the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Bramble Scramble (Donkey Kong Country 2)

Bramble Scramble (Donkey Kong Country 2)

I once visited a land populated mainly by sentient, anthropomorphic crocodiles.  It was an island that they used as a stronghold of sorts, punctuated by a large tower reaching high into the skies.  Most of the island was pretty standard from an ecological standpoint.  There were forests, your swamps, a hidden jungle, and the like to be found, but there were some unusual environments both natural and artificial.  I encountered a few gigantic bee hives, which were as large as your typical cave.  There was even a theme park, which is an odd thing for a base to have.  Within that theme park, though, was something quite special; a large nest of brambles.

One might think that such a place would be too small to be its own environment, but these thorny vines were out of control, and very large; their girth is equal to the height of a chimpanzee.  It also may not seem like much of a habitat, since vines are generally a tangled mess, but these had a sort of structure to them.  It did not seem to be a natural formation, since there were constructions to be found here and there, such as crude platforms and barrels.  Further credence is lent to this theory by the chaotic nature of the vines further into the distance.  Despite how it would feel to be caught in such a thing, it made the traversable area seem protected, and even cozy.

I began on one of the aforementioned crude platforms; it was made of several boards of varying sizes at odd angles.  Beneath them, of course, was a thick group of gnarled green vines with yellow and purple thorns roughly as big as my forearms.  Occasionally spotting these vines were conical purple flowers and thorn clusters big enough to be shrubs.  Through the thickly woven brambles in the distance, I could see the blue skies, spotted with clouds.  The overall structure reminded me a bit of a cross between a hedge maze and a treehouse.

Being blocked by a wall too high to leap over and too thorny to climb, I went in the other direction, leaping from board to board.  I leapt over a lower hurdle, and found myself plunging to my death!  I quickly grabbed a thin, horizontal vine that was without thorns and clung to it for dear life.  I shimmied my way across, coming to a vertical one above me; I bounced to it and began climbing straight up.  I passed a cute little alcove, and came to an opening, which I entered.

Here, I had a choice as to whether to stay on the path or descend to an alternate route.  It wasn’t much of a choice, however, since the lower route was without platforms of any kind.  Fortunately, this is a nest of brambles, and “walls” here are anything but solid; I was able to admire the breathtaking sight of the path below while safely standing upon something much more solid.  I’d come to a dead end, but I’d noticed that my hair was floating; I gave a small leap and the air currents began to carry me.  Though it was a bit frightening to fly like this without much control, it was also a very liberating experience.

I floated upward and around a bend, figuring out how to control my movement in all directions.  I saw a break in the vines below, so I entered, going back the way I came into a dead end; though there was nothing here, the scene was well worth the danger.  Going back out, I found a shaft, into which I descended, noting the alcoves along the way as I did.  When I reached the bottom, I began moving forward again.  Above me was a cozy, yet inaccessible area comprised of a platform completely surrounded by thorns.  It looked like a wonderful place to sleep, but I had no way of getting in without losing more blood than I’d cared to.

At the end of the path, I ascended once again, and when I reached the top, I floated forward a bit, and then, the air currents suddenly stopped.  Reacting quickly as I fell, I landed on my feet, preventing a faceplant onto solid wood.  I headed across a few wooden platforms and began climbing a vine.  A horizontal vine crossed the one that I was climbing, so I switched and began to shimmy across.  Passing a few more crossed vines, and transferring when I could, I reached a series of platforms, which I also traversed.  I soon ran out of road, though, as the platforms ended quite abruptly.  I felt the rustle of my hair in the updraft again, so I closed my eyes, sharply drew my breath, and prepared for the inevitable.

Getting a running start, I took a flying leap from the boards, giving me quite a bit of momentum as I floated through the gnarled maze.  I sharply turned upward and quickly shifted to the side, taking one path of a fork.  The object causing said fork was a ball of vines that had almost no space within it.  I pressed on, making two more sharp turns through some open corridors, and nearly colliding with another ball of vines.  I could feel the updraft becoming more and more faint, but I could also see boards in the distance, so I pushed myself as hard as I could.  Descending more rapidly than was comfortable, I angled myself and put my hands out.  As I started to pitch forward, I braced myself for impact, which to my pleasant surprise, was upon wood, rather than thorns; I performed a back hand spring, and upon my dismount, I was safe once again.  I proceeded forward a bit more to the exit.

A nest of thorns doesn’t initially seem like a very cozy place.  As a child, I somehow managed to make my way into the center of a fairly sizeable one, and it took my mother and a neighbor to get me back out again amidst the blood, crying, and searing pain as my flesh was torn.  Knowing this, a section that’s been cleared out is a wonderful place to spend time, especially if it’s high off the ground.  The thorns outside of your little nest provide the perfect sky cage to keep out unwanted dangers, even determined ones.  In such a way, one can take the apparently unpleasant and make it into something wonderful; optimisim in nature.

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