Well, this was a surprise. A narrative weaved in the main combat beats of the level, which was actually a refreshing pace for Age of Magic – given that a lot of the story had been the colloquial window-dressing, with a light-touch intro that prefixed each level.
This one was all about the introduction to Kharannah, and it was a nice to see some interplay between the characters. Some were honoured – literally – to have her join the team, while others dismissed her as another magic fanatic.
If Age of Magic had this sort of interaction all the way through, I have to say it would make a much stronger game.
Success in this level, unsurprisingly, nets you Kharannah for your team – and in my session, she pretty much had an armful of upgrades and gear to apply to her from the beginning. I only had enough coin to boost her to around level 11 or 12, but that should be enough for the short-term, or at least enough to see how she plays and what dynamic she brings to the team.
We’re back underground now, and this was a fairly ‘bouncy’ level (my kind of level). There’s some elements here that need more work to master – like the bricks which seem to hide some of the coins. The trick is to be the ‘big’ version of your player character who can then jump and break the blocks … but the pace of the game (it is a ‘run’ game, after all) means there’s a need for both timing – perfect timing – and not to mention actually finding a mushroom to promote yourself to the ‘big’ version.
Weee! (or should I say, ‘Wii’!?) To be honest, there’s not as much downhill as this level’s title lets on, but rather a few large ‘set pieces’ (for want of a better phrase) that are fun, but probably don’t justify themselves as the centrepiece for the level.
The verticality of this level is what makes it fun, and while it’s not really any different than any other level – it still gives the illusion of height and danger that you get with aerial levels, as opposed to those more, shall we say, ‘down to Earth’.
Timing is again key for the collectables.
A lot of vertical movement in this level. Up, up, up and away! This level has echoes of the ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ session from earlier, though there is more of a puzzle-solving element to the whole section, rather than just being spooky for spooky’s sake.
I actually needed a few tries with this one – more so to time my attempt at special coins rather than survival. There are a few tricky sections towards the end – with big, circular saws there that require some vigilance, but they’re not insurmountable. If you’re willing to sacrifice some coins or collectables, you can jump your way to freedom easy enough.
Well, we’re up to the level three boss, and this time … it’s Bowser again! (Or is it?)
It turns out, no, it’s not – and while I didn’t realise that Bowser had such magical shape-shifting capability, it turns out that, well, he does, and this time he turns into a turtle.
The combat in this one is a bit more challenging. Turtle-Bowser jumps and shoots fireballs at you now, and I’ll admit, I stuffed-up my timing a few times with this one and got bubble’d back a notch or two. In the end, it turns out just some clever timing and running underneath Bowser while he’s in the air is the easiest way to clear the boss, but you have to balance being in position when he jumps versus not being in the way of a fireball that he shoots at you.
More luck than strategy I suspect.
This level is all about the Turtles – and not the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety. Some clever (and run-of-the-mill) mechanics here make it easy to use the turtles to knock-down enemies, which is quite satisfying when they get a bit of a run-on.
The other element to this level is trying to navigate some tricky coins, which are reachable only through some height and ‘bounce’ based challenges. It seems that these mid-to-later levels are good at introducing challenge that requires an excellent mastery over the timing of Mario’s et. al. jumping.
And now I’m concerned about my mastery of the English language … how does one use a plural when applying the et. al. suffix to a sentence?
This introduced some new enemies into the mix – the form of ‘red bullets’ which essentially ‘shoot’ at you after a brief moment of hovering, as opposed to the black bullets which come at your slowly and steadily.
What surprised me about this level was how essential height was to a full completion. While I tried to stay as high as I could, I noticed a few coins that I missed simply because I was sitting too low in the level. Part of this is a matter of practice and timing – it’s not the first time I’ve mentioned needing to masterfully practice the art of jumping on bullets – but it’s also knowing a little bit about when-and-where those coins are going to pop up.
Much, much more practice needed on my part before getting anywhere close to complete on this level.
If you like guys in clouds dropping coins on your head the whole time – then have I got a level for you. I’m not really sure what the intention is here, either perfectionists are going to run into trouble if they seek to get ‘every’ coin, or maybe I’m just too impatient to even try, but in any case – I tried to disregard coin-dropping dude for the most part, and just get to the end of the level.
After all, this is a very busy level.
The titular ‘big spiny’ in the level makes several appearances, and they aren’t necessarily difficult to beat, but when you get an invulnerability star, they are quite satisfying just to run through. For the most part though, they are there as an obstacle to clear, but far from insurmountable.
Time for the next boss, and there’s a lot going on at once in this level. There’s cannons, there’s bad guys, and there’s a fairly busy world in general as you push towards the second boss in the game.
I, surprisingly, didn’t die a lot on my push to the end though. It’s possible that I got lucky, but, more likely, is that the game mechanics are designed to get you through the levels on their own, but you need to put in the effort when it comes to coins, collectables and other feats to get the better score.
As for the boss itself, well – remember how much I love wall-jumping and backflipping? Well, this is the boss for me! This really just requires you to time a wall-jump perfectly so you can bounce on his head three times, and because I’m a sucker for a good jump, I threw in a few bonus bounces as well. This was a very satisfying bad guy to beat.
Once again, we are given a dark-and-dingy level to face, though this was admittedly one of the easier levels to collect all the special coins on.
For starters, there seemed to be lees volatility in the enemy (bats), and while they still presented a threat like any other flying enemy, they weren’t haphazard and, on-the-whole, a fairly conservative enemy.
The other boon for this level is that there are more chances to correct your mistakes – that is, chances to jump backwards. It might sound a bit silly, but jumping backwards in Super Mario Run is one of my favourite things to do. I don’t know whether it’s the animation or the fact that I get to pick up more coins or kill another enemy, but I find it satisfying every single time.