Tier 1 consists of the lowest-scoring levels in the entire competition and we’re going to be covering the whole thing in one go in order to look at why!
Rank 20 “Objective: Vain Space” by No Lynch
I can’t tell if this level is a joke or a very bizarre attempt at a puzzle, but there’s not much to it either way. You immediately start falling and if you stay in the middle and don’t move at all you’ll eventually reach the screen the energy is on, but Mega Man will otherwise be killed during the screen transition. With no real content to speak of and a solution which makes virtually no sense, it’s not hard to see why this took last place.
Rank 19 “City War” by qazcake
Well, this level seems to have more effort put into it than the last one, but four out of five judges rated it their ‘least favorite’ and it quickly becomes apparent why. In addition to multiple pits which demand the use of Rush Coil or Rush Jet to cross, there are plenty of pits which are completely invisible. A first attempt at the level may make you think that there is some pattern to these invisible pits, such as ‘enemies are placed over pits’, but soon enough you’ll inevitably stumble into yet another unseen pit in the middle of nowhere. Naturally, quick-moving and projectile-lobbing enemies are placed all over the map so even if you try to use Rush Jet to make a safe crossing you’ll likely be taking a good chunk of damage. Invisible platforms also exist and it is impossible to differentiate background elements from parts of the actual stage. In short, this is an utterly unplayable mess of a level and the judges made the right call when they added in an energy orb at the start for anyone who didn’t want to or couldn’t go through the whole thing.
Rank 18 “Level” by kanna
It’s certainly more playable than the previous two levels, but that honestly doesn’t say much. This level is easily the worst looking level amongst all 20 entries with Pharaoh Man and Top Man blocks thrown around haphazardly with no sense of spatial logic. The single-tile leaf blocks are the biggest offenders here, being placed in bizarre and unnatural-looking formations with small gaps scattered around which pose no threat unless you jump down from a higher screen in the wrong location (not that there’s any real indication of what the ‘right’ locations are). In fact, pickups and enemies also seem to be placed at random with little to no regard for what they are or where they’re placed. There’s a frog robot near the start which poses some danger due to being placed on a raised platform on the other side of a gap, but every single other enemy and platforming challenge in this extremely short level is utterly forgettable. Overall, this level just feels rushed and utterly uncared for.
Rank 17 “The Quickening” by Zyglrox Odyssey
The final level in the first set feels like it fits its location on the rankings perfectly; it’s definitely a huge step up from the previous three as the first level which feels like it has actual effort put into it, but I can’t think of any other levels which I would place below it. This is a level based around instant-death lasers with a bit of a twist because you must climb upward rather than rapidly drop down. It’s a very short level, which helps to balance out the high difficulty of the lasers and plenty of extra lives are handed out at the start and at the checkpoint. The upward orientation also allows you to climb up to a new screen to see how it works and plan out how you’re going to get through it before climbing down and back up to reset it. As an additional positive note, the laser theme is changed up with each screen, such as in a screen where you need to take advantage of a magnet and a conveyor belt to move quickly and another where you need to deliberately take damage from an enemy to gain invincibility frames. For all the points in favor of this level, the lasers are simply too unforgiving and demand far too much perfection from the player, leaving no room for error. The Black Hole Bomb makes this level much more reasonable because lasers in this engine are divided up into segments which the Black Hole Bomb absorbs just like any other projectile, but the intended way to complete it is far too difficult and even a little more leeway on the amount of time you have before the lasers start firing would have almost certainly allowed it to climb to a higher rank.