Really really nice, very fun to play
Erathia brings a new dimension to nature themed maps. The background is eyepleasing – there could possibly be a tad more contrast, the background/sprite soil look quite similar. The gameplay is where this level stands out. It has an unique layout and quite the campy carrot placement. However, the +1 carrot makes up for it. Fun to Play. DL(Y)
Can’t stop being surprised by the realism of the levels based on beta-diamondus tileset. Those winding caverns look fantastic!
I normally don’t approve of symmetrical levels, but this is symmetry done well; it works well with this level.
The Rocket pu/bouncer pu are inset(accessible only by electroblaster and maybe bouncer) but those inset pu’s is ok because of easily accessible electroblaster and well balanced by the two well placed full c.
The sweet elevator in the middle also adds to the fighting experience, its a tough level fight or die. a bit too fast paced, you just gotta be good.
The egg cases are real nice too, normal cases would be way too distracting. but the eggs are almost invisible(I don’t wonna see that ** there!)
I have a few comments:
1) Love the layout, especially the immediate areas above bases and towards Cs.
2) Fairly small, but plays fast (and fun).
3) Small complaint in that I really don’t think this gameplay suits PUs being in walls, despite there being plenty of ammo to compensate for it.
4) Mostly I’m just pleased about the set and usage.
While the level isn’t quite as well polished as Stronghold, it still offers some fun gameplay and some unique aspects in its own right – for example the omission of seekers is a refreshing change. The layout facilitates tactical play, although matches can be quite chaotic at times as the path between the bases is fairly open and quick to traverse.
This level has got all that is required in a good CTF level: paths, well placed ammunitions, powerups, eyecandy, a background, and that egg crate addition.
It’s rather small for a CTF arena, but still, it’d be fun to see 32 players challenging eachother in this arena.
The concept is well executed and results in a level totally unlike anything else you’ll play this year. It can appeal to both casual players and “hardcore” JJ2ers alike. While this virtual version of monopoly doesn’t quite have the same staying power as the original board game, just the fact that it can be played online is enough of a niche. D/L!
DOM: Far too many CPs and start positions immediately next to them. I like seeker PU placement but even that can’t protect a CP from hordes of players spawning just next to you.
CTF: Blue base has 3 PUs including seeker. Red base has one that is risky to get. 2 blue-biased full NRG carrots. Full of random warps. This level is practically bblair.
EDIT 30th April 2020 I wanted to come back to this as well to try to try to justify my rating a bit more.
What probably stands out the most in this level is the bird cage, which is a rare find in multiplayer levels these days. The tunnel layout lets you utilize them in an interesting way, The powerup choices also work well with the layout and I like how all of them are relatively evenely spaced out from the center of the level. Not a huge fan of the eyecandy, but it’s not distracting. If I recall correctly the contest did not have much emphasis on eyecandy, so that’s okay.
I played a few games here, so I should have a strong-hold on the gameplay.
Starting with EC:
It’s fairly logical for the stronghold theme, but there are some illogical things: The brown pillars near the bottom sides lack shadows when they support stone ceilings that project away from the pillars. Some bg stone tiles are in front of some brown pillars, but most of the brown pillars are in front of the bg stone tiles. Loose sand doesn’t erode easily in waterfalls here, but is that even sand? – Also, the tileset doesn’t have “mud” tiles anyway. The bg clouds are zipping at a very high speed, indicating a very fierce wind, but the surrounding scenery is calm. The stronghold lives up to its name for being able to withstand such wind-speeds. I realize those issues are minor, and they can probably be explained easily, but they are noticeable enough to consider. Anyway, this is just a 2d cartoon rabbit game, so whatever.
I like the bg hills, because they are well executed with plenty of levels of elevation.
Overall, I’d say the ec was executed well, but some minor things are questionable.
Well, it wouldn’t be much of a stronghold if it wasn’t secure (balanced) and “fool proof”, and this level mostly functions like a stronghold gameplay wise, with fairly balanced teams and item placement. There’re some “secure” control points like the top middle. The escape routes, despite their name, are death traps if your enemy decides to camp their exits, so that’s “secure” too. Contrary to what PurpleJazz stated, I don’t think this level is unsuitable for duels because of the easily controllable top middle, I think it’s preferable for team games because of that. I noticed some places are relatively hard to rf climb up to, but could be easier to reach with wall-jump: Getting up to 92,41 and its opposite side are examples.
That’s all I have to say. A very solid, enjoyable level probably best suited for team games of 3vs3-6vs6.
