feel that way! Orka is a genuinely good dude as far as I can tell, but I don't want to play his hack anymore.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Putting all salt aside, I think part of the reason I wasn't having fun is that I expected more from myself. I'll never be as good as any kaizo streamer, but I do feel like at this point in my development I should be better than I am. And I don't know what to do with that feeling! As far as I might've come in a relatively short amount of time, I've still got so much farther to go if I want to stop being mediocre. Kinda feels like Comfort Zone put me in my place, you know? Really reminded me of that fact.

Obviously you get better by playing things that challenge you, but when those things are also frustrating, it's hard to want to push through them. Even when GPW2 got really rough, I was still excited to keep playing. We've talked before about how not every hack is for everybody, so maybe I'm just bouncing off of Orka's design sensibility super hard. The tough part is finding the next hack that will push me without making me want to quit.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Still thinking about Riff 2! I'm also still not sure how I feel about the slow retry, but it might just be something I have to experience to make up my mind.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I wish that I could encourage you to surpass yourself and play more difficult games, but I'm kind of going in the opposite direction? I've been enjoying kaizo more recently by playing stuff that wasn't as challenging - which of course doesn't mean to say it's easy, just...not as hard. These hacks are all at least somewhat difficult and I think there's something to be said for just playing more of them, rather than always ratcheting up the difficulty. Someone like LaserBelch or Grim didn't get to be as good as they are by playing ten hacks in a carefully-calibrated difficulty curve*, they just took whatever came out and wound up playing literally hundreds of hacks in the process. You're still gaining experience and building muscle memory when you play hacks that are only moderately difficult, even if they don't push you to the limit at every step.

*For as useful as Tofu's terribly-named Kaizo University program can be, I think it also gives people the impression that they should be climbing the difficulty ladder with each new hack they play. That might be the shortest way to get good, but it's not necessarily the most fun!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Dude, that rules! You're at the top of the front page and everything. I'm also really happy that you included the Cemetery Bloom pipe troll, in some ways I think that's maybe the best troll in all of kaizodom. Congrats on the big feature!
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Hey, remember when I said I was doing a thing? Thing dropped.
I was just wondering what the status of that thing was! I'm so psyched to finally get to read this. Congratulations on your Polygon debut, may it be the first of many articles there with your name on them. Also, that clip of Amethyst getting trolled in Riff 2 is priceless.

These hacks are all at least somewhat difficult and I think there's something to be said for just playing more of them, rather than always ratcheting up the difficulty. Someone like LaserBelch or Grim didn't get to be as good as they are by playing ten hacks in a carefully-calibrated difficulty curve*, they just took whatever came out and wound up playing literally hundreds of hacks in the process. You're still gaining experience and building muscle memory when you play hacks that are only moderately difficult, even if they don't push you to the limit at every step.
You make extremely valid points, and all of this is 100% true and worth remembering. I also did a pretty poor job of communicating my inner thoughts here -- I'm not interested in difficulty just for the sake of difficulty (I'm not interested in something like Horses or Precision86, for instance). But there is a whole world of hacks that are universally agreed on as being Good that are also extremely hard, like Mostly Harmless and Moon, and I want to be good enough to play them. Really, what I want is to have enough skill where I can play a hack that looks interesting without worrying that it'll be too hard for me. I'm really trying to take a GlitchCat-style approach to thinking about kaizo, where every hack is just another chance to learn new things and get better as a player. The journey is the destination, or something. The friction occurs when I run into a hack like Comfort Zone that knocks me down a peg.

There's definitely value in playing easier hacks, and for the most part I have more fun playing them too. I'm not trying to advocate for only playing progressively harder games, because this should be fun! I'll never turn my nose up at a cool hack because it's easier than the last one I played.

For as useful as Tofu's terribly-named Kaizo University program can be, I think it also gives people the impression that they should be climbing the difficulty ladder with each new hack they play. That might be the shortest way to get good, but it's not necessarily the most fun!
This is another excellent point and one that I think a lot of people miss. Look at someone like SpaceVixen, who's been playing Invictus for over a month and is taking 3-4 sittings just to get through single sections. As far as I'm aware she's just been going straight through the University list, but it seems like she isn't really getting a lot out of it. I have to wonder if she wouldn't be better off taking a break and playing some easier hacks like Hark 2, Take It Easy, Little Mario World, maybe even Hyperion. Play the easier stuff to gain the consistency you need for the harder stuff, play more stuff to gain context for more setups. (Of course, if she's happy to keep grinding Invictus, she should do that! I'm not gonna tell anyone how to run their streams.)

