RecommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
18 May 2018, 01:36
For: The Cave Offensive
Level rating: 7.4
Rating
0.0

This isn’t the hardest level ever made, because its focus instead is on being absolutely chock-full of stuff to do, and as a result it’s a really fun time. Everywhere you go there are more pickups, more blocks, more secret areas. There are a wealth of paths to take at every point, and if you take enough of them eventually you’ll figure out which is the right one—the only challenge is not picking it until last, so you won’t miss anything along the way. And even then the level snakes back on itself enough times (usually with great artistry) that you should get a second or third chance to recoup any pickups you did miss. One trick in particular the level uses to great effect is partially hiding a destruct/stomp block behind a wall tile that doesn’t fully cover the 32×32 space, so you can see the block if you pay attention. A few secret areas are a bit too unclear, in that they’re in the center of a wall and it’s not until the second or third time you pass by that you actually get to the entrance, but most everything is basically where you expect it to be and it’s a lot of fun to clear everything out. Plus of course the level does feature regular enemies, spikes, and some fun moments with spinning platforms, vines, and pinball objects to up the variety even more. I’m not honestly sure how long this level was, because it never dragged at all. The graphics let down the level design in a couple places, and some people may find the layout a bit too claustrophobic at points, but for the most part this is perfectly executed.

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
18 May 2018, 01:02
For: Operation Cleanup: Turtle Terror Revisited
Level rating: 8.2
Rating
0.0

These are perfectly fine levels. They set out what they seek to accomplish with no unnecessary frills along the way. The eyecandy is little more than it takes to distinguish wall from non-wall, with occasional tile bugs but no great level of detail. The code is slightly buggy (strange number display in the secret level; arrows point toward gems while they’re still being collected in Medivo) but generally works and is sufficient for a set of quick experiments. Level design makes a good effort at not just being straight lines, and there’s a respectable variety in enemy/obstacle choice. The different levels’ objectives are similar enough to make the pack coherent yet different enough to keep things interesting. All in all a successful outing.

Quick Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
18 May 2018, 00:32
For: Kaninchenbau
Level rating: 6.5
Rating
0.0

There’s not much point reviewing Kaninchenbau because you already know exactly what you’ll get. This is the same type of level as “Queen of B o a r D” or “Mines of Moria” or its sequel, using the same tileset. You can explore this level forever and receive minimal guidance. If you love those other levels, download this immediately; otherwise don’t.

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
18 May 2018, 00:09
For: Infiltration Mission
Level rating: 8.1
Rating
0.0

The odd feeling given by Infiltration Mission is of a Jazz 2 level made by someone who has never played Jazz 2. On some level, it’s trying to do the same thing as Maze of Steel, focusing on gameplay and spike balls with little break between sections. But there’s less variety here, and somehow the eyecandy here works against itself… the graphics are too detailed to pretend it’s a test level, which is what it’s unconsciously trying to be, yet not detailed enough to treat it as a normal single player level. The level design feels more appropriate for a game with a smaller resolution. The boss is an interesting concept, but intolerably slow (especially when compared to the pace of all the rest of the level) if you didn’t collect every coin along the way.

Not recommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
17 May 2018, 23:19
For: RabbitCity 2 Remastered
Level rating: N/A
Rating
0.0

It’s hard to know how to react to RabbitCity 2 (Remastered) because on paper it sounds like such a great ride. Its storyline could make an action movie blush—enemy invasions, identity theft, a secret submarine escape through an underwater minefield, escaping a falling elevator after a bomb attack, defending a boat from a flying robot, sneaking past surveillance cameras, fighting through train cars, restoring power to an island, chasing an airship in a helicopter, and more. The story visits multiple locations and sets up a nigh-constant series of new objectives, and I struggle to think of a JJ2 episode with a larger supporting cast.

And yet…

There’s a term “programmer art” which comes to mind when I think about this episode. The whole episode uses basically a single tileset (with some slight variations for specific areas), which seems to have been compiled specifically for this episode, which gave the author more or less full access to everything ever drawn and the ability to pick graphics that suited each purpose perfectly. The downside is that the graphics don’t always match up too well. Art style can vary a lot, and the levels are incredibly visually busy, to the point where it’s easy to lose track of what’s actually important to look at. Fewer hues and higher contrast between foreground and background would together make this episode much easier to look at.

