RecommendedReview by Seren

Posted:
11 Jan 2022, 09:27
For: Jazz Jackrabbit 2,5 - The Big Rescue (Part 1)
Level rating: 8.4
Rating
8.0

This is a strange level pack. For one, it starts with a wordy tutorial for basic Jazz Jackrabbit 2 mechanics that speaks to the player like they’re a baby who’s never played not only JJ2, but any video game, providing insight such as, and I quote, “to shoot press SHOOT button.” This approach of placing signs with lengthy messages explaining standard mechanics continues far into the level pack, telling you, among other things, how every new standard weapon you collect works. It’s somewhat baffling; aside from a snarky remark very early on, it’s played too straight and goes on for too long for me to perceive it as ironic, and this information appears useless not only to anyone familiar enough with JJ2 to venture into user-generated content, but also, honestly, to people who have never played the game before. “Show, don’t tell” became good standard practice in teaching game mechanics over a decade ago; JJ2 itself does it, in a sense – it never tells you how a weapon you’ve just collected works, you fire it and find out! I want to give the author the benefit of the doubt and trust that this is just a weird aesthetic choice, but it does have the unfortunate side effect of wasting players’ time. It also has a side effect of making me cringe whenever attempts at comedy show up in the messages – the sense of humor in the pack is one that used to be really popular in media maybe 20 years ago, exhausted its potential back then, and nowadays sounds dated, unoriginal, and somewhat infantile to me.

What’s odd is how much this tutorialization of game basics stands in stark contrast with the actual difficulty of the pack. You should most likely not pick this up if you’re actually new to the game. I didn’t struggle with it personally but I can recognize that this is a fairly hard campaign. An unexpected difficulty spike occurs right in the middle of the pack, in River Ride or River Die, which is the only level that made me river-die, and a couple times at that – it appears that the level designer recognized this too, as it’s the only level that provides you with a free extra life right at the start, as if to say “this is the part where you die a lot.” Most deaths in the pack will probably be delivered to players by instant death pits, which is pretty much par for the course in packs that contain them. For credit where credit is due, I thought the pits were marked exceptionally well, with some sort of sign indicating danger almost every time they would show up. That said, despite being a feature that doesn’t make an appearance in the main JJ2 campaign, somehow they’re one of the few things the tutorial messages won’t actually tell you about, go figure (aside from offhandedly mentioning “the deep chasms” while discussing buttstomps).

Something else the tutorial messages say is to collect everything you can, for a simple reason: points. I think that’s the crux of one of the major issues with the pack. While the levels aim to encourage exploration by being full of optional paths and secrets, in practice there is little of value anywhere. The main pickups used throughout the campaign are gems, food, coins, and sometimes ammo and carrots. Gems are not given any new purpose via scripting, and the sole purpose of food – the sugar rush – is actually intentionally stripped away. Collecting enough coins allows you to access a bonus warp at the end of each level, which grants you access to… more gems and food, generally, plus usually one extra life. As far as I can tell, only one weapon power-up shows up throughout all these levels, and it’s on the main path where you can’t miss it, so that the pack can stick a tutorial sign next to it. JJ2 has so many ways to reward exploration – power-ups, shields, bird cages, invincibility carrots, even ammo that’s otherwise rare – and maybe I just somehow threaded the needle and missed all that good stuff, but I have not seen a single one of those things. It is 2022; “points” will not do. Watching a number go up is only exciting if that number serves a purpose. Additionally, I counted about 3 invisible, unmarked points of no return created with the Limit X Scroll event, that, if you unknowingly trigger them, may cause you to permanently miss pickups on optional paths, for no obvious reason, further hurting the exploration aspect of the gameplay. On the bright side, carrots, while not exciting, made the exploration somewhat worth it on occasions, and I applaud the choice of coin warp prices, which are just lenient enough that you should never miss them if you dedicate time to exploring, even if you fail to find some of the coins.

