We’re finally getting to levels that I feel are pretty good! Here, I wanted to have a very high-up level, with multiple paths, and I wanted to focus on another one of my favorite enemies: Bullet Bill.
Bullet Bills are great. They shoot bullets at a regular interval in a straight, horizontal line, and Mario can jump off a bullet not only to knock it down but also to extend Mario’s jump, a mechanic used in lots of other levels. Unlike fire piranha plants, which breathe unkillable fireballs at an angle, bullets are more predictable and manageable. But even though Bullet Bills’ firing rate and pattern are simple, they’re still ripe for increasingly complex formations, especially when bullets fired rightward are allowed to linger on-screen as Mario progresses through a level. Each bullet only denies Mario a little horizontal space, so having multiple bullets looks worse than it actually is.
By taking away a little horizontal space at a time, I built a level with a slow burn. At first, the bullets just fly over or under you. Then they directly intersect your path. Bullets then come at you from both directions, and finally you’re forced to navigate multiple bullets coming from either side of the screen, denying you the ability to jump on any bullet except the topmost one.
The vertical aspect is mostly used to create a separate path in case you aren’t good at staying on platforms. I won’t say it’s the most interesting or well-executed part of this level, but it seemed like a better alternative to me than just letting the player die as soon as they miss a single jump. Similarly, I used spikes to block off the gaps between solid platforms. Using spikes instead of open pits still signals “danger,” but spikes won’t kill Mario instantly if he’s not Small Mario, and let the player quickly dash back onto a platform. Using spikes therefore allows me to avoid excessively punishing the player. As a bonus, using spikes also makes it pretty clear there are no secret “fall down here for a bonus” pits.
This level might not be perfect, but I feel pretty good about it. I have fun trying to stay on the upper platforms while dodging bullets, and I think I did a good job ramping up the difficulty while avoiding excessive punishment. I also think the use of verticality makes for an interesting and memorable level. (I even got a Let’s Play video of my level, which is thrilling! They also liked it!)