We’re only a month or so into the introduction of Link into Mario Maker 2, early days for a community who always finds new ways to surprise. But it’s been a long time since a level made me cackle this hard. “LoZ: Twoll-light Princess [Troll]” is, in a sense, exactly as described: a Legend of Zelda troll level. And yet, its deception runs deeper than you can imagine, defying traditional expectations of trolling and transforming into sheer delight.
Designers have taken a few different approaches to Link-based levels. In Mario Maker 2, Link is a power-up, not a different character. If you get hurt while playing as Link, you revert back to Mario, until you find another Master Sword. Some levels require players to be Link the entire time, others toy with multiple paths, giving players options. Some will swap between the two characters and take full advantage of their wildly different mechanics.
Now this level features a pretty big twist that I'm going to have to spoil to explain why I find it so cool. If you want to go in completely cold and have your own, naive experience of it, this is where you should bail out and just go play LoZ: Twoll-light Princess [Troll] with the level code PW9-084-6LG.
All right, now let's get into how this level plays with these character mechanics and your expectations.
When Twoll-light Princess loads, a sword is dropped unavoidably on Mario’s head, with the words “courage” blaring across the top of the screen, written in coins. In The Legend of Zelda lore, the all-powerful Triforce is split into three pieces: courage, power, wisdom. "Oh, I get this," one thinks.
What follows feels in line with the level’s pitch; there are various tricks and traps, and the “hints” featured in the level design are often lying. They’re not exclusively lies, but often enough, it’s setting the player up to die in a uniquely funny fashion. That’s totally normal for a troll stage, and for a while, I had trouble grasping what exactly was so special about this one.
The revelation came when I reached what seemed like the end, having made my way through the sections dubbed courage, power, and wisdom. And that’s when the kicker hit:
The words are unmistakable. Do. Not. Get. Link. What the hell?
From here, there’s no choice but to die on purpose and start from scratch. As it turns out, you can absolutely dodge the sword power-up that appears at the start and stay in Mario’s form. And that’s when you discover the level you’ve just “finished” was nothing but a mask for the real stage, one you never would have considered until you’d gone through with Link.
Armed with this new knowledge, the level plays out completely different. For example, here’s what the opening section looks like when you’re trying to play through it with Link:
And here’s what it looks like when you’re trying to play through it with Mario. It’s the exact same stage. You haven’t gone through a door, leading you to some different, hidden stage. It is, in essence, two stages in one, with one working to not reveal the presence of the other.
What's going on here? Here's the most succinct explanation I've seen of the technical elements driving it, courtesy of a reader:
How that Link troll level works: It uses offscreen progressive powerups to either trigger or not trigger events. The progressive powerups can detect if you are Link or Mario. If you grab the master sword, powerups will spawn as fire flowers. if you don't, they spawn as mushrooms. Mushrooms move, so they can trigger noteblocks or other mechanics to drop the items that allow Mario to progress.
It’s a brilliant piece of deception, and serves to underscore the notion of achieving the power bestowed conceptually by the Triforce. You need to earn the right to wield the Master Sword! Which is what actually happens at the end of the stage. Upon properly completing the level, Mario is awarded the Master Sword, and can escape.
At that point, I couldn’t help but clap.
Once again, you can play LoZ: Twoll-light Princess [Troll] with the level code PW9-084-6LG, and you can watch an entire playthrough of the level below:
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.