Yoshi Puzzle 1: Shell Boosting

Course ID: 3E9E-0000-0309-789E

A possibly rare technique involving Yoshi and a Koopa shell.

Concept and theme:
This is a basic puzzle level where you are given the tools immediately (Yoshi and koopa), and your job is to figure out what combination of tricks is required to progress.

The very first technique (used to get the key) was the inspiration for the level (and possible Yoshi Puzzle series). I hadn’t seen this trick used in any other level prior to making this course. I’m not even sure how useful it really is anywhere else, which is probably why nobody ever implements it in their courses.

I am hoping to release other Yoshi Puzzles later. I just need to think of other rare or unique tricks that are hardly useful and require some out-of-the-box thinking.

Puzzle levels are a different animal. When I think of a regular platforming level, the basic goal is to travel through the area and learn as you go. You get used to the spots where you die or barely escape death, and you keep trying with the knowledge and skills that you’ve gained along the way until you get to the end.

For most puzzles, on the other hand, you need to pause and think about how to tackle each obstacle. It’s a lot more problem solving than brute force. I think the best Mario puzzles out there make players really have to think hard to progress, but the solutions are actually really simple or logical once you actually get it. (did that make sense?)

Be on the lookout for more Yoshi Puzzles!

Soft-lock: The worst design flaw?

“Soft Lock: Mario is stuck so player must either let time expire or reset level.”

Soft locks might be the most annoying experience in Mario Maker. Whether it is an accident in a well-designed course or intentional deception from a troll level, soft locks cause one of the most frustrating feelings to most players, unless you have absolutely nothing to do and don’t mind waiting roughly 450 or so in-game seconds to time-out. Sure, it might make sense for some puzzle levels to trap players for making mistakes, but generally, I believe all platformers should be quality checked extensively to avoid soft locks at all costs, especially kaizo levels.

One of the more overlooked causes of soft locks I’ve seen actually comes from using Bowser Jr. First of all, most people, understandably, use Bowser Jr. for forced boss fights (key doors) because he is the most versatile enemy in the game with so many capabilities:

• Classic 3-bounce kill
• Damages Mario via rolling
• Breaks blocks via rolling
• Spits fireballs
• Throws hammers
• Throws shells
• Stuns Mario via stomp
• Jumps through the floor or roof

Such an amazing move-set. However, too many times, I’ve seen courses where level designers place Bowser Jr. in multiple floor settings and seem to not account for his ability to jump through surfaces. Generally, if Mario does not actively fight Bowser Jr. and they are in one of these multiple floor settings, one of two things can happen that are actually *not* RNG:

(1) if Mario is above or on the same ground level as Bowser Jr., Bowser Jr. will jump high up and stomp the ground, attempting to get to or remain on the same plane as Mario


(2) if Bowser Jr. is on higher ground than Mario and there is valid surface under, he will drop down through the floor to the next bottom level.

The latter is a problem if the lower level is inaccessible for Mario and not intended to be part of the boss fight. If Bowser Jr. goes through the floor and is no longer reachable, Mario is soft locked.

Sadly, this is an offense which I committed recently. My original Bowser’s War Tanks level actually had this issue (depicted in the above image). In the boss fight, Mario ends up in this room, which sits above a tank (valid surface). The following video describes my original level design flaw.

Very briefly, it is possible for Bowser Jr. to drop down and never come back up. Since Mario is trapped in the upper room until the fight is over, there is no way to exit unless either time runs out or he catches a fireball and dies. To fix this, I changed the room to contain a row of trampolines underneath that pushes Bowser Jr. back up if he ever tries to jump down.

Hopefully, more level creators are aware of this and other causes of soft-lock. Remember to always do a thorough quality check before uploading levels!

What makes a good level?

I wanted to share my opinion on what makes a good Mario level. I believe that good course design incorporates a balance of fun gameplay with challenging effort – whether achieved through puzzles, obstacles, or quick thinking. I also believe that relatively good levels have some form of the following three major characteristics:

  1. Theme (aesthetics, showcasing a mechanic, focusing on an enemy set, using a particular gameplay style, etc.)
  2. Replay Value (fun to play again or keep trying, alternative experience/route, new challenges, skill development, etc.)
  3. Presentation (look-and-feel that is clever or appealing, layout or pathway that isn’t confusing, appropriate cues for the player, etc.)

These are just my opinions on what constitutes a “good” level, but they stem from my personal experience with and affection for the original Mario games (SMB, SMB3, SMW, and NSMB). Like most players, my passion for Super Mario Maker comes from creating levels that replicate a similar joy that I got from any one of the four official Mario games over the past three decades. My hope is to create levels that hold true to these three core values and offer a fun experience for anyone that plays my courses.

What do you believe makes a good level?

Welcome to my Mario Maker blog!

The purpose of this website is to showcase solutions to my Super Mario Maker levels and supplement my YouTube channel with further discussion and analyses. Various tricks, design elements, nuances, discussion topics, and trivia will be featured and detailed here. I welcome your thoughts and questions, either via comments or email.

I believe that showing solutions to my courses is a positive thing. I remember when I was a kid, I would get frustrated whenever I couldn’t figure out how to beat certain games, and the only option back then was to buy strategy guides for $30 each (money that children usually don’t have). My hope is to offer insight to my levels and encourage players to play through each challenge, but also inspire others with design ideas and fun content.

So, whether you want to see updates or just discuss some details about my levels, I hope you enjoy my blog and YouTube channel, and most of all, have fun playing my levels.