When developer Hiroyoshi Oshiba released the video game "Trap Adventure 2," he included a strongly-worded warning for potential players: try it at your own peril.
"Caution!! This may be the most hardest, irritating, frustrating game EVER," his message read. "If you tend to exasperate often, I recommend you not play this game. It will literally drive you insane. I PROMISE. As written above, this game is VERY STRESSFUL."
That may have been an understatement.
"Trap Adventure 2″ is so over-the-top hard to play that it could easily be renamed "Trap Torture 2″ if it weren't so darkly funny.
The game, available on iOS devices, is essentially a nightmare version of the original "Super Mario Bros." As you run and jump your way through a castle-like maze, a never-ending series of spikes, flames and other booby traps appear out of nowhere to take your life, forcing you to start over. For most people, it's pretty much impossible to beat.
Oshiba, a developer from Japan, quietly released the game in 2016 through Apple's App Store. But it blew up on social media this week after a user shared a short video that captured just how comically difficult it is.
"Such a masterpiece," tweeted the user, whose video had racked up nearly 9 million views as of Thursday morning.
The challenge is clear from the game's very first frames. When it opens, you find your character standing over a pit of deadly spikes. Your goal is to make it to the other side of the pit by leaping across three ascending blocks. You hop across the first two with no problem, but when you try to jump to the third, spikes shoot out of it, killing you.
Here's where things get really sadistic: If you try to leap over the third block entirely, it comes crashing down on top of you. If you try to retreat to where you started, the ceiling collapses over you. And if by some stroke of luck you do make it to the other side of the spiky pit, yet another set of spikes emerges from the floor to take your life. Oh, and by the way, if you try to run past those spikes, they chase you down the corridor.
And that's just the first stage. Many more levels of torment await.
The goal, it seems, is to drive players nuts, although Oshiba says in his warning that he "can't take any responsibilities for the displeasure this game may cause."
The developer's twisted sense of humor charmed many in the gaming community. "Watching this brutal Super Mario clone spring hilarious, unexpected traps on a poor player is hypnotic," wrote Mike Fahey, an editor at the video game site Kotaku.
"It's brilliant, but cruel," opined Michael McWhertor of Polygon.
Every frame of the game is loaded with deadly surprises. Gone are the easy-to-kill goombas and user-friendly landscapes from the Mario Bros. franchise. In "Trap Adventure 2," as soon as you've conquered one obstacle, another pops up to sabotage you. Lava erupts from fiery pits. Giant circular saw blades whiz past your head. Floors cave in, bombs explode all around you, and boulders roll in from out-of-frame and chase you across the screen.
The only thing as frustrating as the game itself is the music, which, while wonderfully composed, becomes ever more cloying as you fail over and over and over again to make the jump over that first set of spikes. A Washington Post reporter who downloaded "Trap Adventure 2″ tried for 20 minutes and kept getting impaled. Other players have had more success, and a few aficionados have shown that the game is, in fact, conquerable.
The game is more than just a wicked practical joke, however. As many have noted, there's some serious ingenuity and creativity behind Oshiba's design.
Normal video games created in the style of "Mario Bros." present players with a set of puzzles and enemies that can typically be overcome with ease. The simplicity of the gameplay is part of what makes them so popular. "Trap Adventure 2″ takes this model and turns it on its head, bombarding players with layers upon layers of obstacles deliberately designed to foil their progress.
"Trap Adventure 2 may look like a Super Mario Bros. clone, but it uses that familiarity against the players," wrote Blair Marnell on Nerdist. "Every tactic that would have worked in Mario's adventure becomes a death trap in this game, as the stage turns against the player at nearly every opportunity."
McWhertor, of Polygon, had a similar take: "Oshiba's Trap Adventure games lean into subverting the player's expectations, making presumably safe platforms into lethal traps."
Kataku's comments section was also full of praise for the developer.
"Whoever designed this game thought of everything," one reader wrote. "I don't think it would be half as funny without that degree of prescience about player behavior."
Oshiba, on the other hand, takes a modest view of his creation.
"It's terrible," he tweeted, "so I won't recommend it."