Computer parts are approaching the size of an atom!

Computer parts are approaching the size of an atom!

Computer parts are approaching the size of an atom!

Quantum Computers Explained – Limits of Human Technology
For most of our history, human technology consisted of our brains, fire, and sharp sticks. While fire and sharp sticks became power plants and nuclear weapons, the biggest upgrade has happened to our brains. Since the 1960s, the power of our brain machines has kept growing exponentially, allowing computers to get smaller and more powerful at the same time, but this process is about to meet it’s physical limit. Computer parts are approaching the size of an atom. To understand why this is a problem, we have to clear up some basics.

A computer is made up of very simple components doing very simple things, representing data, the means of processing it, and control mechanisms. Computer chips contain modules, which contain logic gates, which contain transistors. A transistor is the simplest form of a data processor in computers, basically a switch that can either block or open the way for information coming through. This information is made up of bits, which can be set to either zero or one. Combinations of several bits are used to represent more complex information.

Transistors are combined to create logic gates, which still do very simple stuff. For example, an and gate sends an output of one if all of its inputs are one, and an output of zero otherwise. Combinations of logic gates finally form meaningful modules, say for adding two numbers. Once you can add, you can also multiply, and once you can multiply, you can basically do anything. Since all basic operations are literally simpler than first grade math, you can imagine a computer as a group of seven year olds answering really basic math questions. A large enough bunch of them could compute anything, from astrophysics to Zelda. However, with parts getting tinier and tinier, quantum physics are making things tricky.

“For most of our history, human technology consisted of our brains, fire, and sharp sticks.”
In a nutshell, a transistor is just an electric switch. Electricity is electrons moving from one place to another, so a switch is a passage that can block electrons from moving in one direction. Today, a typical scale for a transistor is fourteen nanometers, which is about eight times less than the HIV virus’ diameter and five hundred times smaller than a red blood cell’s. As transistors are shrinking to the size of only a few atoms, electrons may just transfer themselves to the other side of a blocked passage via a process called quantum tunneling.
In the quantum realm, physics works quite differently from the predictable ways we’re used to, and traditional computers just stop making sense. We are approaching a real physical barrier for our technological progress. To solve this problem, scientists are trying to use these unusual quantum properties to their advantage by building quantum computers.

In normal computers, bits are the smallest units of information. Quantum computers use qubits, which can also be set to one of two values. A qubit can be any two level quantum system, such as a spin in a magnetic field or a single photon. Zero and one are their systems possible states, like the photon’s horizontal or vertical polarization. In the quantum world, the qubit doesn’t have to be in just one of those. It can be in any proportions of both states at once. This is called superposition. But as soon as you test it’s value, say by sending the photon through a filter, it has to decide to be either vertically or horizontally polarized, so as long as it’s unobserved, the qubit is in a superposition of probabilities for zero and one, and you can’t predict which it will be, but the instant you measure it, it collapses into one of the definite states.

body-imgSuperposition is a game changer. Four classical bits can be in one of two to the power of four different configurations at a time. That’s sixteen possible combinations out of which you can use just one. Four qubits in superposition, however, can be in all of those sixteen combinations at once. This number grows exponentially with each extra cubit. Twenty of them can already store a million values in parallel.

A really weird and uninutitive property qubits can have is entanglement, a close connection that makes each of the qubits react to a change in the other’s state instantaneously, no matter how far they are apart. This means that when measuring just one entangled qubit, you can directly deduce properties of it’s partners without having to look.

Qubit manipulation is a mind bender as well. A normal logic gate gets a simple set of inputs and produces one definite output. A quantum gate manipulates an input of superpositions, rotates probabilities, and produces another superposition as it’s output, so a quantum computer sets up some qubits, applies quantum gate to entangle them and manipulate probabilities, then finally measures the outcome, collapsing superpositions to an actual sequence of zeros and ones. What this means is that you get the entire lot of calculations that are possible with your setup all done at the same time. Ultimately you can only measure one of the results, and it will only probably be the one you want, so you may have to double check and try again. But by cleverly exploiting superposition and entanglement, this can be exponentially more efficient than would ever be possible on a normal computer.

