A good hour, though for some parts more than others. The blue walls, bricks and green pipes highlighted in the screenshot look amazing, but this comes at the expense of the rest of the tileset, none of which is attractive. I’d love to see an expansion of the sewer with more soil tile variety that nixes the rest. Masking fine, layout imperfect.
“It will overwrite your default files, so back them up first.” Use JSwapper! :D
DD takes the rainbow background from the Xion is Wrong edit and runs with it, brightening up other aspects of the tileset, changing colors, etc. It looks pretty, if could use maybe a few more caves. The design is complex, if nothing revolutionary. Support JJ1!
.bmp files are about as big as images can possibly get. There is no possible way it would not be simpler to build the tileset yourself and upload it with the .zip, rather than forcing people to download .bmp’s.
I have gone through several possible introductions to this review, and none seem to properly encompass how much I am blown away by this release. That it was released at ALL is of course unexpected, but that Kejero should have evolved so far beyond his work in Tomb Rabbit 1, although the same style is still at times visible, and that despite all the work visible in this pack being (as I understand it) many years old it blows all modern work completely out of the water… that is nigh-impossible to describe. I have thought through many authors and packs hailed as great examples of the single player genre – Moonblaze’s demon invasions, the ramblings of Spaztic and Agama and Blade, Mike’s sprawling classic narrative, the first venture into a world of tombs (which as you may already know are not present in this pack), the cinematic joy of the Lost World episode, or the antiquated inspiration of Another Story, and while TR2 is not able to beat every one of them in every field, it comes amazingly close.
TR2 is a pack that draws on all the atmosphere of the Lost World – aside from, regrettably, the 3D cutscenes – and then doubles it, throwing you into one new world after another without ever losing consistency. The story is largely absent – there are brief references to the player’s brother, and after apparently finding that brother you gain the ability to morph, which makes perfect sense – but this is because the parts of the pack that would tell the story are themselves absent. Still, it seems standard fare – you travel through a jungle, find a base, the base blows up, you go somewhere else… and then the pack abruptly ends, all too soon, despite the length of each individual level.
You start off in a training level, which is a relatively old concept from the days when packs would propose to be games, rather than just series of levels, and thus you would need to be taught how to play. And indeed a lot of what you learn in the training level is basic stuff, special moves, etc. But you also get introduced to some of the innovations of the pack, which I will describe in more detail later, including one feature people may remember from the end of TR1: tile enemies. Here they are done much better, quite amusingly, and had the pack been finished they might even have appeared in more than just this training level. The Island tileset has remnants of what appears to have been a planned Pacman obstacle, though it does not appear ingame. Anyway, the training level guides you through most things you’ll need to know, and is absolutely gorgeous – possibly my favorite of the many tilesets TR2 brings to play, though the elevator set definitely has its charms. The training set is chess-themed, is done in a style much more common in TSF tilesets than 1.23, and works flawlessly, pulling you into the TR2 experience without a backward glance at the rest of JJ2.
After that it would be senseless to try to focus on individual levels or even tilesets, because despite the different art style present in each set (sometimes even among the tiles of a single set), and the different level designs that come with each, TR2 functions as a whole. The only clues to its being unfinished are the choppiness of the level order, missing the story and other things to hold it together, and an occasional tile bug, uninteresting section, or spot where it’s not quite clear where you are supposed to go next (there are, sadly, a fair number of these, which is the only real con of the pack). For the most part, everything is brilliant, presentable, and, again, surpasses all else.
