Note: I had a more detailed description here; I just forgot to copy it before deleting the older version. If a mod can give me the old description it would be much appreciated.
Colossus is my ultimate experimental hack, clocking at 95 exits and being my biggest finished hack to date.
Anyways, it becomes harder than Hard difficulty, and maybe even more so than Way of the M.
Update: Revised a few more levels, and added in another one to deal with an overworld event reveal.
levelengine edit: Included a NO BOSS version if you wanted the option; the bosses were very difficult for you being only able to take 2-3 hits and have difficult to predict attack patterns, on top of being placed past big chunks of levels which would have to be redone if you failed.
This hack has a lot of great pure platforming, especially after the first few worlds, and if that was all it was it would be an easy 5/5 for me. It does tend to repeat some of its setups and gimmicks a bit, but it's still a vast improvement in this regard compared to Way of the M, a previous hack by the same author.
Unfortunately, the author really seems to love his visibility reducing gimmicks, and while some of the times it's fine, in other times it can be really obnoxious (the erratic flashing in the final world 8 level is just incredibly bad). The barrel flying segments are also really janky, due to the wonky hitbox and how the camera can scroll a bit forward on barrel entry.
Finally, I get what you were going for with the marathon levels in the lategame, but they are really excessive. 10-4 is especially brutal because the final room is quite difficult, and dying will send you back 10+ minutes.
Still, 80% of the time I had a blast, and it's very hard to find hacks of this difficulty level that don't have kaizo-type level design, giving the hack an unique niche to fill I suppose.
PS: While at the time of submission "hard" may have been the highest difficulty rating available, this hack is harder then most (maybe every) very hard difficulty hack on this site, be forewarned.
MUSICS 1*(4/10): I usually don't mind much about musics, but the problem I saw here was the lack of variation. It feels like you used the same 5-6 musics for every level of every world until world 9, because none of them is really remarkable. Some musics were really out of place, mainly in the ice world. Didn't fit the ambient at all.
GRAPHICS 2*(11/10): This is by far the strongest point of your hack. I don't say this often, but I'm impressed. You really worked very well in making unique scenarios. You rarely repeated them, and most of them are combinations I didn't see before. Truly original. I noticed this by world 2 and it kept surprising me until the end. I can't even imagine the amount of work you had by doing this. I think your scenarios are so good, you deserve a 11 in this score.
LEVELS 3*(6/10): Can't say the same for the levels, though. I think you focused too much in making things a hard challenge instead of making them enjoyable. Your levels are huge, and I like that. There's no reason to rush to finish a game if you like what you're playing. But while your levels had some cool ideas, like the colored pattern the on/off blocks follow, you make an absurd overuse of venus firetraps, cannons, shell kicking koopas, munchers and grinders. The challenge provided by the level itself changes, but by the enemies is always the same thing. Over and over.
Also, those levels with a foreground that covers the whole screen, or levels going black periodically, are incredible annoying. I turned off those things 10 seconds after I started playing. The levels are hard enough without that.
Another negative thing... sometimes you force the player to find the secret exit to advance in the overworld. Specially on this case, which is a non-linear gameplay, you can get people really confused. I really didn't know what I was doing or looking for in the game until world 8. And c'mon... your levels sometimes take 15-20 minutes to be finished. And yet, you force people to search for a secret path there.
You also hardly included new enemies in the game until world 9. I don't know why you did that. Could have explored this better.
Midway points were badly used. In later levels, what you gotta do until you find one is almost insane. If you want to make hard levels like those, ok, but you must use more than one midway point in your levels. The truth is, if you have to save states to beat a level, then you didn't design well that level. You can put deadly traps if you wish, but use more checkpoints. Even 10 in the same room if necessary. The amount of powerups you provided are far from being sufficient for a decent gameplay.
Also, a major flaw in my opinion is that you didn't warn the player that the palaces were going to be necessary. In fact, I didn't even know they were even in the game until they were needed. As you might guess, I hadn't found any of them until that point, particularly due to the way-too-secret secret exits.
