Azazilisland starts strong (as shown in the screenshot), placing you in the middle of the level with a bunch of stuff going on in every direction. This is a very non-linear level, so you can go in any direction and still make progress, assuming progress is defined by gradually removing all enemies and pickups from the level. There are a handful of spots in the level that are actually necessary to visit, in order to hit certain trigger zones, but for the most part there’s not a lot distinguishing those spots from any other possible destination, so your best strategy is just to go everywhere and do everything. If there’s an enemy near you, you haven’t gone that direction yet, so give it a try.
There seems to be a bit of an intended order for you to visit the trigger zone spots, in that certain of them are initially locked off by trigger scenery blocks that get removed by others. Nothing about this order is explained anywhere in the level, and nor is the end area made very explicit, and yet somehow I found myself visiting everything in exactly the right order (and guessing where the end area was). I don’t know if this is coincidence or level design genius but either way it’s hard to complain about.
This is, then, a level all about exploration, and thankfully there’s a decent variety in areas contained within the level: you’re not just in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. The most obvious example is that the entire bottom section is a sandy beach, but the thin wooden platforms are more or less common in different parts of the level, and there are a handful of other landmarks to help you figure out where you are. Additionally, the level is very easy to explore (if you’re willing to do the occasional uppercut/double jump onto a higher wooden platform), preferring lots of small blocks over long tunnels, so it’s always possible to change direction and wander until you find somewhere genuinely new. The only real slipups on the explorability fronts are certain tiles which look like they should be vines but are in fact fully solid, therefore preventing vertical movement between areas.
Indeed, the level is so navigable that there’s even a witch enemy toward the top of the level, with Eva placed a little farther down, more in the middle. If you forget where she is, it’s possible to fall all the way down to the bottom of the level and eventually climb back up to find her again (provided you don’t die along the way). I’m not sure how I feel about the witch’s inclusion overall, but I appreciate that the level makes sure you can get back up to her as a frog… but not much farther up than that.
Besides the one witch, there’s a respectably-sized menagerie of enemies that seem appropriate to the tileset, all managing to pose the occasional, yet never outsized, thread. The level also boasts a solid, yet never excessive, number of carrots and ammo pickups to make your battles that much easier. And ultimately its success lives and dies on the question of how much you enjoy walking around and shooting normal JJ2 enemies, because it gives you a whole lot of opportunities to do that, without any obvious flaws but without any enormous innovation or variety… and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Penguinvasion is a nice, simple level that serves to introduce a lot of HH18 mechanics (gem collection, gift boxes, enemies…) in a safe context without a lot of fanfare. All these things are easy enough to understand that the player is largely left to figure them out on their own without lengthy text signs or other explanations, which is a wise decision. The graphics are never too elaborate but definitely serve to define several different kinds of environments within the level—branch climbing, caves, even a hotel—each of which remembers to have a distinct sort of layout. Besides the trigger crate hunt at the end, nothing is ever going to be especially memorable about this level, but that’s because it has a different job to do: to be a relaxing introduction. At this it succeeds perfectly.
Tipplenborough is a rarity in any game, JJ2 included, being a level with a primarily vertical orientation. Certainly you spend a lot of time in horizontal areas, but the goal is always to find a way up, at least until a point toward the end where you have to fall down for a while before you can start going up again… that part is confusing and could be better signaled. The level looks very big and impressive and must have taken quite some time to construct, especially considering the amount of exploration that’s possible to do across the various paths. A speedy player could easily see only a fraction of this map in a single playthrough. On the other hand, the different paths all seem fairly similar in their gameplay, not deviating much from normal JJ2 fare… and there aren’t a whole lot of gems, and even the episode’s distinctive giftbox mechanic falls by the wayside here… and it’s weird having normal fire dragons right after the first level’s ice dragons… so Tipplenborough feels almost more of a standalone affair than part of the broader episode. It’s hardly objectionable as a refutation of HH98’s level design style while using the same tileset, but the ambition of the hugeness doesn’t seem 100% born out in the moment-to-moment.