Kejero takes full advantage of the fact that every tileset used in the pack is made FOR the pack, and he may thus do absolutely whatever he wants for the level design. In the first jungle level, slot-machinesque levers trigger the disappearance of giant numbered wooden platforms. In the second and third, colorful staircases switch direction at the flick of one of the delightful multi-state blocks that fill TR2 and work flawlessly, while other blocks point spikes out of them and conceal or display new passages each time they are switched, making for a huge variety of possible environments, seemingly all of which Kejero happily inserts. Your main challenge in the first base level is to traverse a number of giant tubes that connect different sections of the level, and the second answers a question that I actually have asked many times before – how would Kejero design a level where you escape from a base that’s being destroyed? – and answers it incredibly well. The elevator sequences are pretty enough to sit and watch for many long seconds before bothering to figure out how to progress (although the third is a bit boring), and except for the wonky star block segment, everything about the level is beautiful. Finally you return to the trigger-friendly, kiddy-colored design of the training level for a journey through some caves and island huts, also featuring the introduction of the morph mechanism, which adds another enjoyable dimension to gameplay, though it wasn’t used too often or in any great detail.
I’m not sure if Kejero made the music himself – though I suspect he did – but it is all very good and works perfectly with the levels. An unused track for an unmade train level is also included, which only serves to make me wonder how Kejero would have tackled the moving vehicle design, a type of level which has long struggled to be finally “gotten right.” Anyway, the music contributes to the atmosphere, as do the various trigger innovations, and so does the familiar foreground border effect from TR1 or Agent Jackrabbit. This time around there are no pieces of artifact to collect and store in the border, so it serves a purely ornamental purpose, but adds beautifully to the pack, taking you away from everything else you’ve ever played. I definitely recommend playing this in fullscreen, particularly during the second base level, at which point you could easily be in a completely modern FPS were it not a 2D game.
There is really very little to say about TR2 that is not praise. The main problem is, of course, that it is not done, but while the levels fail to be held together plotwise, everything else is cohesive. A boss would have been interesting to see, though none appears. Again, there are no tile enemies after the training level. The classic rock puzzles from TR1 make two reappearances, but both badly need testing, as I was able to bypass them both without ever pushing a single rock. And there are a few moments when the level design is not quite perfect and it’s not clear where you should go – mostly the first base level, really, although the unfamiliarity of the underlying gameplay mechanic probably contributed to that, and a few in the later jungle. There exist minor tile bugs, the checkpoints need some work, and the perspective is at times insane. But most of these are minor ills. More important is the very real delight felt when the walls open up to reveal gorgeous hidden passages in the island level, which is just another reminder of just what’s so special about this pack: it WORKS. There is absolutely no reason not to download it; the only thing to worry about is the sadness felt at the end of level 7 when you realize that you may never in your lifetime see the other 13.
…wait, why did you debuild and rebuild them? Isn’t that redundant? (the Rain set was done years and years ago, btw.)
RE: Look, it’s simple. If the
CRC filesize long is incorrect, just replace it. If you don’t know how to calculate it, make another .j2l file of the same filesize as your product and take the (working) CRC filesize long from there. That’s what I did for Lost Levels.
It is probably worth mentioning that this is an exact conversion of one of the original Orbitus levels, not personally designed by Ischa.
(And that I made the tileset, not BlurredD, I guess.)
Temple Terror serves to remind us (me) of an important detail… just because it’s JJ1, doesn’t mean the level is necessarily good or interesting. It’s very linear, has a lot of tile bugs, and offers no real challenge. Stonar is a relatively interesting set, but this level doesn’t take advantage of that and just has a bunch of different looking walls, none of which manage to look particularly good, and a bunch of big overly-open areas. JJ1’s resolution is too small to have such big areas. The most interesting the level design gets is a few pits with springs in them, a far cry from the various twists and turns of the original game. It feels kind of like the Holidaius secret level, except slower paced and much buggier. While the author is to be commended for understanding the basics of JJ1 level editing, with such features as secret passages, destructable walls and new items, the artistic talent unfortunately lags behind.
on the bright side, there are neither waterfalls nor psych mountains…
EDIT: Sigh. Okay, I’ll try to redefend my points. Against yours, anyway.
First,stonar is a quite boring tileset: Opinion. I agree that it could be more exciting, but you could have got a lot more visual interest out of it… JJ1 certainly did.
