RecommendedReview by Slaz

20 Aug 2020, 21:56
For: Operation: Clone Killer 3
Level rating: 9.7

While this level looks aesthetically modern and contains many scripted elements, this is still the most vanillish JJ2 level by Violet in a while due to the obvious theme of the contest it was made for. While having enough original quirks, the main course here is a pretty straightforward mostly linear level with a mild focus on exploration. Secrets are traditionally placed in walls and most of them are accesed a bit more intuitively than just by hugging every wall around them. There are also more open secret areas that can often be found by following the path not guided by arrow signs.

Gameplay mostly follows JJ2 standards, although there are a few platforming sections that take more precision by means such as chains of platforms appearing and disappearing one after another quickly. Hence why Violet decided to make these skippable by giving good old Coin Bunny a mere 10 coins. The carrot rockets are also a surprising addition, as well as the water slides. And while not by far among the hardest of JJ2 levels, this one is definitely more difficult than standard JJ2 and a slow & steady traverse is recommended above running & gunning around.

Enemies are mostly slight alterations of original JJ2 enemies, such as faster throwing Monkeys and Fencers standing on airboards so that they can cover more vertical space. There are also Devan and Devil Devan clones that behave like their regular boss variant but take only a few shots to kill. The most original enemies are the swarms of pesky pumpkins that can poison you, forcing you to look around for antidotes if you were unfortunate enough to touch one. Ammo is very balanced, with the more useful types such as Seekers and Toasters being relatively scarce. Most of the powerups and shields are placed within secret areas to make them feel rewarding. Bird cages are less secret yet placed very out of the way.

The only problem I encountered on my first run (on Hard) was that I somehow missed the airboard and jumped straight through the vine area assuming the large carrot platforms were meant to be long-jumped. That all went well until I got stuck below, got confused and died to get back up to the checkpoint. Maybe there is a way to clear it without the airboard but I don’t think it was meant to be.

And finally, the bossfight didn’t feel so special and recycled a bit of the Angelscript example level. It’s still better than ending such a beatifully crafted level without a bossfight. The typical J2C-style credits text near the end of the level got me by surprise though. I also liked how the player grading feature from Bunnylover was ported over, it encourages replayability a lot.

Download highly recommended as long as you enjoy SP levels!

RecommendedReview by Slaz

28 Nov 2019, 01:07
For: Candy Goth
Level rating: 8.3

This level manages to stay relatively true to a traditional JJ2 single player level while introducing plenty of new twists on top of it. There are the usual enemies (with a black coat of paint), coins and gems (ehh skulls) to collect, and crates to stomp in order to progress. On the other hand there are sticky swinging platforms on rails, black blobs a.k.a. void that hurts you, rewarding praying spots, bombs that make the ground act like a springcord, and more.

Overall the level design is linear with some secrets and small detours here and there. Not very difficult but enough challenge to keep you alert at all times. The environmental hazards are definitely going to hit you more than the enemies. Especially those blobs placed right above springs were tedious to avoid with proper timing.

The aesthetics stand out with visual props everywhere. The repetitive music is not really a problem since this level took me just a bit longer to complete than the original JJ2 levels.

I did experience some FPS drops to around 15 – 20 in a few places when a lot of void blobs were on the screen at once. Different computers and OSes perform better or worse, but it shows that scripted levels can be CPU heavy at times!

And at last, the boss is original in that it doesn’t have it’s head as the weak spot. Video games quickly make you learn that heads are what you’d hit for the biggest damage. Not here! It’s innovative and makes you use different parts of your brain to beat it. Also, it’s weak spot is also it’s safe spot at times.

Thanks for reading this drunk nighttime review, now go and play this!

RecommendedReview by Slaz

11 Jan 2019, 19:20
For: Deserted Diamondus
Level rating: 7.9

This is not really a “deserted” Diamondus as it’s full of goodies and nice eyecandy everywhere. I like how the beginning has 2 separate pathways, adding some replay value. It’s also the first level where I saw a turtle shell fall through Destruct Scenery blocks, well that’s something lol. While it’s a fairly standard Diamondus level, the underwater race and little backtrack near the end felt original. Too bad ceiling spikes couldn’t work at the time this level was made, as this clearly wanted to utilize them.

