|Completion Date||July 16, 2015|
Kula World is a quintessential puzzle game with a simple premise. Roll around, pick up keys, get to the exit. That's it. No enemies other than time and wrong movements. No story. No reason for doing other than to have done it. It's as close as possible you're going to get to a run based solely on execution. For example, the main executable contains only 3 calls to a RNG, and they are all to do with the spinning level preview on the Title/Pause/Well Done screens.
1. Apart from normal rolling, the main movement is 'turn jumping'. As soon as the camera is rotating for a turn you can jump forward to start moving in that direction before the camera finishes. Obviously if I need something on the block next to the turn (like the second key on level 4) or there's a gap then I can't do it.
2. You can only rotate which way is down on open ends. If there's a block to the left or right of the one you're on, you can't rotate the world by rolling forward.
3. Every level has a fruit somewhere in it. Every five collected take you to a bonus level. I collect 12 that are either in the fast path to complete the level or are mandatory to take. I collect another 21 that are on the underside of a platform I'd already be on or are one jump off the fast route. This is because just like in time trial mode, each fruit collected takes four seconds off your in game time. Bonus levels are exited by pausing and selecting Restart Level, which in a bonus or hidden level sends you to the next normal level instead of restarting. Entering and exiting a hidden/bonus level takes one in-game second so collecting the fruits is a net gain.
4. Each level is on its own timer. You can't delay in one level to get a more favourable pattern of obstacles in the next. Everything always starts in the same position and will be at the same location after a constant period of time.
5. Coins and gems are just for points. The rest of the mechanics I'll discuss as they're introduced.
Level comments - The world names are what they're called in the data files
Level 1 - I hope you like that level entry sound effect, you're going to hear it 156 more times.
Level 4 - Even after what must be about 800 times of playing the start, having to turn left at the start rather than just going forward still takes me by surprise.
Level 5 - The way to complete this level in the fastest real time is to turn left at the start and ignore the fruit altogether. With the four second benefit of collecting the fruit, it's faster in game time to collect it.
Level 7 - Spikes will pop the ball (in sound if not in vision) if you collide with them. This and the other ways you can 'die' cost you points equal to (level points so far) + (Level number x 50). If you end up going under 0 points, it's game over. But we don't have to worry about that.
Level 10 - Jumping down from the middle instead of copying the previous levels upper platform route was the last change to this route through the game. If you do it optimally, you save about 15 frames. This level also shows the visual rumble that's absent on emulator when jumping onto a platform that's beneath you.
Level 13 - Grabbing an hourglass turns the HUD timer at the top over, so time elapsed becomes time remaining. The first one here highlights a difference between Kula World and the other versions - grabbing one early on in World gives you single digit seconds remaining. In the others you get at least 20 (see https://youtu.be/HQU_aTgHvRU?t=3m55s). This isn't of any consequence here as there's another hourglass but elsewhere it means hourglasses are as deadly as spikes.
Level 16 - It sure looks like a larger panorama version of Windows XP's famous Bliss wallpaper. Except that this game predates XP by two years.
Level 17 - If you're not on the central line of the blocks when moving forward, the game helpfully corrects you into the centre.
Level 20 - Collapsable blocks let you do a 180 before they disappear if you jump on to them. It looks like it'd be just as fast to do the same falling for the return journey, but it isn't (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSu9YjieMsA.
Level 21 - The levels tend to get harder and longer as you progress, this level isn't the last time that trend is bucked.
Level 22 - The first mandatory fruit. We'll see the capture stars for the rest of the game, one touch equals 'death.
Level 24 - When you're faced with a left-right capture star in front of you at the beginning its always safe to just jump towards it as they get out of your way.
Level 25 - The first real run ending level. The way everybody does this is to turn around and take the path underneath. It's identical to the topside except all the stars move in the same direction instead of half going one way and half the other (https://youtu.be/hlktTAqdT50?t=4m29s). Fortunately, the TAS proved it possible to just jump down the top side. It only saves three real-time seconds, but in a world that averages just 11 per level, it's huge.
Level 26 - The yellow springs ('boost buttons') propel you forward three spaces or two forward and the next vertical level up. As long as they take you in the right direction, they're the fastest way to travel.
Level 28 - This type of level is prevalent throughout the game, they all have similar solutions. This one only requires three turns, right, right then left.
Level 31 - Mandatory fruit four. This one only needs three extra rotations to dodge, but that's three too many for this speedrun. If you happen to enter a bonus stage from this level as used to happen back in the mists of time, it takes an extra long time to load on my console for some reason.
