The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time speedrunner Cosmo Wright has constructed one of the trickiest stages I've played so far, a level that's more puzzle and maze than platformer, and I refuse to give up.
When you load the stage — 761A-0000-005C-D881 — here's what it looks like:
Some folks aren't fans of Mario Maker's preview feature. While I generally look past the thumbnail to maintain the surprise, none of this matters on suspicious skyfort. You can study this map all the live long day and it won't help you at all.
From the very start, suspicious skyfort is eyebrow-raising.
You could, as with many Mario stages, go to the right. You could, however, go in the door. Some designers use arrows to point players in the right direction, but with suspicious skyfort, you should take the title literally: be suspicious. The door leads to another area that — surprise! — includes another set of green doors.
It's unclear where to start with suspicious skyfort because it wants the player to explore the space, picking up clues on how it interlocks. The endless pipes that warp you around to random places only adds to the confusion. (It's not random, obviously, but a lack of a rhyme or reason to the warping gives that impression.)
I tried poking around towards the top, but it didn't really get me anywhere.
I tried climbing over the set of vines behind the main door, prompting me to nearly throw my GamePad over how annoying vine jumping is in Mario Bros.
I eventually survived the vine gauntlet and found a koopa clown car waiting for me. You can hop in these and start flying around the stage, which I figured was my ticket out of here. As it turns out, though, it was just the beginning of unravelling the madness behind suspicious skyfort. I'd been ignoring so much.
Have you noticed that little bomb enemy waltzing around? What's up with that?
You could leap up into that set of spikes from earlier, but why would you?
Many paths in suspicious skyfort seem like a dead end with nothing to offer, and you'd be excused for thinking that's the case; lots of Mario Maker stages are built like that. But suspicious skyfort is different — it's misdirection. The whole stage is misdirection, really, offering endless paths to explore with zero reward at the end, bringing the player no closer to the goal — or so they think.
After a while, I started to believe suspicious skyfort was a stage that I'd have to toss aside and watch on YouTube later, but I've found signs of hope.
Nearly two hours later, here's what I've learned about what you need to do in suspicious skyfort. It's going to sound ridiculous!
From the start, head into the first green door. Then, hop into the left green door, and grab the mushroom sitting next to the currently unobtainable exit.
(Yes, that's a green door over the castle door. Devious!)
This is where things get weird.
The path to the exit is blocked by a series of ice cubes that must be destroyed by bombs. In order to destroy all the ice cubes, you must traverse the whole map.
Here's the first one:
From there, head to the door on in the top right at the ol' door emporium, and jump on the series turtles towards a platform on the left. Then, walk left and make sure the turtles disappear from the screen so they respawn; you need to hop on them again to reach part of the stage that, until now, seemed impossible.
With some carefully timed jumps, you'll find yourself on solid footing again, and thanks to the first destroyed ice block, Mario can head to the next one.
With this out of the way, it's now possible to make use of those horrible vines. Halfway through the Donkey Kong section — good luck even getting halfway — use a trampoline to finally deal with those wrench-throwing jerks.
(Screw trampolines in these games, by the way. What a pain in the arse.)
This allows you to discover two secret blocks that, presumably, would allow Mario to sprint across the gap and head towards the game's finish line. (I still don't know where the pipe is that leads you there is, but I have a few theories.)
Beyond that gap, however, is a third ice block that needs to be destroyed. How do you get there? By stealing the koopa clown car and flying it all the way around, over and under objects. It sounds more ridiculous when I type it out.
From there, there's a way for Mario to finish the level. The problem? I don't know how to get there. It's possible to take the bouncing shoe all the way to this bed of spikes, which may or may not hide a secret pipe I have not found yet:
And there's yet another ice block you can break at the start of the level, even though I have no idea how you access the section that it opens up:
(In this screen shot, the bomb enemy has fallen off a ledge.)
It feels like there are only one or two puzzles that I haven't yet figured out. I wouldn't blame anyone for giving up — it's brutal — but what I love about Cosmo Wright's creation is how the difficulty isn't simply about navigating a series of ridiculous platforming obstacles. There are some tough jumps here and there, absolutely, but the real challenge lies in finding your way out of the maze.
One day, I hope to join the club. (It currently has a 0.49% clear rate.)
If you'd like to watch me struggle against suspicious skyfort, here ya go: