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It'sa me, Kaizo Mario!

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
I really liked Memento Mori! I would absolutely recommend that one for sure. Other hacks that I also liked in that range: Memory Lane, Day in the Life. I've stayed away from Silencio because it's got an infamous reverse water level that even the creator feels bad about.

I'm a little nervous about the parts of Titan where you have to drop power-ups from your reserve box by pressing select -- not because I think I can't handle it or anything, but because I'm 1) playing on a Super NT and 2) not using a SNES controller. The PS5 controller has the options button (what's used for select) in a radically different position than the SNES does, but more than that, pressing up + select on the NT resets the console. And pressing down + select opens the console's menu. I may have to see if I can rebind those commands so I don't accidentally ruin my attempts on those levels!
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Popping back in to note I cleared two more exits of Titan: Saw and Desi's Rooms. In all it took about an hour and 40 minutes, which is pretty good! Saw was about an hour, with some really gnarly moves that just took a while to learn. Funnily enough, the one spot I thought was going to be a big speed bump (the part where you have to ride the saw underneath some death blocks one tile above you) turned out to be free. I don't think I died there once. Desi's Rooms, for all I was scared of not having checkpoints, turned out to be not that bad outside of the second room. There's a tricky Thwomp jump you have to make there, and it took me a while to get that consistent. The rooms are all very short, though, so once you know what to do it's just a matter of keeping your cool.

Next up is the big disco shell level, which I fully expect will take a while. On the bright side, I checked and I can indeed remap the reset/menu commands, so I shouldn't have to worry about losing any runs to controller shenanigans once I get up to those levels.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
The disco shell level was indeed a bit of a grind -- 2 hours and 20 minutes in total. Most of that was spent in the first half (an hour and 35), because I had a lot of trouble getting the first chunk of that section consistent. The second half took 45 minutes but it felt considerably easier. Compared to the first section, the only trick that really felt hard was right before the very end, where you have to bounce high off your disco shell, throw a P-switch into the ceiling, activate it in mid-air on the way down, and use that activation to transition to ducking so you can continue riding the shell under some low munchers. The inputs in that sequence aren't even the tricky part, it's getting back on the shell after you hit the switch. I'm not sure if it's because the shell is falling down a couple of tiles while you're doing it, or if it's because you're slowing down when you the P-switch (or a combination of both of those), but it doesn't quite line up cleanly. Actually, I should check out videos of some other people playing that part to see if you can line it up better with speed strats or something.

In any event, the first big level I was worried about is down, and I'm officially halfway through the hack (there are 11 exits, but 12 levels). The bad news is that I think levels only get harder from here. So far it's been hard, but manageable. Hopefully it stays that way!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
You’re doing great! I’m sure you’ll be through with Titan by week’s end. How does what you’ve played so far stack up against Mostly Harmless?
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
It's a tough call, because I do think they're really similar in difficulty, but overall I think Titan is a bit harder than Mostly Harmless. Even though they both want a lot of precision in your inputs, Titan feels tighter. At the same time, I've improved as a player since I did Mostly Harmless last year, so it's all doable so far.

Both hacks have been really fun, though. They're each extremely idiosyncratic and weird in their own ways -- Titan with its aggressively minimal vanilla aesthetic, Mostly Harmless with its plethora of cursed ThirdWall ideas -- and each one does a really good job at showing what their creators are all about.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Hoo boy. Spent three and a half hours getting the checkpoint in Aaron Fleet tonight, which is way longer than expected. Most of the section is actually really fun and feels great to do, but for some reason I just could not make the final shell tricks consistent. It's one of those things where you have to throw a shell up into a question block, then hit it off a wall on the way down and then jump off of it again (you know, like in the final room of The Thousand Halls or the opening of the second level of El Dorado). I call them triangle shell jumps, I don't know if there's if another name the community at large uses.

Anyway, for whatever reason the shell kept going behind Mario after hitting the question block, which isn't really something that's happened to me when doing that trick before. There's also a super tight P-switch timer happening, so maybe I was feeling some subconscious pressure. It's done now, but I got pretty frustrated having to continually work through the whole section just to screw up the ending. Haven't had to grind like that in a while either. Happy to be moving on.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
The second half of Aaron Fleet only took an hour and 10 minutes, and was pretty satisfying to do. There are a few tricks in there that are really hard to line up, but figuring out strats to make things consistent felt good.