Level 32 - Invisible blocks make their entrance. They're just that, until you get close to them whence they reveal themselves.
Level 34 - You can't just jump forward at the start here to get going as there's an invisible block on top of the normal one that cuts you down and laughs at you for trying.
Level 35 - I go into the mechanics of 'fire' in the audio commentary but basically, fire squares 'kill' you after 50 frames of contact. It takes a bit to cool down after touching them which is what the bounce after collecting the key is for. It's not a mistake. The bounce is not required in the NTSC versions, with their higher framerate the ball cools down enough on the non-fire square to make the return journey.
Level 36 - The vertical hitbox for keys is not very big. If you make jumps like this and the ones in the next level from anywhere in the forward half of the takeoff square, you're likely to miss them.
Level 39 - I used to bounce twice at the end to cool down, but one day I was just messing around and did one coupled with a really early jump off third roll on the block - and I survived. It's really just the 'up' or 'over' camera movement variation of turn jumping ('edge jumping') and its equally useful. This is the first of the three 'risky timesavers' since the timing between success and death is a few frames.
Level 40 - Retractable spikes join the fray. Obviously they're deadly when they're up, but harmless when they're down.
Level 45 - I'm sure at one point this must've been a much later level. These Spiral Stabbers won't be seen again until level 122. Unlike Bart Simpson, they have the touch of death.
Level 46 - Ice blocks force you to keep going in the direction you entered them from. You can jump but you can't stop or turn on them.
Level 51 - A third of the game done and you get perhaps the easiest level in the game to celebrate with. Requires just four inputs.
Level 52 - First time I eat a red and yellow lethargy pill. As well as see-sawing the visuals and echoing the sound effects, they make you move in slow motion while also accelerating the passage of time remaining. I used to avoid the pill, but its seconds faster to be direct and eat it. This level also introduces the wheel enemies; they're like slower capture stars with a much larger vertical hitbox.
Level 55 - Another easy level. Requires just three inputs.
Level 56 - The clock squares freeze the time you have remaining to complete the level, but there's no need for them in this run. You have plenty of time for each level. Turn jumps have to be delayed if the camera has to swing upwards firs.
Level 57 - Taking the route to exit via the hidden exit and getting into and out of that is much faster than doing the level the 'normal' way (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdPA7ngRPvw). On the NTSC versions a pause is required before jumping to the fruit or you touch the wheel.
Hidden / Bonus levels - You want to pause as soon as possible after the fly-in completes as the in-game timer stops when the pause menu is open. Time spent in the menu doesn't count towards your final time but that's no reason to be tardy.
Level 58 - A slightly more involved pillar level. Luckily the fruit marks which pillar the exit is on, which helps as I used to get confused on this level regularly.
Level 60 - Riding around the ice pillar requires no input. Apart from loading screens, its constant input from now to level 95.
Level 61 - Arrows on the floor are 'one way' tiles. You can enter from any direction but only exit via the tip of the arrow. Their reach extends to all the empty space above them, so you can't circumvent them by jumping over.
Level 62 - Nope, I have no idea why there's a thunderstorm in the music either.
Level 65 - First mistake here. I let go of up too early and stop on an arrow. The turn was meant to happen on the block in front, as turning is useless on the one way arrows as mentioned above. I always seem to make at least one mistake on this level, so this was unfortunately no different.
Level 66 - Transporters transport you to a different transporter. Luckily we don't have to wait for Chief O'Brien to pull his finger out and the teleport happens instantly. Not noticeable yet, but they are colour coded so yellow takes you to yellow, red to red etc. The correlation between source and destination isn't always A to B and B to A. Sometimes it's A to B, B to C, C to A.
Level 68 - Before I discovered a safer route, the difference in hourglass collection mentioned earlier made this level much harder. After grabbing the first key, I had to jump over both the transporter and the hourglass behind it. Fortunately, going back into the yellow transporter gives a safer route. The long walkway of invisible blocks is the most uninspired part of the game. Could they have made it any longer? The open ends of all the platforms have one way arrows on them stopping you from jumping off and dropping down.
Level 72 - I haven't wasted time here. If you jump on the first frame possible you miss the platform, as it starts moving before you do. I also pause before jumping for the key, again if you jump immediately the opposite platform won't be in position.
Level 73 - I think this is my favourite level. It's sandwiched between two levels with forced waiting which makes its non-stoppedness seem even more fast paced.