The other main visual issue is that everything always looks the same. Some moments of exploring underground caves are fine, because they use the tried-and-true Carrotus tileset, but everything else uses the same few wall textures, the same set of background elements, the same doors, and so on. The episode spends so much time in each area—police station, warehouse, island, etc.—that it can be easy not to notice at first when you’re leaving one area for the next, and the fact that all locations use the same artwork really exacerbates this issue. (This is admittedly useful for certain important elements—it’s nice that doors use consistent images—but not so much for basic walls and backgrounds.)

A similar issue can extend to the gameplay. While there are certainly some interesting, memorable, and rewarding moments—exploring a sewer with limited oxygen, fighting off enemies on trains, navigating as a submarine, leaping for ladders hanging from the underside of an airship—they can be few and far between. Most of the episode seems to be spent shooting the same small catalog of enemies in interchangeable small horizontal passages, and it is very easy to grow fatigued by this, especially given the episode’s lengthy overall playtime. When you’re not blasting through the same enemies over and over, you’re going on constant, poorly-guided quests for the next trigger crate or key or ID card. (By the time your inventory contains red, green, and blue cards, all of which open some doors but not others, their targets distributed seemingly at random, the episode has all but crossed into self-parody.)

Interestingly, the reason for the endless horizontal areas is that RabbitCity 2 Remastered is clearly trying for a certain verisimilitude in its layouts, reminiscent of The Lost World Episode but in cities instead of natural environments. (Familiar tropes from other older JJ2 episodes, such as key cards and trains and exploding reactors, help with this impression.) This is a commendable goal, and sometimes it really does work, and sometimes it really doesn’t. The worst offenders are when aiming for realistic human (…rabbit) architecture results in incredible degrees of repetition. A hotel building has you climb countless identical floors with identical rooms, searching for the few that are unlocked in search of… something or other, I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing there. But by far the worst offenders are the elevators. Over and over again, RabbitCity 2 Remastered decides that the best way for you to spend your time would be to take a slow elevator ride from one area to another. At one point you even ride down an elevator, meet an NPC, ride back up, discover a door is locked, and ride right back down again. At another point the characters even comment on how slow the elevators are, an odd moment where you have to wonder how much the episode’s author is or is not in on the joke. (Later they comment on how ugly the airship is and how a room’s proportions are unrealistic—again, is this self-realization or mere randomness?)

The elevators, though, are only the most obvious examples of what is probably the episode’s worst annoyance: it’s constantly stopping for nonsense. Every time you find a key card, adjust the water level, or whatever, the action abruptly stops to send you to a new .j2l where you have a chance to save, then back to yet another .j2l in exactly the same place you were, but with one tile in a foreground layer changed. (Just like Tomb Rabbit—but isn’t this sort of thing exactly what AngelScript was introduced to prevent?) And this happens over and over and over. Maybe there are about two hundred playable levels, but there are only maybe ten or so actual areas to explore—again, all of them visually identical—and you keep running back and forth within them to meet the next NPC, pick up the next key, or find the next trigger crate that gives no hint for which door it might randomly unlock.

Also taking up their own levels (with save spots between them) are cutscenes. On some level I feel bad about blaming the author for the cutscenes, because they suffer so clearly from amateur translation. And yet there are so many of them and they fail so completely to convey any appropriate emotions. Between the ridiculous dialogue and the overbright, overbusy graphics, it’s impossible to care about the hundreds of dead bodies you pass over the course of this episode. And sometimes the cutscenes even go out of their way to waste your time, like when a floppy disk (yes, really) needs to be formatted before it can have a database installed on it, both of which operations have their own progress bars. Does the author seriously imagine the episode’s player enjoying this sequence? Is the fart joke supposed to be just that humorous? Or is it really just a middle finger to the player for expecting their time playing the episode to be respected and rewarded? (And why are there two different police stations, anyway?)

The reason I have so much to say about RabbitCity 2 Remastered’s mistakes is that there is a decent experience buried underneath it all. But the author has thrown so much nonsense on top of it, made it such a chore to play, and supplied it with such inappropriate visuals, that there’s no reason anyone should make the effort to find it.

RecommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
17 May 2018, 02:21
For: The Redacted Missions
Level rating: 6.9
Rating
0.0

This pack starts off rough. There are some scattered humorous text strings, which I appreciate, but otherwise the standard levels are primarily straight lines with turns at various intervals. (The first level doesn’t even have any turns at all, though you do spend it going left instead of right, which I suppose qualifies as novel.) There are a lot of enemies but none of them present any real challenge because the open level design gives you full control over whether they live or die, and the ammo, while quite plentiful, isn’t really necessary. Introducing pinball elements to the Damn tileset is an interesting notion but ends up being more inconvenient than interesting. Eyecandy is highly conceptual—an island with trees with in the background, multiple parallax layers used for lava to make it look 3D—but not very detailed, so the levels don’t tend to be too interesting to look at.

The closest this pack has to a standout regular level is Titanic Tube Tussle, which has full-screen background layers, lots of direction changes, and enemies you actually need to pay attention to. The concept is straightforward but not bad: hit trigger crates to change which tubes are solid, so that the route ahead of you is forever changing. It works for a while but probably overstays its welcome, though the author does make a good effort to change things up after a while by introducing airboards to the mix. Where I think this level is lacking, though, is that even though you’re stomping a lot of trigger crates, you’re still not really thinking at all. The level looks like it should be a puzzle, but everything you need is always right in front of you, and you don’t have the agency to make your own way. Maybe you’ll feel impressed with the author for how well they arranged all the trigger scenery events, but it’s all on the author’s side and you’re not really contributing much. Also there’s surprisingly little backtracking until an airboard segment near the end, despite the trigger-crate-heavy level design almost begging for a chance to make areas harder each subsequent time you visit them.

What you’ll remember from this pack is the final boss, which takes some inspiration from Gunstar Heroes and such but is still an original experience for Jazz 2. The boss has a bunch of different stages, which is something people generally enjoy, and they all(?) make good use of patterns instead of pure random attacks, meaning you feel you have a reasonable chance of beating the boss without taking any damage if you just get good enough at figuring out how it works. (This is further encouraged at higher difficulties, where carrots are reduced or nonexistent.)

Download reluctantly recommended, but let me be blunt… unless you’re intending to write a review, you should probably just skip to hgfRMfinalboss, because the rest of the pack isn’t going to hold your attention.

Not recommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
17 May 2018, 01:45 (edited 17 May 18, 01:46)
For: Jazz Jackrabbit 2 - Advance Edition
Level rating: 7.0
Rating
0.0

It’s hard to play this level and not wonder why it exists. That’s not intended as a dig at its quality but merely an observation… on the one hand, its main focus seems to be making Rabbit in Training a harder level by introducing more enemies and spikes, but on the other hand, sometimes this transitions into adding new areas to the level altogether. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those new areas, but what does their inclusion say for the feasibility—or sensibility—of the “Advance Edition” project? Is adding totally new areas to individual levels really within the scope of making them harder, or does it mean the level author should just focus on original works without the odd crutch of the official levels’ old designs? By doing both things, and relying on Rabbit in Training as a hook to bring people in to try all-new details, is the author somehow cheating? I don’t exactly have answers for these questions, but basically, this is a confusing gameplay experience.

Which is kind of unfortunate, because if you pretend for a moment that Rabbit in Training never existed and everything is new to you, this isn’t exactly a bad level. The challenges are not new and original, perhaps, but they’re perfectly functional and enjoyable. And for all the weirdness of passing in and out of the Rabbit in Training layout, it’s never really a problem, except for the text signs, which range anywhere from unintentional humor to complete unhelpfulness.

I don’t think I’ll intentionally come back to this, if only because the weird insistence that people use Hard or Turbo makes it a lot harder to play than the average level. But it’s not a bad start.

P.S. if you’re going to use a bizarre tileset rearrangement of dubious usefulness, at least include it in the zip for people to download.

RecommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
17 May 2018, 01:14
For: Maze of steel
Level rating: 6.0
Rating
0.0

Aww, this is really cool. I did want to call out the lack of graphics at first, but I quickly got used to it, and I think while playing this level you have to realize that anything more detailed wouldn’t really fit here. Instead this level is all about gameplay: dodging spike balls, finding hidden walls, and making it through two different timed segments, each of which even uses a different timing mechanism! Trigger crates, coins, and carrots feature prominently; ammo is sparse but appropriate; other nonsense is mostly done away with.

This is not a traditional JJ2 level by any means, but it sets out to do a specific thing with a specific sort of gameplay, and does it very well.The puzzles are neither obtuse nor perfunctory. Some of the different areas I really don’t think I’ve seen done before. Just a fun time all the way, provided you like this kind of gameplay to begin with—I don’t know how universally this will appeal to people, especially with how cramped much of the level is, but it works for me.

There are certain issues, of course—I’m not really sold on the JJ3 music’s appropriateness here, and the tileset should be included in the zip file, and I’m not wild about how the Spaz-only restriction was implemented—but none of them really take away from the unique and successful design of the level as a whole.

Download is surely recommended for tough guys.

Not recommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
17 May 2018, 00:25
For: Easter Madness
Level rating: 1.3
Rating
0.0

This displays a pretty good grasp of the basic technical side of making a level, but a lack of content, challenge, and graphical detail makes it hard to recommend for download. The author has figured out how to use various events, including vines, various enemies, and warps and warp targets. Tiles mostly connect to each other properly, and there are no obvious gameplay bugs. Unfortunately the level still isn’t very pretty to look at, despite some attempts at variety with occasional easter eggs and carrots, and there’s just not a lot to do in it. You can beat the level in less than fifteen seconds if you’re not trying to collect every item and shoot every enemy, and the enemy placement isn’t really sufficiently complicated to be dangerous even if you are trying to do everything. There are various good instincts on display, such as the coin warp and the level direction switching from right to left partway through, but ultimately, this particular level is very short and not very memorable. Hopefully the author will put a little more time into their next effort, focusing particularly on length, fewer straight lines, and more variation in tile use.

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
7 May 2018, 10:52
For: Jazz2 Cache Tools (Lite Version & Fancy Version) *BUG PATCH ON OLDER SYSTEMS!*
Level rating: N/A
Rating
0.0

Interestingly, one of the first utilities ever made for Jazz 2 did exactly this:

“J2filecopy Created by MetalWarrior, copies JJ2 levels from your “Cache” folder to your “Jazz2” folder.”

Not recommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
15 Jan 2017, 01:46
For: Looking for answers - part 2
Level rating: 8.2
Rating
0.0

Looking for answers has an unfortunately accurate title, for that’s exactly what i found myself doing the whole time I tried to play it. In all honesty, I could not finish a single level, because I would inevitably find myself in one or more places where I simply could not figure out what (if anything) I was supposed to do next. In many cases, when I did make some kind of progress I wasn’t even sure whether it was intentional or whether I had happened upon some sort of bug in the level design. Walls appear and disappear without warning, trigger crates do not have clear effects, immense spike pits or ctf death pits abound, and layers move at bizarre speeds to complement sometimes empty-looking layer 4s. Huge airspaces are filled with countless ghosts, ravens, bees, dragonflies, and pacman ghosts. More of those enemies lurk under the ground behind layer 3, meaning you can’t even plan for challenges in advance. In one place massive quantities of completely invisible wind, combined with non-regenerating cheshire2s, make an ascent all but impossible. Another area fills the screen with so many smoke rings that the fruit platforms you’re supposed to ride have trouble even spawning. Water levels change according to inscrutable rules in front of the ugliest tileset you’ll see. Nothing seems passable unless you made the level/s and therefore already know where all the traps are and which random/secret routes you’re supposed to take.

There are glimmers of good levels shining through, like a section in the first level where you jump from one alternatingly masked and unmasked series of blocks to another to avoid landing on spikes below. Everything is clearly technically proficient and done with a purpose. It’s just that that purpose feels completely unfathomable.