Cold Paw further demonstrates the hazards of coordinating the finer details of different levels in an episode being made by different people… the little walking penguin robots are feeling quite overused by now, but the ice bats that this level introduces (and should therefore highlight) hardly seem to appear at all. But gift boxes return in full force, and the level does manage some other level-specific focuses as well, mostly springs and pepper spray. There are a couple moments here that don’t seem quite prepared for Lori’s reduced jumping powers, and the red poles as barriers never quite clicked for me as a layout concept, but this isn’t a bad level, just a kind of punishing one. After two dark ice cave levels in a row, we’re about due for something in the open air…
Under the Weather is a strong contender for the level people remember from HH18, with its heavy focus on gimmicky gameplay. The freezing temperature mechanic that hurts you when you stay outside for too long is too omnipresent to ignore and becomes a serious threat toward the end of the level as shelter becomes more sparse. The tiny jumping snowman enemies are this level’s other big threat, frequently placed where you can least afford to pay attention to them because you need to get back inside before it gets too cold. If anything they may be a little too fast, but it’s interesting to see HH18 bringing out tougher enemies, forcing you to remember your stronger weapons. The same cannot be said of the ice golem boss battle, unfortunately, who is probably perfectly interesting but always goes down in seconds. This level is also smart enough to not have the entirety of its layout revolve around the temperature mechanic, so there are a couple of fun cave areas that are also high on the gimmicky end and yet manage not to overstay their welcome. The level is fairly short and linear because it needs to be, but it’s definitely a great example of thinking about what sorts of things video games can do to evoke the deadlier side of winter.
Breaking Out unfortunately feels out of place in a pack that’s otherwise gradually increasing its complexity and scriptedness. There’s a definite difficulty to the gameplay here, as enemies shoot lots of bullets at you (even the ice bullets are nicely positioned near spikes or jumping snowmen), but not a whole lot of interest value. You bust into jails, grab coins, go to the coin warp, and then do all the exact same things again. It’s also unclear why things aren’t scripted more than they are… the prisoners are static tiles instead of animated, the “keycards” are just trigger crates, and the coins are just coins. Things get more interesting at the end with the boss battle (and its utterly unnecessary cutscene moments), which has an elaborate set of moves not common among JJ2 bosses, but unfortunately again it’s just a quick bullet sponge and the attacks can probably be ignored unless you specifically want to watch how cool they are.
Toyed Badlands is pretty interesting as a very exploration-heavy map that trusts you to eventually figure out the right way to go as you gradually hit more trigger crates. This would quickly fail in a level with only one kind of eyecandy, but fortunately that’s not the case here, and there are several distinct areas (including some buildings with actual labels) that make it much easier to tell at a glance where you are and remember where there’ve been lock blocks before. Little details like rotating lollipops or spiky Lego bricks add a lot to the atmosphere. The ice skull guys from the previous level are back but this time are much less dangerous, which is kind of a weird progression… all that’s newish on the enemy front is ice-colored versions of Tuf Turtles and Doggy Doggs, and even those are familiar from HH17. Sometimes the map is more cramped than it needs to be, which doesn’t 100% facilitate exploration, and there’s never really a standout moment, but this is still some good fun.
Pikitia Ara feels in some undefinable way like an overgrown JJ1 level, and has a lot of good old-fashioned platforming and spelunking and enemy dispatching. There are two fun new foes on display in this final level, both of them quite tough, but the player’s arsenal has evolved to the point that they feel totally fair and correctly placed. Spike bolls get a lot of really good use here. There’s an unfortunate moment of sequence breaking available to anyone willing to shoot a checkpoint with electroblaster, but everything else seems to work as intended and it’s a nice challenge (but never too challenging) that doesn’t do much out of the ordinary but doesn’t make any mistakes. It is a bit of a weird choice for the final stretch of this episode, though, wearing its winter holiday theme only very loosely.
Frigid Fortress leans heavily on traditional approaches to forbidding atmosphere but with a definite wintery flavor, a solid decision. The first boss gets around the shoot-the-cyberdemon-until-it-dies issue that other bosses in HH18 had by having invincibility frames of its own, encouraging strategic (read: high-damage) attacks mixed with a lot of dodging. The second boss has a difficult job to do because the number of hearts players could be fighting it with is potentially highly variable, but arrive at what I think is a good solution by exhibiting a range of different attacks that are interesting but never unfair, so if you don’t have the hearts to just sink bullets into it forever (and it’s got quite a lot of health), dodging is a realistic option. The dialogue and plot twist between fights are hardly novel but you wouldn’t expect them to be for a holiday pack anyway. Everything here is satisfactory for a video game boss experience.