Now that my main gripes with this upload are covered, on to some of the positives; the levels are gorgeous. All of them are consistently beautiful. At times this is done to a fault – sprites can easily become hard to see in some locations, but it’s not a prevalent flaw. They are also very consistent in the selection of JJ2 features they use – if something shows up, it will show up again, no weird one-offs. Yet the pack doesn’t quite get boring and tries to mix and match different mechanics, present them in different contexts, and every once in a while break up traditional platforming segments with an airboard section. I can appreciate that. Most levels are fairly traditional, but several have a prevalent and more noticeable theme in their mechanics, especially the aforementioned River Ride or River Die. Aside from occasional rolling rocks thrown at you without warning at ridiculous speeds, and the rather mundane rock pushing sections, the challenges are quite fair and enjoyable. Collapsing scenery is used often enough that you know to expect it, and it’s quite consistently used on the same set of tiles. Usually masking is also what you would expect – there are some exceptions to that, but nothing too bad. Some of the early levels have slopes that make you run down them, and those are a weird choice that probably could’ve been cut. I never quite got used to what looks like normal JJ2 slopes making me suddenly accelerate, and they’re never used for anything interesting.

Lastly, as a note that didn’t fit elsewhere, at least one midway level where you can save your game would be a massive quality-of-life improvement. This is a fairly lengthy pack and making players finish it all in one sitting is asking a lot.

Overall, this was a bit of a mixed bag. The part of me that enjoys platforming and combat was reasonably satisfied, and the explorer in me was disappointed. As a veteran player I found the difficulty to be adequate, but was constantly confounded by the presence of tutorial messages treating me like I’m using the computer for the first time. I’m giving this pack an 8 because the things it does well, it does very well, and it’s worth playing through. Even experienced JJ2 level designers can learn a lot from this. Just try to only learn the good things.

Not recommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
6 Aug 2020, 18:54
For: Harip
Level rating: 5.0
Rating
5.0

Almost all of these are terrible for instagib.

Quick Review by Seren

Posted:
11 Apr 2020, 18:48
For: Tech Tree
Level rating: 7.8
Rating
6.0

This level provides an interesting environment to explore and fight in, but it is beyond too complex to be playable in CTF and thus fails to fulfill its primary purpose. At 6 very wide floors, the only way it’s possible to find a flag holder who doesn’t want to be found is through sheer coincidence.

RecommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
18 Jan 2020, 22:18
For: Candy Goth
Level rating: 8.3
Rating
9.5

Design-wise, Violet’s best level to date. You can clearly tell that this was made by someone familiar with actual game design philosophies. My biggest issue is that the boss fight would be a perfect time to put players’ skills acquired during the level to the test, but none of the cool custom mechanics taught earlier are brought back for it.

Review by Seren

Posted:
9 Sep 2019, 15:36
For: Astolfo
Level rating: 10.0
Rating
0.0

@DennisKainz: Yes.

Review by Seren

Posted:
6 Jan 2019, 16:45 (edited 6 Jan 19, 17:03)
For: J2E Editor
Level rating: 8.3
Rating
4.0

This is the only tool publicly available on J2O (aside from J2E Creator by the same author) that provides the much needed functionality of creating and editing j2e files, so you kind of need it if you want to have custom episode files without writing your own software. So it was received well because it was software we needed. That is not to say it is a good tool for the job.

You open this up and you’re greeted with an awful, awful user interface that is hard to call an improvement over a console application. First thing you’ll do is probably try to open some file, either a j2e or a bmp, you’ll type in the file name (don’t count on a Windows file selection dialog), and you’ll be told that nope, that file doesn’t exist, because you’ve included the file extension like any sane person would do, but J2E Editor actually appends .j2e or .bmp to whatever you type in, so it just tried to open Home.j2e.j2e.

