A short, relatively easy level mashing up Carrotus & Castle. Aside from some unusual tile choices it has nothing revolutionary, yet the flow is good enough to never feel dissatisfied either. There are some wall-hugging secrets that are decently hard to find. Download recommended, as long as you’re up for typical vanilla gameplay.
It’s nice to see a level that knows so clearly what it wants to focus on: in this case, gravity flipping. Once the player gets out of the outdoor tree area, they embark on a gravity flipping adventure, navigating the same large space from two different perspectives in search of a trigger crate to remove a column of buttstomp scenery blocks. (Why the lock block graphic was unavailable is unclear.) It’s complex and puts a lot of faith in the player’s navigation skills, though there are a few places where the layout doesn’t seem to fully anticipate how much wandering the player might do… the top left has a rogue sucker tube in the ceiling, which is bad if your gravity is flipped, and it takes too long to flip your gravity upwards if you flipped it back downwards at the wrong spot.
Once you get past this first big section, the level becomes more linear, although a few more trigger crates do turn up, and likewise another (much shorter) gravity flip sequence. I almost wonder if the level’s order of events might have been better reversed, so the player could encounter the simpler stuff in the latter half of the level first, learning the level’s vocabulary in a more linear environment, before having to navigate the more complicated puzzle at the start. A similar questionable order of presentation occurs with the beer pickups, which temporarily reverse the player’s controls. They’re a neat idea and manage to avoid being used too frequently, but the very first one is directly above a pit of spikes. A softer introduction in a no-danger environment would probably have been better.
The last main non-vanilla piece of the level, besides the gravity and the beer, are snowflake pickups, which serve as a basic collect-‘em-all goal and use nice seasonally appropriate graphics. It’s a little confusing having both snowflakes and coins in the same level, but otherwise these are a fun addition to the JJ2 formula, and it’s good that the HUD lets you know how close you are to completion. They’re mostly placed fairly, except for a few in a vertical area that I tended to shoot down while aiming at ravens, which wouldn’t have been so bad if my gravity hadn’t been reversed at the time. The pickup sound effect kept making me think there were demon enemies nearby, though. The intro level also does good work on the snowflake front, showing the player (in a low-stress environment) that there’s no gameplay effect to collecting them, only some green HUD text and a sense of completion.
I haven’t mentioned the intro level before but yeah, this isn’t actually a single level, there’s also an intro and a boss and an outro and a silly bonus level. They all do their respective jobs admirably well and so it’s harder to find things to say about them, but here are some random thoughts: Drawing an entire alternate graphics set for an existing JJ2 boss is impressively ambitious. The steam events in the intro were kind of annoying. The sucker-tube-based dialogue (a holdover from Faded Story) still feels weird, especially immediately after a clearly scripted explosion sequence. The sciency base area from the intro/outro is a bit quaint but quite nicely put together. The bonus level is good and it makes sense it’s not trying to develop itself into a full map with a detailed layout and stuff.
Graphically everything in this upload is quite solid, as you’d expect from someone with a background in multiplayer levels. The palette and tileset choice are distinctive, leading to memorability, and everything has enough detail to be attractive but not overwhelming. A few of the spikes do cross the line into nearly invisible, though, but mostly it’s hard to know what to say about the visuals other than that they’re good. Same goes for some of the more linear gameplay sections I didn’t really dwell on above… yeah, they work fine, there’s a good mix of enemies and layout styles, platforming and vines and open spaces and caves and all that stuff.
This is a nice romp through familiar territory. The tileset merger is used to generally good effect: not only are there are a variety of graphical details used at different points in the level, the Castle and Carrotus components get to intermingle throughout, instead of being bizarrely segmented and missing the whole point of a mashup. It’s nice to see vines hanging off of bricks, or one kind of wall giving away to another. The combination palette leaves the Carrotus caves visibly blacker than usual, but it’s dramatic and works surprisingly well. Generally there’s a lot of interesting stuff to look at, at least in layers 3 and 4. Where the graphics do fall down a bit are the parallax background layers… there are a couple Carrotus layers against the sky, looking pretty static, but the background is mostly pretty empty, which is more noticeable considering much graphical detail there is moving at the same x/y speeds as layer 4. Tiles that traditionally appear in the far background are here much closer to the camera and it eventually gets noticeable.
