2D Parkouring To The Death
I’ve been playing Kaizo Mario on and off for a couple of days now. It’s a version of Super Mario World remapped into a nightmarish hellverse. You can watch people playing it on YouTube to get a sense of the aesthetic, but you won’t really understand anything about playing it without playing it. And in some ways, unless you just like relentless pain, you probably shouldn’t bother playing it (unless you should).
It’s been a very interesting experience to play this particular game because I’m really no good at Mario games at all. I’ve played through a couple, but have no elite jumping skills to speak of. Thus, my play to this point has consisted of dying repeatedly almost from the instant the first level loads. Even after I managed to get past the first hail of bullets you see in the screenshot there, I reached another bit (with another hail of bullets) that’s far, far harder. The level of Mario-literacy required is pretty insane.
At one point, after I stopped a particularly lengthy chain of die-and-reloads, the backs of my teeth felt a bit weird and I realised I’d been pressing my tongue against them with a great deal of force for the entire session of play. A bit like Michael Jordan, except that he’s good at what he does. Playing this game has been an education in the world of hardcore players, but in a strangely accessible way. Sure, it’s basically impossible for me, but not in the way that extreme multi-player games are – in those you just get shot repeatedly and never know why – at least with Kaizo Mario there’s the very faintest sense of progress and a chance to consider the situation.
I was also intrigued by how much my playing of the game changed my perception of the various videos available online. I went from a kind of marveling at what is surely the closest thing to video game parkour around to feeling a kind of “kinetic sympathy” for the players. Even though we’re talking about side-scrolling 2D sprites, there’s a very real “physicality” involved in the play, complete with sore teeth and wincing.
In the end, Kaizo Mario is kind of worth “playing” just to encounter a game world that doesn’t care about fairness, and manipulates the repetitive nature of games to turn a platforming game into a physical puzzle. Rather than encountering the landscape with the kind of freedom that’s beautiful about games, you’re trapped in a claustrophobically tight cycle of death and reincarnation. Worst of all, you’re repeatedly reincarnated as yourself (Mario) in the same situation you just left…
Better off as a bug.