After nearly seven hours of ridiculous platforming, The Klepocalypse is finally over. As part of my ongoing Super Mario Maker rivalry with Giant Bomb editor Dan Ryckert, I played yet another stage designed to completely ruin me.
That moment above came after a "breakthrough" that resulted in forward progress in the stage. The problem with Ryckert stages, however, is that moving forward means a new set of challenges assuredly designed to kill you without trial-and-error. Celebration is short-lived, as death lurks around the corner.
You know, like this:
I've survived a number of Ryckert's stages now, including The Giant Bomb Level, Spikeshoe Plains, The Giant Bomb Level 2, and most recently, The Ryckoning. (The "Giant Bomb" ones were made in collaboration with the rest of the website's staff and the community.) The last one, The Ryckoning, was part of a bet. I had 72 hours to finish the stage. We raised money for charity, eventually pulling in more than $US12,000. Even though I ended up beating the stage, we split the pot and two great charities are getting fat checks really soon.
The latest stage was, as mentioned, The Klepocalypse.
When most game levels are created, they're made with a wide audience in mind. Maybe you can tweak the difficulty or other settings, but they're generally intended to be played by more than one person. With The Ryckoning and The Klepocalypse, Ryckert is specifically targeting one person: me. Sure, it's possible for other people to play it, but the tricks, traps, and mind games are intended to screw with yours truly. As Ryckert has watched me work through his creations, he's become intimately familiar with my specific weaknesses as a Mario player.
Take The Ryckoning, for example. Previously, I'd struggled with music blocks, in which Mario bounces up and down on his own. But if you want to execute a higher jump, you need to time your button press just right. Unable to pull them off consistently, that immediately became the foundation for The Ryckoning.
Thing is, that actually made me a better Mario player. I now get music notes!
(They're still terrible, though.)
Let's start with my successful playthrough of The Klepocalypse, so you can see how the stage plays out. Then, I'll return to the spots that nearly broke me.
(If that doesn't queue up for you properly, it's 1:22:14.)
It took me about seven hours of studying and practice to execute five minutes of Mario play. Could I have done other things with my time? Sure, but I needed to finish that stage, and it's important that Ryckert learns he'll never beat me.
One big advantage Ryckert has over me is a deeper understanding of Mario's advanced mechanics. I consider myself a huge Mario fan, but it's been decades since I've played through every iteration of the series. So while I know about running, jumping, and game-specific moves like wall jumping and the triple jump, I'm full of ignorance, too. This ignorance almost proved a fatal flaw.
The biggest issue with The Klepoclaypse was a trick with invisible blocks. Here's a spot that players stumble across a few screens into the stage:
Your first instinct would be to hit both blocks and see what's inside, right?
After exhausting what was possible in the immediate area, I became fixated on this second coin block. What was in it? What could it be hiding?
If you've watched any of my daily Mario streams, you might get frustrated at my process. I tend to overthink particular theories until I've exhausted their usefulness. There's a method to this madness, however. Since I can't rely on hints from anyone, I'm left to cross off potential solutions and ideas on my own. The only way to really be sure something won't work is to try it over and over.
This helped me through all the other stages, but it also lead to my most frustrating stream ever last Thursday. In it, I basically spent an hour trying to throw a bomb in the air, in hopes of causing that block to reveal its contents.
No, I never managed to hit the block.
During both The Ryckoning and The Klepocalypse, when I'd hit moments where it all seemed futile, I did some research while not streaming. Of course, this means people need to trust I'm not cheating, but given how many things I've genuinely figured out while streaming, I hope most give me the benefit of the doubt. What's nice about playing offline is the ability to concentrate without knowing hundreds (often thousands) are watching, and not feeling as though I need to say something ever few seconds, in order to remind folks I'm still there.
I want to focus on a very specific moment from a previous episode:
Let's get even more specific. Enhance!
Mario's body is, perhaps, a pixel or two away from that coin block. As seen in the GIF, he sails right past it. Because there's an invisible block underneath that coin block, I never suspected it was possible to hit that coin block, and the game gives you no obvious way to put that together. But as many hardcore Mario fans know -- and some must have bit their tongues while watching me play -- it's possible to short circuit an invisible block by swinging by with a diagonal jump.
If you go back and watch the archive, this happens again a handful of times, with Mario's head just barely missing the coin block to reveal the trick.
I discovered this by accident while playing offline, as an errant jump resulted in the coin block producing the item I'd been hoping might be inside: a POW block.
Cackling with delight, I then cut this wrestling-style promo video:
One of the few rules we'd both established for Ryckert's levels was avoiding exploits, which became even more important after I'd encountered one myself in a stage designed by Polygon editor Griffin McElroy. I'm still upset about this!
To be clear, the diagonal jump trick is not an exploit, but it did exploit my own ignorance of how Mario mechanics work. It almost happened a second time, too.
One of Rykert's go-to tricks is forcing the player to drag an item across the level. It's what made The Ryckoning to challenge; you had to do that multiple times. On The Klepocalypse, there's the additional wrinkle of needing to spin jump on sets of enemies to keep moving forward. The problem? It's not possible to spin jump while holding an item; you have to collide with the item in mid-air.
Fortunately, I accidentally came across this while exploring the stage.
There's an alternate universe where I spent hours perplexed over my next move, never realising you could spin jump and hold an item simultaneously.
It's actually worth talking about this little area, too, since it reveals one really fun part of playing other people's Mario stages. In order to upload them, the creator must successfully complete it. But how the creator finishes it isn't how other players necessarily will, and this section is where Ryckert and I deviated.
First, here's how Ryckert did it:
Now, here's how I did it:
Ryckert's is trickier, but gives the player more time to execute the next series of jumps, which relies on the coins turning into blocks. Mine is easier and more reliable, but gives you less room for error when navigating the next platforms.
Pretty cool, right? I love this part of Super Mario Maker!
Once I'd made it past this section of The Klepocalypse, it took me a few hours of nailing the right jumps, but it was mostly about execution, and I reached the goal. Truth be told, if I'd known about the invisible block trick, I'd probably have completed this a lot sooner. But, again, the fun of my rivalry with Ryckert is how he's able to take advantage of my weaknesses. I expect him do to it again.
Oh, one more thing. One of the last tricks The Klepocalypse has waiting for players is a series of -- you guessed it -- music notes.
Those blocks nearly gave me a heart attack when I spotted them. But in all of my attempts at the final moments of The Klepocalypse, I never goofed on the music notes. On this stage, not a single time did a music note result in my death.
For all my suffering, for all the agony, Ryckert is making me a better Mario player. That, Mr. Ryckert, is why you'll never beat me. Try your best, friendo.