Re(?)Considered: Speedy Eggbert
Before Mario Maker 2, Eggbert made level design over-easy
It's Egg Month here on Retronauts (Not it isn't. -Ed), and following last week's little squint as The Excellent Dizzy Collection, I've decided it's time to Re(?)Consider Epsitec's obscure little ouef-'em-up for Windows PCs, Speedy Eggbert. Or, as it was known on its original release, Speedy Blupi. I've searched in vain for a meaning behind the word Blupi and come up short. It truly doesn't matter.
In Speedy Eggbert, you control a little yellow egg who makes his way around somewhat banal levels collecting treasure chests and making use of various relatively unexciting bonus items and vehicles. You can hop in a little tank and shoot glue bombs at the enemies, who take the form of fairly generic opposition like sharks, bulldozers (eh?) and villainous versions of Eggbert himself. Bad eggs, if you will.
Playing the actual provided single-player Eggbert experience is singularly unrewarding. The level designs are never so much as interesting, let alone exciting, thoughtful or challenging. But it's not the main game that appeals to me and never has been. You see, Speedy Eggbert shipped with an easy-to-use grid-based level editor out of the box, integrated with the main game executable for maximum accessibility. And young Stuart Gipp had never seen anything like that before. I remember begging my mom to buy it for me, saving up all my money for this stupid egg game just because I could make my own levels. I'd spent my entire childhood sketching ideas for videogames, full level layouts, feverish screen-by-screen maps. Now, finally, I could bring my ideas to life. I remember the day I got it. That excitement. That potential. And it didn't disappoint.
The Eggbert level editor is a thing of beauty. Clear, concise and laden with possibility. There are plenty of elements that allow an imaginative player to create some truly excellent stages. Of course, you can't change the graphics, but as a kid that didn't matter to me. Several types of terrain, fans creating gusts of wind, springs, water for swimming, moving platforms, floating mines, powerups to make you jump higher... all could be used in service of exploration and puzzle-solving. A totally unlimited number of levels, in an easily-shared .xch format; all you need to do to experience other player's stages is drag and drop them into your "User" folder. Simple, unrestricted and totally awesome.
Sure, Eggbert himself moves in a pretty unintuitive way. And more versatile options did spring up - before Nintendo's own Mario Maker there was the rom hacking tool Lunar Magic for making Super Mario World levels, as well as accessible editors for the likes of Lemmings and Chip's Challenge. But Speedy Eggbert was my first brush with designing and playing my own creations, and I'd still recommend it to anyone who's ever fancied "doing it themselves".
Serendipitously, Speedy Eggbert and its superior sequel (which featured more elements in the level editor without compromising the WYSIWYG interface) are available legally for free on blupi.org, under their original Speedy Blupi names. If you make a level or two, post them in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter; I'd love to see your creations!