I don’t understand what the heck you mean by ” A bunch of different looking walls”?!? Sure there is walls, what, should yoou just run straightforward without anything to stop you? now THAT’s what I call linear: Not at all. Sorry, this wasn’t clear. I meant to say that while the walls are different in visual appearance, their actual designs and shapes do not have much to do with the tiles composing them… there is no clear design reason why one sort of wall might triumph over another for a particular section.
Thirdly, I told you it’s a bug in the JCS’94 with those crazy background tiles, so I can’t fix it: You did say that, and I did not mention it in my review.
There was nothing wrong with my events or anything such.There’s no wrong with open areas either. good to have some space I think: Opinion, opinion, both of which I disagree with. Your events were uninteresting (though that derived from the level layout) and the open spaces were visually unappreciable, besides limiting design. I suggest spending more time looking at the designs of better-rated levels and see how they make use of space. More graphical variety can help a lot here too.
As far as I can tell, this is just a color change, and isn’t trying to be anything more complicated, so I’ll leave it unrated. It’s a nice color change… no real x-mas theme, just wintery, which I fully support. Most of the tileset looks great, but I think the carrots are too dark and the radish just looks weird. Aside from that it’s very nice to look at, though I’m not sure if anyone will actually use it.
I’m going to say it straightout… don’t bother downloading this. There’s no point. Carrotus Mountain fixes a few masks and adds two or three nice tiles, but everything it does, Carrotus Fix does better. Besides, Carrotus Mountain has a horrendous palette. Three of them. Carrotus Fix does not. Carrotus Mountain just throws in some ripped background stuff, leaves various stuff unfixed, and calls it a day. Please don’t download it.
(Waterfall: -.3 Psych Mountains: -.2)
Niiice. This is a really good edit, especially when compared to the horrible Carrotus Mountain. Not all that much is added – only twelve lines of tiles, not counting the waterfall (-.2) and Psych mountains (-.1, I think) – but almost everything that’s added is good and useful and obviously part of Carrotus. I don’t think the beehive is a good idea, but most is. For example, Carrotus Fix adds greater control over the edges of walls and caves (the cave part of which looks great… the walls could use some more work, though), extra vine stuff (from Psych, but it doesn’t clash), log bridges, and some increased cave compatibility. It also fixes the background castle and the giant carrot, improves a number of masks, allows you connect thin platforms to normal ground, and probably some other stuff I’m not thinking of. Included are six different palettes, including the original two (but not Easter), and somehow I manage to like them all. Quite an accomplishment.
If Carrotus Fix gets edited again, there are two main things to change: spend more time on the sloped and top tiles for the walls, as Carrotus uses more shading for its edges, and do something about those half-size tiles sprinkled through the set. The set can be improved, but it’s much better than most of what we’re getting these days.
Clearly there are two rather different reactions to this tileset, and I am sort of torn between them. Looking at in JCS alone, Beach+ is disappointing. You get through the new layout (which is definitely an improvement) and come to a bunch of tiles ripped from half the sets of JJ2 plus my Lagunicus conversion, with no real attempt made to connect them to Beach. Skeletons from Dam Nation and trees from Jungle are plopped verbatim into the set for use in background layers, depending on what sort of freaky level you are playing. It is a mishmosh. Not only that, but the tileset still suffers greatly from masking and art problems which remain unfixed by this conversion. Many of the floor tiles still do not line up well, the masking is sometimes iffy, and more time could have been spent on the layout for the wood stuff.
On the other hand, much like the “Mangroves” Jungle conversion, when put together the tileset somehow manages to look good. Beach has a new look in Beach+ which is not unpleasant, and while Beach+ does not really fix much, it does not break anything either. One could certainly just ignore the random new stuff and simply take advantage of the improved layout, even if the tiles themselves are not fixed. And one or two of the alternate palettes do/es look pretty.
I can’t give too high a rating to this, as it’s really a rather lazy piece of work and has so much to fix. But it doesn’t introduce any new problems.
