Right now, there's a course titled "Pit of Panga: P-Break" floating around in Super Mario Maker. Thousands of people have tried this level. Not a single person has beaten it yet. The creator is calling it the "hardest Super Mario Maker level ever made," and when you see how gruelling it is, you'll understand why.
There are plenty of ridiculous and nearly impossible courses on Mario Maker, made by people who have absolutely no concept of game design. Pit of Panga isn't difficult because of bullshit, however: it's damn hard because its creator, Alex "PangaeaPanga," knew exactly what he was doing. Created over the course of five hours, PangaeaPanga says Pit of Panga took him a whopping nine hours of attempts to beat once -- and he made the damn thing. He knows exactly what makes the level tick! Nobody has beat the course since -- not yet anyway.
If you read Kotaku, you're probably already familiar with PangaeaPanga's work. Yesterday we featured his incredible course "Bomb Voyage," a level that 11,000 people attempted before any single person beat it:
[Source: Bananasaurus Rex]
You could say that PangaeaPanga is dedicated to creating the most difficult courses that Mario Maker has to offer. When you consider that he spent three years making (and trying to beat) the most difficult Super Mario World course ever, this probably isn't surprising.
"I never really tried (or found it entertaining) to make easy levels," PangaeaPanga told me over email, after I asked him why he would go through the trouble of creating courses like these. "I also like having the power and control to force players to take a single specific route as opposed to the autonomy you have when playing regular, easy levels. These hard levels also take a lot of skill to beat, so it's an easy way to separate casual players from those who are dedicated fans."
Pangaeapanga says that he usually starts level creation with a core idea, and the entire level gets built around that idea. In the Bomb Voyage level, for example, it's easy to see how he centered the entire thing around bombs, and then found really cool and unusual ways of utilising this item in combination with other objects and enemies throughout the entire course. The result are courses that harken back to "Kaizo Mario World," which are infamous and hardcore Super Mario World ROM hacks that are known for their intense cruelty:
Though he takes inspiration from Kaizo Mario World, Pangaeapanga hopes that his courses find a better sense of balance.
"My overall goal is to make hard levels that only a few people can beat, but everyone can try," Pangaeapanga said.
"I try to aim for both fair and fun, without being too aggravating or difficult," Pangaeapanga explained. "That's where play-testing comes in. Most of my time comes from actually playing different parts of what I just made and tweaking it constantly to produce the desired effect I want. Is this jump too hard? I'll make it shorter. Is that enemy making things too irritating to play? I'll remove it." It's an iteration process that anyone can see first-hand, as Pangaeapanga always takes care to stream the his level creation on Twitch.
For Panga, it's been a bit of a transition period. Earlier this year, the level designer saw his YouTube channel gutted in what appeared to be a Nintendo crackdown on videos that featured tool-assisted ROM hacks of their games. The aggressive move came before the release of Mario Maker, leading some to believe that Nintendo was trying to force the the already established Mario and TAS community onto its official course-creation tool.
Pangaeapanga notes that, while Mario Maker is very easy to use, it's also somewhat limited compared to the non-official tools he's used in the past. Not that this has gotten in the way of Pangapangaea making great levels in Mario Maker anyway.
"The transition, albeit bumpy, is going better," Pangaeapanga said. "The entire community has been enjoying watching me make and play my levels. I've even managed to inspire other people to make hard levels too. And I also cannot tell you how many people I have convinced to buy Mario Maker after they have seen what I've made on it."
It's only been a couple of weeks since Mario Maker has released, yet we're already seeing some incredible things -- as evidenced by Pangaeapanga's level repertoire. It's only going to get better from here, which is exciting to think about. Pangaeapanga says that while he does intend to continue making difficult courses, they likely won't achieve the level of challenge that Pit of Panga does. At least, not until someone actually manages to beat Panga's latest magnum opus.
"If anyone ever beats Pit of Panga: P-Break, I may have to make a harder level," he says.
You can brave Pit of Panga here with the following course ID: 6059-0000-005E-4FB5.