So while quantum computers will probably not replace our home computers, in some areas they are vastly superior. One of them is database searching. To find something in a database, a normal computer may have to test every single one of it’s entries. Quantum algorithms need only the square root of that time, which for large databases is a huge difference.

The most famous use of quantum computers is ruining IT security. Right now, you’re browsing, email, and banking data is being kept secure by an encryption system in which you give everyone a public key to encode messages only you can decode. The problem is that this public key can actually be used to calculate your secret private key. Luckily, doing the necessary math on any normal computer would literally take years of trial and error, but a quantum computer with exponential speed up could do it in a breeze.

Another really exciting new use is simulations. Simulations of the quantum world are very intense on resources, and even for bigger structures such as molecules, they often lack accuracy, so why not simulate quantum physics with actual quantum physics? Quantum simulations could provide new insights on proteins that might revolutionize medicine. Right now we don’t know if quantum computers will be just a very specialized tool or a big revolution for humanity. We have no idea where the limits of technology are, and there’s only one way to find out.

This video is supported by the Australian Academy of Science, which promotes and supports excellence in science. Learn more about this topic and others like it at It was a blast to work with them, so go check out their site. Our videos are also made possible by your support on If you want to support us and become part of the Kurzgesagt Bird Army, check out our Patreon page.

How Early Games made their Sounds and Music

How Early Games made their Sounds and Music

How Early Games made their Sounds and Music

Hello, this is David from The 8-Bit Guy. Today, I’ve got a special guest star with me, Rob from The Obsolete Geek. Today we’re going to talk about how old school music works.

David: In the early days of home computers, most of them just had a simple beeper speaker. Examples would be the IBM PC and the Apple II. The speakers were controlled directly by the computer CPU. The speaker could make clicking noises and the CPU would have to time the clicking noises exactly right in order to produce certain tones. If a programmer wanted to spend the time, some very advance sound of music could be produced this way but the trouble was it would require all of the CPU’s run time to accomplish that leaving nothing left over for the computer to do anything else.

By the early 1980’s most computers and game consoles had dedicated sound chips to take this load away from the CPU. Each system in that time had a very characteristic sound along with its unique style and graphics which helped to get each system its own personality. Okay, the first thing you need to understand is that different systems had different numbers of voices or channels. To better explain how that works, let me show you this old musical keyboard. It only has a single voice. As you can see it cannot play more than one note at a time. In order to do that you would need to have at least two voices.

Now, this keyboard here is considerably more advance than the other one. It has a total of 4 voices. That means you could play up to four notes at the same time. Having multiple voices is great but those voices also need to be flexible as in able to create different types of wave forms. For example, this keyboard can change the wave form of its voice to produce different types of sounds. Okay, let’s take a look at two of the more popular systems from the 1980’s in order to see two different approaches to creating music.

Rob: The Nintendo Entertainment System had five voices. The Commodore 64 had three voices. Now, you might immediately assume the Nintendo was better but actually it wasn’t. Here’s why. The voices used in the NES are for the most part stuck making one type of sound. The first two voices can only produce square waves that sound like this. The third voice can only produce a triangle and it’s typically used for the low base notes. The fourth voice can only produce noise. The fifth voice is for PCM sampled sounds which was rarely used.

“The Commodore 64 had three voices. It could produce four different types of wave forms. Square, triangle, saw tooth, noise or any combination of those.”
A good example would be Super Mario Brothers 3. You can clearly hear the steel drum sound being used. Because of the way Nintendo music worked, all game music sounded pretty much exactly the same. The tune might be different but it was like they used the same instrument so to speak. The Commodore 64 had three voices. It could produce four different types of wave forms. Square, triangle, saw tooth, noise or any combination of those.
In the early days, most programmers would just assign a certain sound to particular voice and just leave it that way throughout the entire song. That was the simplest thing to do. Here’s an example from the game Mule. Not long after, some clever programmers realized that it was possible to dynamically reassign the voices to other wave forms on the fly. This gave the illusion of having more than three voices. Take this example from Commando.

In order to better understand what’s going on here, try listening to one voice at a time.