With some effort you get used to that and you load the bitmap you wanted. You know JJ2 uses palettes, so your bitmap already has the menu palette, so all that the software needs to do is take your indexed image and put it in a j2e file. Well, it won’t do that, because your menu palette is not the menu palette it wants. The menu palette it wants is in a file included with the software in a format that nothing opens. If you manage to open it, you can find out that the palette is blatantly wrong. Literally all you have to do to obtain the menu palette from the game is take a screenshot (F12 key) in 8-bit color mode and extract it from the file, so how the author managed to obtain his very discolored version of the palette escapes me. I sort of imagine that he tried to approximate it via trial and error until it more or less looked right.

But that shouldn’t matter, right? It can just take the bitmap, see that it’s indexed, and put it in the file as it is. No, what it will actually do is make sure the provided palette matches exactly, and perform color reduction if it doesn’t. Why? Just why? You take my picture crafted exactly for the menu palette and it’s ready for you to just put directly in a j2e file, all you have to do is zlib it, yet you have to convert it to your crappy wrong palette?

Writing text into prompts relies on key press events rather than character input events, and if you know what those two are, you should be cringing right about now. This means that handy functions like copy/paste will not work, long presses of a key will not produce multiple characters (including that you have to press backspace once for every character you want to delete), and what non-alphanumeric symbol you obtain by pressing a given button is very much dependent on your keyboard layout. Whenever I have to type in something like a dot, I just go through every symbol on my keyboard with and without shift because who knows which one will happen to produce a dot. This is an actual downgrade from a console application.

Oh, and here’s another fun fact, I wondered why I can’t edit the episode’s number in the list. So I looked into the readme, and apparently it’s the only thing that you interact with not by clicking on it like everything else in this program, but by pressing numpad plus and minus keys. Nothing indicates this, you just have to open the readme to find out. It was a matter of adding something like “±” to the user interface and it wasn’t done.

This is terrible software. It’s bad at interacting with the user, and it’s bad at its job of just taking some data and structuring it into a j2e file, but I guess the files it eventually produces are at least correct in the sense that JJ2 opens the j2e files and graphics software can open the bmp files it exports, so it’s not hopelessly useless.

Not recommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
21 Dec 2018, 20:04
For: Red Rose v2
Level rating: 6.8
Rating
5.0

5/10

RecommendedReview by Seren

Posted:
7 Nov 2018, 02:31 (edited 11 Nov 18, 23:50)
For: Foo Single Player 2/14: Electric Foorufoo: BunnyLover 2018: This Time It's Personnel, Kid
Level rating: 10.0
Rating
0.0

Pros:
+ so far the only thing to be made by Violet this month
+ not sure if I helped write the ferris wheel code but I probably did
+ JJ to the power of an imaginary number
+ no tilebugs regarding Eva’s feet
+ animal husbandry and retention
+ practically no packet loss
+ This is not a test.
+ progressive non-binary enum Gender { Male, Female, Random }
+ edit: the story premise is the second gayest internet ever
+ edit: not a zero think, although by some that could be seen as a disadvantage

Cons:
- horrible
- deviates from the standard
- probably generates a security hole Someone Else will have to fix
- multiple ways to trafton
- the buildings are upside down imo
- only enemies experience orgasms
- now I can’t find my Nintendo Switch anywhere
- idling counter-intuitively not a valid strategy against the first boss
- edit: (-)(-)(-)(-)(-)(-)(-)(-)(-)(-)
- edit: boss dog

Final score: 861/839. Not bad but leaves -22 points of room for improvement.

(Acronym edit. -Trafton)[This review has been edited by Trafton AT]

Not recommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
23 Aug 2018, 17:35 (edited 23 Aug 18, 17:39 by Sir Ementaler)
For: Kansas
Level rating: 8.1
Rating
6.0

I always looked at this tileset and thought that it has completely no theme. But upon working with it for a while, I discovered that actually it also has no usability. Some good art, but not put together well. Tons of tiles are missing, some don’t appear to have any use, and their placement in the set makes no sense.

RecommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
19 Aug 2018, 00:06
For: Twin Stalactites
Level rating: 9.0
Rating
9.5

This is one of my favorite duel levels. I find that thanks to very low carrot spawn times it enforces uniquely fast pacing. A nice degree of ammo control can be achieved but is not impossible to overcome. And the layout provides interesting fight environments while remaining fit for the theme.

RecommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
18 Aug 2018, 23:47
For: Zes
Level rating: 8.3
Rating
8.2

I like this level a lot. I think what it’s missing is some more interesting fight environments, as currently no matter where you encounter an enemy, the fight is likely to go down more or less the same way. I also think the theme could benefit from more distinctive looking eyecandy, since at times it feels like a mismatch of colors and materials.

RecommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
18 Aug 2018, 23:26
For: Hyperviolence!
Level rating: 9.0
Rating
9.0

This level proves its excellence time and again during JDC events. The gameplay is in no way innovative but it is good and what battle events needed. The weakest point is the visuals – in particular it can probably take a while to learn navigation in the upper parts of the level due to areas looking samey.

RecommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
18 Aug 2018, 23:09
For: Thermae
Level rating: 8.5
Rating
8.2

This is an enjoyable level that’s somewhere between old-school and modern battle design. Despite having a lot of small platforms, it forms a very coherent layout. At this size I’d like to see some PU types repeated though, or faster spawn times. The tileset is used creatively and supports a strong theme, but not without tons of tile bugs.

Quick Review by Seren

Posted:
17 Mar 2018, 14:35
For: Corridors of chaos
Level rating: 7.8
Rating
6.5

By no means a bad level, but very plain in every meaning of the word. The winding S-shaped corridors are overused and having to go through them all the time gets tiring fast. I dislike both carrot placements but the top one is particularly bad. Lastly, it’s not atmospheric enough. No parallax layers. It feels like a soulless collection of blocks.

RecommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
10 Aug 2017, 02:00
For: BoredSet
Level rating: 8.4
Rating
8.2

Likely the best tileset by Disguise, one that actually shows some artistic skill and includes a background that won’t make you feel embarrassed about placing it in your level. Not a whole lot of eyecandy and a few flaws here and there but overall a very decent set. Would be nice if warm weren’t the only tasteful palette though.

RecommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
10 Aug 2017, 01:35
For: Prismatic Palace
Level rating: 8.6
Rating
7.7

This is a great, versatile tileset when it comes to basic ground tiles. There are numerous ways to get creative with them. The glaring issue is that it has almost nothing else to offer. It’s as if the LMAT team challenged themselves to create a tileset without inputting any artistic prowess, only basic geometric shapes, CG textures, and gradients.

Quick Review by Seren

Posted:
10 Aug 2017, 01:11
For: Nature's Ruins
Level rating: 8.9
Rating
6.7

The decorations available for the ground are masterful and it’s good that there are two types of ground. That’s about it; the perspective on slopes is Picasso levels of messed up, the trees look like a bunch of flat Play-Doh pieces, and the background ones look like they were drawn by somebody who only knows trees from tales.

Quick Review by Seren

Posted:
10 Aug 2017, 00:58
For: Stargazer
Level rating: 8.2
Rating
6.0

This tileset is functionally sound but not really attractive. The 3 types of ground all look very similar, and everything has a somewhat generic, unrecognizable texture. One could say it’s possible to tell what things are meant to be thanks to their shape, but not what they’re made of. Other than that, it’s just not a very interesting set.

RecommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
16 Jan 2017, 00:22
For: A Generic Single Player Level II
Level rating: 9.4
Rating
8.0

Good level but not without issues. There are a lot of obscured hazards and often it’s very unclear where to go. One area requires you to collect an item but gives it only barely distinct looks and doesn’t provide any feedback when you get it. The introduction of pits is accompanied by fake foreground pillars and the last checkpoint is far behind.

RecommendedQuick Review by Seren

Posted:
18 Aug 2016, 01:15
For: Mystic Island
Level rating: 8.6
Rating
9.5

Disagree all you want, if you ask me, this is one of the top 10 tilesets on J2O. Two ground types, abundance of eyecandy, highly customizable background layers, and incredible ease of use. If I could ask for anything, it would be to add more of the same. The second priority would be some art improvements.

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