Stronghold is the latest contribution to the JJ2 scene by veteran JCSer and player Superjazz (also known as Vivando), produced as a result of the recent JJNet Season 8 CTF contest. Such contests have been responsible for some of the finest new levels to date, and Stronghold does not divert from this trend.
Whilst this isn’t a technical marvel in the visual department, it’s still among the best looking levels in recent years. The tileset usage has managed to convey the theme of the level without resorting to the typical eyecandy spam in order to effectively “rape” the tileset. Conceptually, this level features a fortified castle situated in the middle of the desert. I love the clean look that this level has – the tile usage is mostly very similar throughout the level, yet there is enough variety to keep things from getting too homogenous. It definitely has a more polished and professional feel than SJ’s other Deserto level, The Sun Fired Blanks. The .j2as file included provides a visual enhancement by altering the background colour to a “diamondus blue”, which is rather pleasant considering the lack of colour variety in the tileset, giving this level a more vibrant feel without detracting from the theme. It also matches the colour of the aqueducts in the level corners.
Master Sven’s notion that this level is “nothing special” perplexes me, as I found this to be one of the more interesting levels out there. Although it contains no completely original elements per se, the overall build of the level is quite unique. Despite the large size of 160×70, the actual playing area and the style of the layout are more suited to smaller games, although the level can most likely accomodate games up to 4vs4 (or more perhaps). There is essentially a division of the layout into a lower and an upper section, with most of the action centered around the middle section – the “stronghold” as per the namesake, if you will. A lone Full NRG carrot resides here – it’s fairly easy to defend due to the limited number of approach routes (two to be precise), but it’s also more attackable than in other one-carrot levels like Jungle’s Edge, Galactic Warfare and All Your Base CTF, because you can use EB as a counter-camp tactic. Such a carrot concept makes this level unsuitable for dueling in because you can stay at the top and hit anyone coming up from below infinitely, but it is good for team games because it encourages good communication and timing to control effectively. The top part may be a little too easy to DD in though, but it’s not a major issue. At least camping in the carrot platform itself can be dealt with by bouncer spam.
The base areas are one of the more interesting aspects of the level. As they’re very open, they’re easy to defend yet also vulnerable to attack due to the lack of cover. Being RTS can sometimes be quite challenging as dodging bullets is difficult here, and so airhits may occur, but approaching the base can also be difficult, especially from below where a rain of bouncer fire can virtually deny entry to the base. Thankfully, SJ added an extra route in the most recent update, making it more feasible for players to attack the base from the upper level, without having to traverse the potentially risky carrot area. Below each base is an escape route tunnel, which is a useful feature, enabling you to avoid much of the crossfire. There’s also definitely a risk-reward element associated with them however, as you’re left momentarily vulnerable as you exit the escape tunnel, so use them with care.
The weapon placement is well thought through and balanced. As this level is symmetrical, team imbalance is not really an issue, and the power-ups that are present (Bouncer, RF, Toaster) all have their fair share of uses. I find I have just a sight preference for bouncer in this level due to the importance of the y-axis in this level, although RF is still incredibly useful for chasing players along the bottom level, and for performing tricks (such as jumping up to the bases from below, a useful tactic in order to make a surprise score). I’m glad SJ did not place a seeker PU here, because the open nature of the layout would’ve led to a high lag factor. Ammo is rather plentiful here, which helps the level support larger games and reduces the chance of tedious blaster wars breaking out.
All in all, this is a high quality level by one of the top quality JCSers out there. It may take a little time to adjust to the style of the layout, but this has the potential to provide tactical, enjoyable gameplay for competitive and casual matches alike. Don’t be misled by MS’ questionable review – downloading and playing this online is strongly recommended.
Raised the rating after further contemplation.
Gameplay: 2.1 / 3.4
Placement: 0.6 / 0.8
The powerups are placed on the outer parts of the level, which makes players go there more often, that has been done well. I think there are too much ammo pickups though, especially toaster and fireball.
Flow: 1.2 / 2.6
Before your update there were mostly only 2 ways to go, which would result in very monotonous gameplay. The update couldn’t improve everything that much though. There is still nothing special about it and there are many areas where it’s hard to have a decent combat. The only way to get up here is either with springs or going through cramped tunnels, which are also present in the bottom middle of the level. They said they were gonna watch gameplay the most, therefore I can’t believe they made us be stuck with this one in the mappool. The gamplay in Blackjack was way way better.