(.1 point was subtracted for the waterfall. Each subsequent tileset I see using that waterfall is going to receive an additional -.1 point, so .2, .3, .4, etc.)
While I probably can’t absolutely disprove that this is a conversion, the presence of a JJ1 Carrotus in this form is so utterly disconnected from everything known about the JJ1 development that it is extremely unlikely. As can be seen from the screenshot (which is a hoax for reasons I hopefully do not have to explain), this is a quick edit of JJ1 Diamondus to have orange soil and a loose carrot theme. Besides that, many tiles are removed, such as the larger waterfalls and slopes without tall grass. The caves have been stripped of texture and are an illogical color, a large carrot has been added (indeed like the large palms in that it has questionable graphical quality), and a few extra tiles from NOKA like some poorly aligned blocks and some text stuff. Almost nothing is added to Diamondus and the end result is a low-functional, stripped-down hoax with no real merits unless you really want Diamondus with orange soil and no gems or walls. shrugs Even if this were a real conversion, its quality would be unacceptable.
EDIT in response to NOKA: First off, even if ‘they’ neglected to add some tiles (tiles that usually have gems in them), that in no way prevents you from adding them yourself. The fact that you didn’t is part of why I said this has unacceptable quality.
As for hoaxness… first, I find it unlikely that such a thing would exist, despite not being included in JJ1, and also unlikely that the Deserto lizard (supposedly drawn for JJCD) would have been around since the beginnings of JJ1.
Second, CliffyB has described making the first level of JJ1. Granted his exact words were that it “became” Diamondus, allowing for the possibility of it having been something else beforehand, but this was playable. It would have had wall tiles. And there are prototype screenshots of Diamondus in blue, though I’ll admit that doesn’t prove anything.
Third, nowhere else in JJ1 do the same graphics get reused, albeit recolored, unlike in games like Sonic and Mario. The closest JJ1 gets to this practice is the Exoticus-Lagunicus split.
Fourth, the claim that the original JJ1 Carrotus tileset was “almost” as small as Ceramicus is highly improbable. JJ1 sets came in a number of different sizes, of which Ceramicus numbered among the smallest, I think along with Letni, though I’m not sure offhand. Something “almost as small” would just have been the next highest standard size.
Fifth, why would the tile order be rearranged for this alleged Carrotus? Even prototype versions of Diamondus had essentially the same tile order, just with a few differences where tiles were added or removed.
Sixth, and perhaps most importantly, JJ1 has a function to put the color 0,0,0 behind all the transparent parts of a tile, for use by caves and mountains and things. That is not the color that this Carrotus employs for its mountains. It would not function as it is seen to in the posted screenshot.
EDIT #2: Umm, well, it is true that I can’t really disprove something if you say you don’t know who created it or why, and that it is a separate game and doesn’t follow any of JJ1’s rules. Especially as there exists very little in the way of records for development during 1996. :( But your story does sound highly unlikely, though I’m low on specific points to bring up.
There is so very little to say about this level. It’s Battle1, except using the Tubelectric tileset. Badly. The background is a single dark brick tile at speeds 0, the same as is used for the unsolid wall tiles used in various parts of Battle1 like the blue springs area, and the vine underneath the bouncer powerup is rendered nigh-invisible by this fact. The real walls, on the other hand, are all the red brick stuff, no yellow blocks (except for a slope in the bottom left) and no purple strucutures, just the same red bricks all over the level, in every layer, often not even tiling properly. No attempt to add eyecandy is made, nor is the design altered in any way save for the addition of a jazz start pos. The top left corner event testing area is totally unaltered. This level has no visual value, which could be excusable if it added to the original in some other way, which it does not. Hence this is a completely useless downgrade, which ironically has Battle2 as its next level setting – Battle2 uses the same tileset, not incredibly well, but better.