There’s a lot to like here, but not a lot to love. It’s also hard to escape the fact that Faded Story Part 1 has essentially two halves, so let’s talk about that.
The first half (and also a little bit at the end) is all scene-setting and story. At one point you’re free to walk around a village for a while, entering buildings and talking to other rabbits, but there’s no gameplay to speak of and you get the sense it only uses standard JJ2 physics for the sake of convenience. At one point you seem to have the chance to buy some powerups or food, but as far as I can tell there’s no way to actually get money; it’s just the appearance of a shop because villages have shops.
More memorably there are a lot of cutscenes. The episode opens by gradually zooming in on a closed book, then the book opens up and you get to turn the pages by pressing right. The art isn’t amazing but it’s neat that there’s art at all—even the more technically sophisticated cutscenes from devres only ever bothered with (lots and lots of) text. Design schematics for the robot boss are the highlight here. Some non-scripted JJ2+ features also make appearances: big flickering lights and fast warps for the doorways and dialogue sequences. Oddly some conversations use standard text events instead of the custom dialogue system… perfectly serviceable but less consistent.
The other half of the episode are the three or so levels of JJ2 gameplay, specifically the kind of JJ2 gameplay that thinks trigger crates (and occasionally trigger zones) are the best thing ever. There are also still some nods to storytelling in the more gameplay-oriented portion of the pack, with transitional areas between tilesets, but at this point it’s mostly about finding ways to head to the right side of the level by hitting this or that trigger crate and then figuring out what path it opened up.
Trigger crates do make up a lot of the level design, but not in a terrible way, and really the level design in general is pretty good, even if I did seem to find a couple sequence breaking moments. It’s much more in the style of custom JJ2 levels than official JJ2 levels but still acquits itself well, even if it does lean maybe a little too heavily toward enemies that are very hard to see. Not a lot of walking enemies to be found here. There’s pickup variety, some swinging platforms, some good spike placement. Areas with different graphics use somewhat different styles of layout, contributing to the feeling of these levels taking place in real locations, which is always useful for a story-based episode. I don’t remember playing any good float-sucker-buttstomping sequences recently, and this episode delivers a couple of them.
What I don’t quite get is why the two halves—the story and the gameplay—are mostly so separate. Multiple j2l files are devoted at the start to introducing the player to the systems for entering buildings, having conversations, and so on, but the plot is actually quite minimal and all those things disappear completely the moment you start shooting enemies. Why aren’t there NPCs to talk to in the gameplay levels too? What was the point of making something so innovative (if still a bit unpolished) at the start if it doesn’t end up being important?
I’m glad to see this is only a first episode. It’s generally perfectly enjoyable to play, even if its level design does mostly fall into familiar patterns from other custom JJ2 maps, but there’s room for it to grow as well, as it becomes more comfortable with its innovations, more willing to play around with them, and more invested in art quality. There’s still room for Faded Story to become the next Demon Invasion.
The level is a bit empty of interactivity toward the start, and I don’t think Devan was necessary, but otherwise I’ve got nothing to complain about here… the eyecandy is solid and the gameplay is great. The pathways tend to be just narrow enough to invoke the feeling of being in a (jungle) cave but not so narrow that they become uncomfortable. There’s a lot of variation in stuff to do, in particular the rolling rocks that are executed incredibly well: you know they’re coming and they land where they’re supposed to land and they’re minor inconveniences in-between. You’re forever changing direction as you navigate the level and it feels very nice and organic. Sometimes there are some interesting jumps. Secret areas tend to be fairly rewarding and not very hard to find, which is a combination that leads to a good feeling of fun. A lot of mileage comes from hollow logs, often in combination with sucker tube events, and they give the level a memorable uniqueness without ever venturing into being overused. The tileset is used to pretty much its full effect and there are a number of spots where there’s a tree or a some platforms or something to make sure the level never spends too long on one thing. A fine example of pure JJ2 leveling.
I… I guess? Ultimately this is a puzzle level masquerading as a quick prank. The presentation is rather bare-bones but there’s a bit of thinking to do anyway. Sort of a very low budget somnium. Winning kills you, always a sign of a good level.
The problem with this map is that it’s thirty seconds long. It’s incredibly easy to jump over every obstacle without even noticing them, and there’s no reason not to. You did make an effort to vary things with slopes and pillars, and the start area is neat, but there’s no getting over the fact that everything can be gotten over.