///SPOILERS/// -- Here are some levels the grabbed my attention mostly:
LIGHT SWITCH: What I said about annoying foregrounds. You ruined the level just because of this. I know it was the purpose of it, judging by the name, but was a bad purpose since the beggining.
WORLD 4: What's up with those flying fishes, torpedos and urchins wandering around mid-air? Doing this once or twice, it's ok. But the way you used, ended up very noobish. Sorry.
PUMPKIN PIPES: Those are very annoying levels. While the scenario is great, all you do is keep loading states to avoid the bazillion fireballs by venus plants. And those levels are really long. Even after you complete one, the next one feels exactly the same as the previous. You could have made all of them a single level and we wouldn't notice.
SLEEPY HOLLOW: What I said about secret exits. This is a damn long and hard level, with the screen scrolling automatically, and you must find the secret exit. Pretty much disappointing.
BOILING OCEAN: Loved this idea, but the music screws up the feeling of the level.
GREAT GATE: Enjoyed this enviroment. Quite unusual for a Mario game.
GREAT HALL: You made a valuable and original reward for ending the game. Nice thing explaining your reasons to people and your way of thinking. That helped me concluding you are a very good hacker, but you could improve yourself a little more, mainly because your flaws are easily fixed, as long as you keep them in mind while making your levels.
BOSSES 1*(3/10): You basically just used generic bosses, which are already overused since years ago. Boss fights were more annoying than were interesting. And there are no bosses until world 9 as well, as far as I could tell.
OVERWORLD 1*(10/10): This was very creative. Another thing I hardly saw so far. You managed to create some kind of RPG style with this. Unlike most games, yours have a memorable experience with the overworld. Also, I liked a lot the pyramid you made in World 9. Well done.
FUN FACTOR 2*(7/10): The game was nice until 4 worlds later, when I realized the many flaws I listed above. In terms of challenges, you lost creativity over time and relied on harder versions of challenges you had already made. Even though I found your levels quite annoying after some time, the game itself has an unique and nice style that kept me playing it. I don't regret having done so. You have one of the biggest designing potentials I have seen here.
STORY 2*(7/10): You basically didn't write anything about the game's story. But even so, the game design spoke for itself. That's a hard thing to do, and possibly this was one of the factors that made me want to play this.
FINAL NOTES: Besides everything I said, I liked your game. And obviously, this is my opinion. You don't have to believe me or even do what I said, even more because all of those are suggestions. If you feel that changing anything will ruin your designing style, then keep it the way it is now. I probably will play any future game you may release.
The levels and also the overworld are really thought through. What you do with the switch palaces is really great and exactly what I love. Because I don't like linear games, where you know every world has that many secrets and levels. You give reasons to come back later to earlier levels combined with a good story,well done.
I don't know which hacks you did on your own and which you took from users, and it doesn't matter to me that much. What makes this game great for me is not the hackings but the non linear overworld and the level design. But I must admit some graphics are interesting and a nice replacement of the original graphics.
Some levels are just WAY TO HARD. Once I start using safestat I can't stop using it anymore, especially those levels with some blocks or fences changing every second, in combination with keypad colors, beeing surrounded by two times shooting undestructable flowers, random bomb fire and others. That is WAY to hard. Sorry, Mario should be difficult but duable. In the last level, that section where you have to spin jump permanenty, I had to set the game speed to half. That is insane. And the reward is only one up. Especially the last two worlds felt like work. Feeling like "Today I savestat 30 min through one level", so it took me over a week.
I did not like the overuse of fireball shooting, indestructible plants, there are too many levels full of them, same goes for the use of cannons. I killed Mario on purpose after the middle bar in order to restart with full time. In some levels, time is just not enough. Also, I am a big fan of the feather and Yoshi :-)
Bosses are great and a lot of fun!
One comment on the Great Hall: You have the level, which you planned for the "Midnight Gallery" in World 8, saying its not too confusing, but too difficult.