Huh… I should like this, because it’s Jungle, but because it’s Jungle, I want to see it done right. And this does not even pretend to have been done right. The author’s only focus was changing the palette a few times and adding a bunch of tiles ripped from other tilesets, leaving totally aside the issue of what to do with the tiles that were already there. Jungle, beautiful as it is, suffers from a number of problems, particularly in the field of masking, and Purplejazz7 does not even try to address these. The tileset, aside from the palette and added tiles, is left exactly the way it was. This is unacceptable behavior.
The added tiles range from good additions (Diamondus trees manage to look nice, expanding the background foliage is a welcome addition) to merely okay (the water is nice but Nick would have done it better, so it’s not a convincing addition) to blah (mere ctrl+c ctrl+v stock waterfalls fail to impress me at this point, and the sucker tubes look ugly in every palette). The empty unsolid trigger scenery tile is a nice and practical addition, although I have no idea what it’s supposed to turn into, unlike its more rational appearance in Diamondus… floating totem poles?
As for the palettes, the day palette is pretty good, actually. It strongly resembles the Diamondus palette, except with brown instead of blue walls, and looks bright and cheery, although maybe a little too restricted in terms of variety. It combines with the new tiles, as seen in the example levels, to create a rather pleasant viewing experience, aside from the rain which is used poorly in the foreground but would be more usable in a farther receded layer. The other palettes, well, they try, but they’re ugly, and there’s not much more to say on that subject. I doubt they’re even tested, as the sucker tube’s flashing light fails to animate properly with the night palette.
If all you want from a tileset edit is a different palette than the same old palettes, then this is an acceptable download. If you want an alternate background for Jungle, then this is an acceptable download. If you cherish the tileset and would love to see someone make it all it deserves to be… you will be disappointed in this “conversion”‘s horrendous masking and the very thought that those sucker tubes could somehow look as if they belonged. You will hope someone else does a better job, or perhaps resolve to do better yourself, next year, when you have the time. But you are disappointed in that which adds nothing but cheer.
Aquatic Castle, as you can probably tell from the included screenshot, is Castle gone Turquoise. Most everything in the tileset is somewhere along the range of blue to green, with a few exceptions like the very bright purple veils. It’s fairly hit and miss. Some things look too bright, for example, while the background turned out great in its blueness and is a joy to watch as it floats by. The sprite colors are also changed, and I guess I can live with that, although the apples seem to suffer a bit, which is ironic because they’re all over the example level.
The real test of the color scheme, though, is the walls, which make up the vast majority of the tileset’s content, and sadly I cannot quite find myself approving of them. They look okay at first, but gradually their just-off-whiteness begins to feel somewhat sickening. This could perhaps be saved by some variety, like maybe dark brown, but the tileset does not offer such safety.
So much for the color scheme… it’s rather pretty as far as it goes, but it gets old, and parts of it are too bright. That leaves the other modifications. Castle edits aren’t too common, and honestly, nearly every castle edit I’ve ever seen involves painting the whole tileset one color, but that doesn’t mean it’s not editable. Indeed, it has a few flaws, particularly in the realm of masking. Aquatic Castle fixes none of that. It does add a textured background, which I like very much, an animation from Beach with anti-aliasing difficulties and a different perspective from the rest of the tileset, and some tiles ripped from Disguise. It’s an effort, but while one’s taking the time to edit a tileset, one could at least fix its bugs…
The inclusion of the tilest, sadly enough, does not improve this level much. While it’s possible that something inventive could be made out of a test based primarily around helicopter ears, this does not feel like that. Most of the level is spent using helicopter ears to navigate through narrow tunnels of warp events, much like every other test level in the world. There are a few breaks – an airboard part, an Updraft style part, a Copter Tests style part – but for the most part you just helicopter ear, occasionally against wind or some other devillish obstacle. The designs of the parts vary but generally consist of your going downwards and striving to move left or right fast enough when necessary.