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
14 Jan 2017, 09:14
For: Ürdüng Chronicles #1
Level rating: 8.0
Rating
0.0

I think the new Labrat levels may actually be my least favorite of the pack… probably in part because I’m less attached to the tileset, but also because they seem to deviate less from the standard JJ2 formula and show less of the author’s experimental side. Experimental level design has a long history in JCS, not all of it positive, but the author’s earlier work always fell on the side of enjoyable and memorable. These Labrat levels are not without their good points, but they also feel more ordinary, though by no means bad. An uninspired FarkasUrdung level is still better than a lot of other stuff out there, but the Labrat levels feel less purposeful and more thrown together. I definitely appreciate some of the efforts being made here, though, like the serious take on a bird gameplay section, and a lot of the work with springs and weapon blocks and such, as always. I had fun and I’ll probably play them again. There are lots of pickups and enemies and that’s great. But I’m not sure they’re the best of the bunch.

Not recommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
14 Jan 2017, 05:09
For: Snow Castle 2016
Level rating: 7.7
Rating
0.0

Snow Castle 2016 starts out strong; you stand next to a closed wooden door that clearly can be destroyed by some kind of ammo, but nothing you have right now. Instead you go inside the house to your left, go down some stairs, and take either of two exits (both concealed to various degrees by layer 3) on a looping path that takes you back to whichever exit you didn’t take before. By the time you get there, you’ve got toaster ammo, and it turns out that’s what you’re supposed to use on the door.

That’s the theory, anyway—it should be mentioned that the toaster ammo is really close to the beginning of that looping path, so you could just grab it and head back. There’s also, if I’m understanding the level layout correctly, an entirely separate second looping path coming out of the starting house on the left side, only this one doesn’t contain any toaster or seemingly anything else of any use. It’s just there to get you lost. It’s respectable enough to play, I suppose, but it still leaves me with the feeling that maybe I’m missing something about why it’s there.

Still, if you don’t pay too much attention to your surroundings, you’ll end up on the right path—toastering through the wooden door—eventually. And then the level gets less interesting. The path might branch a little at some point, since there was a time or two I remember seeing enemies I clearly hadn’t gotten to, but I’m not sure about that… otherwise, though, it’s very much your basic JJ2 gameplay with limited graphics and not much to keep you from speeding through everything. There are plentiful carrots and big ceilings, a great recipe for letting a (non-Spaz) player helicopter across all the careful level design and skip all the careful pickups and enemies.

And the level certainly does some things right along the way. Ammo isn’t abundant, but there’s a good amount of it, some of it clearly tailored to its surroundings, and the seekers in particular can be helpful against dragons below you or ravens above you. Enemies seem mostly practical and appropriate, though I don’t think the suckers quite fit in. Everything tiles properly, and the lack of background layers is more the fault of the tileset than the level.

Nonetheless, I left Snow Castle 2016 feeling cold. The layout meanders through layer 4 in random directions until it reaches an abrupt exit that I think was prompted more by running out of room than by anything particular to the design. Despite the fairly open nature of the path, the walls are all so thin that you’re constantly looking at other, relatively distant parts of the level at the same time, which is distracting. And very few parts of the layout feel especially memorable—a vine covered in gems, maybe, or the two or three times you drop down from a vine onto a dragon-infested house, but that’s about it. The totally straightforward tileset use and level design beg comparison to HH98 and TSF, and I honestly think the official levels did a better job providing distinct, memorable gameplay. Nothing about Snow Castle 2016 is bad, but nothing about it demands to be recommended either.

RecommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
14 Jan 2017, 05:08
For: The Lost Levels 1: Queen's Castle
Level rating: 7.9
Rating
0.0

Ooh boy. I wish this level were longer.

It’s not revolutionary in its structure—go left a bit, find a trigger crate, go left a bit more, find three trigger crates, enter a door, fight a boss. It’s not difficult at all—there’s one area with some pillars sticking out of a pit of spikes, but the JJ2 engine makes it trivial to navigate them. The tileset use isn’t unusual or innovative. The boss arena has nothing interesting about it.

And yet, everything is done well.

Sure, the level leans a little more heavily on big thick walls than it needs to, but it’s still pretty to look at with varied tiles and chains and lights and things. There’s a lot more put in here than just the minimum amount of effort needed to use Castle. Part of the reason the level is so easy to beat is that the enemies can be taken out by bouncers—and the level gives you bouncers. That’s a satisfying feeling. Ambient lighting is played with enough to be visible yet not frustrating. The paths to reach the four trigger crates are not innovative but they are all distinct from one another and give off a quiet confidence. Pretty much any given aspect of the level is respectable, but the level is short enough that it still feels a bit empty.