Eyecandy: 2.3 / 3.3
The eyecandy is the best thing of this level, although it doesn’t really matter while playing it. I still say there is nothing special about it though, the most remarkable things are how the different layers are overlapped by eachother and how the background is structured.
Originality: 0.5 / 3.3
As I said before, there is nothing special about this level and that’s also the only thing I can say about it’s originality. Im sure SJ could’ve done better, but don’t expect his work to be good instantly.
Final Grade: 4.8
EDIT: rating (4.8) removed – do not rate a level based on its creator, but on its own merits, and either way “nothing special” doesn’t quite match the 4.8 rating -Stijn
EDIT: I have not rated based on its creator but just explained that one shouldnt always expect high quality stuff from him.’ Ok, a definitely playable level, which is big and spacy’ doesn’t match a rating of 9.0 either, so either you are gonna check all reviews of all levels or you will give me the right to review the level based on it’s gameplay, eyecandy and originality. -MS
pillars confused me a bit but otherwise i love it
A very good level with a nice flow, good gameplay, interesting ammo placement, a great theme, good music and overall a great atmosphere. It also comes in two versions, which is a very good thing in my opinion (I prefer the non-lethal one though, just so you know :P). Oh and it has OVER 9000 tiles; the level might be too big for duels, but it’s a great level anyway! You get a nice 8.6 and a DL rec from me, have fun!
Had the honour to play this level yesterday. Checked it out again today and want to give you my impressions.
Gameplay and flow
I am not a fan of too hilly and bumpy CTF levels. Neither do I like too plain and simple layouts. Considering this, Black Jack offers the perfect compromise between both extremes and is the way to go. The following spots are worth being highlighted:
— The pit over the two bases: this comes in extremely handy if you have two hearts and are lingering around your home base, being ready to score. If you have RF ammo and a little bit of skill, your chances are high to get 3 hearts again. Perfect middleway: not easy, but possible.
— The pillars near the two bases: behind them, you are semi-shielded. Electro blaster is placed just right there – great! One way-events are being used and seekers can be shot through the pillars – even better!
— The carrot area (obviously): I really like the concept of the carrot in the wall. Regarding that one can shoot through it, but at the same time might be attacked hard from behind with RF, this carrot is just not campable. Excellent! The only drawback is the slightly too thick mask of the wall, making it unable to immediately get the full carrot from time to time. However, as I guess that there is no better tile in the tileset for this, it’s ok.
— The little caves at the bottom with a warp in them: two aspects have to be covered when it comes to those caves being found to the left and right of the bullet bouncer PU. On the one hand, it’s the level’s size that makes them crucial: this level is BIG. And I really mean BIG. It could possibly serve as a 4v4 level if such thing existed. If you need to get up again quickly, the warps in the caves are your way to go. Same goes for the warps near the carrot area by the way, which bring you to the area described in the next list node. On the other, they are conveniently placed near some of the MP starting points, and they have a seeker crate in them. This level lives of an excessive ammo spamming, and without anything, you are lost (unlike in some other CTF levels). Once you die, you will be grateful for these seekers.
— The area above the carrot: this is where you will be warped to when exiting the carrot area via the springs. An RF powerup is placed there – just like for the electro blaster near the bases, the perfect place. I found myself exiting through this warp many times yesterday – being roasted by CJ with RF just a millisecond later (from the tiny platforms of course). You can also spread RF to the upper corners of the map, killing a fool trying to get the carrot (see list point one for such folks).
— The semi-isolated areas near the bases: vis-à-vis of the top of the bases, you will find apparently sealed areas with broken “tubes” (not the ones you will be sucked through). A good point is that they are not sealed at all – “real” tubes can bring you to the upper hall again if you need to fly away quickly. However, I don’t see too much importance for them for the gameplay. You cannot really attack the base itself, but you can easily be shot with electro blaster from the opponent. I guess Superjazz designed the bases so that you HAVE to jump around them and not stay there and be ready to score. In this case, you eventually may would really be hit from that area. Yet still this is not as effective as attacking from below, shooting seekers up, or even shooting RF missiles from the middle area to the bases.
— The bullet bouncer powerup area: located at the very bottom middle of the level, this area has one purpose: it brings air into the level. Even the most hardcore levels for tricks and stuff like Happy Semiconductor need an area where you will simply be able to move. If this was not the case, you would repeatedly feel smashed in narrow corridors with low-hanging ceilings. As mentioned in list point #4, this area sometimes is a starting point if you die. I myself am glad if I am not lost nowhere in a level when being roasted. This place gives you both space and a good orientation, because you know where you are. Needless to say that again, the powerup placement is done very well (bullets at an area where you can instantly use them). Well done.