David: A few years later, the IBM PC finally got a decent sound upgrade in the form of the AdLib card which use the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip. Shortly after the market share was lost in favor of the Sound Blaster card which also use the same YM3812 sound chip. This chip was basically the foundation of computer music in the IBM PC world for the next ten years. The YM3812 had nine voices and much like the Commodore 64, the voices were independently programmable.

center-img-soundIncidentally, this chip was also used in several Yamaha keyboards such as this one. Take a look inside and you’ll see the YM3812 sound chip. It’s almost as if you could take a sound blaster card and attach keys and speakers to it and you could play it like an instrument. Take a listen to this little sample of music from the game Ultima VI. Now, listen as I recreate that same sound on this keyboard. All right, let’s talk about sampling for a moment. Now, one of the neat things about this keyboard that I haven’t shown you yet, this came out around 1985 and has four voices but one of the things that makes it interesting is that it’s a sampling keyboard.

Now, let me show you exactly what that means. 8-Bit Guy. 8-Bit Guy. 8-Bit Guy. This was not the only device that came out in 1985 that featured a four voice sampling system. The other was the Commodore Amiga. The Commodore Amiga was the first affordable home computer that featured a four voice stereo sampling sound system. With it came a new type of computer music known as the MOD tracker. These were music files that contain samples of different sounds and then the associated music information. The original MOD tracker used a four track system designed around the Amiga sound chip. Later versions eventually added many more tracks for more sophisticated sound cards. This type of format is still in use today as a method for composing new music. The MOD tracker format is not used quite so often anymore with the abundance of storage and memory on modern machines. They pretty much just forgo all of that type of music synthesis in favor of just using one gigantic sample usually in the form of an MP3 file or something like that. All right, that about wraps that up. I hope you’ve found that interesting. Maybe learn something you didn’t already know.

It also may have come to your attention that I have changed the name of my channel. The reason is that’s been pointed out to me on several occasions that I haven’t made really videos about Apple iBooks in quite some time so I changed name from The iBook Guy to The 8-Bit Guy because it’s a little bit more representative of what I actually do here. Also, I want to take a moment to thank Rob for being on my show and why don’t you tell us a little bit about your channel for a moment?

Rob: Thank you for having me on your show. I’m a big fan of your channel. One of the things I like to talk about on my channel are a little bit more obscure, a little more unusual hardware as it relates to video games like this Sharp X68000 computer from Japan. One of my all time favorite systems.

David: If you want to see a little bit more about this piece of obscure equipment, there’s a link down in the description field you can click to take you over to his channel. He’s got a lot of other really obscure stuff in his collection that you can have a look at. All right, also don’t forget to visit me on Facebook and I’ll see you next time.

What the growing stronger principle is

What the growing stronger principle is

What the growing stronger principle is

What are some qualities that make a game great? Some might say responsive controls and fun levels, others might say a deep story that draws you in. What about a game world that feels really interconnected? Or how about your character becoming stronger while you get better at the game too? Well, those last two may be one in the same. For today’s episode of Good Game Design we’re going to look at the growing stronger principle, you could also call this the come back later principle. This is when a game will block a specific path until you come back with a new skill or item.

This principle is used a lot in games, maybe more than you even realize. I’ve seen it in Arkham Asylum where Batman unlocks his gadgets to help him progress in the game. It’s all over Super Metroid where once impossible jumps are made possible with new power ups. I’ve even seen it in Dark Souls though in this case it’s more just opening short cuts once you’ve completed a certain area. This helps the world feel more interwove with itself and like it’s a real place. Which is a good thing, but it doesn’t necessarily make you feel like you’re growing stronger in this case.

Originally I was going to talk about Pokemon for the growing stronger principle. The main avenue that paths are unlocked in this game are through HMs. You’ll often see a blocked off road due to a tree or boulder placed in the way. But these are passable once you’ve obtained the correct HM to use. It’s nice when a newly opened path will connect with an earlier part of the game. Like I just mentioned with Dark Souls it helps the world feel more real. One of the biggest moments for me when playing Red and Blue was when I finally got surf and could cross huge expanses of ocean. From the very beginning of the game you’re teased with water, you want to cross it but you can’t yet.