(There could also be more pickups, I think. That would help make everything livelier.)

RecommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
13 Jan 2017, 08:49
For: A Generic Single Player Level II
Level rating: 9.4
Rating
0.0

It’s easy to dismiss Jazz 2 as just a multiplayer game, because its default single player campaign is so easy (at least if your age is in the double digits), but that’s not really fair. Jazz 2’s single player is easy but there’s still something undeniably fun about it, and many levels over the years—Agama’s Night World comes to mind here as an example—have succeeded on the basis of giving you that gameplay with all the ingredients measured out just right. Keep changing up the flow of things, but not too much, not too frequently, and yet not too infrequently. Ammo pickups, springs, enemies, crates, coins, carrots, on and on and on for as long as Jazz (or Spaz if you’re nasty) can run and jump. It’s a proven formula for success.

Blackraptor does not quite follow that pattern to the letter, despite the level’s name, but instead treats it as a template to add just a little bit to here and there. Enemies feel tougher and more demanding of strategic handling. Health feels more rewarding. Change in level design is accomplished by mixing in and out different parts of the tileset across the course of a single level, rather than employing level transitions to use entirely new tilesets. Obviously the xargon set gets a lot of credit here for offering so many possibilities in the first place, but blacky uses those possibilities to immense effect, liberally covering the screen with layers and eyecandy that somehow rarely (though not never) obscures the level design more than it should.

I played through this level a number of times while it was in development… I’ll confess I haven’t actually played through (or even downloaded?) its final release, which hopefully cleared up some issues I had with unclear design elements, so I can’t comment too much there. One way or another though, there are times when the level becomes less clearly linear than others, and at its extreme that can become frustrating. The level shines when it’s basic JJ2 gameplay with that added bit of polish/heft/zest/shine to it, and conversely falters when it wanders too far off in another direction. The White World is an example of this—it feels very blackyish, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem to totally fit in with its surroundings.

I feel somewhat the same way about the scripted enemies, despite having rather contributed to their existence… the fact that they’re fairly back-loaded, appearing toward the end of the level but not the beginning, gives off the impression that the level was designed linearly and those enemies were a late addition. (Fun fact: basically true.) Obviously I’m not complaining about scripted enemies on their own, but I think a more balanced distribution would have worked better in this case, to prevent the impression that the level loses confidence later on in its ability to please without bringing in bells and whistles. There’s nothing wrong with games getting better or more complicated with time, but it’s important for that progression to feel natural, rather than to give the impression that the earlier parts of the game simply didn’t get much editing after they were first designed. (A similar problem applies in blacky’s JJ1 pack as well.)

Nonetheless, I don’t want to give the impression the above complaints are a huge deal. It’s just that we’re all very familiar with the standard JJ2 gameplay, and when most of the level is that—albeit implemented very well—it’s only natural to talk about the handful of deviations from that pattern. But really, the level plays and looks great. It’s huge and majestic, hard but not impossible, pretty but not incoherent. There’s always stuff to do. There are plenty of secrets to find. There are no obvious places to skip ahead. It’s a great level that sometimes strays outside its wheelhouse but is mostly more on point than can be managed by some entire packs.

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
13 Jan 2017, 08:17
For: Castle Turtlevania
Level rating: 6.9
Rating
0.0

Castle Turtlevania is that frustrating level that does a lot of things fairly well but nothing great, and you have to wonder what would happen if that weren’t the case. If there were all new enemies, for example, would it be an amazing single player experience or would everything else suffer as a result? I’m not sure. But it’s still possible to play this and think every few minutes “huh, this is pretty cool,” even if not “this is incredible.”

TreyLina’s review includes a lengthy list of cons that I find myself about half-and-half on. Yes, firing up is weird, hiding vital warps behind layer 3 is rarely advisable, the death system is frustrating, and it is kind of barren-looking. Haunted House is always a kind of barren tileset, at least in that it has no background layers, but it is possible to do more with it than this. Still, I appreciate that eyecandy was never the main focus here.