I recommend playing this at least once. It’s better than reading reviews. :P

RecommendedReview by Slaz

11 Jan 2019, 19:06 (edited 11 Jan 19, 19:07)
For: Alien Chemestry
Level rating: 8.5

An early level by EvilMike, that clearly shows what was to come with Devres. Floating Suckers won’t like this level, as it popularized buttstomping them to reach new heights. It has plenty of other clever design elements for it’s time such as using TNT to get crates that are out of reach, proper usage of spiked platforms, and even requires an RF jump at one point. The Bolly Boss arena, utilizing spikes and hooks, was pretty good too. The part where you helicopter and Airboard through a path of spikeballs has an unfairly small gap, and at some point there’s a rat next to a vertical tube that will always hit you.

It also comes with a bonus level that’s pretty original, grabbing coins as you fall, althougth it’s rewards are mostly useless unless you want to play Mike’s earlier Diamondus level with extra guns.

I recommend this even in 2019 if you want to see what EvilMike was up to before the heights of Devres.

RecommendedReview by Slaz

23 Jul 2018, 18:31
For: Cave.
Level rating: 8.1

Just replayed this level after a long time, and I don’t think I ever took the time to finish it back then.

The difficulty isn’t that bad compared to todays SP standards, but some careful movement and planning is still advised due to the obscure enemy placement, especially the bats. Ammo is plentiful though, so using Seekers and Bouncers made things a breeze. Also, the level is Spaz only and those stacked Tuff Turtles are mere fodder to his sidekick!

I like how the start of the level is a tiny little hub where you need to open 2 crates, and the method to get the last coin is pretty well done. I found at least 2 little secrets in walls so there’s stuff to explore too.

There’s not a lot of negativity I can say about this level, other than the fact that it’s short and that the boss was surprisingly easy and not that well-made. I recommend this to kill a few minutes, but eventually the followup “Cave 2” is a big improvement.

RecommendedReview by Slaz

4 Apr 2018, 19:38 (edited 4 Apr 18, 19:39)
For: Mystery of the Four Artifacts
Level rating: 6.6

I played this pack in small doses after it’s release to overcome the repetitiveness that people were experiencing, but I still like to give it a little review.

This episode basically consists of a Carrotus hub world, which leads to 4 worlds somehow inspired by human history and myths. In turn these 4 worlds have their own hub, or Central Area, that leads to several levels. I love how the tilesets used are Chandie’s own arrangements of JJ2’s original sets, often with modified palettes to serve a different purpose and combined with oddly photorealistic looking temple-ish graphics similar to Tomb Rabbit.

The story is basic but slightly more portrayed than your average single player. Jazz and Eva’s daughter got killed by Devan and original character Merlin will help Jazz and Bonus (the Coin Bunny) go back in time to get it undone. For this they need 4 ‘Time Freezers’ scattered in historic locations. For some reason Bonus wants coins for every warp they make. While silly, I liked that Bonus had some character with funny texts and unexpected places where he showed up.

Gameplay mostly involves you searching an area for a lot of trigger switches, which in turn open up the exit or lead to coins needed to go to the next level. Ammo is plenty but other pickups such as food are very scarce. Some levels like Temple of Sun or Alibaba’s Cave are pretty well designed while others, especially the Central Areas, felt more empty and dull. I also disliked the morph sections where you often had to open up an area with Jazz’s high jump, only to return and come back as Spaz to finally get that coin. That often repeated several times in each Central Area.

So long story short, the hub worlds are kind of repetitive and meh, while most ‘real’ levels are pretty good and well-made as vanilla levels.

Level specific things that stood out to me:
Temple of Sun, among some other levels, had nice animated tile traps, as well as Toaster fire cannons.
I liked the perspective of the doors in Cave of Wonders, as well as the pun on the bosses’ name there.
Poseidon Islands had a nice escape level with flashy lights, and cool stuff like that.
The later bosses, Alchemist and the Devan tank thing, were pretty well made.

Specific things I didn’t like:
West Desert had a very unclear long jump, even with the trigger platform slightly giving it away.
Too many trigger switches is a general problem, but Atlantis Central Area topped it all.
Atlantis’ underwater lab had a very unclear path, and no guaranteed TNT to progress.
In general TNT usage was confusing, and hindered progression in Atlantis.
Buddha’s Temple in particular had confusing tile masks a lot.
The ending felt a bit rushed.

Now for some problems:
In Temple of Sun, the last checkpoint gets you stuck in a wall after dying.
The Arabius Intro’s next level leads to itself after pressing ‘space’, but jjnext does work.
The 2nd time in Atlantis Central area, Bonus has incorrect text ID set.
Tibetius has a tube that exits right under a Demon enemy, and it’s easy to get stuck inside the corners of temple roofs.
The 2 times Chandie knew a trigger door was bugged were annoying (in Atlantis’ ship & Buddha’s Temple). Bonus does tell you to walk back a bit to make it work with varying results.
Some music files near the end may be missing?