As for the gameplay, it’s all reasonable stuff, with appropriate enemies that match their surroundings in both layout and visuals. There could probably stand to be more non-toaster ammo, perhaps replacing some of the many gems. About halfway through the level, finding trigger crates becomes the main focus… in general, the player gets to see the thing the trigger crate will be opening before finding the crate itself, which is a good principle, although the tile use doesn’t always make it clear at first glance what’s going to be trigger scenery. It’s a pity the tileset didn’t include JJ2’s standard lock block, because the alternatives this level employs—1×1 Carrotus blocks, and a Castle door that looks like it should be completely open—aren’t so obvious. As a result, it’s good to know when you hit a trigger crate that you should go back somewhere, but you won’t always know where to go back to.
The main issue I have with the layout is that it’s all kind of consistent and cramped. All passages seem to be about the same size, not very open, often bounded by very straight lines, no matter whether they use the Castle or Carrotus side of the graphics… and some more variety would be appreciated. Look at something like Rux0riffic for how much variety in layout element size it can get out of just a single tileset, not to mention the way it plays with things like springs and spikes. Changing things up from time to time within the level helps keep the player engaged and makes it more likely that one or another area will stand out and be memorable. There’s good stuff here, but it’s too tightly clustered and thus becomes hard to notice in isolation.
Still, I enjoyed playing this. It does have some nice tricks with less common tile usage, and some interesting bits with vines and destruct scenery and such, and the combat is all generally fine. But there’s still some room for it to grow in terms of visual clarity and distinct gameplay sections.
It’s grand! It’s flashy! It’s not fun!
The fact that this level pack is rated 9.5 / 10 completely baffles me. It’s obvious that Blackraptor put a ton of effort into making the visuals but the gameplay itself is incredibly tedious. There is a lot of enemy spam to artificially increase the difficulty and length. Some levels’ visuals are overbearing and straight up confusing. Darn, I wanted this to be a quick review but guess I’ll do a short review of each level instead (secret levels not included).
- “City Centre” is just enemy spam. Tiles are often placed just to confuse you and make you question whether something is a solid object or it’s part of the background. Yes, yes, I get it, it’s supposed to feel ethereal, it’s a “dreamscape” after all. It did not matter to me, the level felt confusing and annoying.
- “Pride” is frustrating. Akin to Queen of Board, you’ll have to check for hidden walls non-stop until you find a trigger crate or something that will let you progress with the level. This is not about skill, it’s about how much patience you have to bump and shoot every object in hopes to get further in the level. The visuals are great though, can’t complain.
- “Quiessence” is a weird one. I’d say I like it if it weren’t for the One Way wall at the start of the level. I still don’t know how to consistently get past that wall, I just bumped into it until magic happened and I got over it. The level theme is interesting, music doesn’t fit (just my opinion here).
- “Phantasmagoria”… yeah, I hate this one. It’s an eyesore full of enemy spam, death pits and whatnot. Goes on for way too long and made my retinas burn.
- “HellFire” and “Crystal Mountain” are rather tame compared to the previous levels. They’re… okay. Visuals are fine, level design is pretty good. They share some of the issues I have with the previous levels but they’re less prominent here.
I have a feeling that I’m treading on thin ice by writing this review, because I’m tainting the rating of a “classic” level pack. Again, this is my opinion: I didn’t have fun while playing this. I get the pack’s theme but I dislike the execution. Judging by its size and visuals, it’s obvious that a TON of effort was put into making this level pack. It just didn’t click with me for the reasons I mentioned above. Oh well.
Pretty solid SP level. There are a few eyecandy issues but the level layout is good.
Tip: Use MLLE instead of JCS, it’s a better level making tool :)
An interesting mashup of different JJ2 tilesets, with some christmassy details mixed in like snowmen portraits, christmas trees, and ehh toilets. There’s not much open space, mostly horizontal pathways, and an optional route that gets you the extra coins necessary for the warp. Plenty of enemy diversity too, fitting for a mashup. I recommend it!
had fun playing this, and the story made me smile/chuckle, so kudos for that.
