"Evil Conquest" is a hack made by me (luks) and Darkdlp02 in 2014-2015. The Hack revolves around Luks and Melonman stealing the green star from the mushroom kingdom, therefore nothing will be able to grow there. Now it's Mario's
duty to get the star back and saving the mushroom kingdom from starvation. What will evil Luks and Melonman grow with this power?
The hack starts with "no story". And under "no story" i mean it's not explained in "welcome" message, but it tells you to check info house. a little odd, but whatever. Just like this review. Honestly, i didn't care about story at all. There's a villain (Luks, seems fitting), a hero and a mission. Simple stuff.
First level begins and greets us with beautiful aesthetics, good music and solid level design. It also introduces new enemy that's only present in this level. It gives a good first impression and sets high expectation for next levels. And so, next few levels are also great, mixing great aesthetics, solid level design and good variety. There are only very few issues i've noticed in this world. This jump in Pendulum Palace is very awkward, and the only bad design in the first world.
Let's talk about new global mechanics - 100 coins activates power-up roulette and SMB3-styled power-down, however i feel they're not particularly useful. Coins become very rare in later levels, making roulette happening almost impossible. At times roulette is also unhelpful when you get star power, like killing sprites you don't want to (koopas to bounce on) or obscure important information (which way barrels shoot in one of star road levels). Granted you can dismiss power by waiting a bit, but it feels a little trollish. The power-down is also odd - it always drops item on getting hit. Combine with tight design of later levels and player's most likely to miss their reserved item when get hit, which feels unecessarily punishing. There's also VWF dialogues, and they feels underutilized. There a very few messages - story-related, but i think there could've been more, like gimmick explanations, since some levels do a poor job communicating what gimmick particular level has. Existing messages also contain a few issues too, like garbage lines appearing for a frame, unecessary blank page, etc. It also glitched screen once. (FAKE EDIT: It's broken. I managed to save final dialogue after select+start and it was still active, which resulted in broken graphics and teleport to boss battle)
Anyway, let's proceed with level design. Second world is also solid. The most memorable levels here are Sniper Guys and Monster Manor. Former level has clever setups using giant snifit guys and latter level has a "elevator" part where pillar scrolls up, while player has to avoid incoming obstacles, mostly giant boos. These levels are engaging and make you want more levels like these. Poison Mushrooms and firebars are introduced in this world that'll become more frequent in later worlds. I'm not a fan of them though. Poison mushroom acts as a instakill, which feels like a very cheep way of making player to replay your levels. I'll explain why i dislike firebars later.
Third world is ok. I'm a little mixed on it. It can at times annoy me, but it's not as offensive and can be enjoyed still. There i encountered more issues. First level, Bumpty's Plains probably has sprite tile issue, since roulette has a cutoff. Can you tell that there are invisible coin block outlines? They're above mario, but it's hard to see them with bright background, it may confuse player into thinking they're stuck. Also i noticed upsidedown venus has glitched stem tile. Other nitpicks i have with this world include solid tile that doesn't look like it in Frosty Embers. In level Meltdown Mayhem there's autowalk in second half, and the game directly tells you that it's there, but it's so fast, it doesn't give enough time to react and can result in a death on first time playthrough. It feels a bit "trial and error".
World 4 however is where quality drops significally. Slow layer scroller that is Tornado Terror in the first half, including this section, it's very hard to get through here as big mario, especially since stepping off layer 2 foreground drops player like a brick. Here I intentionally took hit just to get through here. Second half was fine though. Also never put blocks that can be hit by shells on layer 2, can result in weird dup. Surprize Stormcloud has (surprize!) surprize hits, from enemies that come from exploding blocks, usually above grey falling platforms, which feels cheap. Windy Gauntlet combines need of having to constantly fight wind with enemy spam resulting in slow gameplay. It gets better on second half where things are sped up significally. And Sunken Citadel feels like it wasn't tested at all. The level itself isn't too terrible, but it has some big flaws. Like swim on land and walk underwater, latter makes it imposible to cross gap with spikes before the boss door without taking damage. Seriously? The boss is also pretty bad. All other levels are average at best. Bubble Blast's dolphin ride found later in the level is a bit wonky, i can catch a dolphin for a ride half times. Otherwise, yeah. At times annoying, but believe me, there are worse levels later.
