the artistry and psychology of gaming


Bleck’s Castle (Super Paper Mario)

Bleck’s Castle (Super Paper Mario)

The town of Flipside has another side; a parallel world of sorts called Flopside.  Much like another set of twin cities I’ve visited, these have somewhat polarized colorations.  While Flipside is lighter in color with a base of white, Flopside has a darker palette.  The residents are a bit different in color, as well, often displaying cool colors.  There are other minor, subtle differences in structure as well; for one, the neighborhood restaurant is far superior.  The biggest difference is the tower; unlike its Flipside counterpart, it has a single door at its zenith, which leads to the very center of the abominable void looming overhead.

In this void is a castle that belongs to Count Bleck.  He is a member of the Shadow Tribe, and as such, it is appropriate that he would live in such a dark place.  Very little is known about him or why he summoned the void, but he has made it perfectly clear that he wants nothing to exist anymore.  For whatever reason, his minions follow him faithfully, as well.  As horrific a place that the dwelling of such a man might seem, it does have an odd sense of beauty to it.  Perhaps it is the stark contrasts found within the darkness of this place that creates an austere aesthetic not often seen.

Not only is this castle in the very core of a sphere intent upon swallowing all of existence, but its very construction is entirely black, with only white trim lining key points.  Upon the drawbridge, one can see the void very closely; its blackness is adulterated with purple mists, some wavy and cloudlike, with others clustered and quadratic.  From the blackness of the drawbridge, a lamp post stands very tall with a white flame burning atop it, and more are seen in the distance.  At its end is a very tall black door with white trim, almost making it look like a cracked mirror of obsidian, though without the expected shine.  Inside, it is like very little I have ever seen.

I have witnessed a great many monochromatic worlds, all of which have had the basis of white.  This place, in contrast, was black with its definition in white.  Thin white chains holding bowls of oil, within which burned black flames emitting white light, hung from the ceiling, and large windows stood in the walls, displaying the void’s beauty.  As I continued on, I entered the castle’s interior in earnest.  The truth is that the place is far more beautiful without any color.  Intricate designs of radial symmetry adorned the walls in white.  I have no idea what their true purpose could be; perhaps portals or perhaps something else entirely.  These intricate designs were lit by more hanging lamps as I ascended a long staircase.  Along the way, larger and more intricate designs could be seen.  Further still was a room with many hanging lamps close together, giving the illusion that it was an elaborate chandelier.  The more I ventured into the heart of the castle, the more I felt myself getting visually lost in its darkness.  Any sense of spatial orientation I might’ve had before entering was almost completely shattered at this point, which is likely why the castle was so straight-forward in design; there were very few twists and turns in its halls.

Eventually, there was a small splash of color: a blue cube with a white exclamation point within it.  I reached up to touch it, which turned out to be a mistake.  The floor dropped out from beneath me, and I landed in a dungeon.  The thin outlines of the bars and the pipe behind them created a very pleasant geometric pattern.  There was something very familiar about this calling out to me.  I went behind the bars and entered the pipe, emerging in a new area.  There were many pipes in here, and the choice I made led me to a strange area covered in spikes.  Carefully making my way past them, I reached the end of the hallway, encountering another exclamation box, this one in deep red.  I touched it, which made the room shake violently.  Returning from whence I’d come, I noticed a new door.  Entering this door brought me to another area with a splash of color, this time one far more dangerous.  Long bars of flame rotated around the chamber, so I had to carefully make my way to its end.  There, I found the means to my escape from this pit, and I moved onward to another section of the castle.

It wasn’t long before I was in a lengthy corridor of pits; the walls were adorned in a great many mirrors that periodically flashed.  I noticed that the mirror within one of the frames did not behave this way, so I stepped through it, only to find myself in a desolate hallway.  After briefly pondering its purpose, I left, reaching a new area.  This series of halls had a great many intricate designs on its walls.  Before long, I’d reached an area with platforms either constantly ascending or descending, assumedly doing the inverse on the other side of the wall.  Crossing them, I reached the other side, upon doing which, I entered a very confusing hallway.  There were a great many false doorways; paintings of doors, which looked very realistic in this monochrome maze.  A keen eye allowed me to determine which ones were real, but navigating this space was an exercise in frustration; my spatial intelligence is poor to begin with, but when you take away all shades of color, I have no way to orient myself.  Eventually, I stumbled into an area that was completely empty aside from the door I’d used to enter.  Aside from the white edge lining the floor beneath me, it was empty blackness as far as the eye could see.  I spent what seemed like hours, mesmerized by its austere splendor.  I don’t remember leaving the castle, but when I awoke from my trance, I was at the base of the Flopside Tower, still musing at what I’d seen.

I know not why this inverse monochrome has always fascinated me so.  I remember the first time I’d laid eyes upon it.  I was about three years of age, asleep in my bed.  I had a dream of an entire world like this, though otherwise much like our own.  All was blackness, aside from some white trees and roads, and I was driving a white fire truck.  The dream seemed endless, and though I had it many times over my life, a few years after the first, I became unable to control the truck; it would race ever forward, never turning, always crashing through everything in its path.  Perhaps I am merely traveling ever backward to understand this memory, but who knows what such a thing may reveal upon its unraveling.

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