the artistry and psychology of gaming


Mushroom Hill Zone (Sonic & Knuckles)

Mushroom Hill Zone (Sonic & Knuckles)

There’s something incredible about an island that floats in the sky.  Aside from being an impressive gravitational feat, the view is something you’d never experience otherwise.  It combines the cozy feel of any ordinary island – making you almost forget where it floats, if you’re inland long enough – along with seeing the rest of the world below.  Angel Island is one such place; after enough time there, I’d often forget how I’d arrived.  Such a large place invariably has some hidden treasures.

There are a number of places on Angel Island so remote that I’d completely missed them during my first trip.  It was during a later trip that I’d fallen off of a launching spacecraft and landed – somehow intact – in a forest.  It wasn’t particularly dense; I could see the blue skies wherever I went.  What it lacked in trees, however, it made up in mushrooms of all sizes.  I later came to know this place as the aptly named Mushroom Hill.

The lush carpet before me was almost like a checkerboard of different shades of green, though it had spots of yellow pollen, as well.  The trees in the distance had a lovely shade of green in their leaves that featured a hint of blue.  More appropriate to the name, there were mushrooms everywhere.  Some were small spires with brown or red tips, some were bunches of saucer-shaped blue mushrooms, and some were so large and strudy that they could be used as makeshift trampolines.  These larege ones were either red with yellow spots or orange with red ones.  Most of these mushrooms were in constant motion, almost as if they were dancing.

I began my journey through this myconid-filled wonderland, quickly noticing what would turn out to be one of many different tunnels hidden in the dirt.  Heading in, I saw a chamber with a large golden ring glowing with several colors as it spun.  I could feel an incredible power emanating from it, so I’d decided to leave; I wasn’t sure of what it might do, but I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of finding out.  A little further on, I saw what looked like a coiled up chain of large, green commas.  As I neared it, it uncurled, making a little makeshift bridge for me.  Of course, this was just the beginning; seeing the complex landscape before me, that little spark returned to my eye.

I flew through the forest at breakneck speed, charging around loops and being launched high into the air.   At certain points, I had to stop to grab onto a strange elevator; you pull down on the handle and it rises a little bit, almost like a one-person see-saw.  As I ran, I found poles, which I grabbed, spun around a bit, and released, increasing my velocity.  There were bars on ropes resembling stationary ziplines, which allowed me to swing around three hundred sixty degrees before letting go and hurlting through the air.  I even grabbed onto a mushroom large enough that it acted as a parachute, allowing me to glide safely to the ground.  The forest was like a playground, and I sped through, noting that some trees near me had had their branches completely removed.  Eventually, I reached a dead end.  Wondering what to do, I stood there for a moment, noticing that my dress was blowing upwards.  Holding it down, I tried to find the source of this mysterious wind as it grew even stronger.  Its fury kept increasing, and before I knew it, I was being blown straight up in the air; I weigh very little, after all.

When I landed, I was in an area of the forest that resembled late Autumn.  The verdant scenery was replaced by a soft brown, and the red and orange mushrooms were now varying shades of blue.  Taking a moment to recover, I headed on, noticing that as I ran, it was now leaves that flew behind me, as opposed to the pollen from before.  I came to a U-shaped structure with a blue striped mushroom cap on either side.  There was a weight upon one of the caps, so jumping on the other created an effect like an aerial see-saw, which allowed me to reach higher ground.  I noticed that this section of the forest had many of the same features: the bridge of large commas, the parachute mushrooms, and even the caverns through the hills.  I spent a while exploring this place, and as I ran through a tunnel, I realized that my surroundings had changed again.

The scene was now an impossible Winter; the grass was gray, and the leaves upon the trees were as well.  The trunks of the trees and stems of the mushrooms were a lovely beige trimmed with gray.  The mushroom caps themselves complemented everything beautifully with a green that ranged from emerald to a deep blue-green.  I had never seen an aesthetic quite like this before, and yet it felt somehow familiar and cozy.  As a child, I had sometimes dreamed of places like this, but had never seen one.  Wondering how everything could change so suddenly, I continued on to the end, absorbing everything as I went.  I never did come up with an answer.

Many adventurers have had a stroll or two through the forest, but they’re still missing part of its beauty.  To fully appreciate the forest, one must spend time in it during all of its seasons.  In Summer, the deep green leaves obscure the sun, leaving small shapes of light to break through the canopy, leaving little shapes on the ground.  Autumn brings vibrant color, and if late enough, a crispy brown floor upon which to walk.  Winters have an eerie sort of beauty to them; the leaves are gone, replaced by snow on the ground and open sky above, but the aesthetic is very unique, particularly on a moonlit night.  Even Spring, my least favorite of the seasons, is an eruption of flowers both on the ground and in the trees.  Like so many things, the woods have many different perspectives from which to be viewed.

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