After 4 years of slow but steady progress, this remake is finally completed. This hack contains 87 long and challenging, sometimes puzzling levels, and there are 112 exits to find.
A One-Eyed Big Boo called Zycloboo wants to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom, and like Bowser in "The Second Reality Project Reloaded" he wants to use the power source from another dimension called the Second Reality to get to his goal. To get Mario out of sight (or maybe for some other reasons?) he warps Mario and his castle into the Second Reality. Mario's only chance to stop Zycloboo is to activate the Power Switch again, which he disabled himself during his last adventure in this strange dimension to avoid misuse of it's power. But to stop Zycloboo, he must be able to return to the Mushroom Kingdom and for that he needs the gateways active, since they are Mario's only chance to return - well, that is the plan at least, heeheehee!
About the game:
The levels for itself are most of the time very "big" compared to the typical SMW-level. Going by length, they have more from a Yoshi's Island-level. You can find a lot of hidden stuff here and there, dozens of bonus rooms and so on. There are also a few levels where you can go different roads. Sometimes, the second route is more hidden and harder to beat, but it will lead to a secret exit. There is much to explore. ;)
It's been almost two years since the release of TSRP2R and I feel like I finally owe the game a tentative review, mainly because of how much I respect FPI and because of how much I loved the first TSRPR (still my favorite hack). A small warning that it's probably going to be a bit of a messy review. It's always hard to structure texts of suchs lenght, but I simply have that much to say.
First of all I'd like to mention that I haven't finished the hack yet, and that isn't a good sign, considering it's been released almost two years ago. The game has mostly been resting on my PC and I've only picked it up every now and then to play a few levels. Currently I'm playing it rather actively again. I'm curerntly sitting at about 70 exits.
While I'm generally enjoying the hack and think it's one of the better ones, I can't help but feel more frustration than satisfaction playing it. The main problem with it is balancing, I would describe it as a "mixed bag". I feel like the first game was more consistent, but then again it's been a while since I've played that one as well.
Generally speaking, this game has long and high difficulty spikes and only few easy levels mixed randomly inbetween. There is no consistent order. The game can go from incredibly hard to quite easy to ridiculously hard again without much of a warning. What's unfortunate about this is that most of the difficulty spikes could have been avoided, because they're basically all caused by one or more of the following problems:
-A lack of checkpoints
-A lack of powerups
-A lack of lives
The first one is the most severe problem in my opinion since it causes the most frustration and hinders the player from having fun with the game. Clearing a hard section in the game just doesn't feel very satisfying when you know that it's followed immediately by another hard section that you might not beat, so that you have to redo the first hard section. By adding more checkpoints to the game, the levels (which are quite long, btw.) would not only become more managable, but the satisfaction of clearing a section would also be higher since every checkpoint would basically feel like a reward. The game already uses the multi-midway patch, so I'm quite surprised it didn't use more checkpoints. Here is my recommendation: Take the number of checkpoints that's currently in the game and at least double it. Even triple it in the case of some ridiculously long levels. Just make sure that after each hard section in the game, there is at least one checkpoint waiting for the player, and the game should suddenly feel extremely rewarding. Personally I hate having to play hacks with savestates or rewinds, but this hack is sometimes so merciless that after completing a hard section and still not seeing a checkpoint, I get frustrated and resort to rewinds, anways.
The next problem, the lack of powerups, is also quite severe. I feel like the difficulty of 75% of the levels in this game comes mainly from level design where you have to jump from one "single-block-wide platform" to another "single-block-wide platform". Honstely, that is quite hard in and of itself. You have to consider that most people are going to play this hack in an emulator, and emulators are notorious for their input lag. Higan and BSNES - which are still the emulators of choice by SMWC - are actually the worst offenders with this. In fact, I consider the hack unplayable in those. I had to switch to ZMZ, just so I could play this game at all (ZSNES should be the best emulator delay-wise, though). Now while input lag is already a major problem for precise levels like these, most of them don't even contain any powerups or only contain a single mushroom in a hard-to-reach place or something like that. Basically this usually means that a single mistake means death, whether its falling down into a pit or getting hit by an enemy. Now while this might be intentional to make the levels more challenging, in practice this really only leads to me running back to Morty's secret base after each death so that I can get a cape and at least have a chance at those levels. Really, if you ask me, all of those levels should have at least one or two feathers in them - even if just mushroom-to-feather blocks, at least you'd get rewarded for lasting long enough without losing your mushroom. The important thing here is that the feathers should be obtainable witout having to carry a powerup from another level first. Honestly, even with a cape, most of these levels are still challenging, especially considering the input lag (I don't think many people here have the possibility of playing the game on actual hardware, which probably has the least input lag).