I think it's time to cover bosses. Honestly, non of them are good. First world's boss (kirby) can be cheesed by constantly bouncing on top, since his I-period is so short (maybe non-existant even). Second boss (buzzy beetle, reskinned as bony beetle) is pretty simple too. Third world's boss (venus, reskinned as a fire monster thing) is pretty annoying though. Its lack of communication makes it difficult to predict its attack. Fireballs? Big fireballs? Wall smash? You can't tell, which can result in some unfair deaths. It's appearing position is also random, which can result in getting hit if it emerges right under you. "mini-boss" of previously mentioned Surprize Stormcloud is terrible. It spawns poison mushrooms. You know what that means? Cheap deaths. Moreover it's not right after checkpoint, but you have to go through a small section before it, which adds unecessary repetition. It's initial position also makes it finicky to dodge. 4th world boss (Acro, reskinned as fat-ass urchin) is also bad. It consistently spawns throw blocks in such a way it's impossible to pick them up (or without getting hit) which means you have to wait for a bit for it to spawn blocks that you can pick up. It's hitbox is also bad, and so smaller urchins that it spawns. After which there's only one boss in the last world, i'll talk about it later. There are also "switch palace" fights (noob boss), which feel like a waste of time. You basically fight one and the same boss with little variety 4 times for each color. Also idea of fighting switch palace's switch is silly. All of covered bosses (last boss included) are pretty poor, which is understandable, since at a time there were few bosses, mostly "dahnamics" sprites which are notorius for being poorly programmed (hell, i think eevn today there aren't many bosses avaiable). I'd rather have no boss or, hell, a vanilla boss over a bad custom boss any day.
Anyway, after pressing blue switch in world 4, a path to new world is revealed, which can be accessed through Monster Mansion of world 2. Along the way i noticed another sprite tile issue. Getting secret exit reveals a path to world 5. This is where levels become even more annoying to play, like having awkward jumps, tight spaces, bad enemy placements, etc. Can you tell me which length this firebar is? Answer - long. Guess what? This important information is obscured by seemingly unecessary tile priority. This hack loves having most tiles with priority being on. For no reason? I dunno. Shutdown Shack features unhelpful spot for bomb generator, which feels hit or miss. The most notorious level here is Fast,Faster,Factory. It's a slow autosroller which uses elite koopas, which are usually annoying to deal with. The first flying elite koopa will most likely result in surprize hit. It's fast and there's no indication it's there. And there are more of them. More poison mushrooms result in more cheap deaths, combined with tight spaces, which will make you replay slooooooooooow autoscroller again and again. It's pretty lengthy too. On second half it's a bit faster, but general flaws still apply. After completing Enemy advance, featuring more annoying hazards, and questionable ?-block placement. Thankfully, this level has no boss and entrance to world 6 is revealed.
World 6 is presented with probably THE worst level in this hack, Asteroid Field. This level contains some of the worst enemy spam i've ever seen. There are lots of spawners for explosive aliens, surprize exploding bullets and strange bomb generators. Second half is even worse, slow autoscroller with alien spawners everywhere and other frustrating hazards. I found myself constantly going back to previous levels to get power-ups, because it feels like it can't be completed without taking a hit. And powerdown doesn't help either. At this point i noticed that this hack has a fetish for firebars. They're almost in every level. They were common in some of previous levels too. Why i don't like them? Well, they feel like they overstay their welcome. They seem to rely on global timer, which can break some otherwised well paced sections. It also has strange collision, which seemingly wraps horizontally. I only got hit by it here. Still, feels unpolished just like majority of this hack. Anyway, next level (normal exit), Lethal Looping is pretty obnoxious. It's possible to easily die by clipping inside foreground when wrapping, also this part is pretty annoyng when big. I had to worry about object clipping, which made this level irritating. Universal Gravity (secret exit) features reverse gravity, and does contain a few clever moments, but it feels repetitive too, with most of it's obstacles being thwomps, with little variety. Also, there's a surprize thwomp up there just offscreen, which resulted in surprize death. Maybe coin "!" should indicate that but it was completely unecessary either way. After this level there's, uh... a green switch palace? It looks pressed, but can be entered. However, if you die (which btw messes HDMA) you won't be able to enter it anymore. Just... i can't describe how bad this is. I had to use savestate to reload each time i die. And since switch palace boss is poor, this is very likely to happen often. Space Invader was fine, one of the better levels in last worlds. Last level, Grand Finally (complete with typo) is bad. It's very long, with two sections each half + final boss. First half starts with kaizo-like setup. Player is required to spinjump on ball 'n chain and over bully, it feels too precise for casual player. This section feels unecessarily tight for big mario. This conveyor belt pushes mario inside blocks making it impossible to get out without taking damage from skull block, and tight jumps like this are absolute cancer. Second section contains layer 2 smash, but it's not clear that it's there untill it happens, resulting in surprize hit. Also, did you know there are torpedo ted launchers? I didn't, because those blocks don't look like they contain 'em, again poorly communicating with player and adding more frustration. 3rd section is ok, though this firebar occasionally ruins it. 4th section is also kind of alright. Then, the final boss is presented (Giant Masked Koopa Boss, reskinned as Melonman). It's also bad. I thought after dying i'll redo previous sections, but i decided not to waste any more time and used savestate to reload the boss battle. After which, Luks leaves player on roket to crash on the earth, and... that's it? Well, that's probably why sequel is in works, right?
