Shigeru Miyamoto and his team made a “kaizo” game long before fan hacks emerged
Have you ever heard of a kaizo game? The concept is pretty straightforward. Players take an existing game — including its assets, like character sprites — and “remix” them to build eye-wateringly difficult levels. There’s a whole culture around kaizo games. If you’re curious, I highly recommend checking out Josh Bycer’s fantastic piece on the topic.
One of the most fascinating elements of kaizo games is the concept of a kaizo trap. The idea is that the designer sets up a particularly nasty obstacle that the player will trigger with little to no forewarning. It’s often the case that these traps are aimed squarely at players who attempt to take the easiest path through a level. I think of it as a kind of contrapasso, which makes it all the more delightfully fiendish.
Most people would probably think of kaizo games as setting out to achieve the exact opposite of what games generally aim for. For the most part, video game designers try to carefully balance difficulty. Challenge is important, but overwhelmingly punishing difficulty (where, for instance, players routinely encounter unavoidable deaths) is usually a sign of poor game design. Kaizo games avoid the “poor game design” moniker because they are deliberately designed to inflict maximum pain, and players understand this when diving in.
Aside from the specific mechanical traits that make a kaizo game, well…kaizo, there’s another important ingredient at play: it’s the fans taking an established game and “hacking” it in order to turn it into the equivalent of running uphill during a landslide.
But what happens when a prominent, family-friendly game company converts one of its most iconic, beloved titles into a heinous meat grinder?
That’s exactly what Nintendo did in 1986, when they released Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Famicom Disk System in Japan.
The story behind Super Mario Bros. 2 is fascinating and there are many wonderful documentaries on the internet that dive into quite some detail on the topic. For now, though, I’ll give you the crash course.
Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985 and became a global phenomenon. Nintendo wanted to rapidly follow it up with a sequel, which was due to be released on the Famicom Disk System (an attachment for the Famicom console that played games on special re-writeable disks). There was a feeling that many Japanese players had already mastered Super Mario Bros., and therefore needed a more challenging sequel. Nintendo marketed Super Mario Bros. 2 as being “for super players”. Unfortunately, the game was so brutal that Nintendo of America didn’t want to publish it (leading to another title — Doki Doki Panic — being retrofitted to become Super Mario Bros. 2 in western markets). The “real” Super Mario Bros. 2 would eventually be released in western markets as part of the 1993 Super Mario All-Stars compilation for Super Nintendo. On the compilation, it would become known as Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels.
Let me just say: I’m a huge Mario fan. And I’m pretty damn good at Mario games, if I do say so myself. But I’ve never beaten Super Mario Bros. 2 — not until recently, that is. The ability to play this game as part of the Nintendo Switch Online NES catalogue (with those sweet, sweet save states) has been a literal game-changer for me.
I always knew Super Mario Bros. 2 was difficult. What I didn’t really appreciate until my latest play through is just how blatantly treacherous Nintendo’s designers could really be. This game is full of dark patterns that strike at the heart of Nintendo’s own Mario rulebook. This is, in part, what makes Super Mario Bros. 2 so much fun to play. It’s as though the Mario team got utterly ruined on sake after a haywire office party, said fuck it, and took a match to the million-seller they’d only just shipped.
Let’s start with the most well-known change: the poison mushroom. This little bastard appears right away in World 1–1. Sure, it looks like the recently-paroled cousin of the regular super mushroom upon close inspection. But if you’ve just arrived here from the first game, your instinct will be to pick up whatever looks like a “power up”. Doing so is the equivalent of absent-mindedly putting your hand on a hot stove: after recoiling from the sting, you’ll immediately be on a more careful and deliberate footing.
Don’t worry, though: the poison mushroom is just the beginning of the fuckery. How about World 3–1’s backwards warp pipe? Just like the original game, you will find warp pipes at various points and some of them will certainly propel you forward to later worlds. World 3–1 is a masterclass in psychological warfare. You find the springboard right before the flagpole. As you fly right over said flagpole, you just know you’re in for some Nintendo magic. How exciting! Sure enough, you’ll eventually stumble upon a warp pipe. Then you realise it’s a World 1 warp pipe and you have no way of avoiding it (other than falling into the pit and losing a life). It’s like someone asking you to taste some delicious cake batter from a wooden spoon…only to smack you in the teeth with the same spoon a moment later.
There’s a whole lot more to contend with in Super Mario Bros. 2. Some jumps are physically impossible unless you first find a hidden block in the environment to leap from. Even then, some of these blocks are high enough that you can’t easily jump on them from a standing start — it’s necessary to get a good run up, leap on the hidden block, and then leap across the impossible chasm.