Now the final problem isn't that severe anymore once you do something about the first two problems, but with the current difficulty, it's extremly easy to run out of lives. Considering that you can't save your game after each level (at least not without running back to Morty's secret base every time), this is indeed a problem, since you eventually have to go farming for lives if you don't want to replay levels (and I haven't even found a good farming spot yet). Now you actually made the game save your lives, which in theory sounds like a good idea, but you actually did a major mistake here (or rather the patch did a major mistake here that for some reason noone has bothered to fix yet, I assume you just used the patch that was available to you, which I can understand). This mistake is the fact that a Game Over doesn't reset your lives. If you have saved your game with a ridiculous amount of lives, that's fine, but it becomes a problem once you just barely make it through a level with one or two remaining lives and then save your game. Now basically every time you get a Game Over, you have to start with only the one or two lives you had when saving your game, and that's barely enough to make it through most of the levels in the game, so usually you have to go farming for lives first, which just isn't that much fun, really. To put this into context: It's like the original Metroid game on the NES, which always made you start with 30 HP of health instead of full health. This was quite annoying as well.
The problem could easily be prevented in one of the following ways. Option A: Make the game always reset your lives to the default amount when a save file is loaded and the number of lives is currently below the default amount. So if you loaded a save file with 70 lives, you would keep your 70 lives, but if you loaded a save file with 2 lives, your lives would be reset to 5. Actually, I recommend setting the default even higher than that. Five lives sitll isn't enough to beat some of the harder levels, I'd recommend going with a default of at least ten lives. I'm aware that doing this probably requires some basic ASM, but if you don't have much ASM knowledge yourself, I can help you with that. Option B: Just get rid of lives completely. Honestly, lives don't have much of a purpose anymore in today's gaming, and the levels in this game are really hard enough to be a challenge on their own without the additional challenge of having to beat multiple levels in a row. I realise that this option isn't very practicable, though, since it makes it hard to hide meaningful secrets in the game that encourage exploring. Option C: Just fix the two first problems I mentioned, that should already take care of the life problematic by making the game more forgiving.
Now all those things being said, what did I actually enjoy about this hack? That's a bit harder to summarize, since, after all, I've played the game over the course of almost two years now, so I forgot a lot of things. Addtionally, the frustrating aspects of the game are just way too present and often overshadow the good aspects. Nevertheless, here are few of the things I quite enjoy about the game:
-A custom soundtrack that doesn't consist of just ports, which is something I always enjoy and appreciate. Most of the songs work quite well, too, and some are even really catchy. Whatever you do in SMW hacking in the future, this is one of the qualities you should definitely keep in your hacks. It's basically one of the things that defines the TSRP franchise for me.
-The story and presentaiton. Now at first I didn't actually enjoy the story, because I felt like there was too much of it and the characters felt like typical "Mario stereotypes" to me that I had seen in many games before, but the more I'm playing the game, the more I enjoy the story. I feel like it adds a nice change of pace to the game and even some kind of reward for getting through some of the more difficult levels. You also did a good job of integrating story elements/characters into some of the levels (like Golden Yoshi's temple), so overall, I feel like this is a plus for the game.
-A lot of (visual) variety. Now this could be seen as a bad thing, because with that many levels with unique visuals, it's easy to get inconsistencies and style clashs, and in fact there are a few levels that I consider to visually be almost too different from the rest of the game, but overall, I still think this works in favor of the hack. If you're stuck on the same levels for a really long time, you at least want each level to be unique so that you feel rewarded for making it to a new level.
