Friday, February 17, 2017

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume Eighteen

Last week we took a look at some more fantastic boss battles. Now, it's time to look at some more fantastic levels! Nearly 100 levels have been featured on SuperPhillip Central's long-running Best Levels in Gaming History series. We continue our look at magnificent, memorable, fun, and exciting levels with Volume Eighteen. Such games represented this time around include Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Titanfall 2, and Super Mario 3D World.

For those who would like to look back at past prized levels featured on Best Levels in Gaming History, look no further than these 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
Volume Fourteen
Volume Fifteen
Volume Sixteen
Volume Seventeen

The Convoy Chase - Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)

The chapters in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End can range from relatively short affairs to much more lengthier ones. Chapter 11 is one of the latter, and it's also one of the most memorable in the Uncharted series' history. While the entire chapter is quite enjoyable with the opening saunter through the busy marketplace streets leading up to the clock tower, the actual clock tower climb and subsequent unintentional destruction of said tower, Chapter 11 is not short of memorable moments.

However, I'd like to cherry pick from the chapter and mention the best set piece in the game by far. It's the convoy chase that starts with Nathan Drake and Sully racing downhill through city streets, alleyways, and on makeshift shortcuts in their jeep as a Stormfront truck with a mounted machine gun pursues and hunts them down. They make their escape from the truck by speeding down across the tops of roofs until they reach an overhang where they can see the Stormfront convoy that is chasing after Nate's brother Sam.

It's up to the player to make haste down the hill, following through the trench below the roadway that the convoy is taking. Unfortunately, soon the amount of available road ends, requiring Sully to take over control of the jeep's steering and brakes to successfully stop it from careening into the ocean. Simultaneously, Nate lassos onto the hook of one of the trucks driving alongside the convoy, as he hangs on for all he's worth, Nate has to swing around beams and other obstacles or else he'll slam right into them, costing him his life. Once the convoy has crossed over the bridge, Nate holds on tight as he's pulled through the mud. He must pull himself towards the truck and enter inside its carrier to have a fighting chance against the motorcyclists and jeeps shooting at him.

The entire experience is so fast paced and frenetic that you can't help but feel the adrenaline pumping throughout your body, even after playing through this action-packed sequence multiple times. From jumping from truck to truck until finally commandeering a jeep to rescue Sam, the whole sequence is one of the Uncharted series's best and Naughty Dog should be commended for successfully accomplishing it.

Effect and Cause - Titanfall 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

As stated in this week's Titanfall 2 review, the game's solo campaign is one of the finest first-person shooter campaigns in modern gaming history alongside DOOM's. It consistently throws at the player fresh concepts and challenges. One of the main pieces to Titanfall 2's gameplay comes from the varied amount of mobility players can use to their advantage not only through the forced platforming segments but in every encounter in the game. The notion of Titanfall 2 introducing a constant feed of fresh concepts is perhaps no better displayed than in mission five's three chapters. The overarching mission is known as Effect and Cause.

The mission starts out quietly enough, but soon Pilot Jack Cooper finds something strange occurring as he explores a dilapidated city. Right before his (and the player's) eyes he sees on multiple occasions the ruins of the lab he's in turn into a clean and productive facility with human beings roaming about, casually going along with their business. This phenomenon is revealed to be a time distortion. Starting out, Jack can't use this to his advantage just yet, but by the second chapter of the mission's beginning, he pries a device of the arm of a fallen soldier who was tasked with investigating the area. Obviously he didn't come back from his assignment.

With this special device placed on his wrist, Jack gains the ability to switch between past and present as quickly as the player presses the front left shoulder button. This is used to great effect in not only creating clever environmental puzzles (like being able to enter a vent in the past that was covered up by a panel in the present) but also impressive platforming opportunities. Multiple times Jack will need to switch between past and present in midair, as in the past there's a wall to run along on the left-hand side of the chasm while in the present there's a wall to run along on the right-hand side of the chasm. Switching between the two time periods as he makes each of his jumps enables Jack to make it across the abyss with success. Then, there are enemies that appear in the past, human soldiers, that don't appear in the present, where vicious and hungry beasts lurk, ready to slash and strike Jack Cooper down in no time flat.

Effect and Cause isn't the first mission in the game that requires the player to have proficiency when it comes to running off wall to wall over an abyss, but it is the first and only mission to use instantaneous switching between times in such a clever way that it makes for one heck of an interesting and entertaining level.

Snowball Park - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Shifting gears to more lighthearted fare, Super Mario 3D World may not be the sandbox-styled Super Mario game that gamers experienced with Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, but it is an amazing platformer all the same, especially with friends. The levels of the game are much more linear than what was found in earlier 3D Mario games, so the design is more akin to a 2D Mario. However, all the levels have plenty of opportunities to explore off the beaten path, usually to find one of a level's three invaluable Green Stars or even a well-hidden Stamp.