Well over a year after Faded Story, a new SP from Lynx is finally here! While it appears to be a pack, it’s more or less a single level accompanied by a prologue, a bossfight, an ending, and a weirdo bonus thingy.
Anyway, the opening scene is done pretty well and introduces a brief but funny storyline about a monster escaping, using old fashioned foreground tiles to display the dialog. It also introduces snowflakes that you can try to collect for completion. The flakes don’t appear to serve an additional purpose other than ‘doing it all’.
The actual level is mostly vanilla but does focus on several scripted elements. Antigravity can be activated and deactivated by touching arrow signs and is essential to navigate the level. Beer is a custom food item that leaves you stoned (err, drunk) for a few seconds. Apparently the Jackrabbits are not used to drinking alcohol at all.
Ammo is the usual with Bouncers and Toasters being the most prominent. Enemies are Turtles, Bats, Ravens, and Hatters. With each of them being placed thoughtfully enough to pose a bit of a challenge. Sometimes backtracking is required to switch gravity or to get a Trigger Crate that couldn’t be stomped earlier with antigravity on.
I don’t like the floor/ceiling spikes that much. In a flash, they are pretty hard to distinguish from nearby tiles and I often got hit by the sides where I didn’t expect the mask to be. That said, the short spinning spikeboll section was a highlight. Overall, playing on Hard the level still felt fairly easy for the seasoned player, as I completed it with all snowflakes and the coin warp in less than half an hour.
The boss is mostly a sprite swap of a vanilla boss that only adds a barrage of smoke rings coming out of its top. You will understand why once you play it. Not a lot more challenging than the original boss but funny nonetheless.
Clearing the ending level will take you to a little bonus. A tiny level that has you fighting and collecting laundry (sprite swapped enemies & food). While funny, I survived the onslaught for several minutes and couldn’t find a way to clear it. That’d mean there’s no formal way to end the level other than getting a gameover which registers your score.
Anyway, it’s a very accessible, relatively newbie friendly, mildly scripted level that I recommend to everyone. Not the most original, but plenty of thoughtful level design is there.
It’s a good conversion, it’s just that the recolored snow “grass” doesn’t look… right.
I never see a green HH98, you also put some new tiles. It’s perfect for a Hub World in Halloween Hare
Playing levels like this makes it clear the vocabulary we have for describing pieces of single player levels is incomplete. We say a level is linear, meaning there’s only one path from start to finish, or it has branching paths or is nonlinear/multilinear, if there’s at least one time when the path splits in two or more directions and one playthrough will see different areas than another playthrough. We talk about secrets, little hidden optional areas on the side of one path or another, which are usually dead-ends but occasionally loop back onto the path, maybe at the same spot, maybe not. But what about when they’re not hidden? What if those optional areas are not secrets but rather in plain sight, containing a few goodies just off the beaten road, maybe cordoned off by no more than a few destructible blocks?
Because, clearly, that’s the defining feature of this pack. Such alcoves(?) are everywhere here, to the point that the actual main path of each level can feel like little more a ride to get you to the next set of optional bits. Often the destructible blocks guarding the goodies are bound to specific weapons, such as RFs, but I never found myself hurting for ammo, so this read like theming, not like a potential punishment for attacking enemies too much. Other times there’s no such explicit marker that something is not the main path, so you try a few directions and eventually make some progress, if that’s the right word. Or there are places that do feel closer to traditional Secrets too, novel interpretations of windows or springs or whatever else for you to explore.
Regardless of how you find and enter them, though, the theme is clear: going directly from Point A to Point B is neither simple nor desirable, because there’s so much to see along the way.
Now, goodies in JJ2 always run the risk of not being entirely useful… gems in particular do absolutely nothing besides give you points, and ammo eventually stops making a difference if you’ve been hoarding it. With such a vast number of pickup hideaways, inevitably some of them are better than others, and oddly the reward does not always seem correlated with the difficulty of getting there. I remember a lengthy detour to reach a single blue gem, compared to a much quicker discovery of many blue gems at once. So perhaps in some cases the player needs to value the experience more than the actual reward.
