The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXIII. Double blind

I made a terrible factual error in the previous entry. It has been amended.

World 4-2 takes Mario back into the underground in a level that calls back to World 1-2 in obvious ways, but does so primarily to throw you off-guard and hoodwink you.


In fact, the general layout of World 4-2 strongly resembles World 1-2, if that world’s layout had been broken up by pits and chasms. The opening of the stage requires some of the most precise jumping yet, with medium-sized openings surrounding narrow columns. This portion of the level lacks any active hazards, so you have time to focus on making pinpoint jumps without external stressors.

There’s only new element to contend with in this stage, and it’s nothing as nasty or unexpected as Lakitu or the Hammer Bros. For the most part, we simply see familiar elements remixed in more dangerous ways. For example, the first power-up is hidden in a random block after the introductory pits; if you miss it, the next opportunity to upgrade your powers comes with a set of Question Blocks adjacent to a pit. It’s set so that if it produces a Mushroom, that Mushroom will slide right into the pit. You don’t have time to jump up and catch the Mushroom from behind, so your only means of snatching it is to jump over the pit and catch it in midair.

This isn’t a new trick, but its most notable previous appearance was in World 1-2 with the 1UP Mushroom that appeared from the ceiling. That was an optional hidden goody, though, whereas this is a more basic power-up in plain sight. Again, World 4-2 echoes World 1-2 with a greater challenge level. Advanced maneuvers that used to net you rare bonuses now come into play for fundamental play.

And, of course, if you remember World 1-2, you’ll recall the Warp Zone secret in which you could ride a platform up to the top of the screen and run along the ceiling. The same trick works here, though you need  to climb up to the ceiling a bit sooner and leap a large gap with a downward-moving elevator. Still, just as you could find a warp zone hidden at the end of World 1-2, there’s one here as well.


Except… there’s only one pipe, and it only lets you skip ahead two levels. What a rip-off!


No, the secret to true warp power lies elsewhere in the level — before the up elevator, in fact. By hitting two invisible bricks, you can create a small stair-step that lets you punch a brick high above the ground to produce a rising vine that takes you out of the underground. This is far more deviously hidden a secret, since it’s a two-step process (find invisible bricks; use invisible bricks to reveal vine), and it requires a touch of curiosity. There are no enemies on this side of the pipe to provoke you into jumping the way you did at the start of World 1-1. Instead, your only clue here is that those two bricks seem like a tantalizing way to access the ceiling yet are too high to reach with a normal jump. You could potentially leap from the descending elevator, but even that’s a tough jump to pull off.

It’s unusual in this game for objects to break from the basic design of the stage layout for no reason, so this aberration should help entice you to puzzle things out. And if you don’t figure it out, well hey, it’s not essential. You can still beat the game through the normal route.


The vine leads you to what appears to be a World x-3 stage in miniature. Apparently there’s stuff above the underground stages, if only you could reach it.


Past the mushroom platforms (and no hazards), you’ll find the real prize: The true Warp Zone, which can take you all the way to World 8-1. But that would be cheating, so we’re going to continue traversing Super Mario Bros. the hard way.


A pipe at the end of the stage leads to World 4-3, should you forego the multiple opportunities to leap ahead to advanced stages. And here were see the level’s one new hazard: Buzzy Beetles, aka that weird round thing from World 3-4.

Buzzy Beetle is basically the inverse of the Spiny: Where Spinies’ spiked shells make them invulnerable to Mario’s basic attack technique, jumping, Buzzy Beetles can’t be harmed by his advanced skill, fireballs. Their shell simply soaks up his attacks, the same as if the fireball had bounced into a wall. Like Koopa Troopas, they’ll retreat into their shell if you jump on them, which allows you to kick them. But here in World 4-2, most of the Buzzy Beetles you encounter occupy narrow spaces with walls on either side. If you kick one in these situations, you’re creating a death trap for yourself as they’ll begin bouncing back and forth at high speeds. The best tactic for Buzzy Beetles is one of avoidance.

Elsewhere in the game, Buzzy Beetles appear in more varied areas in combination with other enemies, but here they appear primarily in these setups so you can get a feel for their behavior and invulnerabilities in isolation — and, once you learn that Mario can’t fry them, you can more easily skip past them.

4 thoughts on “The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXIII. Double blind

  1. “This is far more deviously hidden a secret, since it’s a two-step process (find invisible bricks; use invisible bricks to reveal vine)” <— that part is evil actually, because there aren't 2 hidden bricks, there are 3 and if you hit that 3rd hidden block right below the vine-brick, you won't be able to hit the vine block. If you are Super Mario that is. If you are small mario, it's ok.

  2. @Rey: Actually, there’s four hidden blocks altogether. Three are set up like stairs (with the topmost one screwing you over if you’re anything but Small Mario), but there’s also a fourth one right to the southwest of the topmost hidden block that makes it a little easier for a little Mario to get up on the platform with the vine.

    Now Buzzy Beetle, an interesting thing about that enemy that while its shell is reminiscent of a beetle’s (black and round), you’ll notice in official art and renders is that it’s not really a beetle, but another offshoot of the Koopa family. Its Japanese name is Metto/Met, basically meaning “helmet”.

    Buzzy’s also another member of the 2D Super Mario Bros. family that’s gone neglected in 3D. Much like Lakitu is harder to make a threat when you can just run around the Spinies he rains down, that third dimension makes it harder for Buzzy to be taken seriously when its main characteristic is being a fireproof Koopa Troopa.

    I could see Lakitu working in 3D under the right conditions - heck, Spinies and Hammer Bros. came back in the most recent 3D games - but Buzzy will probably be stuck doing 2D games and RPGs since its main threatening trait is such a non-issue now. Mario can just crush it with a butt stomp these days, anyway.

  3. @MetManMas
    So in Japan, Buzzy Beetle’s name is short for “helmet”.. I’m guessing this is the same for the Mets of Mega Man, huh? I’m used to seeing abbreviations and nicknames made by cutting off the end of a word or name rather than the front, so for the longest time I thought MM’s Met was short for “Metropolitan”, being they were likely construction crew for big-city skyscrapers and such.

    Mario’s butt-stomp… I can’t bring myself to play any of the games where he uses that move. It just seems like it should be a signature move of Wario instead.

  4. @MightyJAK: But it is a signature move of Wario’s. He has it in some form in almost every playable appearance he’s had in a platformer starting with Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3’s Bull Hat, and he had it before that as an attack during Super Mario Land 2’s final battle. The game designers (presumably) just liked the move enough that they made it standard for Yoshi, Mario, and others in later games.

    Though if you want to get technical, Bowser was the first to butt stomp (in a Mario game), during his Super Mario Bros. 3 boss fight where you had to make his fat ass bust through the floor if you didn’t (or couldn’t) bring fire or hammers to the fight.

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