the artistry and psychology of gaming


Cave World (Super Mario Bros. Rebirth)

Cave World (Super Mario Bros. Rebirth)

I believe that the number of dreams I’ve had of the Mushroom Kingdom is second only to the number of dreams that I’ve had of the futuristic world of robots. It is hard to say which I like better, but the dreams of the Mushroom Kingdom are usually far more surreal. I suppose that might be because the Mushroom Kingdom is such a bizarre realm, but it is certainly not for me to attempt to understand dreams, especially mine. This particular dream was a bit different from many of the others, however. While most dreams use the source of their inspiration as a mere shell to provide a new experience, this one seemed almost as familiar as the memory itself.

I’ve talked about my journey through the Mushroom Kingdom, Battlefield, and Ice Land, of this dream, but today, I’d like to talk about the Cave World. Throughout this dream, I’d wondered why there were so few sections that took place underground; it seems that my mind was saving them for the appropriately named Cave World. While a long, dark region that takes place almost entirely underground might seem drab and depressing, it was quite intriguing. It was at about this point in my dream that I’d noted how strange it was that each region had its own central theme. Granted, this is something that has happened in a number of my adventures, but not during my first trip to the Mushroom Kingdom, which was the basis for this dream.

I emerged from the castle to find that I was completely underground. The castle was an unusual shape, too, having fortifications above the ground-level doors. This gave me cause to wonder why such a thing did not exist in the physical world; the other doors led to a very sudden drop! The castle was also quite a bit more box-shaped, and indeed, its bricks took a blue color from this subterranean landscape. I began walking down the road before me.

I came to a great many chasms; one of the platforms between them was completely covered by a pipe. I carefully leapt across, and soon came to an unusual feature: the treetops that usually stood tall from the chasm before a castle were here in the underground. The trunks took on the same blue color as nearly everything down here, but their tops were still green and leafy. Strangely enough, some of them disappeared into one another, which made absolutely no sense. Stranger still was that they erupted from the road, rather than standing in a long chasm; the road had actually grown into them. A bit further on were thinner ones that grew from a chasm, but why that hadn’t happened here is beyond me; how could I have imagined such a thing? I traveled the road a bit further, and eventually came not to a fortress, but to a full-sized castle, this one only slightly cut off on one side and running into a massive brick wall on the other. I entered for a brief respite.

When I left the castle, I was somehow above ground in a small fortress, very soon after which, I entered another pipe bringing me back underground. The jumps were a bit more difficult in here, and for reasons that I cannot fathom, the pipes were the sort of reddish color that appears near giant mushrooms. Near one of these pipes, one standing in a chasm, there was a springboard just floating in midair. From here, I crossed a gap, reaching a brick structure that resembled the letter L, had it been pushed over. I could not determine the purpose of this structure, but it seemed to call out to me.

I came to a structure of block walls with a small gap at the bottom of the one before me. When I tried to climb over them, formerly invisible blocks appeared, denying my way. I had to get on my belly and crawl through the space to get to the other side. Once I had, I saw a pair of girders attached to a pulley system. Customarily, these are suspended over large chasms, but this one was not, and seemed to serve no real function. I soon came to a source of water with a pipe coming out of it. It was small, and on the other side was another needless pulley system. I came to another, larger source of water, this one before a large brick wall with an alcove that had a pipe within it. I entered the pipe, bringing me to the surface. I passed a few red hills and entered the fortress here.

I exited a castle that I had not entered, and once again, I was underground; its bricks were blue and everything was dark. The road seemed to squish beneath me, and surely enough, it was not stone, but a gigantic mushroom beneath my feet. I marveled at its strength, which must have been incredible to support the weight of an entire castle! I was crossing another one of those immense chasms before a castle, hoping that this would be the real one. I came to a cluster of mushrooms, some of which were tall enough that I could see their bluish stalks. Many of these clusters formed cozy little structures, which were rare in the physical Mushroom Kingdom. After crossing a great many gaps between them, as well as several pulley systems, I came to a castle sitting upon a road, and so I went inside.

Remarkable; even the inside of this castle looked like the underground! Not resembling the inside of a castle at all, it was constructed mostly of the bricks you’d see anywhere in the Mushroom Kingdom. In fact, rather than lava, some of the gaps were filled with water. I came to a vertical split in the path, and remembering the castle in the fourth region of the physical Mushroom Kingdom, I took the upper path, which looked more difficult. I leapt from stone to tiny stone, making sure to stay on top, and when I got to the end, it turned out that I had chosen the correct path. I soon came to a much more complicated split; it went three ways, but the entrance to the middle was filled in with bricks. I took the top path, which was dead wrong; it looped me back to the beginning again. This time, I broke the bricks, entered the middle path, and from there, slid to the bottom. My choice was correct, and I soon came to a blue drawbridge above water near an axe. I grabbed the axe, severed the green chain holding it up, and finished my journey through the Cave World.

As depressing as traveling through the underground for long periods of time can be to those of us accustomed to sunlight, it can be a very rewarding experience. After several days beneath the surface, though sullen, you begin to accept this sort of environment as the only one you’ve ever known. You trudge on and on, and eventually, you break free of your subterranean emotional prison. As cliche as it may seem, coming out into the open air for the first time in a long while is such an incredible experience. You look back to your time underground and wonder how you’d ever lived that way, and that becomes the experience that you’ve forgotten on a sensational level. Such a wondrous thing the mind is to reverse the perspective of these experiences so very easily.

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