There’s nothing exactly wrong with all of that, but there’s nothing right about it either. TEST for Jazz brings nothing to the test field. It adds no ideas. Anyone can make you fly through warp tiles, but tests are one genre of levels which rely almost completely on some degree of inspiration and originality, as well as good design (and occasionally even eyecandy), to make any sort of impression. Mike’s Platform Tests is a level I can play many times. His underwater jumping level, not as much. This, I have no interest in redoing.
Of course, part of the issue is that this level is visually inexcusable. I have no clue why anyone, including the author, would use this tileset. The sembalance of a textured background is badly reduced in colors, and the whole of the level consists of lines of brightly colored blocks or 32×32 tiles against that background, with a scrolling JAZZ made of MSPaint blocks with Jazz heads on them. Also, the lighting is dark for some reason. The whole thing is blindingly bright and painful and, again, probably looked better before the tileset was included. Please, if you insist on using a tileset full of bright colors, do it properly. People have put the Simple tileset to good use before.
So, as I’ve said, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this level, aside from its visual appearance, it’s just nothing interesting in the least. Not only that, it’s not even tested. You can get easily stuck in the winning area, and that’s assuming you can get to the winning area, as the sucker tube that’s supposed to send you there ended up flinging me out of the level and into the bottom edge of the screen. :( No download recommendation.
“The Mine Battle” makes some attempt to portray a mine, but it is hampered by a few factors, primarily the tileset, which does a much better job of being described by its name. “Lame Tileset” is a very simple set consisting of a few blocks and not all that much else. The colors are somewhat nice, and I am amused by the recolored Hocus rips, but it doesn’t lend itself to very nice-looking levels, as this upload illustrates. The eyecandy is very dull, and the radiation towers, rather than being imposing instruments of genetic mutation, merely come off as green squares with tiles poorly strewen around them. The inside of the mine is worse, making no attempt to have any sort of graphical quality beyond endless blocks and a simple background, with no variety at all.
That could perhaps be saved by an intriuging level design, but while Mine Battle manages to be unconventional, it does not manage to be appealing. Aside from the radiation towers, you mostly just run around in big boring tubes, with occasional tiny one tile platforms, trying to kill your opponents with (of all things) TNT, Electro Blaster, and thankfully Toaster. The Electro Blaster is supposed to be some sort of secret, hidden by the gray destruct scenery blocks which are all over the mine, but really add nothing to the gameplay except some initial tediousness.
I see no spark of divine inspiration in this level. I see nothing that causes me to believe that it is good. I see only a bunch of passages with a few events and blocks placed randomly in hopes that the combination of the story, the radiation towers, and the strange level design would somehow result in something good. They did not.
Furthermore, this level uses the hurt event, which is typically considered unwise in a multiplayer setting. The “radiation” causes you pain, which is kind of sad, because there’s no reason to approach it at all. No goodies or anything. Everything is in the mine, so why bother climbing up all the ropes of the towers?
I’m not sure why I downloaded this. But I’m reviewing it because it’s just too awe-inspiring to leave unreviewed.
“Menace to Wonders” is a story about Devan trying to take over a galaxy by “charming” the inhabitants. What this means is, if you fight an enemy that isn’t a turtle, it isn’t actually evil, it’s only charmed to be evil. You’re still supposed to kill them, but now you have the optional added bonus of feeling guilty about it. Especially because I think it tells you to cure them at some point. Well, they’re not charmed anymore, right? There are also a few species that resist being charmed into evil, including parrots, sharks, moths, and women.
…yes, women. I’ll get back to that.
The level pack opens with an old cliche which I had totally forgotten about because I thought nobody used it anymore: a nearly-empty Carrotus Day level with a few text signs and an exit. I think it represents the fact that you leave Carrotus to go on these adventures. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s really stupid. If I go out shopping for donuts, I never expect to see a sign right outside my door reading “Story: There is a lack of donuts in your household.” I suppose I should take this on faith as big signs reading “EXIT” are kind of improbable too, but I have a thing against text on sign tiles which would really never actually appear on a sign. So the intro level sucks.
