35. Course No. 25

“Stove Canyon” ends with much o’ the same that filled its center: basic platforming on platforms with basic enemies & lots & lots o’ hopping Bō. Granted, I can see that they tried to add some interest with the sections where you fall into horizontal passages & 1 part where you have to ride a falling bridge part so you can time a jump to a lower platform… Yeah, those are just basic platforming setpieces in other platformers; but they weren’t done in the other lava levels & they’re well implemented — well, ’cept for having to wait for the Bō before the falling sections.

Unfortunately, the stuff this level does borrow from other levels it does worse: namely the rising & sinking hills from course no. 21. Like that level, the hills are perfectly timed to start sinking before you jump to them; but whereas in 21 you could still jump off those hills & reach the next platform before they touched the lava, here if you try that, you’ll be surprised @ the end to find a platform too high up to reach, screwing you o’er — which, ’course, you won’t know till it happens. So this time you have to wait for the hills to start rising before making the jump, making these sections slow & boring.

& then, as a final treat, ¿can you guess what the twist they gave to the last rising & sinking hill? ¿How ’bout a hopping Bō that comes out without any warning? The only way to avoid this is if you’re waiting & going slow just in case some unexpected danger were to arrive — which, to be fair, considering the last twist, perhaps should have been expected. So this setpiece exists to punish players for going fast & trying to have fun.

Finally, we have the boss, Devil Head, which is obscure. Unlike most bosses, smash attacks or jumping on its head does nothing. Instead, you have to grab the shrapnel from the fireballs it throws after they cool — if you try to grab them before, you’ll get hurt — & throw them @ it. E’en better, this boss goes round breaking the floor with its tongue, which would be cool otherwise, but in this case punishes you harder for not figuring out such a poorly-telegraphed mechanic early. & yet when you do figure out this boss’s mechanics, it’s 1 o’ the mo’ interesting. In this level’s defense, none o’ the bosses in this game are good, hardly any o’ the bosses in Wario Land games in general are any good, & in fact, bosses in platformers in general are not very good as they distract from what makes platformers fun in the 1st place. ( There’s a reason this site is called “Level Rankings” & not “Boss Rankings” — lord help us all if I e’er have to make a “Worst to Best Bosses in Super Mario Bros. 3” & have to rank 1 Koopaling you have to bonk on the head 3 times with the 6 others you have to bonk on the head 3 times ).

34. Course No. 21

This level is essentially a slightly better version o’ courses no. 22 & 25: a straight, flat level o’ rising & falling hills in lakes o’ lava, which fake urgency & excitement by poorly timing them so that they’re falling just as you jump to them, but are so slow that you can jump off before they reach the lava still, & bridges, some o’ whose pieces fall when stepped on, while the common Pirate Gooms & Demon Bats slowly charge @ you in easy patterns. Still, I’d rather have to jump o’er swooping Demon Bats o’er knocking D. D.s around.

In the middle they repeat the block walls on bridges trick that course no. 22 does, but without the troll, which would seem better, but just makes this version feel pointless: the bridge pieces don’t fall before the walls, so there’s no danger o’ plummeting if you stop to try breaking thru these walls, & if that were the case, you could just duck jump up ’bove these walls, as there’s a 1-block space ’bove these walls to make it possible to get thru here as small Wario. My best guess is that this setpiece exists to lure you into a false sense o’ safety for course no. 22’s hilarious trick.

Like many levels, this level introduces a new mechanic @ the very end; but that mechanic is just the fireball Bō, the bane o’ later levels, but just 1 harmless 1 here. Rather than introducing a new theme, like most instances o’ this “new mechanic @ the end” trick in this game, this use merely reinforces this world’s lava theme redundantly.

33. Course No. 09

This level is strikingly empty, e’en by Wario Land standards. Hell, e’en the music is sparse & repetitive. This level alternates ’tween long horizontal stretches where you can collect coins & fight or dodge enemies you’ve run into before & climbs up vertical mountains while dodging or fighting crabs & spike-bellied Penkoons, enemies already encountered multiple times by this point.

The only new element is the very final room, which has a new enemy, bomb enemies that swoop down & sometimes cling to Wario & eventually blow up. So they’re less dangerous birds.

The only halfway interesting element in this level is the hidden treasure whose lock is hidden in a doorway that is invisible & can only be guessed by a single cracked block — ’cause “cracked block = invisible door” makes a lot o’ sense. To be fair, the key is in an item block in plain sight, so the developers probably expected players to search all o’er the level looking for the lock. To sweeten the deal, you can’t be small to reach the lock, as the lock is ’hind a series o’ blocks.