Overall I do recommend this if you can enjoy vanilla single player, have some patience, and can look through some oddities here and there. This is not Chandie’s ‘ultimate episode’ or something but still worth a play even if you just jjnext the hub worlds to reach the better levels.

RecommendedReview by Slaz

28 Feb 2018, 00:15 (edited 28 Feb 18, 00:19)
For: The Redacted Missions
Level rating: 6.9

This episode had it’s ups & downs.

The first 2 levels felt somewhat mediocre and typical to earlier JCS attempts. There’s little use of vertical space, although I can forgive that for the level being a ship’s deck. Enemies are placed in bunches which (especially on Hard mode) rather slow you down a lot instead of actually making it harder. Some of the 3D Spike Boll patterns felt a bit out of place especially in the 2nd (underwater) level. The ‘pizza ghosts’ part was kind of fun to play, running into and bustin’ all those ghosts made me feel good, lol. The boss wasn’t very challenging but the combination of the Queen’s scream and falling block to make another boss differ felt original.

The first tube level was pretty good. The crate stomping and backtracking felt clever enough at times, and in some parts the respawning Sparks kept me thinking about facing the right way, while switching to the appropriate guns this episode gave me (mostly Bouncer, Toaster, and Seeker were useful). The Robot boss combo was okay but I was lazy and just spammed Bouncers instead of dodging the Tuff’s chains.

The Pinball Hell thingy started off pretty decent with some fun jumps to make with flippers and bumpers. But again the pathways were a little square & flat if you know what I mean, with little incentive to hop around and explore. And while I always love some pinball in any level, the amount of (Hard mode) enemies really, really slowed down the gameplay in this one. The (horizontal) Bumper patterns near the end felt a bit out of place.

The highlight of this pack sure is the scripted final boss. I liked how it’s segmented into different small phases each with a new attack pattern. It’s by far not the hardest scripted boss to date, but all of it’s attack patterns are perfectly fair and dodgeable, and it’s generous with carrots, giving you one for each phase defeated.

So there we have it. It feels like some good & bad gameplay got mixed together here, whether that was intended or not for the final release. Overall I had a decent amount of fun, but can only recommend Normal or Easy mode even for experienced players. I liked some of the pack’s ideas, and the scripted final boss saved it for Download recommendation.

GN and good luck! (this review was written by sleepy me)

RecommendedReview by Slaz

24 Jan 2018, 14:00 (edited 24 Jan 18, 14:01)
For: Devan's Revenge (Intro)
Level rating: 9.6

The AngelScript usage in the cinematic intro here is pretty impressive. The threatening red text, the sprite manipulations, the ‘acting’ rabbits. All convincingly good stuff.

Although there isn’t a lot of finished gameplay in here (yet), being able to play as Devan briefly while you storm the castle felt powerful for the most part. Maybe his gun and fireball attack (while transformed) felt a little slow and I’m not sure if Spaz’s double jump fits him.

For an actual review this would need more gameplay, but for now my (imaginative) hat’s off to the effortful visuals that went into this. I recommend this to everyone even though seeing it obviously makes you prolong for more!

RecommendedReview by Slaz

24 Jan 2018, 13:44
For: Welcome to Chaostopia!
Level rating: 7.3

The majority of gameplay here feels like a test level mixed with the early years of JJ2, all while it wants to surprise the player and doesn’t abide to logic and let’s things happen just because they do. Maybe the swinging spikeballs section and sudden tube events with varying speeds can be a bit tedious when enemies are nearby.

The highlight sure is the bossfight, although at first I didn’t exactly know what to hit in order to progress, with my seekers homing into the cow. It was nice to have a fight without buttstomping for once.

The level may be on the short side, and the tileset still has unused potential with additional characters like the superhero cows. But it still manages to feel fun and fresh for what it is, and I recommend this level if you’re in the mooooooooooood for a laugh.

Got MooGoo?

RecommendedReview by Slaz

1 Jan 2018, 14:45 (edited 1 Jan 18, 14:49)
For: War for Christmas
Level rating: 7.0

A surprise release by FarkasUrdung, at an unfortunate time where it’s easely being overshadowed by community pack Holiday Hare ’17. So let’s do a review for this one!