This level is ambitious! Not only does it blend a bunch of sets into one, it even adds some cute details like snowy roofs, snowman portraits, giant sewer shells, and toilets(?). The palette does visibly suffer in places, but I’m willing to forgive that from someone who’s not necessarily an experienced pixeler. The warps inside the giant labrat bubbles are also pretty cute and are pure style with no concern for necessity. Places where tilesets mix together, particularly the houses, tend to be pretty interesting, and the layout makes an effort to keep you on your toes by constantly changing direction.
And yet… besides the witch at the start, there’s not really a lot going on here in terms of gameplay. There’s a long path toward the start that’s totally optional and loops back to around where it began, and you have roughly a 50-50 chance of deciding to visit it. After that the level starts resembling nothing more than someone playing Snake and desperately trying to avoid hitting themselves, with the path doing its best to take up every inch of available space, including a surprising number of flat horizontal lines. There’s very little to interact with besides vines and enemies. Despite constant attempts to vary things up a little with the eyecandy (and even those could be more psychedelic: tilesets mostly stick together and are bordered by straight lines, you don’t see a lot of stuff blending together organically) there’s just not a lot that really stands out as you play. It’s ambitious, like I said, but there’s a lack of elegance to go with that.
Reviewing tests is inherently difficult because people’s skill levels vary so dramatically, but when a test claims to be “Easy” in the title and is so clearly not, some annoyance is warranted. Individual parts are too long and have no clear theme. The prostitution reference is tasteless. There’s no single player start position. Eyecandy’s okay.
A vehemently multilinear level from Slaz… the layout is less of a path than a playground, many of the branches too short to be considered branches at all. The universal idea of Head Right To Win keeps things surprisingly understandable, though, as I never had any trouble figuring out how to advance the level after I’d finished harvesting all the items in whatever area I was in. Sometimes it takes a little work to get back to the start of another alternate path, sometimes it’s very quick, depending mostly on how much verticality is involved.
In typical Slaz fashion, the walls are packed with little alcoves covered in layer 3 containing this or that extra pickup. Sometimes, especially toward the start of the map, the pickups advertise their presence by being in bigger and visible areas that you need to find the right tunnel into, but there are also plenty of times you just have to know to check every wall (and sometimes ceiling). In my experience, the openings to the more visible secrets tended to be exactly where I’d expect them to be, so I didn’t have to come at the same area from three different walls before finally getting in. None of this is especially innovative, of course—it’s sort of the most basic possible type of secret—but it’s so plentiful that it’s hard not to have a good time exploring absolutely everywhere.
The level distinguishes itself more by its frequent use of scenery blocks… all the main types are present, even speed blocks, though Slaz wisely (or possibly due to the limitations of the tileset) chooses not to bother with any weapon-specific blocks. Sometimes there are blocks for blocks’ sake, because shooting blocks is simple fun, and other times they play a more significant role in the level’s layout. Here the level stumbles a little bit… a trick used frequently is to put a crate or two on top of some destruct blocks, with the idea being that the player will shoot the blocks in order to open the crates. However, usually (unless maybe if playing as Lori) it’s easy to get to the crate without bothering with the blocks at all, which is particularly odd if the crate contains a green spring. This may be partially a result of the layout seeming a little more open and less claustrophobic than some of Slaz’s previous maps, though I also wonder if the crates may have been originally planned to be the gift boxes from the HH17/HH18 packs, which open only upon falling.
Other elements are pretty ordinary for a JJ2 level. Ammo is plentiful, powerups are easy to get, and enemies are not generally placed to poise any real threat. There’s a bit at the end that looks like a house with a chimney, but otherwise eyecandy is more or less what you’d expect from a basic tileset like this one, with no issues but nothing memorable/innovative. Most praiseworthy are the hand obstacles… the level is unscripted, so they can’t be shot, but the delay in their animations between appearances is so short that they’re nearly impossible to miss, When I did get hit by one, it felt like my own fault, not the inevitable consequence of a nasty design.
This “new kind of survivor” is fundamentally unplayable. By placing all members of the same team in the same arena, you strip away their incentive to destroy any blocks, because that would only hurt their teammates. The crates to affect the opposing team’s arena help a little, but even destroying all of them is not enough to kill the whole team.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“J2filecopy Created by MetalWarrior, copies JJ2 levels from your “Cache” folder to your “Jazz2” folder.”
Eat your lima beans, Johnny.