“What about a game where the stakes are much higher, like I don’t know, saving the world from complete destruction.”
You see when you start the game your Pokemon are weak, but so are the ones around you in the grass. Other trainers get stronger as you enter new areas but so do you so it has good progression. When I finally got surf and hit the open seas for the first time, it not only let my sense of exploration grow as I discovered secrets and islands but it also made me feel like I was finally becoming a stronger Pokemon trainer. There are other trainers out here too that are pretty tough and it made me feel like I finally made, like I was able to sit at the cool kids table. Perhaps the biggest comeback later moment in the game is when you first reach Viridian City. You can’t enter the gym yet for unexplained reasons but you are able to enter once you’ve beaten all the other gyms. Of course the big reveal here is that the gym leader is the boss of Team Rocket, one of the main villains in the game.

Oh shoot, spoilers.

When you are allowed to access this fight, the game makes sure you’ve trained enough so that you’re ready for this hard battle. Now, Pokemon does a great job of making you feel like you’re growing stronger but what’s the main goal in that game? To become the greatest Pokemon trainer? I mean really, just to get stronger, right?

What about a game where the stakes are much higher, like I don’t know, saving the world from complete destruction. The Legend of Zelda series not only makes you feel like you’re growing stronger but it makes you feel like a hero, like you’re the only person who can save mankind, or in this case Hylian kind. The Zelda series follows a similar formula for all the games. I think the goals are almost always the same, especially for the modern Zelda games. One, make Ganon seem crazy evil and powerful and make the stakes high i.e. taking over the world. And two making you feel like you become strong enough to actually take him down. You always start a Zelda game basically unaware that you’re the chosen one until someone tells you about a prophecy or something, then you slowly but surely gain abilities and items that help you on your quest until you’re a lean, mean, Ganon killing machine.

The items you collect not only allow you to enter new areas but they also make you feel like a stronger adventurer, able to take on harder challenges. Let’s look at some specific examples. In Ocarina of Time right after you become adult Link you go to enter the forest temple but the entrance is out of reach. The game wants to make sure you get one of the most important items in the game first, the hook shot. Just by turning into an adult you already feel like you might be more powerful, but you also get equipped with the item that will help you reach all kinds of new areas. This is important so that when you enter the first temple as an adult you really feel the difference in strength from being a child.

There are countless times in this game where you’ll find a new item in a dungeon that will help you progress and also fight the boss of the area. This makes you feel stronger because you’re becoming adept at using an arsenal of items. You find new ways to use the items and you feel smarter as a result. In the original Legend of Zelda it was all about exploring. There’s this dock in the water but you can’t do anything with it yet, so you leave it alone. Later you find something that looks like a raft, you think “I wonder…” So then you go back to the water and it works. It feels so good man, because you figured this out by deduction. It releases endorphins or something. Maybe dopamine, calories, I don’t know. You gain items that help you reach new harder areas but it makes sure you’ve cleared earlier dungeons first, so you have the experience necessary to take on this new place.

A Link to the Past possibly has the best moment of realization that you’ve grown stronger. Of course there’s a ton of items in this game that you need to use to reach new areas, like the titan’s mitt, but the moment when you get the master sword is unforgettable. The game practically tells you to go find it in the forest so you go to check it out. There’s other swords but you know those aren’t the real ones. Then you finally see it down a long corridor. It sits on top of a majestic pedestal. You reach out your hand, and, you can’t get it yet. But once you’ve completed a few dungeons and gotten become better equipped as well as better at the game, now you go back and you can finally get the desired master sword.

The change in strength is real and immediate. You realize that enemies take less hits to kill, you feel like a true hero. Of course they raise enemy health back up pretty shortly after so you feel like a wimp again, but that’s all on purpose. They wanted you to really feel like this long quest of terrible traps and enemies is helping you gain ability as a true hero. If you just walked in to fight Ganon at the very beginning of the game and whipped his butt in 30 seconds there would be no pacing. You would spend the whole time wondering how your character got so strong in the first place. You’d be wishing you could’ve seen the progression of your player to see how he got to this point. You see, that’s why Zelda does growing stronger so well. It’s because the task at hand is so epic. You’re not just trying to be the very best, you’re trying to save the world from certain doom.

