The 8 Ball 2.12.13: Top 8 Platformers
Welcome to another edition of The 8 Ball with your host, Marc Morrison. The voting last week was tied with Top Platformers and Top Celebrity Voice Acting. I thought everyone might get tired of all the voice stuff, so I chose to do Platformers instead. A lot of the game that would be on this list have been in some of my previous lists, Super Metroid, Tomba, Psychonauts, Shadow Complex, etc. I chose to try and make a list with not as many repeats as before. Still, there are three repeats, near the end, simply because they *are* the best platformers. Anyways, here is my list:
8. Jumping Flash!
While I don’t think Jumping Flash is the most perfect game in the world, it’s still a wildly inventive and crazy platformer just due to the perspective you have. It’s a first-person platforming perspective game where you are in control of “Robbit”, a robotic rabbit, as you collect “Jet Pods” in the level, and kill enemies. Your Robbit has a basic blaster but can pick up power ups that give him rockets and Roman Candles as power up one-shot weapons. The jumping and level designs are the key elements because Robbit can jump three times off a platform. The first is the initial jump off the platform, the second is a higher jump, and the third increases the jump height again, but only by a little. This lead to the game having a large sense of verticality with how high up the levels got. It’s not the greatest platformer in the world, largely due to the constraints of the technology at the time, but it is eminently unique and fun to try out.
7. Bubble Bobble
Who doesn’t have fond memories of playing Bubble Bobble on the NES? Well, besides all you young people who might read this column. Bubble Bobble involved you playing as either a green (Bub) or blue (Bob) dinosaur as you made your way down various levels full of enemies. Your big power in the game is being able to blow bubbles at your enemies trapping them for a time. You then have to jump into them to actually kill them and turn them into items to be collected for points. The co-op with a friend, the music, the power ups all made this game a NES classic, and one that is still fun to try to this day.
6. Super Meat Boy
I think this is actually the newest game on this list, which is kind of a depressing thought when you realize not a lot of platformers come out these days. Super Meat Boy is what Mario fans were really clamoring for, a super-difficult, pixel-perfect platformer, with a steady difficulty curve, and tons of unlockable characters. While there aren’t any enemies for you to destroy, there are a million ways for you to die in Super Meat Boy, and you most likely will. Once you get through the light world, then you can visit the dark one and see another level of the insane mixture of reflexes, dexterity and most important of all, luck, in order to make it through all the dark levels. Super Meat Boy is a hard game to beat, but it is rewarding and generally fair about its gameplay. It also gave rise to a brilliant song done by my friend Josh Whelchel:
5. Kirby’s Adventure
Kirby’s Dream Land on the original Gameboy was a great little platformer. However it was when Kirby made his way to the NES that the framework really came into play. The Kirby gameplay is primarily predicated upon going from left to right, killing baddies, and the like. Kirby’s main power is to suck enemies into his mouth and shoot them back out (as well as to take a gulp of air to float). The new ability he has in this game is that he can copy certain enemy’s powers and use them himself. With over 24 powers to try, from the useless but cute “Sleep” to the uber-powerful “UFO”, there is a lot of variety in each levels and how you can try to approach them. Add in mini-games, secrets, and a hard boss at the end, it all makes Kirby a great game to play, and the quintessential Kirby experience.
4. Mario 64
A few people might be outraged by Mario 64 not being first or second. Don’t get me wrong, Mario 64 is 3D platforming done “right”, with a functional camera, a huge world for you to explore, and a lot of ways for you to solve some puzzles and collect the stars in the world. The two things that knock it down for me a little are pretty much all the underwater environments being terrible. On the ground or in the air, Mario is responsive and quick, but when he’s swimming it becomes a laggy mess. The other knock against the game is how they handled the Caps and the lack of power ups. The Caps are fun, but fairly one-use items that you only need for specific stars. After the dozen or so power ups in SMB3 and the whittling down (but also increased effectiveness) of the power ups in Super Mario World, the lack of anything crazy like that in Mario 64 stood out to me. Still, Mario 64 is probably still the best 3D Mario game to be made and “Tick Tock Clock” is a fun level to explore.
