Easy As 1, 2, 3, Kaizo
Kaizo Mario is my current go-to game, so I often play it in short bursts while I’m killing time. In fact, it’s perfect for that because, despite being absurdly difficult, it’s very much a game of bite-sized pieces.
Specifically, because it’s so hard, the only way I’ve been able to play it and maintain sanity has been through the use of frequent save states. Viewed this way, the game becomes a sequence of miniature challenges of your dexterity, timing, and sometimes even ability to comprehend what the challenge it.
First you have to get the ability to run right, then jump left in order to swoop up the top of a column of speeding bullets to jump on top of their firing mechanism. That in itself took me a surprisingly long time. Save. After that there’s a sequence in which you need to jump down on the other side and run from bullets again only to jump to the top of them and carefully bounce along on them so that they take you across a chasm. Save. Then you need to time a jump over some spiky dudes right at the other side of the chasm. Save. Then you need to beat off the attacks of three jumping dudes. Save. Then make a double jump onto floating guys and onto a single brick. Save.
In this way, the game loses any sense of continuity and is broken into those individual moments. I couldn’t possibly play through to where I’ve gotten up to now (almost half way through the very first level!) without save states. So it’s all very Groundhog Day, repeating the same obsessive sequences until you get them just right and then saving and moving on to the next one. It’s weirdly more like Kaizo Wario – a sequence of devilish mini-games, rather than Kaizo Mario, which implies a continuous scrolling world.
So at any given moment I feel as though my Mario has no history. He wakes up in his little hell, doomed to almost certainly die within seconds as I toss him aside in my quest to make a few centimeters of on-screen progress. “Mini-game” is too large a term, their tiny little ludic moments, one twitch and they’re gone. And really, as a game form it’s oddly pleasing – each moment becomes divorced from the others and attains a strange purity.