Mario bounced off of a koopa with a satisfying bleep. I was playing Super Mario 3D Land, and loathing every minute of it. I love Mario games, but for some reason I found myself hating this game. I was utterly mystified with this. The gameplay was fun, the music was enjoyable, and the graphics were colorful. Then it hit me. I hated the levels, and this wasn’t the only game. I found myself putting down Red Faction: Armageddon and Splinter Cell: Conviction for the same reason.


But it wasn’t for the levels themselves, they were all very well designed. Splinter Cell Conviction’s levels allowed for multiple ways to infiltrate areas, Red: Faction Armageddon’s destructible environments were a blast, and Super Mario 3D Land’s later levels pushed my platforming skills to the limit. My problem was the theming.


How was the last time you thought, “Wow. That was a really creative area.” For me it was three months ago with Bioshock infinite, and before that it was dishonored. In 8 months, I only thought an area was creative twice. But those are two very different things. Floating Islands had been done before Bioshock Infinite, but they never had so much color and personality. On the flipside, I can’t find any other game that has a world like Dunwall, even if the color scheme is dulled.


Just because it’s colorful, doesn’t mean that it’s good. Super Mario 3D Land’s levels were colorful, but I still didn’t like them. It’s a mix between theming and creativity that creates a good area, with color giving it an added boost.


I know people complain about “gray and brown” games, but plenty of games with dull color pallets have made unforgettable worlds. Assassin’s Creed, Darksiders, Half Life 2, God of War, and the earlier mentioned Dishonored don’t have much color, but the worlds they create are more memorable than anything from Gex or Flower.


What matters is how much effort you put into it. You can create huge worlds, but if you don’t put real effort behind it nobody will care about it. The way I see it, the world is sharing the spotlight with the main character. You can make your worlds as drab or colorful as you want, but as long as you treat your world with respect, I’ll like it.


Thanks for reading, and tune in tomorrow for a new top 10.