In my opinion, it is not too difficult, I would be able to solve it without safestat- But it is very confusion in a positive way, it is a really good "key, blue p switch, grey p switch, jump board" puzzle! I like those, and you designed a really great one!!! So much to think, so much to discover here! Also, you can play it from beginning to end, no need to use the second half door you placed in the Great hall. There is a minor bug when taking key or jumbboard to the very end of first section through pipe.The key will not be in Marios hand when exiting the pipe, instead it is in the ground somewhere to the left. But you can still grab it and proceed through the keyhole pipe up right and continue to the second half, I mean where the theme is completely different with those hacked coopas..
Thanks again for this great game and also the help with finding a secret exit.
5/5 (well it's not perfect but the average rating is too low)
This does require save states after a couple worlds maps and it probably is too difficult for me. I'm not familiar enough with kaizo-light hacks to say that it belongs in that category.
What deserves high ratings is how well polished this game is. Non annoying music, unique beautiful landscapes, especially level 3. Appropriate use of ASM.
I find that even with save states I want to keep playing but I sure am using them a thousand times on the last world with all the god-dang baseballs and volcano lotuses (LOL). Somehow I skipped worlds 5 and 6.
Another one called "Dorian Grayscale" was the same. 4 long sections with one midpoint. And each of these sections are as hard as a final level in a BATTLETOADS game.
I was forced to use saved states from section to section. I have a feeling I'll be "playing" the game "saved state - jump -saved state - jump - saved state - jump..." by the final world so take your 5/5 rating now before I change my mind.
A guy who just got into hacks might rate this -10/5 because of the long sections and difficulty progression. Your hack could benefit utilizing the Metroid HP mechanic and Multiple Midpoints.
I'm no longer putting music as a factor in rating hacks as these are more preferential and the time you spent listening and choosing tracks that fit the levels have nothing to do with your abilities in making a level (besides, I listen to podcasts now while playing hacks.).
Same goes for story. Overworld is no issue either as concentrating more on level design.
Right off the bat I knew I was in for something great when I saw the starting house branched into 2 parts. I remember a thread in the hacking section, someone asking about a great non-linear hack. This one is a worthy entry as it possesses both the earlier mentioned.
I'm not going to dwell on each level or world as that would take long. Your hack is like a version of Brutal Mario that's actually fun. Admittedly gimmicky but levels are still built around GOOD PLATFORMING. The gimmicks you used were utilized well.
There are however some major problems. First the hack is rated "Hard" but on later levels turn into more of "Kaizo: Light" in my opinion because the difficulty of the levels in worlds 6 onwards made me use more saved states than the original Kaizo.
In the pumpkin pipe levels, the game played like the notorious "Ninji" hack just overloaded simple landscapes with sprites. One or two levels had a ridiculous amount of sprites and projectiles that my modern i5 PC that was able to run Bioshock Infinite with no lags whatsoever played like I purposely put it on slo mo.
A level called "Imperishable Knight" had two ridiculous fast platform sections that were downright KAIZO and these followed a separate "hard" section with standard scrolling screen and a moderate amount of sprites.
A level that utilized a fire and ice gimmick had a section of switching, midpoint, one more section of switching w/ moving platform followed by a long ardous climbing section.
Another one called "Dorian Grayscale" was the same.
This is becoming one of my new favorite hacks. Don't doubt what the description says: this hack will kick your ass. But if you like a non-Kaizo challenge (and I do) then it's quite enjoyable, and I'd recommend it, no doubt about it.
The non-linear style of the hack makes it fun to play, especially finding the secret exits. They're all well-hidden, so prepare for an epic hunt, but it's all worth it just for discovering the many types of levels this game has to offer. From a Middle Eastern village to a slime factory to a rainbow reef to a ghost ship with lighting problems, you just don't know what you'll run into next. The art style is consistent for the most part and looks good. Does it suffer from decoration porn? Maybe. But it's done in a bearable way that seems to work, so it doesn't bother me.
If there's one gripe, it's the music. Not every choice seemed especially fitting; for all the times you used the Cheetahmen theme, I don't think it felt right once. But that's minor, and it doesn't especially detract from the game.
Overall, this hack gets the BTH Seal of Approval. You done good, Levelengine. You done good.