— The “caves” below the CTF bases (you can access them from the bottom of the level near the Toaster PUs): there is not much I can say about them other than that they can be handy to reach the base a bit quicker than using the far left (or far right) spring area. However, I got stuck there yesterday at the lower edge. Having checked out the masks and One Way-placements, I can say that this might have been a bug in JJ2 though, because they are fine. Maybe one more row of “One Way”-events would have been needed? I am not sure.
Ammo and powerup placement
Some parts have already been mentioned before. There are four powerups: one RF in the top middle, one Bullet Bouncer in the bottom middle, and two Toaster powerups in the bottom left/right areas. Also mentioned is that they are placed where they need to be (except for the Toaster PU which actually can be put everywhere distant from other PUs). There’s a whole plentiness of ammunition (also seekers which for good reasons have no powerup). The bigger a level is, the more ammo is needed. Also, this way of level design offers a somewhat new gameplay experience. You do not only have to focus on tricks and how to reach area xy (I am a bit biased to this), but you also just have room to fight or even bullfight. I think most of today’s CTF levels lack this feature, and I assume that there are some people around being unable to show off their whole potential due to this fact. This level countersteers this trend. Conclusion: great.
Eyecandy and music
This is where it becomes very subjective, hence the shorter section.
Overall, the eyecandy has been done well too. The metal pillars with a “snake-like” curling of pipes around them is a must if you use this tileset. You can find them at the bases and bottom middle area. If you check out the level from a distance, they sort of border the entire level. I like that. However, keeping in mind that this level is almost entirely symmetrical, I also would have mirrored these pipes below the bullet bouncer area.
Next thing, the chains: I just finished my first CTF level which featured a similar concept: if platforms are tiny, they are “held in place” by chains (like near the RF PU area). It polished the overall view very well. I may would have put even more of them into the level, e.g. below the carrot area – but as I said, this is a subject of taste.
A thing I actually rather disliked were the fences (e.g. in the pits above the CTF bases, or even worse, below them at the Toaster PU). They sort of disturb the eye in my opinion. Luckily enough Superjazz used them sparingly.
All in all, what’s important is that the eyecandy is not very disturbing.
The music choice leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it represents the cliché-like imagination one has of medieval castles (I mean, isn’t that tileset related to Medivo?): hollow, vast, high ceilings, and tons of echos if you are in them. The music represents this a bit, yes. However, overall there is not much going on in that soundtrack, while the gameplay can be very fast and exhaustive. Sort of a contradiction. However, who cares? And I know how hard it can be to pick the right song. Just wanted to jot this down as a side-note.
I eventually see myself absolutely overwhelmed by this level, which you can also tell by the review. No, I am not biased towards Superjazz or anything (in fact, this is the first long review I have ever done). The only thing that might have influenced my uber-positive impression is that the current mappool for the ladders is horrible. I wish this level got uploaded earlier, and I bet it would have got acceptance by all clans. Besides ladder affairs, this levels has a lot of potential to become a classic.
Download recommended? Guess it.
Rating: 9.7 out of 10. Yes, I am serious. I have thought a long time about it, and for some reason there is the ability to give such a high rating. This level deserves it. Definitely.
Download and enjoy!
(edited for a slightly better reading)
Finally Vivando made a new CTF level after a long time, and a good one. After hosting this, playing for like an hour, I wanted to give this a full review instead.
The EC here is amazing in every detail and I see SJ put quite some effort in making this. Not too much, not too less, just perfect. The music choice was well chosen, it fits the level just right.
Black Jack has some interesting gameplay to offer, it suits perfect for public games like in Zeal Alpha, or events. The ammo placements are good, interesting C placement, good balanced bases, also suitable for all rabbits, hell, some even want this level in the CTF Ladder mappool!
Hell yes, this is a good CTF level build by a good JCSer. Too bad you came too late with uploading this, otherwise, it might have gotten in the mappool. Who knows… =P DL now!
A great map with a nice flow, good-looking eyecandy and a fitting music track. I enjoyed playing on it! 8.6 and a dl rec.
A well done CTF map. The eyecandy is good and decent. Huge amount of ammo, but well gathered around the map. The level is symmetrial and automatically balanced. No flow issues (or maybe a few, but not that they bothered me a lot)
A well deserved 8.4 and a download recommendation!
Eat your lima beans, Johnny.