I’m pleased to report that despite the vast range of direction options at almost every turn, I was usually able to find the exit without difficulty. The only time I had a real problem was toward the end of the lengthy Beach level, which requires you to fall down a random pit to find a trigger crate, then another pit to find what the crate did. That wasn’t great. But otherwise things kept seeming to work out, for me at least. I could imagine a version of these levels with more explicit transitions between stages, like in Rayman Origins or something, to make it clear when you’ve entered a new stage and can’t go back and get lost in the old one anymore, but I suppose (vanilla) JJ2’s tools are somewhat limited in that regard. Anyway, there are some neat tricks along the way, especially in the second Colon level, with its columns of manhole covers to be stomped.
In terms of traditional difficulty, this pack is not hard. There are not a whole lot of enemies and there’s plenty of ammo. Graphics too are plain and honestly sometimes kind of empty. Layout seems to have received by far the bulk of attention in designing this pack, resulting in a very unique experience, but if you’re mostly just looking for any other component of JJ2 levels here instead, you may be disappointed. But if you want to keep having more and more stuff thrown at you, from all angles, with lots of attention given to all the appropriate layout features for each tileset (sewers, water, vines, caterpillars, cheshires…) this is worth your download.
The faded story part 2 is here! Everyone!
btw, who scripted these?
Is this the Halloween Hare level pack?
[No it is not. ~PurpleJazz]
This is basically Diamondus, the Sepia edition. It’s not unpleasant, but I really wish it had some secondary color to break up the monotony. Note that this lacks any of the additional content/quality of life improvements found in other editions of this tileset, so you may as well just extract the palette using MLLE and apply it to one of those.
I played through this pack a number of times while testing it, as it gradually shed the details I found most onerous, so it kind of made sense to wait a while and give myself a comparatively fresh perspective before reviewing it. However, six months was perhaps too long. Oh well.
Reviewing big packs like this always forces the choice between writing separate minireviews for every level in a row vs. writing one big review that tries to encompass everything, and I am going to try to compromise a bit by listing the highlight of each level and letting that mostly stand in for a bigger picture review:
If it’s not clear, I like this episode. It’s not perfect—there are times it’s a little too obvious the level layouts are just filling available space, often with straight lines, rather than obeying any higher principles, for example, and the switch between small platforms and indoor tunnels is a little too repetitive across multiple levels—but there’s a lot of good stuff here across multiple tilesets, and the difficulty is always kept reasonable and moderated by generous supplies of pickups. All levels feel like they’re of similar length and don’t drag on for too long. New gimmicks and challenges keep being presented throughout. The graphics are always functional and appropriate and rarely obscure the player’s vision. It’s a good time.
Refuges from that familiar school of level design that places a new thing every few tiles and doesn’t worry about petty things like “overall layout” or “dead ends.” Raven Pride is comparatively normal, despite managing to be both incredibly platformy and also incredibly cramped, but the other three go wild with tubes, vines, weird shapes, and everything else. It’s a style that can only possibly work in battle but can be a lot of fun to mess around in. Sometimes it’s a little hard to see what’s going on, and the layouts aren’t always quite as conducive to exploring as you might expect, but in general sometimes it’s just nice to play around in something where you can’t predict the rest of the layout based on sound level design principles. Get a lot of players together and chase each other around the weirdly shaped blocks.
The visuals and music make unforgettable a map that would still be a welcome moment of gameplay innovation even without their help. Some of the dark pink is a little too bright though, and the bomb could respawn a bit faster imo?? but like overall this is good, good job, get punched.
The density of cool tricks per square inch of level here is out of control! Deeply copter-ear-phobic, of course, but a cool ride. The QoB theming is cute but not enough to derail the gameplay (although the underscore is bad for typing the filename in the server menu), and Mez01 gets to look good and not empty. Platform above RFs maybe unnecessary.
Eat your lima beans, Johnny.