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|OLCNPLand.j2l||Nature's Plot Of Land||12.33 kB||09 Jun 2007|
|Mystic Isle.j2t||Mystic Isle||44.40 kB||23 May 2005|
|3ddemo2.mod||3d-demo-ii||219.28 kB||14 Sep 2005|
I’ve been away for quite a while and now I seem to be coming back. Here’s a level from a long time ago, it was supposed to be for a pack I was making with Cooba, but I kinda took too long.
I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed making it
I agree with Derby but I like this level enough to think it’s underrated!
Tileset usage: 8.0
There is not much to be said about how the tileset was used in this level. Tile incompatibilities were avoided all together because the Mystic Isle tileset, like many other custom tilesets, requires little contemplation in the creation of thick ground platforms. As a result, the appearance of the foreground becomes relatively flat in nearly all parts of the level with the exception of the waterfall area. This is more likely a limitation of the tileset, however.
Overall graphical appearance: 8.5
This race level’s greatest strength is the fact that it is very scenic. The background in the beginning of the level can be best described as a sunset where the sun is hidden behind green mountains with pillars lodged into the mountains. As you descend in the level (around the time you see waterfalls in the foreground) the orange colors also get hidden behind the mountains, leaving darker gray colors that make it seem as though the sun has become even more hidden.
Unfortunately, the path of the level continues to go down into a water cave, which does not leave enough time for the player to notice this great change in the level’s appearance. The level would have greatly benefited from being extended a little farther to the right past the waterfall area before descending into the water cave, as the level is fairly short for a level that is so easy to navigate.
While the background of the level has significant depth, the foreground suffers in all areas with the exception of the waterfall area. You should pay close attention to what you did in the waterfall area, as the attention to elements of the foreground, such as the inaccessible platform with the long rock, could be brought over to other portions of the level. You should not put waterfalls all over the place to fix this problem. Instead, in order to compensate for the tileset’s shortcomings in foreground detail, the level can use more of these inaccessible platforms within the walls.
One last aspect that is very good about this level’s appearance is the illusion it creates in the size of the area. Even though all levels are technically enclosed within an area, the fact that you used the wooden bridge tiles in some places at the top of the level makes it seem as though one could walk on top of the level as well, even though this is not possible in the race without being able to fly through walls. The illusory level continuity helps make this level look very good.
Level navigation: Easy
Most portions of the level have acceptable flow, although flow can be difficult to gauge in a race level. The only portion of the level that makes it level navigation seem more intermediate than easy is the spring area, as it requires a curved path to successfully navigate and will result in huge time losses if the player hits a spring. This is not a flow issue, however.
The sloppiest execution of flow occurs early in the level. The blue spring leads to a pepper spray powerup and a red spring that pushes a player downward against some upward force. Not only does this upward force cause the resulting buttstomp that is aimed for a low horizontal vine to become very sluggish, the player will not latch onto the vine half the time. This causes the player to fall into the abyss which warps the player back to the beginning of the segment, which is a significant waste of time in a race level.
Even worse, the blue spring can be jumped over easily, as the gap between the spring and the next part of the level is very small. While getting the pepper spray might be seem to be worth such a risk and loss of time (the next portion of the level requires players to shoot at blocks, which causes any player shooting the blocks during the first lap to be wasting roughly the same amount of time), the winding path of the level gives pepper spray very little advantage over the blaster.
The level has no major problems in flow apart from this.
This level could have benefited from being slightly longer in length. The level hardly takes advantage of the fact that the level appears to be darker when the orange colors get hidden behind the green mountains as the player descends into the cave. Increasing the length of the circuit horizontally would thus pronounce this effect a lot better while also allowing the race to require a little more skill to finish.
The level itself has decent weapon placement and is open enough for players to use those weapons as long as the battle is not taking place in the short underwater area. Since the underwater area greatly slows down the racing action, it should be pulled far to the right along with the right-hand side of the level containing the springs and the drop into the water cave. This way, you can extend the portion of the level that best pronounces the receding sunlight and you can insert a segment of the level after the water area that emphasizes a high speed finish, as the race is essentially over when players go into the sucker tube event area at the end of the final lap.
One other issue is in the beginning of the water cave area. When you allow the player to either skim over the top of the water or go into the water, the player needs a very good reason to go into the water, as traveling in water takes far more time than traveling in mid-air. In this particular case, there are no weapons in the water to obtain, and there is actually bullet bouncer ammunition in mid-air. As a result, there is an even more compelling reason to avoid going into the water early at all.
With the exception of the water and the early portion of the level involving the pepper spray, there are no alternate paths, and even the alternate paths described earlier are not truly alternate paths. This level is completely linear, which limits more advanced gameplay possibilities in favor of simplicity. You might consider adding alternate paths if you are planning on extending the length of the level.
One thing you did very well is the use of the implicit checkpoint system that used triggers to make sure that players that fall into the abyss are teleported back to a very fair location. Even though the laps are short and the navigation is simple, the racing in this level can be fairly intense.
Overall concept: 7.7
This short and simple race level has excellent scenery and decent flow allowing for fast-paced racing action. While it is difficult to recommend based solely on its gameplay shortcomings and questionable linearity, it is very easy to recommend overall, as players will enjoy this fun and scenic race level if they can overlook its few gameplay flaws.