Level 74 - I class the grabbing of the second key and bouncing over the moving platform the second of the 'risky timesavers'. More than once I got stuck in the corner trying to turn to get under the key block. Doing the time save correctly saves a cycle of the moving platforms, about 6 or 7 seconds.
Level 76 - Now we're half way and timed blocks make their appearance. These appear for 3 beats, before disappearing for 3 beats. They are solid slightly before appearing, and for just after they disappear. I don't do it since I'm collecting them, but this is the first fruit you can avoid by doing an early edge jump.
Level 78 - This looks like a tight timing level, but there are no spikes on the starting platform so even if I didn't get the key and turn around in time, I'd be fine and it wouldn't cost any time.
Level 80 - This /is/ a tight timing level. After the initial three jumps, the rest of the level has to be done in three beats. Too slow equals a jump to death.
Level 81 - Capture pods move in a much more erratic fashion than capture stars. Despite the appearance, their routes are as pre-planned as everything else. On NTSC you barrel into the fifth pod if you just jump forward. That's not a problem on PAL, it moves out of your way just in time.
Level 82 - Turning left on the crumbly block is the nerviest part of the run so far. It's very easy to hold left too long and not press up fast enough. There's also a bug where rolling off it can cause the world to rotate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzKgIcajnZM.
Level 84 - Another one with tight timing, this time to avoid the capture pods after entering the transporter. Coloured buttons on the floor toggle the same colour transporters on and off. They have pretty tiny hit boxes which come more into play later on.
Level 85 - After grabbing the third key, the jump over the star on the way back is all but blind. Despite that, it hasn't really killed any runs.
Level 86 - First appearance and mandatory eating of a blue and purple pill. These are hyperactivity pills and put you in a permanent jumping state. Every normal movement is now a two-square jump, while holding jump button is akin to hitting a boost button.
Level 87 - Super easy, only three inputs required.
Level 89 - This is the last of the three risky timesavers. After collecting the hyper pill and jumping over, you need to collect the key at the top of a bounce while the platform hasn't quite reached the top of its movement. This gives you enough time to fall to the exit platform, turn around and collect the second key before the platform comes down and blocks off access. If the timing is just off a little bit you can hit the moving platform and die, or do a Tomb Raider-esque corner bug and be teleported back on top of it killing the run (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6FOGEloP8Y).
Level 91 - Lasers are another static hazard. They can be turned off if there's a coloured button or jumped over if there's a boost button or hyper pill nearby. The second mistake occurs after collecting the fruit; the right turn didn't register costing one cycle of the capture star. I don't know if it's just my disc, PlayStation, or the way the game works but entering a bonus level after the first or second levels of a world cause a long delay upon entry and exit.
Level 92 - The visual glitch after falling through the collapsible block is part of the game. It happens when the camera rotates vertically and you're close to the edge of the block.
Level 95 - The TAS jumps to the first key, turns around and jumps back on the moving platform without dying. I spent ages trying to reproduce that and I didn't manage it once, hence the longest no input break in the run. On the plus side it gives my d-pad thumb blister a nice break.
Level 97- Here is where the hitboxes of said buttons screw you over. If you try and jump over the yellow one (which you don't need) you have to jump from dead in the centre of the previous square else you'll land either side of the red button without activating it. The time spent to rectify that is more than the time saved by turn jumping back over the yellow button, so now I just roll over both and then roll over the yellow one again on the return journey to turn it off. It's not optimal but the difference is in the order of tenths of a second.
Level 98 - Everybody else does this level by following that one way arrow and going onto the top of the structure. I'm a rebel and eschew the arrow, primarily because it's much faster.
Level 100 - The jump to the moving platform looks blind, but if you look in the bottom right corner of the screen you can see the corner of the platform poke into the gap. When that disappears, its time to jump.
Level 101 - Two thirds done. Another hidden exit is available here which does complete the level quicker, but it isn't faster overall (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNpE_chTq5Q.
Level 104 - Edge jumping helps do this level faster than intended by avoiding the hitboxes for the buttons and the intended puzzle.
Level 106 - Meet reverse invisible blocks. These are visible from afar, but disappear as you get close.
Level 108 - This level is haunted. More than a few runs have failed because the ball did a boost button jump immediately after collecting the pill despite me not pressing X. And a big jump there is death.
Level 114 - Sunglasses are the last pickup to be introduced. They reveal all invisible blocks in a level for a limited time.
