the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Ice Cap Zone (Sonic 3)

Ice Cap Zone (Sonic 3)

Today’s subject is a part of the wondrous Angel Island.  Though it has no connection to those winged humanoid creatures from Christian Mythology, it is quite a mystical place.  Ancient legends passed along by the island’s denizens tell of an age during which their home was a floating island.  Certainly, all islands float in water, but this island is said to have floated in the sky, perhaps even outer space.  Sadly, all that remains of those times in the physical plane is the ruins of a well-hidden palace.

Despite its tropical rainforest, this island features a large ice cap.  I’ve seen quite a few snowy plains and icy tundras in my time, but beneath the surface of this sparkling snowfield is a series of caverns made almost entirely of ice.  While the surface is really nothing special in the face of other regions like it, these caverns are filled with otherworldly natural wonders that dazzle the eye and vex the mind as to how they were formed.

I’ve seen an entrance at the bottom of a tall mountain, but I entered a secret back way that has no discernable entrance.  The ice around me was of white and varying shades of blue, and in numerous different geometric formations.  The crystalline walls of the cavern seemed not just to shimmer, but to pulsate as well, almost as if they were surging with a mysterious energy.  The ceiling was supported by seemingly unstable pillars of ice that appeared to be comprised entirely of shattered fragments.  I made my way forward to a section of the cavern that was a bit more open, and could only stop to gasp at the marvels before me.

Geometric pillars of dark blue ice hung from the ceiling, almost like stalactites without points, and deep purple crystals erupted from the ground against a blue backdrop far off in the distance.  The frozen walls around me held a light blue gleam that surged through them rhythmically, and strange formations stood tall in front of me.  One seemed only half natural; a trio of horizontal translucent blue crystals stacked atop each other, but with strange spinning objects resembling two inverted prisms sharing a core spinning above it.  A bit further on, I found a switch encased in a block of ice near what seemed to be a frozen bridge covered in snow.  I broke through the ice and pushed the switch, destroying the natural bridge and revealing a path that led below.  I leapt in, and began my journey in earnest.

I slid down a long set of slopes lined with crystal-adorned ice columns along the way.  I took care to slide underneath the ice stalactites above, and landed in a pit with more structures topped with the strange, spinning dual prisms.  Heading through the tunnel I discovered there, I soon found myself flying over a large hole with strange floating objects like sea urchins made of ice just below me.  Fortunately clearing the sharp obstacles, I landed at the bottom, where more stacked ice sculptures awaited.  I made my way over a sea of ice stalagmites as large icicles dropped from above.  I crossed a rope bridge of ice crystals, passing between strange, hi-tech pillars as I went around a series of loops.  While my high velocity allowed centripetal force to push me around the loops, I suddenly found myself careening through a narrow ice tunnel, and into the most beautiful area of all.

I landed on a small iceberg floating upon an underground lake of the most stunning shade of blue.  It almost seemed to have a purplish glow to it, as the ice around me played with its colors.  Making my way across the lake via the floating chunks of ice, which also pulsated in blue, I neared the end of my journey.  I headed further and further, and soon, I broke free of the cave and burst into the dazzling sunlight of the early afternoon.  The ice seemed to take on a different appearance in the sun, and I hurtled forth along the frozen track, invigorated anew.  I went around many loops, and at one point, was hurled through the air, gazing at the land below me.  I cannot recall what happened next, but when I awoke, I was at a strange construction site far from my point of origin without a scratch on me.

There are many natural wonders out there, but perhaps the most overlooked is ice.  Ice is such an interesting substance; it has such humble origins, and is so very common, but has properties that continue to mystify aesthetes everywhere: the way it refracts light, the colors it takes on when in large masses…  It never ceases to amaze me how a transparent material can be so colorful and evoke so many illusions.  It’s almost as if it takes on a life of its own.  All of this from the source of all life, a substance that not only contains beauty, but creates it as well.

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