Other things she listed I’m more okay with giving a pass. Being Jazz-only is fine in principle (though the implementation shouldn’t be buggy). Not being able to run (initially) is fine. The health system, including the carrots you’re always allowed to pick up, is fine. Branching out a bit from typical JJ2 gameplay is generally something I’m in support of, and I don’t think any of those things are bad decisions. The bird mode is maybe a little silly, but I didn’t mind that much because the antigravity buttstomp was so much fun that why would I ever want to be a bird? Again, maybe it’s a little bit buggy, but it’s fun! Enemies dropping ammo is somewhat muted by the fact that they’re all the default enemies, so non-blaster ammo isn’t as useful as it could be, but by gosh I’m glad the level tried doing it anyway.

Basically, Castle Turtlevania is a level with a lot of heart. (Even though it chooses not to represent health with heart icons anymore.) My reaction to its flaws is not “eww” but “aww”—it’s clearly trying and I want it to get better. I look at its pride in its ideas—two distinct unlockable ways to fly! distinct areas with captions and themes! a non-euclidean maze!—and I look forward to what those things can look like someday with a bit more polish. Yes, it’s buggy and not so pretty and the bosses really aren’t very good, but these feel like symptoms of a lack of practice, not of passion. This is a great step. This is good confidence. I hope to see more.

RecommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
13 Jan 2017, 07:55
For: Forest Forgotten
Level rating: 8.4
Rating
0.0

The irony of Forest Forgotten is that the forest part of it really is better off forgotten.

I’ll explain. The level is divided, like A Generic Single Player Level II, into various biomes, though not as distinctly as in blacky’s take on the same tileset. There’s a leafy forest in the bottom left, a dead forest in the top right, a shrine in the bottom right, and a bunch of vertical spaces, platforms, vines, and grass everywhere else. Most of it’s fairly interesting, but the leafy forest is mostly just aggravating… layer 3 leaves cover up your view of some of JJ2’s most persistent enemies, and there are so many random single food pickups it becomes tedious to try to collect them all. The lack of visibility is the main issue, though. This would be okay as an interlude in the middle of some other level, but here the forest comes right at the beginning—well, depending on which direction you start walking—and gives much the wrong impression for what the rest of the level will be like.

Because I rather liked most of the rest of the level, for all its bizarre design choices. As far as I can tell, the only part of the main level area that’s directly important to completing the level is the ruined shrine in the bottom right. Everything around it—all the grassy platforms, swinging vines, hidden coins, etc.—is there in case you want to beat the level by collecting 40 (mostly hidden, often behind layer 3) coins instead of doing things the more traditional way. Personally I only found 39, but I trust there was another one out there somewhere.

A thought occurs to me that maybe besides the coins, that large area was also there to provide bouncer pickups for accessing the shrine with. In that case, maybe my being able to shoot the toaster powerup through the wall with a bouncer bullet (and thereby gain more than enough ammo to power down through the pit) was a bug, not a clever use of a nearby bouncer pickup to tell me what I was supposed to do. :|

Anyway. I’m not sure this particular brand of non-linear design quite worked for me, mainly because there weren’t a lot of obvious hints pointing the way forward and a lot of the level all looked the same. I had to resort to the tried and true test of looking for uncollected food/undefeated enemies to see if I’d already been somewhere or not. This is a common problem with a lot of sets, but from Xargon I guess I’d have expected more eyecandy diversity.

That confusion aspect is a shame, because when I could tell what was going on, Forest Forgotten was fun, engaging, and creative. Swinging platforms, arrows, animated tiles, crates, and more are all put to good use in puzzles that you’re given just enough information to figure out how to solve. The shrine area sends you on several puzzle-heavy quests in order to smash certain trigger crates before you can beat the level, and they (and the shrine in general) are definitely the most memorable aspects of the level and also where it feels most like a Spaztic work, albeit one that is much fairer than her Mines of Moria ever was. Good fun stuff. The wider exploration areas with all the coins and enemies are close, but there’s something missing that keeps them from feeling quite right.

I don’t know if there was ever a larger story surrounding this level—the shrine at the end stretches on for long enough that I felt it had to be building up to something, but that something never came—but it probably doesn’t really need one. Forest Forgotten is an interesting, often exciting set of ideas that aren’t quite supported by their eyecandy and aren’t quite clearly connected to each other, but definitely worth a play nonetheless.

