Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume Four

We've already reached the fourth installment of Best Levels in Gaming History where we examine a series of five stages that I consider to be some of the best that the world of gaming has to offer. We're going for a more of a Mario approach with three of the levels coming today from Mario titles. If you missed out on past volumes, you can always click on one of the following links to be instantly transported to your intended destination:


World 1-1 - Super Mario Bros. (NES)


The game that may have single-handily revitalized an industry started out modestly. Getting acquainted with the simple physics of the game was easy. Mario could jump and change direction mid-air, something that game designers and programmers of that era had a tough time grasping the concept of. At the start of World 1-1, a lone goomba stood in the way between Mario and a series of item blocks, one of which containing a mushroom power-up. Following that were a series of pipes, one of which took Mario into a hidden area full of cool and crisp coinage. With this shortcut Mario could bypass a could chunk of the level. If Mario opted not to skip out on the fun, he could uncover a hidden 1-up concealed in an invisible item box located between the end of the pipe section and just before the first bottomless pit. A run up a staircase of blocks and a leap of faith made Mario cling against the level's ending, a flagpole. Entering the castle his work was done for the time being. Until World 1-2, that is.

Green Hill Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog (GEN)


As soon as players booted up their copy of Sonic the Hedgehog and passed by the title screen, they were propelled into the Green Hill Zone, filled with art deco loop-de-loops, badniks like ladybugs and mechanized monkeys throwing coconuts, and palm trees. This was all set across a background filled with a majestic and sparkling lake, mountains, and a bright blue sky. If only all of Sonic the Hedgehog's zones were so inviting! The three acts in the zone could be sped through within minutes if the player was really cooking, and the final challenge was Dr. Robotnik. The boss flew from side-to-side in the arena with a ball and chain that moved back and forth, ready to slam into the blue blur. With the aid of two side platforms, Sonic had enough height to strike into the nefarious scientist's first machine, and with enough hits it would be destroyed. The next zone would slow down the pace of the game considerably yet still be enjoyable.

World 8-7 - New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)


This level is an intense and wild ride as you cross a deadly sea of lava, boarding bone snake platforms as they slither their way along a track. They dip in and out of the lava, so timing your jumps is key unless you want to lose a life. Soon the bone snakes leap off the track directly into the path of lava geysers. It's Mario and the gang's job to leap over these. The final stretch has three bone snake platforms alternating tracks all the way to the goal. This is an exhilarating level that puts the player's reflexes to the test. A secret level, it's definitely one of the more challenging ones in the game.

Tubular - Super Mario World (SNES)


After accessing Star Road and finding your way into the Special World, the second stage, Tubular, awaits Mario and/or Luigi. It's a relatively short level, but pending how you go about it, it could either be really easy or really hard to complete. The beginning of the level starts with the player jumping on yellow pipes while defeating Charging Chucks. Then the real fun begins. The real way to play through this level is to hit the item block, revealing a P-balloon. Hitting this item will fill Mario with air for a limited time, allowing him to float carefully between enemies and over a dangerous and bottomless pit. Getting nicked by the smallest enemy will cause Mario to fall into the pit. Mario must hit item block after item block, getting more and more P-balloons to have enough steam to reach the goal before deflating to normal. The easy way to complete this stage is to have a blue Yoshi, gobble up a koopa troopa, and fly your way over the level. The flying ability of Yoshi will run out just as the player reaches the goal.

Planet Metropolis - Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (PS2)


The bustling commuter planet where Clank spends his days, Planet Metropolis is where Ratchet obtains the Grind Boots as well as other pertinent items of great use. There's no time for sightseeing, however, as there's a factory to infiltrate with block puzzles to boot. Activating the crane will allow Ratchet to move explosive crates nearby doors to destroy them, allowing the pair to move forward in the level. The other path features heavily-armed robotic drones who will spin around with deadly red lasers and Ratchet and Clank in their sights. One skill point includes destroying everything in the level. With the special move that allows Ratchet to smash his wrench into the ground, obliterating all nearby perishables, this task isn't so tough. A busy level and one of the early ones in Going Commando, Planet Metropolis goes heads and shoulders above the rest in the game.

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Once again we've come to the conclusion of another article here at SuperPhillip Central. If your favorite level hasn't yet been represented, speak up! Let everyone know your favorites in the comments section. Until then, stay tuned for Volume Five of Best Levels in Gaming History!

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