You see true evil in the form of Ganon, but when he pushes you out of the way you feel helpless. You think, me, I’m supposed to take that down, how could I ever do that? But by playing the game and journeying through all the tests and trials you become the true hero that is worthy of fighting such a strong enemy and they ensure you progress at the right pace by making certain items necessary to enter new areas. Now you might be thinking I’m looking too much into this, it’s just a fun game, right? But let’s just say that it’s no coincidence that Link’s symbol is the tri-force of courage.

As I mentioned before a ton of games do this. It’s a good tool to use to make sure the player has adequate skill before dropping a bomb of the hardest level on them. It ends up making the game experience as a whole more enjoyable and triumphant when you finally take down that final boss. I be you could think of some games that do this principle as well. In the comments below tell me a game that you think helps the player grow stronger by unlocking new areas once the player is ready.

How to make a good video game tutorial

How to make a good video game tutorial

How to make a good video game tutorial

“The best example of this is of course Portal, which was 90% tutorial but was so much fun that none of us seemed to notice.”

We’ve talked previously about how a good tutorial is integral to being able to deliver a deep, rich game and still reach a large audience. Today we’re going to talk about how to actually put one together. While the specifics vary from game to game, there’s a few simple rules that pretty much every game should be able to follow.

Number one, less text. Text is a terrible way to deliver a tutorial. It kills pacing, it destroys immersion and it’ll often be skipped by the very players that need the tutorial the most. Like everything else in games, your tutorial should be interactive. The player should play through the actions they have to learn. This not only creates a better experience for the player, but it also ensures that they actually understood what the tutorial was trying to convey, as opposed to text or even in-game cinematics where once they end, you have no idea if the player actually understood what you meant.

Number two, don’t front-load your tutorial. Many game designers seem to think that they need to deliver every piece of information the player will ever need right at the beginning of the game. Any first year teacher or HCI student can tell you how bad an idea that is, yet somehow we manage to forget it all the time when building games. If you front-load your tutorial and teach the player everything at the beginning, they’ll be overwhelmed with information and under-supplied with engagement. Throwing so much information at a player right away means they’re likely to have forgotten a lot of what you taught them by the time they need it. It also means that they might very well get bored with your tutorial and either start rushing through it, skip over it entirely or simply turn the game off in disgust.

If a player skips your tutorial, you’ve failed as a designer because you’ve wasted resources making your game less engaging for the player. Instead you should provide the player with information as they need it. Introduce game play elements as they become important. If you do this, the player gets to start playing faster. It allows you to give them information in digestible chunks, and it means that they’ll get to start practicing what you taught them, right after they learn it. Remember that this goes for all the parts of the game, not just the commands the player will input.

If there’s a UI element that they won’t use right away or a menu they won’t do anything for the first thirty minutes of the game, don’t clutter up the screen with it. The less info you throw at the player from the outset, the better. When you do introduce new UI elements or commands, it’ll be even easier to make the features you’re introducing glaringly clear, because there really can be little confusion about what’s being introduced when a brightly highlighted compass or a mini-map suddenly slides onto the screen.

Number three, make the tutorial fun. All the time in this industry, we trumpet the fact that people learn better when they’re having fun, and somehow we seem to forget this fact when we build our tutorials. Your tutorials should be exciting and interesting. It should be as engaging as any other part of the game. This is hard to execute on but vital. For most games, it’s necessary for at least some of the tutorial to happen at the very beginning. Like with books and movies, humans are prone to snap judgments about their entertainment. If you can’t grab the player in the first ten minutes of play, you’re going to lose a large part of your audience. The whole point of the tutorial was to make your game accessible to more people.

Here you simply have to remember to use all of the things that make the game play you’re teaching fun in the first place, and then make it fun in the tutorial too. The Modern Warfare training missions, Basic Braining in Psychonauts, the City of Heroes intro mission and the Death Knights Starting Quest chain in World of Warcraft all are great examples. The best example of this is of course Portal, which was 90% tutorial but was so much fun that none of us seemed to notice.

