Tom: Above is an example of where a platformer starts to come unravelled for me. That’s a picture of the last jump in Tricky Trapeze Theater.

After the jump, how to get people to hate Super Mario 3D World.

Tom: I made the mistake of trying to introduce a couple of friends to the game by dropping them into Tricky Trapeze Theater. I didn’t pick the level. It was just the only level I hadn’t done yet. It was one of two choices at a fork in the path, but I didn’t have enough stars yet for the other level. This is the first time I haven’t had the stars to unlock an otherwise available level. I need 80 stars to play the level that isn’t Tricky Trapeze Theater, and I only have 63. So my friends got dropped into Tricky Trapeze Theater, where they had to deal with timed jumps and tilting platforms controlled by spiked rollers and other things that mean tripping and falling all over each other. It was a lot of “no, you stand on this end to make it tilt up…argh, I got killed”. Eventually one of them just rode in the bubble while the other one played the level. “My bubble popped,” he later noted. “I didn’t make it do that. It just popped and now I fell to my death.” They even got the cheating white raccoon suits. Too bad those don’t help with fatal falls, which are the meat and potatoes of Tricky Trapeze Theater.

After repeated tries, they couldn’t get to the flagpole at the end. I should have pulled them out as soon as I saw what kind of level it was. Instead, I think I killed Super Mario 3D World for them forever. They put down their controllers and pronounced it “awful”.

So later I went in to play Tricky Trapeze Theater myself. It was relatively easy to get two of the three green stars. There’s a green star hidden above an invisible platform. It took a couple of tries to get onto the platform, but it was ultimately simple enough. Then there’s another green star along a series of trapeze jumps that are pretty gratifying if you get the timing right. Swing, swing, swing, swing, green star. No problem.

Not that I didn’t fall a few times. The tilting platforms with spiked rollers can be tricky. Then there’s a spinning platter full of those bulbous Venus flytrap things. I can go around the platform, but there’s a shiny in the center to encourage me to brave the wild flora. I died a few times before deciding to just move on. I had one star, I knew where the second star was on the way to the flagpole. It was time to bank this loot.

But for whatever reason — timing? the calculus of two arcs meeting each other? divine wrath? — I failed the final jump to grab a trapeze across the wide gulf to the flagpole. I got reset to the middle of the level and then failed again. I got reset to the middle of the level and then failed again. I reset to the middle of the level and then failed again. I got reset to the middle of the level and then failed again. I finally got across, but only after forgetting to get the next green star. Precious tens of minutes and countless lives (okay, seven) later, but only one green star to show for it. This is exactly why I lose interest in so many platformers. At some point, some seemingly simple jump is inexplicably punishing. What did I do to deserve this?

Scott: So we finally come to Tricky Trapeze Theatre, probably the hardest level we’ve encountered so far. I lost count but I probably lost ten lives on that last jump. As Tom said, even with the super tanooki suit that last jump is brutal. My hands were sweating the whole time. I hated it. It’s enough to turn someone off this game forever, that’s true. But shortly after Tricky Trapeze Theatre I came to Bob-ombs Below. It’s a pretty straightforward level where you throw bombs at breakable walls. But the best part of this level is a hidden area. If you navigate a pipeline correctly you find a cloud that shoots you into the sky.

You land on a strange platform in the sky made up of black squares. As you run over the squares they change color.


After you fill in all the squares you get a green star, and this shot:


Oh Mario, I can’t stay mad at you for very long.

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Tomorrow: World Six