Dilly Dally took another two hours, and while it's a short level, it's also incredibly precise. The beginning and end are relatively easy, but the middle is an absolute killer. You're mostly spin-riding on Fuzzies, and in some cases you have maybe a single tile or less to maneuver. It's the kind of level where you can easily see and read everything it wants you to do, but the execution is so much harder than it looks. Cool level, but I'm glad to be done with it.

8 exits! Mutation Run is up next, where I'll probably have to reprogram the reset command on my Super NT so I don't accidentally reset while trying to finish the sections.
 
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MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
That's some serious progress, and only one level so far that's really exceeded the two hour mark. Great stuff! I think one thing that makes Titan a little more manageable than some difficult hacks is the smaller number of exits. How do your clear times compare with levels from Mostly Harmless?
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Great question. Apparently I didn't keep super close tabs on my Mostly Harmless clear times, but the ones I noted seem to range from under an hour at the fastest (red switch palace) to maybe 3.5 hours at the longest (the throw block level). I didn't even note my full clear time, which is the whole reason I keep track of this stuff! So I guess my Titan clear times have been comparable, maybe a little faster on average? But I also suspect that they wouldn't be as fast if I hadn't played Mostly Harmless. A lot of the skills I learned in that game have been directly applicable here.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Alright, Mutation Run is down! The whole thing took about two hours, I had a dinner break and another interruption before that. The section where you have to swap items out from the reserve box was actually the easiest. Most of the time I could just take my thumb off the D-pad to hit Select, but for the final run where you have to swap items three times in a row really quickly I had to claw grip it. Hardest section was the long cape part in the middle, where you have to get through two tough rooms in a row without a checkpoint in between. Granted, those rooms aren't super long, but they take a lot of focus.

Feeling good though! That was the last level that I was really afraid of*, so even though the levels I have left are definitely not easy, I feel like I can kind of relax a little.

*I'm still a little afraid of the Various Dragons room in the final castle.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Ten exits down now, two to go. House of Bloodlust absolutely dumpstered me for the better part of four hours last night. It's a very long single-section level with a ton of precision and one last reserve box item drop for good measure. On top of that, the last sequence you have to go through involves tossing a P-switch up and over a wall while spinning on turn more blocks, and if you're not careful the switch will just land on the top of the wall. That whole section was probably the toughest part of the game so far, and even knowing what to do, I just could not put all the pieces together yesterday. Today, though, I came back to it and was out of there in ten minutes.

I spent about an hour on the next level, Ultra Tight (which is exactly what the name suggests), and got about 2/3 of the way through before stopping for dinner (and, ultimately, for the night). There's no checkpoint, but it's relatively short. Even though nearly every jump is like something out of Mad with Kaizo Power, I'm having a much better time than I did in the previous level. With some luck it won't take me too much longer to clear out of there, and then it'll just be the final castle left. I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll be done with the hack by the end of the weekend!
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
For my own record-keeping:

Half an hour to clear Ultra Tight, 10 minutes for the first castle room, two hours into the Various Dragons room and feeling positive about finishing soon (as long as my D-pad doesn't betray me). More details later, hopefully after rolling credits.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
And just like that, Titan is done! I ended up needing another hour and 20 minutes in the Various Dragons room. It was really, really hard, but I didn't hate it! I only started getting frustrated towards the end of that time, because I'd fuck up the final P-switch activation a couple of times, or my D-pad would betray me with an up input instead of throwing to the right, or something similar. Despite that, I did enjoy getting to learn and practice some new skills there. Somehow I'd avoided advanced shell tech up until this point. I still don't love doing it, but I do like being able to understand and perform that kind of thing now.

The final disco shell room took a relatively breezy half an hour, and Wendy was done in 15 minutes (entirely the fault of the autoscroller leading up to the fight, it starts with a couple of tricky moves). All told, the hack took me a just shy of 26 hours. I really enjoyed it, but it was tough as nails. Definitely one of the hardest hacks I've cleared to date. It felt good to push myself and I think I leveled up a bit as a player in the process.

