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.

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?

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
31 Mar 2012, 06:06 (edited 31 Mar 12, 06:06)
For: JJ2 Level and Tileset Unpacker
Level rating: N/A
Rating
N/A

This is exactly what Overlord’s j2ff does, except j2ff can also recompile them for you. (Granted, the recompilation messes up on TSF-only levels, but otherwise it’s all good.)

Not recommendedQuick Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
2 Feb 2012, 03:30
For: Custom lev file
Level rating: 1.0
Rating
1.0

Novel as the fact this is a .lev is, there is really no other reason to download this. The tileset uses about four distinct colors, and the level about six distinct tiles in a 20×15 space. The only challenge is jumping over a tuf turtle. Marinata_1997, please spend more time on your levels, and/or read www.jazz2online.com/tilesets

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
9 Jan 2012, 20:24
For: JJ2 X-rays
Level rating: 2.0
Rating
N/A

I think you want the Articles section?

Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
7 Jan 2012, 04:51
For: Carrotia-beta level+jcs.ini
Level rating: N/A
Rating
N/A

Either I don’t understand why a jcs.ini is included in this upload, or you don’t. A jcs.ini file affects only JCS: which events you can place, what they’re called, what you think their parameters are. It has no effect on JJ2, and you do not need any specific jcs.ini — in fact, you do not need a jcs.ini at all — in order to be able to see blue ghost enemies in TSF.

Not recommendedQuick Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
4 Jan 2012, 22:30
For: Jj1 My levels
Level rating: 1.4
Rating
1.4

Way too full of very simplistic errors. Animation speeds are wrong (esp. the boss), animations are wrong, blaster uses the RF sprite for no clear reason, and there’s really no level design to speak of. At the least, glance at the tiles and make sure they look like they tile right before uploading. The bonus level has boundary issues.

Not recommendedReview by Violet CLM

Posted:
4 Jan 2012, 21:02 (edited 4 Jan 12, 21:02)
For: Holiday hare 2011 for 1.23
Level rating: 1.4
Rating
1.8

I see a lot of good design principles that are let down by poor execution. You definitely have a sense of what kind of challenges are germane to single player — respectable enemy placement, some precision platforming, triggers, collapse scenery, and other such things — but it’s all done way too quickly. The running section (you should know, btw, that fast feet events don’t actually do anything in JJ2) is ended by a wall which signals that it’s dangerous once again and there’s an enemy coming; that’s a great touch. I see tiles being used for specialized purposes, and definite hints of JJ1 design philosophy (e.g. the secret level hidden behind the end of level sign). As PJ said, you just need to spend a lot more time polishing your levels and making the good ideas that you have more appealing to look at and play. Choosing different tilesets will also benefit you tremendously. Inferno is difficult to use even for experienced level designers, and the other sets you used aren’t really very high quality. Find a nice good-looking, easy to use set and see if you can’t find some inventive graphical tricks to complement your level design intuitions. Keep it up.

Not recommendedQuick Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
4 Jan 2012, 20:50
For: Battery check level
Level rating: 1.0
Rating
1.0

Nice as it is to see a custom Battery Check level (this is possibly the first???), this really has no other redeeming qualities. It’s tiny, tiles don’t match up too well, and there’s little challenge and absolutely no use for the batteries. But please keep practicing: we need more Battery Check levels!

Not recommendedQuick Review by Violet CLM

Posted:
4 Jan 2012, 20:45
For: Storm In Carrotus
Level rating: 6.5
Rating
5.0

The atmosphere’s not bad, although you owe the tileset a large debt there. Eyecandy does get repetitive. Occasional tile bugs but fewer than usual for Carrotus. Not nearly enough ammo (pretty much just powerups), and too many walls, especially that carrot portion. No incentive to hang around the dangerous pit area. Good ideas, but too cramped.

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