Later in the game, you’ll encounter powerful gusts of wind that violently propel Mario across the screen while in mid-air. I found World 7–3 particularly challenging. In order to navigate through the level you need to use springboards while dealing with the wind gusts. Because the springboards propel Mario up “above” the visible are of the level, it’s incredibly difficult to know where he’ll land when he eventually comes back down.
Although it’s filled with devious twists and turns, I am being slightly hyperbolic when I suggest that it’s a kaizo game. There’s nothing here that’s inherently unfair; nothing that leaves the player with no recourse. Rather, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a clear indication that Miyamoto and co. understand their own creation down to the pixel. They know exactly what skills you had to master in the original game, and the expectations you established based on that game’s rules. The deliberate violation of these rules in the sequel doesn’t imply that Nintendo abandoned all sense and structure. Rather, your muscle memory is used against you in an effort to shake you from complacency. It’s almost like being forced to write with your opposite hand — the basic rules of writing are the same, but you can’t entirely fall back on what you already know. You’re pushed back into a growth mindset, where knowledge is again replaced with curiosity. For this reason, I’d say Super Mario Bros. 2 is great to dive into right after you’ve finished Super Mario Bros. Playing both back-to-back will further sharpen your appreciation of the sequel.
Remember, too: if you’ve never played Super Mario Bros. 2 then you will die and this will likely be a repeated occurrence. This is why playing the original version with limited lives is extremely tricky. But if you’re playing on Nintendo Switch, don’t be ashamed to take advantage of those save states. They make the game accessible enough to work your way through without entirely dulling the (good) pain.
OnePlus Nord vs. Google Pixel 4a: Which should you buy? – Android Central
It’s a great time to buy a mid-range smartphone, with phones like the OnePlus Nord and Google Pixel 4a breaking cover in recent weeks. Both phones are similarly priced, and both overall are excellent choices — although buyers in the U.S. would need to import the Nord since it isn’t sold in the country. Nevertheless, each represents a very different set of priorities, so it’s going to take a deeper dive to figure out which one’s right for you.
OnePlus Nord vs. Google Pixel 4a Radically different choices
Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central
On both the inside and outside, there’s a stark contrast between the OnePlus Nord and Google Pixel 4a. There’s no question that the Nord has the more striking design of the two, especially in its trademark “blue marble” hue. While Google opts for a subdued matte black plastic chassis, OnePlus’s handset definitely has the appearance of a more premium smartphone thanks to its glass back and reflective mid-wall.
The Nord is considerably larger than its rival too, with a 6.44-inch display diagonal compared to the Pixel’s mere 5.8 inches. That makes one-handed use a little trickier, though if you’re used to modern, large-screened smartphones, the Nord won’t be a challenge to use. The Pixel 4a, conversely, is definitely the winner for fans of small phones, being one of the few high-profile Android phones around the same size as a smaller “Pro” model iPhone.
On the inside, the OnePlus Nord is clearly the technically superior phone. It features Qualcomm’s upper mid-range chipset, the Snapdragon 765G, boasting more computational horsepower in general, but especially in terms of graphics. The 765G also enables 5G connectivity for added future-proofing, which may not be a concern right now, but will ensure the Nord is equipped to run on next-generation networks as they roll out.
OnePlus also offers dual SIM support, whereas on the Pixel side you’ll need to switch your main SIM to an eSIM in order to use the single physical SIM slot in dual-SIM mode.
The Nord is the technically superior phone, but Google’s strengths lie elsewhere.
The single biggest performance advantage you’ll actually notice while using the Nord, however, comes from its display. The 6.44-inch panel packs a 90Hz refresh rate, which until recently have been exclusive to expensive flagship phones. The extra fluidity and responsiveness this brings is palpable, and it’s hard to go back to 60 once you’ve experienced it.
One area where the Pixel 4a pulls ahead of the Nord, though, is in audio. Not only does it pack a pretty loud and clear stereo speaker setup — combining a bottom-firing loudspeaker with the earpiece tweeter — but the 4a retains the good old 3.5mm headphone jack.
While the Pixel 4a comes in a single SKU with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable storage, the OnePlus Nord can offer upgrades beyond its base 8GB/128GB configuration — up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. While 128GB should be enough for most people, the option to double it (for a price) is certainly nice to have.
