Sunday, May 3, 2015

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume Fourteen

Can you believe that SuperPhillip Central is on its fourteenth volume of Best Levels in Gaming History? It only seems like yesterday I was thinking up a new segment for the site about some of the most fun and some of my most favorite levels of all time. This fourteenth entry in this now-long-running series of articles takes us to even more awesome areas in video games including some from Super Mario 64, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, and even some from some shooters I find enjoyable.

If you want to peruse earlier volumes of Best Levels in Gaming History, look no further than these thirteen links!

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five
Volume Six
Volume Seven
Volume Eight
Volume Nine
Volume Ten
Volume Eleven
Volume Twelve
Volume Thirteen

Now, that you've caught up, click onward to see the five new levels that will be part of SuperPhillip Central's Best Levels in Gaming History!

Shifting Sand Land - Super Mario 64 (N64)

We kick off this volume of Best Levels in Gaming History with one of my favorite levels of the recently reviewed on SPC Super Mario 64. Shifting Sand Land is such a fun level to me because it is essentially and unofficially two levels in one. In this regard, it's much like Lethal Lava Land, but instead of the main part of the level feeling like a haphazard collection of tossed about platforms sprinkled about a sea of lava, Shifting Sand Land feels more natural.

The outdoor portion of Shifting Sand Land features several unique obstacles, from the miniature tornadoes that can carry Mario with their gusts of whirling wind to quicksand, to the pathways surrounded by said quicksand that house deadly Tox Boxes, to the pyramid that stands tall over the starting hill of the level, Shifting Sand Land has a lot to take in on the outside. The pyramid itself is surrounded by four pillars which a hat-stealing condor soars above, ready to swoop in and make Mario's life miserable.

The second portion of Shifting Sand Land takes place inside the pyramid. Mario can enter it through two means, one at the base of the pyramid and one that revolves around touching all four pillars surrounding the pyramid and entering from the pyramid's very top. The latter brings Mario to a boss battle against a pair of stone brick hands. Meanwhile, the base entrance leads to a myriad of obstacles that Mario must pass to reach the pyramid's inside's top, where a Power Star is held.

Shifting Sand Land is one of my favorite levels in one of my favorite 3D platformers of all time. Its twofold settings make for a fun adventure in the type of setting, a desert, that I generally don't particularly care for in games. Somehow, Super Mario 64 made this desert world bring me a whole lot of entertainment and platforming challenges that were very enjoyable to do.

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

Not only is Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando's Planet Joba a sight to behold, with the entirety of the level nestled within the green treetops of the jungle under a gorgeous purple and pink sky, but the planet also houses some of the most fun platforming challenges and sights to see within the entire game.

You see, Planet Joba is home to not one but two interesting areas of Going Commando, the Megacorp Games, which are a gladiator style series of battles against arenas full of enemies, and the Hoverbike Races, fast-paced speedy trials through the swampland and jungle pathways. The former is home to the game's most difficult skill point, "That's Impossible!", earned by beating the hardest arena challenge within the Megacorp Games. The latter is a lot of fun, showing off that Going Commando has a multitude of varied gameplay types within it.

While making it to the Hoverbike Races is as easy as going right from the beginning of the level and bringing down some bridges with the Swingshot gadget, the path to the Megacorp Games is a greater ordeal, requiring Ratchet and Clank to fight through swaths of enemies both melee and long-range. The level is a lot of fun to play, taking out the Joba tribesmen that call the jungle planet home (you are such mean explorers, Ratchet and Clank!), dodging laser fire from the turrets operated by said tribesmen, participating in platforming peril, and flying through the sky with the newly purchased Levitator gadget.

Banjoland - Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (360)

As someone who was excited beyond all belief by this teaser trailer for Rare's new Banjo-Kazooie game on the Xbox 360, I suffered some disappointment when the finalized game was really nothing like what was previously teased. That said, the final game is one I do appreciate, despite not being the 3D collectathon platformer I was desiring.

Banjoland is one of the worlds within Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, and it's very much a world that plays with the heartstrings of players of the first two Banjo-Kazooie games. The world is devised of recognizable attractions from the classic Nintendo 64 platformers, such as the melted form of the giant snowman structure in Freezeey Peak, a pyramid from Gobi's Valley, a graveyard from Mad Monster Mansion, Boggy's Igloo as seen in Hailfire Peaks, Terry's Nest from Terrydactyl Land, and much more. All of the characters that provide challenges to Banjo and Kazooie in Banjoland are from the original two N64 titles as well.

Banjoland is not just a world that is cool because it is meant to feed off the player's nostalgia of the first Banjo-Kazooie games, but it features a lot of fun challenges, such as needing to get soccer balls past a team of foes. This is one of my most mentioned challenges I enjoy when explaining how open-ended the missions in Nuts & Bolts are. Rather than pushing the soccer balls one by one into the goal, which is totally possible to do and an option for the player, what I did was build a giant tray on wheels. I then placed all of the soccer balls inside the tray and drove it into the goal.

Without question there is a lot to like with Banjoland because of the nostalgic bones in me it tickles, but the world is just the best in this blogger's opinion of the worlds in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.

Urban - Perfect Dark Zero (360)

While the single player campaign left a little to be desired, the multiplayer of the Xbox 360 launch title Perfect Dark Zero brought my older brother and I loads of hours of shoot, shoot, bang, bang fun. The multiplayer maps of the game were large, expansive, and full of little hiding places, choke points, and areas off the beaten path that led to immensely satisfying firefights. This is no truer than the Urban map of PDZ's multiplayer mode.

Urban takes place in a city setting, as one would expect. It features plenty of locales perfect for some very fun shootouts. The central courtyard houses plenty of frenetic and feverish firefights, surrounded by a mall, car park, and multilevel hotel and casino on all four sides. The latter two areas offer a substantial amount of stories in them to allow for great spots to snipe from, especially at those doing battle within the courtyard. The trees in the courtyard allow for excellent spots to hide behind if one is being fired upon. Meanwhile, the map's northern portion delivers in offering an abundance of roads and ramps to do battle on.

Urban is a favorite multiplayer map of mine in any game due to the fact that it's a city environment, one of my most loved types of areas in games, and it features so many varied places to participate in intense shootouts. The fact that one can pilot a turret-housing jetpack while combing through the chaotic streets of the map only further justifies my love for this map. Urban is a city multiplayer map where the streets are paved in the blood of fallen DeathMatch players.

Condemned - Unreal Tournament (PC)

From one first-person shooter city map to another, Condemned is a much more contained map, and it is one of the map selections available within the Domination mode of Unreal Tournament. For those unaware, Domination is a mode where players scurry and shoot to control one of three spots on a map. Each of the three spots you control on a map earns your team points. The team with the most points at the end of the match is deemed the winner.

As stated, Condemned takes place in a city area, where shootouts within the surrounding alleys is commonplace. There are four dead ends, one on each compass direction, surrounding the middle building whose roof is home to one of the control spots. One can either enter the building and run up the ramps inside leading to the roof, or they can perform my favorite tactic, nabbing the Antigrav Boots in one of the adjacent alleys to leap from the ground level of the map all of the way to the top of the building.

The alleyways surrounding the building are incredibly narrow, making it so you can be taken out quite quickly if you're on the losing end of the most powerful gun battle against an opponent who you come across in an alleyway.

Condemned is one of the smaller maps in Unreal Tournament, but because of this, it features plenty of points in it where crazy and intense shootouts and firefights occur. It's without question one of my favorite Domination maps within the game for the aforementioned reasons.

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