After beating the game warp to special world is revealed, however to access it player also must find all secret exits in star road levels. And honestly, those are surprizingly decent for later world levels (if you consider star road as last world). The worst level here is Tree Chopper, first world star road level. Slow autoscroller + DKC Barrels (reskinned as pipes). Whose idea it was? I want to give them a pat on shoulder and smack their face. It's a painfully slow expirience, and barrels rotate fast, which means player must react quickly on input pressing, however it's so slow, it gets pretty boring. I should note that for most of these levels i didn't go for normal exits, only for secret exits, with a few exceptions. I'm glad i didn't go for normal exit for Tree Chopper. I'd rather do anything else but go through slow autoscroller with fast rorating barrels again. Second world's star road level is Cherry Blossom. The level itself is good, but it doesn't communicate this level's gimmick, one jump = one coin, which resulted in surpirize death first time i played it. This is one of those instances where message box would've been helpful. Other levels up to 6th are also good, mixing new gameplay mechanics with good level design, returning to the quality of early levels. When I first played Aqua Jet Adventure a long time ago, i got frustrated and thought it wasn't very good, however nowdays with more expirience i got to appreciate it's challenging level design. Big Brick Factory is also solid, though second half includes some tight climbing sections, and key babysitting for secret exit is not very good. 6th Star World level however isn't a good level. It is "avoid fake goals" level, it's pretty long and has no checkpoints. There's this section which feels unecessarily tight (plus wind from Windy Gauntlet returns), and there's a goal post above, which is easy to hit. There's this blind jump where you can't see orb on the left. And invisible blocks here feel unintentional. Last section felt random and last goal post (real goal) is confusing, as it looks indentical to fake goals. I'd honestly replace it with key and keyhole so it's clear it's a real exit. After completing all star road levels, the last warp reveals... credits. It's kinda disappointing, but i guess it's better than another bad level.
Ok. Up to this point i've been pretty negative about this hack (maybe overly negative) but there are certainly some positives. Aesthetics are wonderful, usually having multiple layers and paralax scrolling, waving effects, tileset mixing, etc. Though, even in this department hack has it's flaws. There are cutoffs here and there (123) and other issues. First 2-3 worlds and some star road levels are enjoyable, with good variety and level design, and those are highlights of this adventure, however i cannot get behind terrible level design and numerous glitches that this hack has. I do not believe this was tested from the beginning to the end propertly, by any of testers, authors, hell, even by original moderator. High expectations are ruined by how unpolished it gets, and for me it's one of the worst hacks i've ever played for this reason.
(also this hack's difficulty is certanly Very Hard)
I wish you couldve atleast tried to make the first enemy you see in the game unique, its basically a 1:1 recreation of the blue critters from cave story but with a few things wrong. For one they stay in the air for an extremely long amount of time and two they dont even go for mario, but rather the way their facing.
An amazing hack indeed. And hard as hell of course. It was awesome, the music is truly amazing and combined with the atmosphere of some levels is pretty fantastic.The story was good, too. And some gameplay mechanics were pretty appealing.
Some background levels become glitchy at the end of the level.
Because it's good and thankfully there was no princess involved in the plot.
As I mentioned before, some mechanics are pretty cool(The looping, The different koopas, Change of gravity,The Water Jetpack, etc.)
It was one of the best hack I've ever played.
Keep up the good work.
Not bad; a few rather awkward jumps in the beginning stages make things a little weird but not too off-putting.
But I don't think stage time should be passing during cutscenes. I wound up getting the 99-second alert in the middle of one and had to speed through without reading anything (thankfully the boss that followed wasn't all that treacherous).