On paper the Nord’s battery also bests the Pixel by a considerable margin. However due to a larger display and higher refresh rate, the Nord’s real-world lead is shorter than you might expect. With my usage patterns, both phones got me through a full 15- to 16-hour day of use, with the Pixel 4a clocking in between 4 and 4.5 hours of screen-on time and the Nord creeping closer to five. OnePlus also wins on charging speeds, thanks to its Warp Charge 30T spec, which promises zero to 70% charging in 30 minutes.
|Google Pixel 4a||OnePlus Nord|
|Operating system||Android 10|
|Display||5.8-inch 60Hz AMOLED|
|6.44-inch 90Hz Fluid AMOLED|
Gorilla Glass 5
|Chipset||Snapdragon 730||Snapdragon 765G|
|GPU||Adreno 618||Adreno 620|
|Rear camera 1||12.2MP 1.4μm|
4K at 30fps
|48MP (IMX586), 0.8μm|
4K at 30fps
|Rear camera 2||❌||8MP wide-angle, f/2.25|
|Rear camera 3||❌||2MP macro, f/2.4|
|Rear camera 4||❌||5MP portrait lens, f/2.4|
|Front camera 1||8MP f/2.0 |
1.12μm fixed focus
|32MP, f/2.45 (IMX616)|
0.8μm, EIS, fixed focus
|Front camera 2||❌||8MP wide-angle|
f/2.45, 105-degree field-of-view
|5G Bands||N/A||Europe: N1/3/7/28/78|
|Charging||18W USB-PD||USB-C 3.1|
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
|Security||Rear fingerprint (capacitive)||In-display fingerprint (optical)|
|Dimensions||144 x 69.4 x 8.2 mm |
|158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm|
|Colors||Just Black||Blue Marble, Grey Onyx|
Smooth software or the best cameras?
Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central
Google and OnePlus are both well known for their slick, fast Android software, and on the surface, the Nord and the Pixel 4a share a similar software aesthetic. Neither diverges too much from vanilla Android, but both have layered it with their own unique loadout of features.
Google’s Pixel software is all about tight integration with the company’s own services, particularly Google Assistant, which is at the heart of the phone’s intelligent capabilities. The Pixel 4a boasts the new-looking, faster Assistant that’s still unavailable outside of Google’s own smartphones. The Pixel software suite also includes on-device live transcription, which can intelligently turn spoken words in any app into captions. Extras like the Personal Safety app and car crash detection could be genuinely life-saving in the right (or wrong) situation.
OnePlus comes close, but you can’t beat the Pixel’s software support promise.
Google’s continuing to add to Pixels’ capabilities over time through its regular feature drops, the most recent of which included video blurring options for Duo video calls, and improvements to memory management to allow more apps to remain in memory.
There’s actually quite a bit of Google to be found in the OnePlus Nord, too. The Nord is the first OnePlus phone to use Google’s own phone dialer and Android Messages app for calls and texts by default. That means you get access to Google’s smart spam filtering options and caller ID features. Meanwhile, OnePlus also recently integrated the Google Feed into its home screen launcher, while all the company’s 2020 handsets have come bundled with Live Transcribe.
Where OnePlus sets itself apart is in the speed and fluidity of its OxygenOS software, as well as features inspired by its enthusiast community. Zen Mode helps you disconnect with enforced smartphone downtime. Lock screen gestures help you jump straight to favorite apps. And OxygenOS is endlessly customizable, even more so than vanilla Android 10 on the Pixel.
When it comes to software updates, Google leads the way with a full three years of platform updates for its Pixel phones from their U.S. launch date. Meanwhile OnePlus is no slouch, offering two years of platform updates and a third year of Android security patches. Nevertheless, OnePlus likely won’t be able to match the speed of update deployment to Google’s Pixels. During their supported lifespan, Pixel phones can update to new versions of Android from day one.
The greatest software edge for Google, however, might be the Pixel 4a’s camera. On paper it’s identical to the camera of the flagship-priced Pixel 4, only with slower photo processing because of the weaker chipset. There’s only one rear camera, as opposed to the four of the OnePlus Nord, but considering the price and the quality of that one camera, it’s a worthy trade-off.
The Nord’s Sony IMX586 sensor is a proven component, and combined with OnePlus’s software processing and HDR features, produces pleasing shots with ample dynamic range and vibrant colors. The Pixel’s main camera arguably produces more lifelike images, with less tendency to crush shadow detail. Google’s processing also produces shots with greater highlight detail, and a trademark grain effect when examined up close.
Both cameras offer impressive dedicated night modes. However, only the Pixel can boast Google’s astrophotography mode, which (with the help of a tripod or stand) allows extreme computational long exposures of stellar vistas.
Both phones pack flagship sensors, but Google pulls ahead with computational magic.
While the Nord’s main camera is no slouch in the photographic department, its secondary cameras are fairly weak, with even the 8-megapixel ultrawide producing blotchy images without much fine detail. Also, the lack of telephoto zoom feels like a missed opportunity in a phone with so many lenses — instead you’ll be getting 12-megapixel crops from that 48-megapixel sensor when you zoom in.
Google’s camera relies on computational zoom based on the movement of the lens, which is decent at up to around 2X, but beyond that can produce strange artifacts around certain objects.
