the artistry and psychology of gaming


Gloam Valley (Super Paper Mario)

Gloam Valley (Super Paper Mario)

The town of Flipside, as you might remember, is a peculiar place.  Aside from its unusual-looking residents, it holds a great number of secrets.  It is uncommon for a town to have so many secret areas, but what makes it even more spectacular is the number of secrets hidden right out in the open.  I am referring, of course, to the massive tower erupting from the center of the town, clearly visible to all.  At its zenith, the seven doors, colored as the rainbow, each lead to different worlds; none know the true location of their destinations.  During my stay there, I had decided one day, to put a nice dress and enjoy the town.  I perused the shops, enjoyed some of the local delicacies, and, of course, strode through one of the doors at the top of the tower; it takes more than a formal outfit to keep me from adventuring!

I chose the orange door and found myself in Gloam Valley, home to a beautiful swamp.  When most people think of a swamp, they think of darkness, muddy waters, and horrifying species from giant insects to reptiles capable of breaking your legs with the swing of their mighty tails.  While that is sometimes the case, the swamp of Gloam Valley was more “clean” than you might envision.  It was an absolute wonderland of plant life, and, naturally, the sunset was as beautiful as it was bizarre.

When I emerged from the orange door, I was engulfed in the day’s fading light.  The ground beneath my stylish heels had an unusual leaf cover atop diamond-patterned dirt.  There were a few small plateaus dotting the horizon, and some round bushes with eight-point star patterns adorning them a bit closer.  Long, slender vines clawed their way into the blazing sky; a self-coloring gradient of flaming red that became closer to a yellow-salmon color as it neared the ground.  The sky itself was striped, as though there were vertical blinds in front of it that spun, revealing pink geometric patterns resembling carbon rings in the air.  I am uncertain as to what they really were, but these were no mere swamp lights.

Progressing a bit further, I encountered what looked like a forest canopy, but was held only slightly over my head, and was not in the presence of even a single tree.  Another was a bit further, and near it was the pink-orange water that permeated the ground in certain spots of Gloam Valley.  The water itself seemed rather clean, though I dared not swim in it while wearing such formal clothing.  There were also small yellow, pom-pom-like flowers springing from the ground at irregular intervals.  In order to cross the water, I had to leap across small chunks of rock that would sink under my weight; quite a surprise that goaded me to move quickly across them.  Preferring instead to stay high and dry in the canopies, I made my way along the high road, until I reached a bright red door with star patterns and rainbow trim upon it.  Entering, I found myself in a new area.

Here were more of the puffy yellow blossoms, as well as a new sight to behold: a large number of modern tri-blade windmills.  While I could hardly guess their function, they seemed quite natural to the area, as juxtaposed as one might think them to be.  Here, the sky had subtle blues bathed in a red haze, making it like the late afternoons I remember as a child.  It wasn’t long before I located a much more open area, littered with floating bricks and some aggressive fauna.  Noticing a flashing box above my head with a question mark emblazoned upon it, I decided to see what was inside.  Before I could recoil, a cute yellow star with long eyes leapt out and touched me.  I simply cannot describe the feeling that I experienced next; it was almost like thousands of alternate-reality versions of myself were screaming through my veins as my vision faded to white.  When my vision returned, I was conscious, but it was as though something else had taken control of me.  I had grown to several times my original size, not to mention that my appearance – my hair, my dress, and my overall body structure – had changed drastically.  The juggernaut that I had become charged forth, destroying bricks, fauna, and anything else that got in the way.  After a while, the effects wore off, and I shrank down, sitting dizzily upon the ground.  Upon recovery, I entered the nearby red door, taking me to another area.

Here, the plant life was much thicker, and it created a cozy little loft up in the canopies, which I took some time to enjoy.  I climbed atop the highest canopy, and took in the view; whipping through the air were visible green winds, shaped like carbon rings, just like those seen in the sky; perhaps the pink ones represented clouds or jet streams.  I made my way to the final area, a dark, blazing sunset hovering over a simple mansion in the distance.  There was a large gray 8-point star, with rays extending from every direction, hanging in the air.  Upon some of these rays were pale gray-green stars with any number of points adorning them, almost like some sort of stone constellation.  A fluffy forest cast a number of unusual colors by the ending day encircled the dwelling, which, itself, featured a nice purple gradient.

Sunsets are most often characterized by their reds, oranges, and eventual purples, but they carry more than mere colors with them; they bear wonders both mundane and otherworldly.  I’ve seen things, strange, and indescribable, happen during that magical time beyond the afternoon.  That is why, while a sunrise is more colorful, I will always prefer the day’s end to its beginning.

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