Number four, reinforce learning through play. Going along with making the tutorial fun and distributing the tutorial throughout your game is the idea of reinforcing the things taught in the tutorial, by highlighting their use in game play. You don’t want to make this hammy or overly telegraphed, but you need to help the player understand how to apply the tools they learned about in the tutorial during actual game play. Again, if you can make your tutorial feel like game play or better yet simply be game play, this should mostly solve itself.

Number five, listen to your players. Your tutorial’s probably the most important thing in your game to play test. When you’re a designer who’s been working on a project for a year or two, it’s very easy to think that things are intuitive or obvious, that are actually totally incomprehensible. When you build a system and spend eight hours a day with it, it becomes second nature. That’s great but it often blinds us to what needs to be taught.

Case in point, James was once brought in on a consulting gig for an RPG-esq PC game. As a designer, one of the first things he always does is press every button, but after about fifteen minutes of trying, he couldn’t figure out how to open his inventory so he had to ask. The answer, triple click the player. After years of working with the system, no one in the company even thought twice about it. Here, simple play testing is the answer. As always, don’t talk to your players. Watch where they get stuck. Watch what they have trouble with and then listen to what they say to you. After that, then you can ask questions.

Additionally, be mindful of your demographic. It’s very hard to get past our own personal perspective, so sometimes we forget the things that seem second nature to us, might not be to everyone. For example, James recently had an astute young designer come up to him, shocked by the realization that the young end of the demographic he was working with, might not be able to read yet. Luckily with quick thinking and dedication, he was able to work around this one and deliver a tutorial that any age can use. You’d be surprised how many senior game designers forget similar things.

For all you beginning designers, the most common one to forget is that not everyone might be familiar with the conventions that you’re used to. Using WASD to move? Better make sure your target audience is used to that, otherwise you’re going to have to teach them.

Lastly there are two more simple tips to remember. One, tutorials should be skip-able, or shouldn’t interrupt the flow of play. You don’t want to have to force everyone to sit through your tutorial every time they start the game again. Two, anything conveyed in a tutorial should be accessible at all times. It doesn’t have to be in any deeply immersive fashion, but simply putting a help encyclopedia in the options menu or giving the player access to how-to videos from the pause screen will go a long way.

After all, we’ve all come back to a game after having put it down for six months and forgotten how to do that one stupid thing. If you can’t easily go back and refresh yourself on how to play, you’re going to put that game down again and probably not buy the sequel. For all this, the biggest reason that tutorials seem haphazard and in many cases just inadequate, boring or terrible, isn’t because most professional designers don’t know this stuff. It’s because often the tutorial is left as one of the last things to be completed in the development cycle.

How can you distribute the tutorial through game play if all the game plays are already built? How can you make sure your tutorial’s fun if you’re scrambling to get the product out the door? Simply put, as a designer you have to think about how you’re going to teach the player to play your game as you’re building it. If you don’t do this, if you don’t consider the communication problems that are inherent in every complex decision in your game, you’ll deliver a clunky, front-loaded tutorial at the last minute and it’ll really take away from the players’ experience.

It’s not something that’s hard to do and it doesn’t actually cost any development dollars. It just take discipline. Discipline to always be mindful of how you’re going to teach the player as you build the play itself, because every game is an education. Every game brings us to worlds we’ve never been to and throws us into situations we don’t recognize. Every game asks us to translate between some series of button presses or clicks and actions happening on a screen, so every game requires a tutorial. If you’re mindful of this and disciplined in your design, you can create the best tutorial there is, one that no one remembers is there.

What the Isolation Principle is

What the Isolation Principle is

What the Isolation Principle is

I’ve been inspired lately to talk about game design by several Youtubers; Vised shows, Sunder, and Eagle Raptor. Before, when I played games, I really only paid attention to how the game looked or maybe if it had good music or not. I never really paid attention to the obstacles I had to overcome in front of me. Now, after learning from people talking about it, it’s made me watch out for good design in games as I’m playing them. Now, I realize how important good game design is.