On that note, I saw a few people playing Super World yesterday and it looked like a fun one. I think I might give that a go next.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Yeah, Hyrulian Knight is another person who has been ratcheting up the difficulty with every hack he plays. After starting only 6 months ago, he's at the end of Casio, but it's taken him an average of 10.5 hours for every level he's cleared. He seems to be super OK with that, so I'm not judging, but for most people I'd recommend sticking with stuff that isn't such an incredible grind. From what I've seen of Vixen's stream, she doesn't seem to get down on herself all that much, so I don't have a problem with her approach. But I really hate seeing streamers get upset at games because they don't think they're doing well enough, be it in conquering tough hacks or in speedrunning.

Anyway, speaking of new hacks, a collaboration hack called Roger Gang Volume 01 just came out. Seems pretty cool from what I've seen, though on the easier side overall.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Yeah, I want to be perfectly clear that I don't have a problem with anyone's approach if they're happy to be doing what they're doing! I know I'd be upset if I was spending that much time on a single level and not making any progress, but I'm not everyone.
 
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lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Yo Snake, GlitchCat was talking about your article on stream tonight! He's pretty happy that it got written up (and of course, happy to be in it), but he was also enjoying the fact that kaizo is apparently big enough now that Polygon will run an article about it on their front page without needing to explain what kaizo is. Nice job bringing our weird scene to a wider crowd!

So I started my play session today with Nightmare Cafe III, because those hacks are perfect little palette cleansers. It was still good, though there was one room in particular that was really hard which took about 10-15 minutes. Given that the whole hack took a bit over an hour, that's saying something. It was easily the toughest room in all three of these that I've played so far. I'm gonna spoil it, not because the solution is cryptic (it's very obvious), but just in case anyone hasn't played it yet and wants to be surprised when they get there. On the bottom of the screen, you have a spike floor, a disco shell, and a door floating two tiles above the spikes on the right side. On the upper half of the screen you have some platforms, and above the door they're semi-solid with a key sitting on top. You've got to ride the disco shell over to the right, jump up through the platform, grab the key, go back to the left. Then you fall back down, ride the disco back over to the right while holding the key, and then drop the key at the right spot before the door so you can stand on it and exit. There are spikes above you so you can't do big jumps while riding the shell, you have to do it the hard way. Letting go of the key without falling off the disco shell is just so tough. I was frankly surprised when I managed to pull it off. There hasn't really been anything quite like it in any of the Nightmare Cafes up to this point, and it felt pretty out of place to me. But all things considered, it's one room out of 60-something in overall a very fun experience. And we all know that sometimes inconsistency is just a thing that happens in these hacks.

After that I spun up Super World, and I think this is the right hack for me at the moment. At five exits in, it's challenging but still very doable, with plenty of fun setups and clever design. Difficulty is probably somewhere around the level of Hark 2, give or take. Sections are fairly short, and generally end right around the time when you start saying "there's gonna be a checkpoint/goal tape here, right?" I even found a way to cheese a tricky jump at one point! Definitely helping to restore the confidence a bit. Looking forward to playing more!
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
I finished Super World in a second sitting, total playtime around 3-4 hours maybe? I really enjoyed this hack and it left me wanting more. Overall it was on the easier side, but I'd recommend it for players of any skill level. I know I said it was probably around Hark 2 difficulty in my last post, but having finished it I'd say it's more along the lines of Little Mario World or Take It Easy. Still, it was very fun, the levels are well-designed, and you get to feel cool when you're able to play half a section on your first attempt. Don't sleep on this one!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Something about how things ended last night didn't sit right with me. Despite all the blunders I was making, I had some runs that were on a pretty good pace, at least until they were derailed, and a 2-second PB just didn't seem like the best I could do. You might say that I believed I could do better. It was stuck in my craw all day, so as soon as I got home from work I sat down to play. I only had a half-hour window, but that was all I needed: with almost no warmup, my first run clocked in at 23:41! What really blows my mind, though, is that it could have been almost a full two minutes faster - I had a terrible pangolinJAM and lost pretty much the entire lead had built up. If I could manage another run like this with a good Yoshi Lair, it would put me in the high 21:xx range: fast enough to bop Barb and even MrMightyMouse! Now to be fair, I'd have to actually play a perfect game for that to happen...but maybe some day? Anyway, I'm feeling much more satisfied than I was yesterday. I've bopped Ame, my time is in another bracket, and balance has been restored to the world. It's a little sad that I wasn't able to stream it, since it's always more fun to get a PB when you're sharing it with people, but I did at least record the run for submission to speedrun.com. Maybe I'll toss it up on my YouTube? It doesn't have any commentary, which means it'll probably be way more popular than if I had turned my microphone on!