This level’s set in Inferno Day, a wintery but quite hard to use tileset, which is admirable by itself. It feels like the level’s building upon the official Inferno level, expanding it’s quirks to be more original. For instance, I enjoyed the collapsing bridges and how the enemies and goodies are placed around them. The Toaster block section also felt well made, as they make you consider which blocks you should not break for easier passage and more goodies.

The background layers seem to be a direct copy of the official level, which isn’t bad, but the next level setting somehow leads me to the official Inferno2 level, with a French language title.. C’est bizarre, oui oui, lol.

Ammo is mainly Toaster, perhaps the most useful weapon in JJ2 and especially in levels like this. The crows, skeletons, and doggy dogs don’t feel like much of a challenge. The few hits I got came from spikes in pits and a few hard to see spikes in the regular path. There’s enough food to give a sugar rush, and a hefty coin warp making you explore all corners of the level, including some (rather easy to find) secrets in walls.

The Bilsy boss felt a little weird due to it’s arena allowing him to easily spawn on you and inside the wall. It’s still the most challenging of the official bosses if you try to refrain from buttstomping his fireballs (I recommend advanced players to try that).

Overall I recommend this level if you’re in for classic JJ2 gameplay in one of the lesser used official tilesets. It may not be as good as some levels in Urdung’s Chronicles pack, but still good for some fun relaxation.

RecommendedReview by Slaz

18 Sep 2017, 12:57
For: Flashback REBORN
Level rating: 7.2

As always, it’s nice to see new Single Player releases and this seems like quite a large pack. It’s indeed not the first attempt at a Flashback episode remake. It seems lik the JJ1 shareware episode holds lots of nostalgic value to a lot of players.

Starting off in Diamondus, you’re ironically greeted by a familiar stoned Caterpillar protecting it’s apples, for some weird reason. The first few minutes of gameplay got me in the flow with enough secrets to explore and groups of enemies to hit. Bees were plenty so be prepared for them! I loved the placement of hard to get purple gems (mostly in corners), seems like a homage to EvilMike’s Devres series. I also loved the Text apology of wind events not pushing left.

While the Diamondus levels had minor tilebugs with some foreground, overall eyecandy placement was pretty well done. Sure most walls seem plain, but that’s made up by the placement of foliage in the play area. The Tube levels had some confusing background/foreground at times, making it really hard to see where to progress and where you can stand on. The multiple pathways including some Pinball stuff felt nice, especially the row of tubes near the end with a backtracking warp, encouraging to try them all to see where they lead. Those long 3D Spikeballs were both hilarious and annoying at the same time.

Medivo had a significant difficulty spike. Bats are hidden all over the place and spikeballs swing into you unexpectedly. Luckily there’s some Toaster ammo to get rid of them. The 2nd level focuses a lot on Airboard action which is a nice touch.

The bosses felt quite generic yet their arena designs made up for it a bit. They also have respawning enemies which force at least some movement from the player.

Biggest problems I experienced with these levels are about enemy placement and the lack of weapons in the earlier levels. Not once, but a lot of times I jumped down and got hit by walking enemies. Medivo also had some bats above springs that only muscle-memory a well-timed buttstomp could clear out. For the weapons, RF’s weren’t really useful in Diamondus, so I pushed through with a Blaster until the Tube levels got me at least some handy Bouncers. Spaz seems by far the best option for this pack, though I got through fine as Jazz missing some high placed pickups.

I do recommend this for a good burst of SP gameplay that’s both nostalgic and fresh. I don’t think this is the best Flashback remake out there, yet still a nice addition to play. Hard mode does indeed give some challenges to seasoned players (I lost 3 lives), but the other modes were pretty accessible apart from (maybe) some jumping/pinball stuff in Tubelectric. Well done Mike and good luck with future JCSing!

RecommendedReview by Slaz

17 Aug 2017, 12:37
For: Yellow Diamond and Inside Level
Level rating: 5.7

It’s always nice to see new singleplayer released, and this time by a new author! First things first, I appreciate the choice of community tilesets for a first release, especially with MLOrganic which I don’t think had been used after the initial example level was made.

This pack contains 2 levels, and starts with ‘Yellow Diamond’, using the Lava version of the Diamondus Beta set. Once started, it becomes quickly apparent that these levels don’t make very good use of vertical space, although there are many slopes and vines to jump on. It feels a bit like the original Jazz2 SP levels mixed with horizontal Mario stages.

There are many crate ‘puzzles’ along the way, most of which are quick and easy path-clearing. Yet some crates don’t really make clear what they do and why they’re even there. There’s also many random warps, and some have their Warp Target very close to enemies causing unavoidable hits. Also, the coin warps don’t have their usual Coin Bunny present to tell you it’s a paid warp. A lot of walls are tilebugged with improper edges and eyecandy is quite scarce.