Around the front, OnePlus offers two selfie cameras — one standard, and another ultrawide, for fitting more people or stuff into your images. That’s something Google doesn’t offer, however the Pixel’s front camera does benefit from Google’s software portrait mode and the excellent Night Sight mode.
OnePlus Nord vs. Google Pixel 4a A question of priorities
Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central
With the OnePlus Nord not being sold in the U.S., and the Pixel 4a limited to a handful of countries at present, there are only a few territories where both the Nord and the Pixel will be sold side-by-side. That means for many people, the question of which to buy will be answered by whichever one is available locally.
Provided you are in a country where both are sold, you really can’t go wrong with either. Both offer excellent value for money, great software, fast performance and long term software support. Instead, the choice between the two comes down to your own personal priorities.
If great photos are your main priority, I’d have to hand the win to Google. The 4a’s camera is that good, and such quality is unprecedented at this price point outside of the phone’s immediate predecessor, the Pixel 3a. Same deal if you want a great, small phone at this price. It doesn’t get any better than the Pixel 4a. The Pixel is also first in line for new Google features with its day-one Android updates and regular Pixel feature drops, so if you’re an Android nerd, that’s a big draw.
Superior photos and pocket-sized charm? Or souped-up specs and faster everything?
However, OnePlus is a step ahead in terms of sheer technology. So if you want more power for gaming, as well as the speed that only a fast refresh rate can deliver, it’s a clear win for the Nord. Likewise, spec fiends will appreciate the ability to bump up to 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, as well as real dual-SIM support and 5G connectivity. True to its heritage, OnePlus has the better and more powerful phone for enthusiasts.
Neither device delivers everything you could want. Are you a power-hungry enthusiast who lives for big screens and fast refresh rates, or are you swayed by the promise of a superior pocket-sized camera that doubles as an AI-equipped smartphone? Your priorities (as well as your location) will dictate which of these excellent mid-rangers is right for you.
Googley goodness on the cheap
The most competitive Pixel yet
The Google Pixel 4a lacks some of the Nord’s whizbang features, but is slightly cheaper, and still packs all the smartphone power most people will need. It’s also smaller — a bonus for fans of more pocket-friendly devices, and includes the best main camera you’re likely to find for less than $400, or even $500 or more. To top it off, you get Google’s excellent and helpful Android software, backed up by the best update track record outside of an iPhone.
The mid-range overachiever
The OnePlus Nord is exceptionally good value for money, and technically superior to the Pixel 4a in most respects. For £379, you get features previously reserved for expensive flagship phones, slick software, a striking glass-backed design and 5G future-proofing. But while the Nord boasts a total of six cameras (two up-front and four on the rear), only the main sensor is as performant as we’d like.
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Grab a great case for your Google Pixel 4a!
The Pixel 4a is a great phone for an even greater price, but it isn’t the most flashy phone on the market. Thankfully, there are flashy, fashionable, and dependable cases out there you can grab to spice things up!
Keep your Google Pixel 4a display pristine with a screen protector!
Your display is quite possibly the most important thing on your phone; without it, you can’t interact with your apps or answer calls. These are the films and tempered glass screen protectors to keep your Pixel 4’a screen safe.
If you want a OnePlus Nord case, the pickings are slim right now
The OnePlus Nord is finally here, and it’s a wonderful value of a phone, but before you bring yours out into a world full of shattering drops and scratchy surfaces, you need to protect it with a quality case!
TikTok Reacts to Instagram's New Reels Feature, Which Looks Very Similar – Just Jared
Reels is a “new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram” and it just rolled out in more than 50 countries around the world.
The example videos that are shown in the highlight reel for Reels look eerily similar to a lot of the videos that you would see on TikTok.
So, what does TikTok have to say about this all?
“well… this looks familiar 🤔 😉,” the TikTok account on Twitter wrote while quote tweeting Instagram’s announcement of the feature.
Find out which celebrity was the first one to use the feature. At one point, she was the most followed celebrity on the app!
Samsung Galaxy Note20 series is already getting its first software update – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com
The Samsung Galaxy Note20 and Galaxy Note20 Ultra unveiled just two days ago and yet to go on sale are already receiving their first software updates.
The new updates require a download of around 500MB. It’s unclear what exactly the new firmwares bring to the 2020 Note flagships since the changelog only mentions the August 2020 Android security patch, but they likely come with performance improvements and bug fixes. Most early adopters will likely receive this the moment they take the phone out of the box.
The Note20 and Note20 Ultra are both powered by the Exynos 990 or Snapdragon 865+ SoC, depending on the region. They run Android 10-based One UI 2.5 out of the box, and Samsung has promised to deliver three major OS upgrades for the Note20 duo.
We also got to spend some time with the Galaxy Note20 Ultra. You can read our hands-on here.
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OnePlus Nord vs. Google Pixel 4a: Which should you buy? – Android Central
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