Level 116 - Another of my original routes. It only saves about 20 frames in real-time compared to that standard route but that's usually enough to duck under the 50 frame threshold and save an IGT second.
Level 118 - From the start point NTSC players seem to be able to roll forward, turn left, jump forward, hit the block above and fall through the gap (https://youtube.com/watch?v=dC2E26IYABM?t=1m55s). I tried for ages to do that and never got it to happen. So I have to jump down via more orthodox means.
Level 122 - Spiral stabbers are finally back. They're still ineffective though.
Level 123 - Due to the quicker fire cool down, NTSC players, or at least the TAS doesn't need the safety of the fire-less block. They can jump from the invisible block and immediately jump down the fire path. I need to cool down before attempting it.
Level 124 - If there was such a thing as a signature solution, this is mine. After flipping the green switch, sane people jump through the hole in the middle of the platform back to the starting platform, and from there onto the other part of the level. I on the other hand, found you can jump straight from here onto the moving platform. Unlike the other jumps which had tells, this is a 100% blind jump with nothing to time it by. It's also not any faster than the sane route due to the waiting, but it does look cool. You also have to jump from the rear half of the block or you collect the lethargy pill on the way down. Advice I obviously didn't heed, leading to the final mistake in the run.
Level 130 - You can avoid the wait on the central timed block above the arrows, but then you have to wait for the timed block after the boost button. I wait on the central block since it cycles well with the rest and means I can do the rest of the level at full speed.
Level 133 - You can't do the start too well otherwise the super speed capture star will catch or barrel into you.
Level 141 - The. Single. Most. Hateful. Level. In. The. Run. Full. Stop. Period. Double Underline. Casually it's not bad, since you can wait out the consecutive stars for the spaced ones. In a PAL speedrun, you have about 2 pixels you can jump from to not die on the return journey (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MLndZKqGvE). This level is the last time the game can screw up the speedrun. It's not the last time the player can screw up though...
Level 145 - ...And that's due to the platforming here. The previous route had all sorts of bouncing, jumping and turning that is completely eliminated by the two edge jumps over the first blue button and the boost button (https://youtube.com/watch?v=zdwwI8r16L4?t=42m4s) The jump over the boost button particularly is fraught with danger and a big time penalty for doing it wrong. If you don't make the jump over it, you have to be holding up and jump to continue; whereas if you make the jump over it, you need to be turning. If the opposite of what you're expecting happens you don't have time to adjust.
Level 148 - One thing we haven't had so far is an autoscroller, so here's the closest this game gets. Jumping straight to the outer ring on the return journey saves rolling around four sides.
Level 150 - After throwing all it can at you, the game admits defeat with a gentle level that wouldn't be out of place in the first world. Again, on the PAL version the only danger is picking up the hourglass
And that's that. The closing cutscene is different for every version. On PAL you get a NES Ghostbusters style "Conglaturation" inviting you to take on the 20 extra levels, no credits or anything. In Roll Away, the sentient ball celebrates while credits play before ascending to the skies (https://youtube.com/watch?v=abA7UDMZgfw?t=48m40s). In Kula Quest you get one of two cutscenes depending on if you got all the fruits. One is a mellow affair hinting at the genesis of the game and a sequel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSO_uU5HRt4) while the all fruit one is just weird (https://youtube.com/watch?v=z1Uh_X87AcU?t=2m29s) and also lacks credits.
Also, I haven't cheated you out of a level. The score table lists 151 levels simply because the level counter increments when you hit the exit and they forgot to subtract the 1 added by the last level.
As of 4th August 2015, 38:37 is 1:14 faster than the next fastest public in game time run. The run's come a long way since the fastest provable human time was 1:44:12 (http://kulaworld.net/Level%20136-150/congrats.html). My first real attempt was 47:11 on 2nd June when I though sub 45 was unthinkable. Few improvements later I did a quick segmented run to see the absolute best time possible with no mistakes (40:36) and thought beating that would be unthinkable in single segment. Now two months on from the first run I've got a deathless run that's knocked off almost nine minutes that again I think is almost impossible to beat. Time will tell.
If you got this far, thanks for reading. If you've just scrolled to the bottom, you might want to check out the audio commentary. It's mostly the same as this but it comes in an English accent.
Thanks to all the people who've helped, mostly indirectly but still. They are 'AVideoGameStory' for the TAS which was a great starting point, the youtube rollthroughs of MyNameIsSt3ve and BoulderDasher54 from who I derived a few initial non-fruit solutions, and to the final victim of route kleptomania, GTNTG on Twitch.