Sometimes atmosphere is enough.
I’m finding that what increasingly appeals to me in these community levels is an understanding of just that. I don’t necessarily need great gameplay in these levels. In fact, I’ve come to expect that I’m not going to get that. I run across clever moments in some of the levels, and that can be exciting, but the real draw in dipping into these levels is getting some random individual’s take on this world. A feel that I’ve landed someplace specific, with a texture or sound or sense of humor that reflects the designer’s sensibility in some way. Most of these folks can cleverly place a jump pad. It’s rare that one of them can make me lose time.
Today’s level, histoire mixe, did just that. I jumped in to sample a couple of levels before I had to head off to pick up my son from school. Before I knew it, thirty minutes had gone by and I had to hustle. Histoire mixe, made by Darkness-Thomas, achieves this in two main ways. One way is the depth of the background, which you can see in the screenshot above a little bit. That figure behind my sackbot is a garden gnome, over there to the left is a shovel resting against a fence, behind which fence you see the greenery of neighboring yards. The other way is through sound.
A lot of the levels use a fairly generic sound scheme. Random music or the seemingly ubiquitous–and annoyingly extraneous–buzzing of flies. At the start of this level you hear a buzzing. As you play you realize it’s a lawnmower in the distance. A neighbor is mowing his lawn. Other mechanical noises bully their way in, including, inexplicably, a helicopter, which I understand slightly when I realize the half-worded sign below me says, “Call of Duty” on it, followed by a helicopter full of sack soldiers. Why is this in the backyard? Can’t tell you. Does this matter to me? Nope. Because like a good short film, this level has a sense of place. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, and I couldn’t care less.