I also want to specifically shout-out the level/obstacle design -- as hard as the hack is, everything is extremely readable, which is no small feat considering the difficulty. I was almost never confused about what I was being asked to do. Even though I quit the original Comfort Zone two or three times, I think Orka is an incredible designer and he's got a style all his own. Whenever he puts out another hack, I'll be here to play it.

Now that the hard game is out of the way, I'm gonna reward myself with some easier hacks: Love Yourself and Cuter Kaizo, both of which came out very recently and have been getting a lot of praise. I've only seen a tiny bit of Love Yourself, and almost none of Cuter Kaizo outside of Slop's Lunar Magic streams when he'd be working on it, so I'm gonna try really hard to avoid watching anyone play these. It's been a while since I went into a hack totally unaware!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Yooooo, great job! I’ll probably tackle Titan some day, but it’s a little ways down the list right now. What I DID play tonight was Cuter Kaizo, which I thought was very good. I won’t spoil any specifics for you, but it looked good, the setups felt fresh and there were some excellent soundtrack selections. It’s a step up from the original in pretty much every way, IMO.
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Y'all, you'll never believe it, but I actually beat a kaizo hack today! And it's not a cursed one! I plowed through Cuter Kaizo World in a couple of hours, and I have to say that I loved every minute of it. Patterning the presentation and structure after ThirdWall's Flip the Switch works really well for the Cute aesthetic, and nods to Kaizo 1, Morsel, and NewPointless really shows that slop has a deep respect for the history of kaizo. I do feel it pushes up against the border of Beginner and Intermediate, as there were many points during the game that required advanced techniques or novel solutions, but again, I finished in 2 hours, so it can't be TOO too hard.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Nice, both of you! I think I'm gonna dig into Cuter Kaizo this afternoon and I'm now even more excited to do so. Looking forward to talking more details after!
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
I did! We did! Man, when was the last time we all played the same hack at the same time? Anyway, it took about an hour and a half and I thought Cuter Kaizo was great. Slop put so much thought and care into this one. I'd agree with Snake that this comes right up on the border between beginner and intermediate, which felt pretty good!

I really liked the final level in particular, with all the stacked sprites. Some of those interactions were very cool and unexpected. It's got me excited for ThirdWall's stack hack now (whenever he has the time to finish it). I'm sure it won't surprise either of you when I say that I didn't enjoy the final boss, but that's okay. It wasn't that difficult and I got through it on my third attempt. It didn't take away from the fun I had leading up to that point. I'm definitely going to have to run this back at some point, I'd like to see some of these levels again.

Tomorrow I'll dig into Love Yourself, which only seems to be blowing up more and more every day. Looking forward to it.
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
I finished Love Yourself yesterday! Gotta say that's some solid hop and bop gameplay with some really novel level concepts. Plus I loved how it handled the final level. I finished it in half the time that it took me to finish Cuter Kaizo World, so I'm comfortable saying this would be a cool hack for someone just starting out.

(Also, this is an aside, but apparently my voice sounds fucked in stream lately. Given you both are sound people, I was wondering if you could check my VOD and see if you can pinpoint what the problem might me.)
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I'm going to try to play Love Yourself tonight, so maybe we can make it two hacks in a row! Man, I love being able to clear an easier hack in a single sitting.

Snake, your voice is distorting a lot. First thought is that you are clipping - when you speak in OBS, does the microphone go into the red? Another option is that the mic itself is busted, you could try recording audio in another app to see if it sounds distorted there too (Audacity or equivalent). If it isn't clipping or the mic itself, then maybe you have a problem with your stream audio settings, but the default ones are usually OK.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
It's far more likely that you're overloading an input somewhere than the mic being broken, but Mike's got the right idea. Do a test recording in Audacity or something first, and if that's fine then it's overloading somewhere else. I've noticed that your overall stream volume is very low, so maybe you've got the mic input cranked up to try and compensate?
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Tested in Audacity, and it sounded fine, so it must be my OBS settings.

This is what I'm working with:
Sound1.jpg
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Wow, -40db is super quiet. Are your meters ever hitting yellow? In a perfect world, you want to be consistently near the top of the green with a few dips into yellow now and then. Honestly, getting your audio to be louder (without sounding like garbage) is one of the hardest things to get right in streaming IMO. Compression is pretty essential in achieving that, but first you've got to get rid of that distortion.