Review correction on June 25, 2007:
After trying harder to master the massive shortcut across the canyon, I was able to successfully span the gap with both Jazz and Spaz, although the RF powerup in the level is not required to access it for either rabbit (though it is much harder without it), and spanning the gap cuts off about five seconds per lap for Spaz, while it cuts off roughly three seconds for Jazz. Additionally, spanning the gap is more difficult for Jazz.
While the shortcut is not perfectly executed, it is an excellent effort at rewarding players for taking such major risks in a racing level. The shortcut, however, is only helpful when players are spread out over the course, which makes it impractical on the second lap (as intended) and still difficult to use on the third lap if players are close together.
When I originally decided to ignore the shortcut due to it being seemingly impossible to span with Jazz, I scored the level a 7.5. Since the shortcut is still difficult with both rabbits even after mastering it and its practicality in many situations is questionable, the score will not be changed significantly. I have increased the review score by 0.2 to 7.7 to account for the existence of the shortcut.
There aren’t a lot of people who build race levels. Still less who actually care about them.
No, I’m completely serious. Next to Treasure Hunts, quite possibly the most irrelevant and unspectacular multiplayer mode of Jazz 2 in terms of quality custom-built levels is the Race category. For whatever bizarre, unappealing or totally unexplained reason, JCSers just don’t want to put in the time and effort required to create a decent course.
Because of this, J2O members generally pay little to no attention on the rare occasions when a race (or a Treasure Hunt, for that matter) is uploaded. After all, nobody ever makes worthwhile maps, so what’s the point?
As a result, the vicious cycle comes full circle, returning to the JCSers who are not properly encouraged to try and make these sparse and often unappreciated styles of multiplayer levels.
My point is compounded by the glaringly obvious fact that, despite being a Featured upload with 446 downloads, Ragnarok’s race level has but one quick review and but one full-length review.
True, that full-length review may happen to be a Featured Review, but that’s mostly because it’s the lone votable review for the level, and is thus the most likely review to be sampled on the front page of J2O, which in most cases greatly contributes to Featured Review status.
The whole thing’s a terrible shame, really, because Nature’s Plot of Land is one of the best races I’ve EVER seen. And believe you me, there’s nary a level to challenge it.
First off, the structure is fantastic. NPoL meshes perfectly with its Mystic Isle tileset, going from expansive, roomy caverns one minute to steep, foreboding cliffs the next, then magnificent waterfalls, then winding subterranean rivers…the list goes on and on and on.
Ragnarok then avoids the classic blunder, the biggest of which is getting involved in a land war in Asia, but only SLIGHTLY less significant is to never put warps where they don’t belong!
Princess Bride quotations aside, Rag chose not to take the cheap way out and use a space-age teleporter in a naturalistic, outdoorsey environment to warp the player back to the start, instead employing a really cool sucker-tube-aided passage that flings the player through still more earthy tunnels, magically depositing them back at the start.
NPoL uses Mystic Isle brilliantly, with just the right amount of eyecandy dotted in various places to make it seem natural. A-plus there.
Then there’s the obstacles. Oh, be still my heart! Ragnarok showed a masterful flair for levelmaking with the obstacles he placed in this race. Spring traps (Cleverly executed ones like the Blue Spring right at the beginning never grow old). TnT booby-trap crates. Freezers to immobilize fellow players, powered-up RFs to knock them backwards (plus an ingenius method for procuring them), Keep-1 springs (A lot of people miss this crucial level-building trick, which prevents springs from automatically killing a player’s left-to-right momentum) that send the racer flying off the edge of a cliff.
The TnT crates are especially devastating in the underwater segment.
I was also VERY happy to discover certain types of ammo that Ragnarok left OUT, namely the seekers and toasters. Seekers used to be my favorite weapon, but they’re so overrused now that I’m absolutely sick of ‘em. Toasters would serve little purpose on a race anyway, so it’s good that they’re not wasted here.
The weapon I was most pleased to find present was the Pepper Spray powerup. Pepper Spray is so underrated, due to its complete uselessness in singleplayer. Nevertheless, it is instrumental in multiplayer, thanks to its minuscule size and difficulty in subsequently avoiding. It works great here.
NPoL had a great song, too. Its fast pace kept me hopping through the stage (as any good race song will), yet it was organic enough to be completely appropriate for this level. Hats off to Rag for an excellent selection.
Not much needs to be said about buggage, since it’s basically nonexistent.
The absolute ONLY criticism I have is the “Bouncy Cliffs”, where one tile is slightly high enough that, without a full head of steam, it requires a few tries to successfully climb up.
Think about that for a minute. THE WORST THING I CAN FIND TO SAY ABOUT NPoL IS THAT ONE TILE IS PLACED ONE SPACE TOO HIGH.
Summary? Nature’s Plot of Land took my breath away, not because it was such a tremendously well-executed upload on all fronts (which it was), but because it went almost completely unnoticed by prospective reviewers. I probably wouldn’t have even played it at all if I hadn’t picked a random level of Ragnarok’s to evaluate, in exchange for his own review on one of mine.
And just think of what all I would’ve missed out on.
7.8?! Heck, no! This race deserves better. So much better.
It was an almost perfect upload, so I’m going to give it an almost perfect rating. Nature’s Plot of Land was a terrific level, and I think it’s just plain ridiculous that people don’t make races like this more often.
Wonderful job, Ragnarok. Wonderful, wonderful job. Two thumbs up, a standing ovation and an immediate and unconditional download recommendation go to you today.
Eat your lima beans, Johnny.