i was about to give quite a big review, but geminisunfall said pretty much everything there is.
sadly this hack never got finished i really enjoyed it.
4/5. the 1* i have to take away is because often you can just damage boost and refill your hp easily with coins. if you ignore thomps which deal 4 dmg and bosses, you are never at danger of losing all hp.
A hack I was pleasantly surprised with, and actually holds up pretty well today. Sadly, it was a demo that never saw completion and it's quite short so the fun doesn't quite last as long as one might want it to.
The graphics are done in Icegoom's "redrawn" style, and it's very much consistent throughout nearly the entirety of the demo, with even non-SMW enemies like Hammer Bros. the Punch from Wario Land II and the custom bosses using this style. The only enemies that didn't seem to use the style were the Rage Koopas minibosses and the Thunder Lakitu in one particular level, but otherwise sprites and foregrounds compliment each other quite well.
Music in this hack seems to be mostly derived from the Mega Man series (it's a known fact among this community that Atma is a fan of those games), with some outliers here and there from other games. There are a couple sampled tracks used here and there but for the most part it is SMW's standard instruments for these ports.
A variety of ASM and custom additions are used in this hack. You've got your usual assortment of SMB3 Hammer and Boomerang Bros., modified Pirahna Plants and Venus Firetraps, and several other sprites, most of which see more than one level of use which is a good thing. Custom blocks are utilized much less, with the prominent one being the vanishing blocks" inspired by Mega Man games and are seen frequently throughout the hack's second world.
The notable ASM additions to this hack include a Super Mario 64-styled health bar, powerups you can buy and toggle between, and occasional level gimmicks like wind and disabled jumping.
In regards to gameplay, it's done quite well. It's only a two-world demo hack, but these two worlds exhibit some pretty good level design and variety. Most stages fall under the category of traditional platforming but once in a while you have levels where you must collect 8 red coins to unlock the secret exit. The Super Mario 64 health meter is utilized very well in the hack too; every sprite and hazard hurts Mario to varying degrees, so a hammer or fireball might only hurt for one slice of health while bumping into most enemies hurts for two, a stronger enemy like a Chuck or Thwomp will hurt for three. Staying underwater also drains health, but in all cases, health can be replenished by gathering coins much like in SM64, though in this case it takes 5 coins to recover one slice of health, and any mushrooms you find will replenish two. It certainly encourages the player to look for coins when things are getting tough.
At first, I noticed there weren't any powerups in the hack, only mushrooms... until I learned that this hack has it's own unique powerup system where, if you have accumulated enough coins, you can buy a permanent powerup from one of the secret shops scattered about the hack. They do cost a lot of coins, but that is all the more reason to be collecting them. You can toggle between these powerups anytime with the SELECT button, and just like switch palaces, these really come in handy and can alleviate the difficulty of later stages. It is definitely something I would love to see more hacks incorporate nowadays, especially with LX5's recent powerup releases.
There are a few questionable design choices made in this hack, however.
-Time limits in this hack are quite stringent, and there is no warning sound when you're running low on time. If you're like me who tends to look around for little secrets, you will rarely ever finish a stage with more than 50 seconds on the clock, and you may run out of time a few times as well.
-The same room that introduces vanishing blocks in Frigid Fright also introduces a Fishing Boo. It does go away once the jumps start getting trickier, but it's still annoying. There also could have been more time between block appearances in the second castle.
-In Volcanic Lake's second half, the exit pipe is out of Mario's reach. You can't bring the springboard up there, so the only way up is to lure a Puntin' Chuck from a few screens to the left. If you kill this Chuck, you're stuck.
Overall it's a pretty good demo, and it saddens me that it never saw full completion because I saw a lot of potential in this hack.