Is it possible that the source you have listed as Mic isn't using your good microphone? Maybe it's set to take your webcam audio or something. There's no way you should be clipping at -40db. Have you applied any audio filters to the mic? It's possible one of them could be screwing it up. If not, maybe you're due to reinstall OBS?
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Yeah, something is definitely weird with your gain staging. How does the mic connect to your PC? My professional guess is that the mic is coming in super hot before it even gets to OBS, so OBS is just putting out this very quiet version of a signal that's already distorted. But then again, you said it sounded normal in Audacity, so...hm. I'm confused again.

Anyway, played Love Yourself this afternoon as planned. Fun way to spend an hour! I think this hack is an instant classic in the realm of beginner hacks, I'd definitely steer any new players to it in the same breath as the Quickie Worlds.
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
So I tried increasing the volume of the desktop and the mic, and it sounds better? I think? Maybe? Hard to say until I really put it through its paces next stream. Stay tuned for that as I start a very different kind of kaizo hack next...
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I watched Juz play Love Yourself and he finished the hack in 39 minutes. That means that the Juz Index (Mike time divided by Juz time) has finally gone below 2! This might be the first time that has ever happened, although now that I think about it, I might have finished some of the Nightmare Cafés with an index of less than 2. Of course, the harder the level is, the higher the index goes, and I'm still sitting at around 4 for most mid-tier hacks. As a side note, Juz was running through some of the recent RHR levels a week or two back and just tearing them up. He beat the first place time for that difficult MMBeefStew level and came 2nd on the much easier fryinb level that he played after that. I sure hope Juz and Barb don't end up on the same team for the kaizo relay at GDQ, they'll eat the others alive.
 

SilentSnake

Administrator
(He/him)
Staff member
Moderator
Heeey, I beat another kaizo hack today! I 100%'d South Point Hotel, a pretty chill puzzle hack from the Odd Sands collective centered around points. Each room is one screen, and you're tasked with getting a target score exactly - no more, no less. And even though I don't know a ton of points tech in SMW for obvious reasons, I managed to figure out all the rooms through experimentation and my SMW intuition. Very fun, recommended if you're into offbeat puzzle hacks!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I'm about 8-9 exits into Memento Mori and it has been really good so far. Difficulty-wise, it rides a strange line where it feels like what I'm doing is tough, yet I'm finishing levels in around 15 minutes? The last couple have taken a bit longer, although part of the blame lies with the extremely unfun "swim fast" ASM in the last level I completed. Not having to hold Y all the time is one of the best parts of water levels, why would you ruin that?? Anyway, the hopping and bopping are great, but there are also some interesting and weird mechanics and aesthetics that I'm enjoying. I certainly wasn't expecting the mountain or corpses in the background of one level, but I guess I needed to be reminded of death! Overall, highly recommended.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Yeah, the worst parts of Memento Mori happen when it makes you use some really unfun ASM. Luckily, I can only think of two levels like that (one of which is that water level you just finished), and the rest of the hack is great. I remember ThirdWall really not liking the fast swim ASM either when he moderated it.

I still don't know what to play! Maaaaaaaaybe Flip the Switch, but there are a couple of levels in there that don't look super fun to me. I dunno, we'll see.
 

lincolnic

can stop, will stop
(he/him)
Update: I tried Flip the Switch for about an hour and a half, which got me through the first two exits, and confirmed that it's not a hack for me. Just did not enjoy it at all. It's a shame, because I think ThirdWall is a genius, but this one really turned me off. Everything just felt extremely finicky, even when I was doing it right. And it seems like I'm the only person in the world who didn't love this hack immediately, so I guess it's just a me thing.

Lately I've been feeling like I have less patience than ever when it comes to hacks. If something annoys me very early in a level, I'm probably just going to stay annoyed, which is not the mood you want to be in to play kaizo. I don't really know where that leaves me. I don't want to take a break from playing, because I'm not burned out. I want to keep playing, but there aren't that many hacks coming out right now that I'm interested in. I just want something that feels good to execute.
 
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