With us North Americans deep within the winter months, it seemed like a pleasant time to delve into one of the most glorious levels in Super Mario 3D World, which conveniently enough, happens to occur in a winter wonderland. The start of the third world of Super Mario 3D World, Snowball Park, isn't a particularly lengthy level, but what it does possess is plenty of winter fun for all.

Right from the get-go you're introduced to a wonderfully winter landscape, fresh with heavy snow as well as huge snowballs that can be picked up and launched into enemies to eliminate them immediately. Large patches of ice are planted throughout the level to lower the traction on any would-be runners. However, the second half of the level helps players out with an insanely cool mode of transportation.

Perhaps making a callback to World 5-3 in Super Mario Bros. 3, the Goombas slide around the ice as if they were skaters at Rockefeller Plaza in giant ice skates of various colors. Just like with Super Mario Bros. 3's Kuribo Shoe, jumping on a Goomba's head will defeat it, relinquishing its control of the super-sized ice skate to you if you so desire to commandeer it. With it, you can skate and zoom around the ice without fear of slipping or sliding into one of many bottomless pits. Having a full crowd of four friends zipping along the ice together in four different full-sized skates is a truly remarkable and unique part of Super Mario 3D World, and it and the level design in general make Snowball Park one of the most unforgettable levels in the game.

World 3-S: Woollet Bill's Last Ride - [Poochy &] Yoshi's Woolly World (3DS, Wii U)

A 2D platforming mainstay since the early days of the genre is the auto-scrolling stage. That is the exact type of level that the secret level of Yoshi's Woolly World's World 3 is. Not only that but there is nary a batch of solid ground to work with at all! Most of the time Yoshi needs to ride the exhaust clouds of the titular Woollet Bills, making sure not to defeat the actual enemy itself, or else there will be no trail of exhaust to run along.

In Woollet Bill's Last Ride, you're in a constant state of rushing, especially if you plan to go for 100% completion for the level. From Monty Moles that occasionally fall into play from popped bubbles that float in the air to donut lifts that require enough time and weight for them to fall, Yoshi is seemingly always needing to hurry up or he'll either get crushed or fall into the great abyss below.

The platforming challenges only get more insane as Yoshi needs to avoid the paths of other Woollet Bills, whose exhaust trails conveniently carry bothersome Monty Moles to cause nothing but the ruination of a promising run, or have giant clouds pop their heads in on the level, causing damage to Yoshi if he doesn't launch a yarn ball to them before it's too late.

Even with the frustrations that can come for first-timers on this level, Woollet Bill's Last Ride from Yoshi's Woolly World and most recently its Nintendo 3DS port, Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World, is never an unfair challenge. It does take quick thinking and fast feet, but it's an enjoyable platforming trial in a game that can really be relaxing sometimes and crazy challenging other times.

Eagle's Tower - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (GB, GBC)

With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the latest in the Legend of Zelda franchise hitting the Switch and the Wii U two weeks from today, it's a good time as any to talk about a truly special dungeon from the early days of the series. Link's Awakening was the first portable entry in the series, and since then, we've seen a multitude of handheld-only adventures starring the hero in the green tunic.

A lot of dungeons in the 2D games have an aura of memorability to them, and Link's Awakening abides by that opinion. Nonetheless, what stands out for me as the most memorable dungeon in the game is Eagle's Tower, the seventh dungeon in Link's Awakening.

This multi-tiered tower is special for two main reasons for me. The first is that it has an overarching puzzle to it. Nearly every other dungeon in the game has puzzles limited to just one room, while in Eagle's Tower, the main puzzle takes place in multiple rooms. This concept of an overarching puzzle in a dungeon would be a major one in the coming 3D Zelda games. The puzzle requires players to pick up an iron ball and throw it against the tower's four pillars. It's not just about figuring out to throw the various iron balls into the pillars (which is something that the player needs to come up with on their own), but it's also about figuring out to transport an iron ball from its starting location to the pillar it needs to destroy. Through damaging all four pillars, the previously inaccessible floor on top will fall down, revealing the way to the boss.

The boss of Eagle's Tower is the second reason the dungeon is special to me. The boss, a giant eagle (what a surprise, right?), has its battle taking place on the top of the tower in a 2D plane, similar to the basement sections of Link's Awakening's various dungeons. The fight is one that requires timing with the Roc's Feather to leap over the eagle as it zooms by, intending to collide with Link. The whole setting of being on top of the tower and the fun of facing off against the boss make the conclusion to Eagle's Tower magnificent. Thus, the whole dungeon is quite special.

No comments: