Super Mario: Star Seeker is a hack that draws heavy inspiration from games like Super Mario 64. Unlike a traditional SMW hack, the focus here is on exploring large, open levels to complete several objectives.
This demo contains 1 complete level, complete with 5 stars to collect. Additionally, you can see a small preview of an upcoming level if you collect all 5 stars.
Removed (Demo 1) since the fact that it's a demo already indicates it. Also note that I'm accepting this because it's a demo but in the second level you say to "start and select to exit" but it actually brings me to the level select screen and selecting any one of the stars in that screen warps me to various vanilla levels. However, since this is a demo and the level that's supposed to be played is perfectly okay and playable I'll accept this for the time being.
As impressive as this demo's tech is, I'm even more impressed by the way it captures the essence of SM64's level design. The free-roaming format allows the player to engage with the level at their own pace; any interest the player may take in it is wholly organic. Yet it is almost impossible to avoid being drawn into one of the level's various challenges thanks to an abundance of elements designed to pique the player's interest. Unlike a certain other high-profile recent release which also draws inspiration from SM64, however, the tasks are engaging and fulfilling to complete, and even the simpler ones demand some effort.
I know that ROMhack projects are highly prone to abandonment due to the fact that they demand similar labor-input to paid game development but yield no financial compensation and little, if any, career advancement, and I do not begrudge you the right to dispense of your labor and expertise as you see fit. However, I want to emphasize to you that--in my humble opinion--this project really is something special and any progress you make on it is worthwhile.
I do have a few criticisms, but it's important to bear in mind that this short demo is some of the very best Super Mario World I've played.
- The second star is probably my favorite of the bunch, but I found the maverick thwomp section to be unintuitive, even if it wasn't particularly difficult. Maybe if I had observed them for a second or two I would have figured out their behavior and how to systematically avoid them, but even then the standard for Mario games is that obstacles should either be instantly readable or methodically introduced so the player understands their finer nuances by the time they become relevant. For what it's worth, I've seen my fair share of SMW mavericks (most of which presumably use the same custom sprite you used) and I don't think I've ever really gotten a solid handle on their behavior.
- The outdoor environment is a bit repetitive and lacks outstanding points of interest. This makes the level less engaging to explore and less intuitive to navigate, especially when probing every last nook and cranny for a red coin.
- I am almost absolutely certain that one red coin did not successfully load into the level the first time I attempted to collect them all. If it's relevant, this was the coin at the top of the vertical shaft with horizontally moving urchins which opens downwards (as opposed to the other similar shaft with urchins and a red coin at the bottom).
- The jellyfish/torpedo ted generator often produced a very large number of jellyfish at once without warning, multiple times to the point of preventing escape entirely.
I would also like to suggest that you remove the mission select sequence entirely and replace it with a system where the player can view star names and the hint cutscenes in exchange for coins. This would achieve a few things that I think would elevate the experience even further. First, it would encourage the player to take initiative in engaging with the world and further enhance the "natural" quality of the exploration. Provided that your subsequent levels are as well designed as this one, I don't think players will have much trouble figuring out most objectives on their own. Second, it would provide a real incentive to collect coins in a hack where the life system is absent and a general gaming environment where the life system is considered antiquated and burdensome.