The Difference Between Difficult and Impossible

I’ve been playing Super Mario: The Lost Levels for the past week and I’ve loved every second of it. Some of the levels have individually taken me a couple hours to complete on their own; not entire worlds but single levels (ie 4-4). So now I’m on world 8, which I’m assuming is the last world, and I am now stuck on the first level. 8-1 shouldn’t be any harder than the other difficult levels; it has an area where there are two Bullet Bill cannons, followed by a Buzzy Beetle, followed by a Red Piranha, followed by a Hammer Brother. This area isn’t impossible, it just takes precision to dodge all of the enemies and attacks. The area directly after, however, is where the player must make a running jump over the below abyss and land on a Red Koopa Paratroopa in order to make the extra distance to land safely on the next patch of ground (as shown in the below screenshot). This would seem easy enough, the player just has to jump at the last possible moment in order to reach the Koopa, but the Koopa pattern isn’t predictable at all.

It is impossible to see the Koopa before making the blind leap. Once you jump, all you can do is hope the Koopa will be in place for you to land on it but this doesn’t happen often enough. Most times I have found myself just falling to my death. I have tried approaching the edge before stepping back and running to the jump hoping this will trigger some predictable pattern, and I have equally tried just running up to the edge and immediately jumping; either way, there is no sense of predictability as to where the Koopa will be when he appears on screen.

This scenario isn’t difficult, it is terrible game design. Making the player blindly jump to an unpredictible target is too much to ask for. I prefer the outcome of a video game I’m playing to be determined by my skill, not my luck. It is comparable to bad camera angles in today’s 3D games. This one area isn’t enough to ruin what has been a great experience thus far, but I just hope the rest of the game doesn’t pull out cheap design to maintain the difficulty.

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