Friday, August 3, 2012

Why Block Fort Is the Best Mario Kart Battle Course

at 12:30 AM

The rising costs of prostitutes in the early 2000s (thanks, Obama) made it less feasible for nerds to hire working girls to play multiplayer games with them and listen to their weeping as they lost their innocence. This coupled with the inability of gamers to be in the same room as each other, as demonstrated in the series of global military engagements now called the Console Wars, led to the advent of online gaming. But we here at GnG are nostalgic for the days where we would whip Cinnamon with the cord of a N64 controller after beating her in a rousing game of Mario Kart, so let's delve into why people's favorite Mario Kart Battle stage is inevitably Block Fort.

The stage first appeared in Mario Kart 64 along with three other battle courses: Skyscraper, Big Donut, and Double Deck and has been rebooted in just about every subsequent Mario Kart game under names like Block City, Block Plaza, and Fuck-It-Just-Put-It-In-the-Game-Again. In each quadrant of the stage there is a technicolor fort which has two ramps at its base that lead up to a second floor. On this floor the player can find some item boxes, bridges to the second floor of the forts of its neighboring quadrants and another ramp up to a third floor with more connecting bridges and item boxes. The stage design is pretty simple, but the structure of this stage forces a change in the dynamic of how players interact compared to the other battle stages.

In the lesser three battle courses, the structures of the stages are similar to that of the racing courses where players start going around and around a predetermined course. Big Donut is this simplest of these courses; players are only given the option to drive around the track clockwise or counterclockwise. The battle element to this stage occurs when the players' trajectories around the track come into contact, leading to shootouts while players charge head on at each other. Skyscraper adds a little more freedom with its perpendicular bridges connecting the outer ring with the inner ring, but the style of gameplay is fundamentally the same as Big Donut's. Double Deck has even more options, but players will for the most part stick to driving around in a pattern that suits them and stick with it, making it functionally the same as the other two courses.

I find that people prefer Block Fort to these stages because the style of gameplay that they offer is too reminiscent of the racing stages. You choose the Battle mode on Mario Kart because you got bored of chasing after other racers on Luigi's Circuit, and Big Donut, Skyscraper, and Double Deck do not provide a different enough gaming experience to truly mix things up. Block Fort, however, does. The other battle stages create a combat style that is like jousting, and Block Fort creates a combat style akin to Medieval siege warfare. This is facilitated by how the stage is designed to make the bottom level the most dangerous place to be. The long hallways between the forts allow shells to rebound repeatedly, making it difficult to navigate through them without losing a balloon or two. This forces players to seek higher ground, where they are less vulnerable and have a greater view to rain hell down on the poor souls still karting around below them. The connecting bridges throw a wrench to this plan because the player is open to attack from multiple directions. They have to defend themselves from assault, and the small openings into their base of operations make it easy for them to close off entrances to the level of the fort with banana peels and fake item boxes. The abundance of item boxes, even on the top level of the forts enables players to act thusly and shifts their mindset from one of racing around to taking a wait and see approach. The square design of the stage also contributes to players changing their strategy because it inhibits the ability of players to race and forces them to slow down at the 90 degree turns.

Unlike the other battle stages, Block Fort is a much slower stage that requires a more cerebral approach because its design gives a substantial advantage to defenders over attackers and The is not insurmountable through careful planning and building up one's arsenal for those attempting to attack the King of the Hill and this design choice has its own advantages. The thrill of overcoming the obstacles and sending an enemy crashing down from his highly defended perch through good besieging tactics is more rewarding than winning a joust by getting a well-timed star could ever be. Block Fort is a fun change of pace from the rest of the game, which is why the title of the article is the title of the article.

Now here's me with sports!
Block Fort = Darren Sproles
Big Donut = Chris Ivory
Skyscraper = Pierre Thomas
Double Deck = Mark Ingram

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