As far as pickups and enemies go, it’s a little all over the place but not too bad. Enemies are a random mix of walking and flying enemies, and as usual the Diamondus level is full of bees. There was enough food to gain 2 Sugar Rushes and gems are plenty with maybe too many Blue Gems.

While the levels are pretty easy, the only real chalenging part was the ‘wind tunnel’ with collapsing ground and many bees.

I recommend this download if you want to have a quick blast at single player again while seeing some rather unusual tilesets. Otherwise, you may better look for other SP levels out there.

And good luck with further JCSing, bpulido!

RecommendedReview by Slaz

29 Nov 2016, 21:19 (edited 29 Nov 16, 21:23)
For: A Generic Single Player Level II
Level rating: 9.4

As said by Blacky, this level follows the core design of it’s predecessor but modernizes everything else. Everything has been enhanced by neat AngelScript tricks and modern design ideas, as well as entirely new areas being added to explore.

Overall, this feels like a traditional single player level with the basic elements of an original JJ2 level present. You run and jump finding crates, collecting gems and coins (for the biggest coin rewards ever!), exploring some hidden paths, and enjoying the vast amount of carrots. Ammo progression is quite natural too, starting off with Bouncers and moving up to more Seekers and RF’s near the end. The enemies are largely untouched by AS, aside from things like a cool boxing glove trap and stronger (ice) turtles and crows. All in all it’s definitely a generic single player level, a very cleverly designed one that is.

The real standout quality here is it’s sheer size and how it tries to form a ‘world’ by interconnecting various areas with different atmospheres and music. The way of progression in this level feels both rewarding and surprising. It’s probably the biggest single-single player level to date if you count just the amount of gameplay. Also a nice feature is it’s excellent use of JJ2’s difficulty setting, which is not even a scripted feature by itself. Not many JJ2 maps have such meaningful differences between Easy, Normal, and Hard even though it’s a feature for events programmed into the game! I lost on Hard pretty early in the level due to the Cheshire Cat part, but got through Normal twice (once without losing a life) in about 1:45 on my first run and 1:15 on my 2nd (those are estimations). And by the way, the boss is very original, funny, and well made too!

Some parts are definitely a bit confusing, such as finding the exit in ‘White Hell’ and finding the cheese (play and you know what it is, lol). Another strange thing is that you are being warped to a ‘hub’ at some point which makes you think you need to backtrack to earlier areas, while in fact you need to find an entirely new area that just happens to be accessible through this hub. Also, Normal mode could use an extra savepoint or 2, getting set back so far at times might demotivate some players.

I happened to get stuck once, and because it’s underwater I had to use jjk to get out:

Overall one of the most amazing levels ever released, and unless anything better comes out in December, this will be the clear winner of the JCS Awards. Download recommended? Of course! Lay down your work and play it now!

RecommendedReview by Slaz

30 Aug 2016, 00:08 (edited 31 Aug 16, 14:47)
For: Forest Forgotten
Level rating: 8.4

EDIT: The bugs mentioned below have been fixed by the author! The level’s gameplay and features, and thus this review remains the same!

Wow, to see a new level this big by Tik after all this time. What a simple Facebook group can do.. Anyway let’s review this straight and to the point.

After starting this up, I thought this would be a traditional JJ2 level in jungle style. But quickly I realized this was a more non-linear level with puzzles and other knickknacks that keeps it interesting. I normally prefer the linear style level, but this one makes up for it by providing good platforming with vines and boll platforms, and ememies (monkeys, dragonflies, and bats) in every location along with hidden gems and foods. Every platform and corner encourages exploration. Coins are spread out in fun ways too, with some falling from the ceiling. There are not many carrots but the amount of enemies that may drop them makes up for it. There are several savepoints but the fact they reset all items and enemies after dying makes manual savegames a better option. There’s also a single Morph monitor to switch character for specific situations.

Most original part may be the doors spreadout through the level enclosing powerups and more. Paying a higher amount of coins at a special ‘praying’ spot opens better powerups. Or you can pay less for more simple stuff. In the end these powerups may not be too useful (except maybe Bouncers for shooting down items) but getting one feels rewarding enough.

Eyecandy is good, but sometimes it’s quite hard to see what’s in layer 4 and what isn’t, especially with the trees in the forest areas. I really had to try and remember which branches I didn’t fell through. I don’t really like some of the hidden ememies in the tree leaves either, but that may be more of a personal opinion and no flaw in the level.