After that, we get into the heart of the pack, these being the Wonders. See, the way the pack works is each main level is a Wonder of the Galaxy, or something like that, each with a different theme – fire, water, heart, space, plutonium, radium, tumbleweed – and at the start of each level, a sign announces the name of the wonder, the creator of the tileset (this is known as breaking the fourth wall), the theme of the wonder, and the inhabitants. For the first level, Vapor Caves of Randomwordgenerator, the inhabitants are Vapor Souls (Pacman Ghosts) and Lava Monsters (Devils). It seems odd that you need to charm devil things with giant green pitchforks and that they’re not evil already, but maybe that’s just racial stereotyping. Onto the Vapor Caves!
…or, let me take that back, onto the Vapor, because while there is steam all over the level, I counted, and there is only one cave. I have no explanation for this. It makes no sense at all. Almost the entire level takes place on small floating platforms against a background of red sky, often jumping from one platform to another over a pit of lava or something. It is about as uncavelike a level design as you can get. Caves would have probably looked better, too, as with so few walls, there is very little eyecandy in this level. Again, it’s mostly just tiny floating platforms, which the tileset (Raging Inferno) is admittedly very good at providing.
Here I will take the time to quote the level description. “there’s no ‘die when you fall’ holes”. This is very true. Instead, there are ‘get hurt over and over until you finally die’ holes. They’re really annoying and tedious, especially the time when Gus places a pit underneath some stomp scenery blocks, so it looks like you’re supposed to go that way, but then you die slowly. Instakill, come back…!
The next wonder is called Fruit Gardens of Vita, and it doesn’t make incredibly good use of the Fruity Landscapes tileset. The thing is, Fruity Landscapes has a very repetitive wall texture. Fruit Gardens of Vita has big walls with no attempt at decoration. There are fortunately some giant fruit, either serving as useless ornamentation on long horizontal stretches of ground (one of the author’s favorite features of level design) or as floating platforms (another), and amazingly sometimes the giant fruit have smaller copies of themselves on top. Giant floating purple grape platforms have grapes on them to eat. It’s kind of cute. It’s kind of predictable. I’ll lean towards cute on this one.
Like Vapor Skyscape, Fruit Gardens of Vita features stomp blocks, platforms, little background or foreground eyecandy, and generally uninspired level design. It does appear to make more attempt to have secrets than its predecessor, though, which is nice. Here I found a blaster powerup which was my constant friend throughout the rest of the pack as I shot enemies who posed me no threat at all due to usually not even having methods of attack. I might as well say now that the enemy placement in this pack isn’t very good. They often kind of feel like afterthoughts added into race levels. Pacman Ghosts, like Sparks, work well for sneaking up behind you, but they are totally useless if placed right in front of your line of fire.
The next level uses Winterland Wonder and is called Winterland of Alimi. It has ice block buildings which are kind of neat, except, you know, Chandie did it better. Oh well. This level is probably better than the last two as it’s actually kind of interesting with variety in scenery and whatnot, has (random) lighting effects, and even features a puzzle. Unfortunately it follows an unfortunate trend, that being having the explanation on a sign after you’ve already encountered the puzzle, so by the time you have an idea what you’re supposed to do the puzzle is ruined and there’s no way to start it over. Still, this level is better than the others.
Why is everything suddenly cooler when placed in a high-tech situation like outer space? Hi-Tech Base of Roibi, using Top Secret ]I[, is so much more interesting than the previous levels that it almost seems like a cool level. Here are all the ideas of the pack. There’s still standard stuff like platforms over deadly pits, and climbing up (or down) staircases while shooting various harmless walking enemies, but there’s also a sucker tube pit, bridges of collapsing scenery (with the letter F on them… huh?), “robot” things that either hurt or help you, secrets, slippery slopes, and a decent
background. If this level were longer and with some better sprite/foreground layer eyecandy, it wouldn’t be too bad.