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
4 Aug 2015, 05:49
For: Platform Spear
Level rating: N/A
Rating
0.0

(Note that depending on your control scheme, it may be difficult to use this while facing left, since some keyboards do not allow the simultaneous press of Left arrow, Up arrow, and Space. This is a bug in your keyboard, not the script, so kindly do not rate szmol down for it.)

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
2 Aug 2014, 02:57
For: City by Dollar Studios
Level rating: N/A
Rating
0.0

Note for those who, like me, don’t have a numpad: Do a find and replace in the script file and change “0×6” to “0×3”.

RecommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
13 Jul 2014, 03:03 (edited 13 Jul 14, 03:05)
For: Survival Mission 1
Level rating: 6.8
Rating
6.8

Administrative notes: I don’t know why this level is listed as TSF+; I played it in 1.23+ just fine. Also you need to include the tileset (Desolation7th.j2t) or a lot of people won’t be able to play it.

That aside, this is pretty cool. With all the power that JJ2+‘s angelscript implementation offers, Survival Mission 1 is a good reminder that you don’t need to use every single function and rewrite every last bit of JJ2 and pretend you’re writing an entirely new game just to make a playable level. SM1 uses angelscript to take certain actions just a little farther than they could be done in JCS alone—cutscene-like dialogues, flashing lights, announcements—without creating the impression it’s anything other than a JJ2 single player level. It’s very subtle, and we could definitely use more levels like it in that respect.

(Also there’s mouse aiming and several of the enemies have higher hit counts, but besides that it would be very easy not to realize the level is scripted at all, if you’re a casual player who isn’t incredibly familiar with every single thing JCS can or cannot accomplish.)

Of course, once scripting is involved at all it’s easy to think of places that could have been a bit more elaborate. At least one point in the level would feel more complete with an accompanying music change. And I found myself getting lost a whole lot while playing; text alerts would announce that some door had been opened but woudn’t tell me where that door was, and those would have been excellent use cases for moving the player’s camera to focus on the newly opened door for a few seconds. And some more lighting effects would have been nice.

Anyway, how’s the level? It’s all right. It’s a classic sort of level where there are various places with labels like “generator” or “engine room”, and you have to find various trigger crates/zones to progress. Some enemies are supposed to be guarding various rooms, as indicated by their sitting in giant chairs or stuff like that. You shut down a “core” and then find your way out again. We’ve seen this exact theme in Another Story, and maybe other levels even older than that, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I have to say, though, the layout was too cramped for my tastes. It definitely made the mouse aiming feel incredibly useful at times, particularly when I was climbing up a tower and shooting the enemies walking around on the ledges above me, but it also meant that the seekers and RFs didn’t have very much to do. (And there wasn’t a lot of ammo at all, especially in a level where half the enemies had higher-than-usual hit counts.) And the level was also quite compact, forcing a lot of paths to be right above or below one another even if they weren’t necessarily close to each other in terms of semi-linear layout. This made things more confusing than they needed to be, and also reduced the possibility of making different areas of the map visually distinct from one another.

So there are definitely various improvements that the author can make here, but it’s a pretty playable experience provided you don’t get too lost. I think the level of scripting is just fine, and the visuals are plain but serviceable, so I’d suggest concentrating primarily on design in the immediate future. Don’t be afraid to make things bigger. Work on getting the layout to match the theme. Find ways of indicating what path needs to be followed. Compare the ammo you offer to the places they can be used.

Download recommended? Sure. It’s not spectacular, but it’s a solid foundation. For players, there are some decently attractive areas and reasonable challenges—float suckers put in several appearances in their classic role as buttstomp targets—and you’ll get a chance to kill some enemies and stomp some crates, so long as you don’t get too confused about where to go next. For level makers, it’s a reminder that the barrier of entry to angelscript is only as high as you want it to be, and you can make a level that only needs it for one specific purpose instead of worrying about the whole level being a backseat to showing off your scripting skills. It’s a traditional JJ2 SP experience with some mouse aim thrown into the mix, so if you’re into that sort of thing—and, well, you are on J2O—have at it?

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