Only bugs I could find:
1: When exiting the shrine through the warp, it stays dark in the overworld.
2: There’s no next level set so finishing the level will result in a crash.
3: Not sure about this one, but I believe you could get stuck in the ‘pit’ if you run out of bouncer ammo before reaching the end of the blocks.

I highly recommend this level for the advanced and expert players as the puzzles and some platforming can be quite challenging. It’s not often that such a big SP level gets released these days, that alone makes this worth it. Combine that with the sense of exploration and quality of the puzzles and you have a gem of a level!

RecommendedReview by Slaz

26 May 2016, 16:22 (edited 26 May 16, 16:26)
For: Ürdüng Chronicles #1
Level rating: 8.3

If you don’t mind, I’ll review this entire episode as whole instead of spreading it through 3 downloads, as I haven’t played your Castle and Carrotus levels before and a lot of points apply to all of these levels.

Well then, surprisingly this pack starts off with a recreation of the “Rabbit in Training” level you get when playing the original levels on easy, and I guess it’s mostly doing a better job at it aside from the weird Layer 3 platforms you unexpectedly fall through. Are these to explain secrets in the walls? The text is all Hungarian so it’s hard to tell.

Anyway, from the first real level on, you immediately get the classic JJ2 vibe, yet it also has a tone of it’s own which I like. The levels are better designed around the rabbits jumping capabilities and special moves, as well as proper usage of weapon-specific destruct scenery. Some of the levels (especially Castle3) felt a bit too “mazy” for my taste, but on the other hand I really liked trying to find my way into the many secrets in the walls. Speaking of Castle3, the use of poles to break through walls felt fresh and actually made the poles useful.

Some levels may have too many respawning enemies (although that may be opinion-based here), but overall enemies were placed strategically enough to make other weapons than the blaster useful. The bosses were good too, all 3 of the original first episode are there and all have been made harder with a simple twist in their arena (which I won’t spoil here). The least fun to me was the Schwartzenguard in Carrotus, though the idea was certainly nice.

Speaking of Carrotus, the least favorite of this pack to me was Carrotus1, as the level felt more “plain” than the others with less secrets and interesting pathways. The best one may either be Carrotus2 or Labrat3, even though the Bird section in Labrat3 had it’s tedious moments. Also, the placement of the Bird Morph is a bit off, as dying will reset you to a further savepoint. Luckily I had my Gun9 ready to backtrack and shoot the Bird Morph through the wall. And lastly, the part in Carrotus3 where you move on spikes using Inv carrots worked well!

Here are 2 places I got stuck too easily:
By stomping into the Steam and moving right
By running near the wall and jumping

I recommend downloading this if you’re in the mood for some classic unscripted JJ2 goodness. There is enough personality and variety in here to keep it interesting from beginning to end, but it’s lacking a story (well, other than part of JJ2’s original story) and about 90% of all text lines are in Hungarian which I can’t read. So long story short: play this if you enjoy JJ2’s singleplayer, but don’t expect a Devres or Dreamscape.

RecommendedReview by Slaz

29 Feb 2016, 13:56 (edited 29 Feb 16, 13:57)
For: The Lost Levels 1: Queen's Castle
Level rating: 7.9

Greetings from your fellow Mario Maker (and nice reference by naming this Lost Levels)! By first impression, this level felt more like an actual dungeon than the original Castle levels did. The helmuts on belts at the first crate were indeed fun to watch. The gameplay involves the commonly used JJ2 mechanic of finding multiple Trigger Crates to open up your path. And while it’s not original, this level did it pretty well by placing the crates in hazardous spots such as near 3D Spike Bolls, all down in the dungeon where the ambient light gets darker. Ammo is just Bouncers, and they are actually useful down the slopes. The boss is just a regular Tuff Boss, which may be justified if this was part of an episode but on it’s own it’s just your regular bullet sponge. This level is very short but feels professionally made.

I recommend this one for when you have a spare 5 minutes and crave for some quality traditional JJ2 gameplay.

Not recommendedReview by Slaz

29 Feb 2016, 13:36 (edited 29 Feb 16, 13:37)
For: Oasis Desert
Level rating: 4.2

This level felt like a typical first-time experience with JCS. The layout is linear and goes mostly horizontally back and forth. Pickups are grouped into ‘clumps’ too often, you should try placing them more strategically and intuitive. Enemies are just Normal Turtles and some Tuff Turtles, and weapons are just Electro Blaster (with the coin warp near the end offering it’s powerup). All in all very little variety. The first ‘secret’ path using the poles was annoying due to it being hard to escape them, and the blue spring section shouldn’t be forced by sucker tube events. The best thing from this level was the bomb crates on springs thingy, which felt fresh compared to the rest of the level. Lastly is the boss which doesn’t do anything original, being the regular Tuff Boss on horizontal ground.