Game design is how you determine what the game’s goals are. It’s how you determine how much thought went into the game you’re playing. How much the developers care about your experience. I was thinking of doing a series where we look at different games that have good design. For lack of a better term, I’ve come up with some principles that have stuck out to me in games that, in my opinion, have good design. Without further ado, welcome to the first episode of Good Game Design.

The first principle we’ll look at is the Isolation Principle. Eagle Raptor talked about this principle in his Mega Man X video. Go check it out, by the way. It’s awesome. He mentioned how Mega Man did this really well. It would introduce you to a new enemy in a controlled environment. Then, put you into a more heroine situation after you’ve learned about its pattern. This is so important. Otherwise, there would be no progression or increase of difficulty as you play. If you throw the player into a ridiculously hard situation right off the bat, it’s going to deter players away because they think they can’t beat the game, or at least that section.

Volgarr the Viking encapsulates this principle really well. You see, in Volgarr, each level has three difficulties of enemies designated by their color. Green is the easiest, blue is in between, and red is the hardest. It will always introduce the enemies to you in this order.

“Volgarr the Viking encapsulates this principle really well. Each level has three difficulties of enemies designated by color. Green is  easy, then blue, and red is the hardest. It will always introduce the enemies in this order.”

In the first level, it just shows you these green guys who you can dispatch in one hit. Then, it will throw in the blue guy. If you don’t know the difference you’ll know after you try to kill him the same way as the others. You don’t really lose any progress if you die. This is right at the beginning.

Then, when you see a red guy down the road, you know to look out and learn his patterns because you know that the colors mean they’re different. This is the case in every level. It slowly amps up the difficulty after you’ve learned some things about each level.

There’s also a bigger enemy in every level that takes multiple hits and some clever tactics to take down. Each one you see one of these for the first times, it’s always in an isolated situation where you can focus on just this one guy. Learn his patterns and take him down. This is an awesome part in level 4. Check this out. You could see this really buff dude with a sword below you. Looks super menacing and tough to beat, right? You’re scared to go down there because you don’t know how he moves yet. When you jump down, he sees you, runs toward you and dies in this lake of fire. Now, you’ve learned his pattern, and it was in a situation with no threat.

At least yet. Oh, man. A similar things happens in level 2. You see the red frog guy down below and you don’t know his patterns yet but you know that he’s the hardest version of this enemy. The thing is, he’s so far back in his owl cove that if you drop down, you have enough time to react when you see him slide across the floor. It gives you an environment where you can succeed instead of fail. Even in the last bonus level. It’s still teaching you about your obstacles. When you go down this rope and drop down, it triggers this down slash, because you were still pressing down when you let go. They wanted you to do this because then, you hit this glowing ball and you learn that it bounces you up when you down strike it. You didn’t have to start this level by going down a rope, but they did it intentionally to show you what you’re supposed to use these balls for. In the final level, after you’ve learned about all these different enemies and how to kill them.

Then, it puts you through several floors of all the enemies put together. It tests your memory and reflexes in a big cauldron full of your past experiences. I think it’s a nice touch even though it is a bit long. Then, when you reach the final boss, it gives you all the power ups for free. This lulls you into a false sense of security thinking it will be a breeze, but you need those power ups because this boss is tough. After braving your way through treacherous levels and dying over and over again, this is the final exam in this ridiculously hard game. It ends on a high note making you feel really accomplished, until you see that this isn’t the true end of the game. After you beat the game, it gives you this coded message through pictures about how to continue your journey. You have to play exceptionally well to see these hard bonus levels.

These are called the Valcory levels. They’re basically restructured harder versions of the levels you’ve gone through. Now, from the very beginning, it doesn’t mess around with isolation. It throws you directly into a level chock full of enemies and death. It’s okay because you’ve already learned about these enemies and know how they behave. It’s just a true test of your skill, nothing more. I thought this hard mode of the game would be impossible because you have a certain amount of lives this time around. If you use them all, you have to go back to the regular game and start over. With a lot of patience and determination, I did finally make it to the secret level at the end and beat the true final boss. You’re rewarded for your skill. I’ve only felt that sense of accomplishment in a few other games.