Unintended Behavior Embraces the Fun of Glitches

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Super Mario World is a horrifically broken game that’s held together by duct tape and a prayer. But you wouldn’t know it just by looking at it, as Nintendo did a very good job at hiding the jank. But the truth is that so many exploits and glitches are lurking just beneath the surface, complicating the creation of new content for the game. But what if you made a game that leveraged these glitches and turned them into stable mechanics? That’s exactly what Unintended Behavior by gbreeze aims to do, using some of the more obscure glitches and exploits in Super Mario World to create a kaizo puzzle game. What you end up with is one of the most creative and surprising Mario hacks out there.

Kaizo games are already partially puzzle games in that you have to figure out what the designer expects the player to do at a given obstacle before you work on executing that solution. Your usual kaizo hack will ask the player to reason out the solution using their knowledge of kaizo techniques as well as their generalized platformer logic. Part of what makes kaizo so engaging is the fact that you’re conquering a stage both on an intellectual and dexterous level. The layers of skill required give it meaning.

But again, kaizo games operate on both common platformer logic and the language of kaizo. Once you grasp these things, you should theoretically be able to parse any given situation you come across. Sure, you may run into some custom mechanics that you’ll need to grapple with, but they too are grounded in what’s commonly thought of as possible in both Super Mario World and platformers in general. Take the familiarity away, though, and suddenly you’re in uncharted waters, an unusual feeling in kaizo despite the difficulty of the form.

What Unintended Behavior achieves is stripping the familiarity away from kaizo platforming, then forcing you to reassemble the new logic in your head to solve the levels. For instance, one of the levels uses the commonly known invisible Yoshi glitch to remotely lay eggs, leveraging an unintended behavior to achieve things normally not possible in Super Mario World. It really works your brain into a twist when you’re expected to rewrite what you think you know about the game.

And yet the game still manages to be kaizo in that it requires a certain knowledge profile and platforming skill to complete. The level that makes you hold a baby Yoshi as you’re inflated also requires you to navigate a narrow corridor surrounded by berries. The level is structured in a way that forces you to keep Yoshi from eating a single thing to progress, so you have to change the way you’re facing as you ascend the corridor quickly so that you make it to the next gate in time. The actions Unintended Behavior has you do are all fairly chill in comparison to most kaizo hacks, but you’re still under pressure to perform the solution.

It’s fun, inventive, and works a different skillset than your normal kaizo game. But more than that, it shows the power of glitches if you embrace them instead of sanding them away. Nintendo is especially guilty of erasing more obvious glitches from their games – a common speedrun trick in Metroid Prime was erased in subsequent releases – but like it or not, they’re part of the game experience. You can either fight the tide and erase them as much as possible, or you can work with them to glorious effect. Outside of the speedrun community, glitches can be used as full-fledged mechanics that manifest in weird and wonderful ways.

Polish in games is all well and good, but glitches are some of the most interesting parts of any game they’re in. True, they would be difficult to harness given the nature of glitches being unpredictable at times, but if you can isolate them in a consistent manner, they open so much unexplored potential in games. Unintended Behavior is just one proof of concept of an alternate timeline where game developers embraced their rough patches instead of filing them down. It’s high time we started exploring more unintended territory and see how we can harness it instead of just seeing it as a flaw.

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