For lack of any better ideas yesterday I started in on the RHR levels that were recommended to me, beginning with one from all the way back in week 7: Bad Money by none other than Linkdeadx2. This level is from somewhere in 2018, which probably makes it one of the oldest kaizo things I'd played so far. I had no idea what to expect going in, since the only things I'd seen from Ldad are the Slope Muncher hacks and Panga World, but it turned out to be a pretty fun level...mostly. It's two fun and relatively easy sections sandwiching a brutally tough middle section. After playing it, I learned that RHR has the difficulty for this level rated at a 7, the same as Orka's level from two weeks ago. I'm not sure if it would retain that rating today, but it certainly wasn't afraid to kick my ass.
The first part of the level introduces you to the titular gimmick straight away: if Mario touches (or otherwise collects) a coin, he dies. There's some clever setups involved, and in 10 minutes I was at the first checkpoint. But the middle section brings Yoshi into play, and if Yoshi eats a berry, you also die. It's not so bad at first, but towards the end you have to run through a gauntlet of precision obstacles, and that wasn't nearly as fun. Maybe I was lulled into a false sense of security by the first section, but this part took me almost an hour to get through. The third section introduces a neat twist on the original "don't collect coins" gimmick, and overall I got through the whole thing in an hour and 23 minutes. I figure if I'm going to run race levels, I might as well time them, right?
Anyway, you may have noticed in the first paragraph I said that level was one of the oldest kaizo things I'd played (past tense), hinting that somehow between today and yesterday I played something even older. And I did! For no real reason other than curiosity, I decided to go back to 2017 and start Super Gracie World today. I feel like this is one of those older hacks you see a lot of people talk about but never see anyone play anymore, and since it has fast retry, I gave it a go. In about 2.5 hours, I'm at 11 exits (of 15). It's been an interesting one so far! It feels very, very different from contemporary kaizo. In a post on the previous page Mike mentioned that a lot of old vanilla kaizo design seems to focus on one obstacle at a time, and that's in full effect in this hack. It doesn't really flow like many of the hacks we've come to know; you can often take your time with any given trick. At the same time, that lack of urgency makes it feel deceptively easier than it is. You may be able to proceed at your own pace, but that doesn't mean the hack has no teeth. There's a lot of fundamental tech you need to know and a lot of kaizo blocks to avoid.
But all that said, I'm kinda enjoying the experience. It's a really refreshing change of pace, and I feel like it's important to experience a more accessible side of early kaizo history. The hack's listed as beginner on SMW Central, and it probably belongs there, but I'd say it's likely at the extreme top of the beginner scale. Even though you have to do some tricky things, the sections are generally very short and very fair. I think it's probably worth a play for folks who like Akogare and easier vanilla hacks, or anyone who wants a friendlier taste of the early days. There are other hacks I'd recommend first to brand new players in 2022, but it's worth going back to with some experience under your belt.