32. Course No. 05

This level itself is a mishmash o’ 2 elements that don’t really go together: we have repeats o’ jumping o’er “Pouncers” — Wario Land’s equivalent to Thwomps — & feeding Pirate Gooms to them for money from the previous level, but with a conveyor belt added in round the end that hilariously does nothing ’cause a smart player jumps o’er the Pouncers, so your feet barely touch the conveyor belt @ all.

The 2nd room is just a bunch o’ cracked blocks & Penkoons who are not worth double attacking for their measly coin. Near the end this level bizarrely decides to introduce switch blocks by offering a basic setup where there’s item blocks blocked off by switch blocks & a room with a switch hidden ’hind cracked blocks just before it. This mechanic isn’t built any mo’ in this level — which isn’t surprising, since it’s right @ the end o’ the level.

Finally we have the boss, who can be annoying if you don’t immediately realize you have to attack him from below while his shell is rising, which is not obvious to players used to general Mario mechanics & not tutorialized all that well in this game.

If anything, this boss has too much needless complexity: if you don’t bonk it below its belly immediately you’ll see it dig into the sand & eventually swirl back up. Since it’s unlikely players will do that, I’m not sure why they felt the need to add this & not just have the enemy spin back & forth in its shell ’gain — which it does do ’gain after the sand swirling. It just wastes more o’ the player’s time.

31. Course No. 38

Unfortunately, this level brings back the flaky climbing physics. Since the 2nd room has the ladders all bunched together tightly, I’ve ne’er slipped off there, — tho I have experienced birds swooping in from offscreen, which is probably the only time birds have e’er been a real threat — but the penultimate level, where the ladders are spread out, will sometimes seem to ignore my up presses, presumably ’cause I started holding up before touching precisely the center o’ the ladder I was aiming for, as there is a long delay — so long that you’ll be in the lava before it’s o’er — after holding up & jumping toward a climbable object before it kicks in & the hitboxes on climbable tiles are smaller than the graphic o’ the tiles.

The developers seemed to realize how deadly this room is, as not long before it they put a room littered with Pirate Gooms & a star just before them, pretty much guaranteeing you a’least 1 extra life if you don’t mess around. This is the funnest part o’ the level, specially since you still have to do platforming, which you’ll want to hurry thru to maximize your kill count.

The rest o’ the level is mo’ boring, irrelevant filler. You have an empty room with just 1 Penkoon. I have no idea why the developers felt the need to make this room or what it has to do with the rest o’ the level, but this is nowhere close to the 1st time something like this is done in this game. Then you have a room with a Chicken Duck — yes, its name is really “chikin dakku” in Japan — & 2 whole Droppers you can throw into it for 20 whole coins. E’en if this weren’t an insultingly paltry # o’ coins, considering this section is followed by the aforementioned death room, & considering death makes you lose any coins you collected in the level, this is a complete waste o’ time, especially since the ceiling to the left o’ the Droppers is too low to walk thru while carrying 1 without dropping it & the hole to throw 1 up is so thin that I could ne’er get 1 in the dumb Chicken Duck the few times I stupidly tried just for demonstration purposes. & then the Chicken Duck, who is sleeping thru all this, wakes up, & suddenly flies away, & I can’t blame it, as I feel like doing the same.

& then this level starts with a room where you have to go to the right, hit the switch, & then go back left to continue. If you want a powerup & some hearts, you can go left & hit all the item blocks, go back right to hit the switch ’gain, go left & collect all the powerups, go back right to hit the switch ’gain, & then — ugh. You get the point. This is a stupid waste o’ the player’s time.

¿You know what else is? Crowding the next section with a bunch o’ solid blocks. Hope you have the dragon powerup, which can a’least flame thru many o’ them @ a time. Zzzzzzz…

30. Course No. 29

This is a level that works better in concept than execution: what you have are long hallways o’ detours & 1 troll door that leads back to a previous hallway without any warning, it’s just trial & error, with the paltriest o’ rewards, as always in this game, while the 2nd-to-last door before the goal room has the key. ’Course, since the lock is near the start o’ the level, you have to go all the way back thru the level — tho in this case the aforementioned troll door is useful as a shortcut back. Unsurprisingly, these halls & filled with the e’er-present Pirate Gooms & D. D.s. I can appreciate the attempt @ creating a mazelike level… but this is not a good 1.

The best thing I can say ’bout this level is that the key room itself has a pretty decent challenge where you need to time a jump off a Pouncer to reach the higher ledge without going so high as to hit the blades ’bove. Also, the crocodiles guarding the opening pirate deck are kind o’ tricky to dodge. These are basic setpieces, but far preferable to the copy-pasted ducks that fill the rest o’ this level.