Waterworld of Tluba is very confusing because the non-turtle enemies are crabs and the inhabitants are supposedly fish. I think that means there used to be fish but Gus forgot to fix the sign. Anyway, it’s a very pretty level, because it uses a very pretty tileset. It could use the tileset a little better, but it’s not bad. The design is also somewhat interesting, with shark rides, grottos, castles, and a puzzle which isn’t actually all that bad except for the fact that all the challenge comes from figuring out what you’re supposed to do without messing it up. Not really all that memorable overall, though.
The(!!!) Natural Park of Simi also uses a nice-looking tileset, Swamps, although I’m somewhat jaded to it due to overuse. The thing is, by this point in the pack the level design seems to have improved enough that instead of being laughably bad they’re just average and not particularly worth writing about. There’s flat stuff, platforms, ramps, and a “puzzle” where you try to figure out which warp to take, which tends to be my least favorite variety of puzzle. It’s a pity, because the next level is Efreet Palace of Alibuda, a truly unusual level which is the real reason I chose to review this, um, non-masterpiece.
Efreet Palace is the level containing the most storylike elements, as the level is largely under the control of a mysterious creature known as an Efreet who also prevents the charming of his pet women.
“Inhabitants; Efreet, Women, Parrots, Lizards.”
They sit around in various places about the level and speak in really bad old english.
One hugs and kisses you very sweetly because Jazz is totally the kind of fellow who says “Of Course!” when someone asks him if he wants a kiss. I know it’s Jazz because the ending level talks about Jazz, Spaz, and Lori. Hmm, actually, I guess it could be Lori getting hugged and kissed by the pet woman.
“Test 2: Temptation. Resist the pet women’s love or else you’ll die.”
…anyway, this is actually a pretty fun level, it has variety in scenery, okay design, some nice ideas (the temptation test involves women who warp you, and they have wind attracting you… pretty cool, really), a storyline… but then I realize that women are one of the planet’s primary species and it all stops making sense again.
So yeah. That’s the pack.
At the end is another signs-on-Carrotus level where you use the Efreet’s three wishes to… no. I won’t tell you. I’ve spoiled too much already. Just play the pack and find out.
…why is Carrotus-with-signs so ugly, anyway? The last few levels actually had background eyecandy!
EYECANDY: It improves through the pack, but it’s never too good… basically standard fare for each tileset with nothing even remotely inventive. No tile bugs that I saw.
LEVEL DESIGN: Often pretty uninspired. There are some good bits with collapsing scenery and other stuff, and the bits with horizontal springs and ramps are amusing, but a lot of the rest feels pretty interchangable and uninteresting. CliffyB designed his levels as interesting bits with space inbetween, but he did it better.
EVENT PLACEMENT: Not too interesting. The enemies often don’t pose much of a threat, or at least they don’t give any sense of danger. Admittedly that caused me to die once or twice because it didn’t occur to me that I ought to be careful, but still. The pacman ghosts in particular could be used a lot better, and not much of the ammo seemed to serve any real purpose. There is a cool thing where there’s a bomb crate at the end of every level, it serves no purpose but it gives the pack a certain feel somehow.
STORY: Better than some. It’s not a bad idea that Devan charms the inhabitants of various planets (wonders) to attack you, rather than just saying that ordinary innocent creatures somehow cause you pain when you walk into them. However, there’s really no way to cure the charmed creatures except killing them. And I have to give points for the Efreet Palace which is pretty cool and could support the pack fairly well.
OVERALL: Basically, I am not very impressed by this pack, but it does have its moments. Way too much of the levels was boring move-forward-and-shoot, though, with no branching paths to speak of and no special rewards. I’ll give a download recommendation, but keep in mind that’s because of the Efreet Palace…
I would like to mention that the original JJ2 tilesets were drawn by hand without color reduction. It is perfectly possible to make tilesets without PSP8 or something – in fact, you generally get better results.
In any case, the fact that you didn’t bother to do the color reduction yourself or make them easily usable for a tileset is really rather odd.
Eat your lima beans, Johnny.