3. Donkey Kong Country
As I said before on the “Top 8 SNES Games” column, Donkey Kong Country is/was a beautiful game, with a rich, vibrant world for you to make your way through. While a scant few levels didn’t work great, notably anything really involving a mine cart, the game just had an immediacy to when you did an action that translated well into the CGI characters jumping around. The entire ice world had some of the most spectacular environments of a SNES game of all time, and some of the slipperiest but controlled platforming a game has ever had.
2. Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles
Like other columns where I’ve mentioned Sonic 3/Sonic & Knux, I generally consider these two games to be one complete game, considering that was Yuji Naka’s original goal. Sonic 3/K had the sense of speed that Sonic games were known for, but also multiple paths to be tried out, secrets to be uncovered, shields to be gained, and different storylines for each character. Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles was the pinnacle of Sonic’s popularity, and relevance as a character and as a franchise. While Sonic Generations was an adequate game, it still didn’t capture the magic of these two games. Sonic 3/Knuckles was the best the Genesis had to offer, which is why it was the chief rival of the next game…
1. (Fake)Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind
“What could possibly go wrong?” “Apparently everything” is the answer, at least where Bubsy is concerned. Onto my real first choice:
1. Super Mario World
Outrage is likely to ensue with the exclusion of Super Mario Bros 3 on this list, or that Mario World tops it out. Mario Bros 3 is kind of a wacky game, filled with cool (but sometimes useless) costumes, and a diabolical last world, I think Mario World is overall the better package. Mario World scaled the powers back, giving you the usual fire flower but also the infinitely useful feather. With this, you could soar over most of the levels with ease, with enough practice, and made the game challenging by trying to string your flying combo together. Add in Yoshi, who for all intents and purposes, is just another power up, and it makes the game challenging to try and keep the blue Yoshi at all times. Super Mario World is really the perfect platformer be it from 20 years ago when it came out, to now, to 200 years in the future.
Sadly, no “The Better Half” this week, since I never got any info
As with all my columns, a list of games that people might be outraged that aren’t on my list. Deal with it. The one that almost made the cut was the Ratchet & Clank series. The problem (for me) with that series is that you can’t tell them apart. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the first one, and the newest ones, if you just stripped away the graphical updates. I think the first one was kind of cool, but they moved into a weird shooter/platformer space that never meshed with me. Plus, the “cutesy” subtitles, namely “Going Commando” and “Size Matters” really rub me the wrong way. Anyway, here’s my list:
Mega Man X4 (or any Mega Man, really), Viewtiful Joe, Tomba, Castlevania SOTN, Psychonauts, Super Metroid, Shadow Complex, Aladdin (Genesis), Bonk, Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero, the Sly Cooper games, Little Big Planet, Limbo, Braid, Journey, Toejam & Earl, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and finally Super Mario Bros. 3.
A few comments from last week *really* made me laugh. The really funny one was about why Jennifer Stigile wasn’t on my list. While she was a good voice actress (for her day), it might be because she hasn’t done anything in the past 12 years., which is the reason why she didn’t make an appearance. The other funny comment was by someone claiming indignation over my Tara Strong/Harley Quinn comment. Arleen Sorkin was (generally speaking) a better Harley Quinn than Mrs. Strong. However, she did do a good job of replicating her voice work and mannerisms that Sorkin used for the role. It’s not perfect, and it’s still kind of a mystery as to why Sorkin didn’t come back (studio didn’t want her, or she didn’t want to do it), but Strong did fine in the role. Also, when Nolan North wants to, he *can* sound different from his other characters. Desmond and Nathan Drake do sound a little alike, but voice work like the Penguin and the Space Sphere are miles from it. I feel like I could take 5 voice samples from Mrs. Hale, create a quiz to see who can guess which game it’s from, and then watch everyone fail at answering.
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