All in all an okay level as a first timer (believe me, there are far worse) but it will take more effort and especially variety to entertain the single player.

RecommendedReview by Slaz

27 Feb 2016, 23:39 (edited 27 Feb 16, 23:53)
For: Lost Ages v2.5
Level rating: 9.0

Phew, this took a while to play through even on Normal difficulty, but it was definitely worth it! For this review, I won’t go into detail about every single level as that would be boring, instead I’ll try to remark some positive and negative situations that stood out to me.

This pack contains about 24(?) actual levels divided into 3 episodes and 2 bonus maps accessed solely through a pre-existing savefile, and some more levels acting as cutscenes telling bits of story dialog. Unlike the original JJ1, and just like SWAG, it’s possible to start from the first episode and play through the whole game (just like in JJ2 basically) which makes the pack feel more like a single story.

The first parts of this pack are about identical to earlier versions of Lost Ages (as expected) but then it gets way more wild with custom sprited events including big dragons, robots, and even teddy bears. To answer the question in the download description: yes, I can see Blacky did a lot of experimenting as these levels progressed. Most of it came out positive though, and everything stayed loyal to JJ1’s standards (as in, it never felt like I was playing a different game).

But let’s talk about what’s dreadful about JJ1 and how this pack handles it: the low resolution with poor visibility of your surroundings. Well, luckily most levels are very horizontally oriented which is good, but I’ve had some enounters with enemies walking off from ‘stairs’ or ledges which are only triggered into memory once it’s too late, as well as some enemies falling off ledges (while others don’t and turn around) which can be very tedious and makes you think you (as the player) are being punished for no good. Most notable levels with this flaw are “Hot Rabbit Stew”, “That Tree Level”, and “Mechanical Heart” where some vertical movement is unavoidable to progress.

Leaps of faith, which are another plague on JJ1, are present but little and not too harsh. The level “Dark Dragon Lair” had some, and I had a bad experience near the end of the first bonus map (the dreamlands) where I really didn’t knew what to do for quite a while. A commonly present strategy is placing pickups in a way to mark long jumps, but on that one jump, there was just a circular shape of bouncer ammo’s above a moving platform. It turned out I had to make a long jump to the upper-right where the exit had been hidden from me all along.. Overall, in this pack the platforming happened in tight spaces and relies on skill and memorization rather than luck, while on the memorization part there are some cases where you can fall from ledges into groups of enemies on your first try. Oh well, it’s JJ1 so that’s forgivable and not exclusive to this game.

Also, on multiple occasions larger enemies (as well as moving spikes and spikeball hazards) can appear late in visible memory. I don’t know how JJ1 works exactly and thus can’t explain it that clearly, but imagine running at a mediocre pace and suddenly you get hit by an enemy ‘popping’ in on your position. Again, this is probably just a JJ1 thing, but maybe it could’ve been avoided by more carefully placing the pathways towards large enemies. I don’t know, and at least it doesn’t happen that often.

What I liked most about this pack is how it took ideas from the original JJ1 levels and brought it to a higher level in both depth and difficulty. Moving platforms? They’re there in tons of variations and directions. Backtracking using jumping shoe items? It’s utilized in several levels and done cleverly. Airboard areas? They’re done well on several ocasions (most notably Chernobog). Big bosses? There’s 3 of them and designed more challenging than JJ1’s original flimsy pushovers. But some new ideas are done well too, especially the level “Firewall” where you’re trapped between two laser beams forcing you to progress at a slow but steady pace. It’s also quite generous as the lasers don’t kill you, but simply warp you back without resetting the enemies you defeated earlier. Well, sometimes the level may feel boring and lonely if you tripped and have to do half the level again without shooting, but that’s a luxury issue I guess :P

Aside from the common JJ1 thingies I mentioned earlier, what I disliked most in this pack is that many enemies (mostly the bigger ones) are too sturdy and take too many hits. The original JJ1 had levels with tons of sturdy enemies too, but was often generous with fastfire pickups. In this pack however, fastfire items are quite rare, which made my left thumb tired from all the mashing at times. Yes I could’ve used a repeat key program. But still, I would’ve made some enemies like the dinosaurs and robots less sturdy at least on Normal difficulty.