Don't really know where to go from here. I think I've exorcised my QW2 demons for the time being, so I'll take a couple nights off to get some damn sleep and figure out that's next. But there's a pretty good chance it's going to rhyme with Bark Chew, if you know what I'm saying.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Great job Mike, congrats on a sick PB!

I am excited to watch other people play Unintended Behavior 2, especially since I'm too smooth-brained to figure out those hacks myself.

I decided to finish my Nightmare Cafe journey and play volume V this evening. It was alright, but I think definitely the weakest of the bunch. At the very least, it was the most uneven of them. There were multiple rooms where I stopped and said "that's fucked up", but at the same time there were also a bunch of rooms that barely even registered. Despite (because of?) that, I think I beat this one faster than any of the others. I'd say it's probably still worth experiencing if you played and enjoyed the first four, and probably also worth experiencing just for some of the fucked up rooms.

Overall I really enjoyed my time in the various Nightmare Cafes and I'd highly recommend them. There were a ton of unique and surprising setups, and you're never in any particular room long enough for anything to get frustrating. Plus you can polish any of them off in about 40 minutes to an hour, which is nice for the ego.

I'm back to where I was the other day where I'm in search of my next longer hack to play. I do have Mad with Kaizo Power, but I think I want to play levels instead of single-room stuff for now. I was considering Arcane Mario World, but ThirdWall was complaining about things being overly tight while he was moderating it and that's the same reason I quit Comfort Zone. I'm gonna take another look at Juz's Peachy Moat World videos tonight to see if that's something I want to try.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Hmm, if you wait a little on Kaizo Power, you might be able to convince me to play it with you. I’d wanna finish Ako 2 first, but it’s pretty high on my list after that. If you’re in the mood for something a little more challenging, maybe you could try your hand at Riff 2? Though you might be on to something with Peachy Moat World.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
I'm not starting Mad with Kaizo Power next, so you've got plenty of time to finish Ako 2. As far as what I actually play next, Riff 2's also a contender. I watched a couple of the Peachy Moat videos and most of it looks pretty cool, but it seems like there's a fairly brutal stretch of levels midway through the game. I'll finish watching Juz's playthrough tomorrow and make up my mind then, I guess.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I watched through Juz’ play through when it first aired and I remember him loving the beginning but then hitting a pretty rough patch maybe 2/3 of the way through. I think Peachy is maybe a little uneven, but people seem to really appreciate the good parts.
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Unintended Behavior 2 is done! Took me a little over six hours, but it was just as delightful as the first, maybe even less demanding execution-wise. I love these games because they're tours of obscure wild SMW glitches, but the amazing part is how easy they are to grok. A message box or two is enough for you to grasp the mechanic, the rest is just reading some very mild setups. I'd encourage anyone who might think they're not smart enough to play these to give them a shot, as they're not as hard to get into as they look and they teach you so much.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I’m definitely tempted to give those games a try. I like it when kaizo gets a little weird, and these hacks have weird in spades! If only there were more hours in the day…
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
I'm super excited for you, and also impressed that you keep tackling the hacks that scare me. You got this!
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Two exits conquered in Let's Give Up! Gotta say, pulling off these level segments is some of the coolest moments I've felt playing kaizo. Now to conquer the Fly Tree.
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Three exits down, as well as seven boo bosses! I think Let's Give Up is on track to becoming my favorite hack ever? We'll see.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Daaaaaang, that’s super impressive. Next step: speedruns! That’s a hell of a game to watch IMO.

Been playing Ako 2 and derusting my Hark 2 any% run, both of which are going pretty well. I also managed to order a PS5(!), which is slated to arrive in two weeks, so kaizo may take a backseat for a bit once I get my hands on it.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Amazing work so far! Also, crazy to think that there are already seven Boo fights in the first three exits.

I've been playing Slay the Spire instead of kaizo this week, so I'm still trying to decide on my next hack. I'll get there!
 
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