For bugs, well I’d say these levels are well designed and tested all on your own (good job there!) as it all seems to be in place except for a few things. In “That Tree Level” I could skip part of the level by letting a platform push me through a horizontal wall to the upper checkpoint (I believe it was the 2nd tree where you move back up) right after the part with the 4-hit shield. In the level “Cloud Forest” the music sometimes looped the first part endlessly. In the little ‘thank you’ level at the very end, listening to the catchy disco mix for too long resulted in a crash. And in the 2nd bonus map, picking up the bonus gem and finishing the level results in a crash with ‘File not found: BONUSMAP.053’.

Overall, I felt both surprised and excited about this pack’s release on the last days of 2015, and having played it just confirmed my expectations. It’s not perfect but it’s variety and surprises sure outweight it’s minor flaws. It’s not as balanced as Violet’s SWAG, yet designed somewhat more generous and thoughtful than Mission Spaz. If you never liked JJ1, chances are slim that you will enjoy this pack. And if you haven’t played JJ1 but might consider trying it, I wouldn’t suggest starting here by any chance as the difficulty is definitely more rough. But if you are fond of the original JJ1 and/or SWAG, you are missing out HUGE by not playing this pack. I believe a 9 is a fair number here. No perfection, yet huge fun and challenge with surprises and secrets waiting to be discovered!

RecommendedReview by Slaz

10 Jan 2016, 21:13
For: The Antidote
Level rating: 7.3

Well then, I first like to thank you, IJsKonijn, for deciding to upload this pack even though you won’t finish it. Getting to play the finished levels is better than having nothing at all right? So let’s get into some details.

From the first level on, you imediately notice the “1998 style” all over it. The way secrets are placed in walls, pathways are made, enemies are placed.. It’s all easely comparable to the original SP levels and early custom levels (such as those by Wakeman).

I didn’t ever think parts felt copy-pasted like Stijn did, everything seemed pretty unique to me while in TSF’s easter levels I definitely felt doing every section about 5 times. I do however agree that the crate puzzles get exhausting and that usage of layer4 tiles as back and foreground is very, very confusing sometimes. Those are my biggest downsides for this pack too. Especially in the Jungle level (though Diamondus had it’s share), it’s very hard to navigate and I got confused all the time. Though on the other hand, it indeed looks beautiful!

Ammo is okay for a traditional SP where you don’t need all too much, the RF’s aren’t available too early so you can’t abuse RF jumps too much. Toaster may be too much which I don’t like, as it’s by far the easiest weapon besides Blaster. Food is plenty and good for several sugar rushes, and the traditional coin warps are there but with a nice twist in one level. I loved having 3 different reward choices inside the coin warp with 3 possible accesses if you got all 30 coins.

Best to me personally may’ve been the Beach level, as it didn’t suffer from the 2 main problems (crate puzzles and layer4 usage) that much, and good levels using the Beach tileset aren’t common due to it’s usage being challenging. I also enjoyed the last level a lot, with it’s non-linear layout being a surprising difference from earlier levels in the pack.

I definitely recommend this pack to anyone who digs traditional SP levels. Even though the pack isn’t actually finished and the story ends abruptly, it’s not that important as the levels are enjoyable enough even if they were released as stand-alone. I believe a 7.7 is a fair score, but don’t let that make you think this pack isn’t special at all, as it definitely is!

RecommendedReview by Slaz

10 Jan 2016, 20:43
For: Holiday Hare '15
Level rating: 7.7

This pack came to me as a surprise, new christmas levels are always welcome to get in the feasty mood and it has been a while since last serious attempt at a christmas pack.

There are 3 levels total, typical to the original Holiday Hare. I’d say all 3 are of medium length, so the pack is good for about a quick 30 minute run during christmas. The story is simple yet slightly more detailed than other christmas packs. I also love the fact that different holidays are mentioned (Kwanzaa and Hanukkah) and finally the Krampus as your enemy, it’s great to see some love for the old germanic devilish creature.

The levels themselves are very easy even on Hard, but have that certain flow just like the original SP levels. Worst about this pack is secret placement which is often unclear, crate “puzzles” that just require you to move from crate to crate, and tileset usage that sometimes messes up masking. Eyecandy is mediocre, ammo placement is okay but nothing special, just like the standard share of christmas enemies.

Do I recommend this pack? Yes, but just to have a relaxing time during your well deserved holidays, and/or to have a nostalgic trip while playing something different.

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