-Hidden/secret stuff. This was one of the things that made TSRPR my favorite hack of all time. The moment I just casually stumbled upon Thirdspace was the moment the hack stopped being "a great hack" and started being "my favorite hack". Not only is finding secret stuff in general fun and engaging, but what I loved so much about Thirdspace was that it was also connected to its own story, which was what really made it great and unique. Now I haven't found a secret of the scale of Thirdspace in TSRP2R yet, but I'm pretty sure there must be something like that in the game (and I think Golden Yoshi's temple was supposed to give me a hint). Just this expectation is basically what keeps me playing the game even though I'm frustrated. Aside from that, I have at least found a few smaller secrets already, like Morty's secret base, which I consider to be a great addition to the game and my number 1 live safer (the only thing missing in there are a couple of 1-UPs). I'm looking forward to discover even more of this game's secrets.
Now as you can see, there are a lot of things that I think still make this hack great and one of the better hacks on SMW Central, but the hack's problems are unfortunately too severe and too present to really make this game a masterpiece yet. In my opinion, TSRPR is still your magnum opus. Now I realise that this may just be nostalgia. It's been a couple of years since I've played TSRPR. Maybe the hack wouldn't even hold up that well if I replayed it today. I mean, I felt like the game was in general more consistent and more balanced than TSRP2R, but maybe that's not even true after all. I know of course that TSRPR had its fair share of problems and imperfections of its own, like that ridiculously hard final level with just a single checkpoint, but most of those imperfections were caused by technical limitations of the time - something TSRP2R could have easily improved upon in my opinion.
If you ever decide to go back to this hack and improve it even further, don't hesitate to contact me, I shall help you with everything ASM-related that you need. My number 1 advice for this hack would be to simply have more testers for the game, especially testers who don't use save states and use different emulators. Of course I don't know if this was already the case or not, but to me it currently feels like all of the game's potential testers used savestates and therfore didn't feel the full impact of its difficulty/frustration. I might be wrong, of course. At the very least I hope you keep some of my recommendations in mind, should you ever decide to continue working on TSRP3, which I hope will surpass both of its predecessors.
Oh, and one more thing. Thanks for using my VWF patch in your hack! ;)
I feel like there are only a few people who actually make good use of that patch in their hacks. While at first I felt like the high amount of text in this game was a bit out-of-place, I now actually feel like you used my patch perfectly. It perfectly compliments some aspects of the game and does a great job at providing the user with some useful background information and tips (such as Morty telling you about the location of the switchs). This definitely made everything worth it for me.
This sequel hack from the first TSRP is awesome! I had a lot of fun playing this hack!
My review will be short: The game looks very nice, I love the music because it sounds original, plot got me very interested, the second reality over-world looks good, the levels are challenging and some are long but had good gimmicks and creative puzzles, and finally the difficulty curve is not too hard but still challenging (medium-hard).
I noticed a few issues in the game but I saw other users here already made huge detailed comments about them so please check out their comments about the issues.
My final thought: This hack is still fantastic, plus I heard rumors of the third game "The Second Reality Project 3". I hope that hack turns out awesome like the first and second hacks!
Is this hack long? Hell yes. Is it clear that a lot time and effort have been spent crafting it? Yes. Is it pretty? Yes, certainly.
Graphically the game looks great. It borrows a lot from other games (like most ROM hacks) but a lot of the reused material has been polished and looks quite homogenous.
The storyline gets high points here. Lots of cutscenes, some likable characters and in general this does not feel like a standard "Nintendo" Mario story.
World map design is great! I love the variety, I love the branching paths, I love the Goomba levels and the hints to find them. The map is vibrant and lovely.
This game features a whole lot of original compositions, uncommon in ROM hacks. That said, most are not pleasing: unappealing melodies and strange chord progressions. Some can get quite grating. However, there are about 5 tracks that are quite great, like the swimming track (fortunately!)
Level design is where this game falls flat.
First, this game seems determined to have as many un-fun platformer tropes, as often as possible:
ice floor even when the stage doesn't seem to call for it
ice floor autoscrollers
even MORE autoscrollers
EVEN MORE SWIMMING AND ALSO EVERY WALL HAS SPIKES
way too many puzzles, especially near the end of the game where there is an onslaught of these
frequent, repetitive boss fights (on how many occasions did I have to throw three blocks at Zycloboo? I'd say at least 20! enough is enough!)
on/off switches everywhere and I do mean everywhere
You could say this is subjective and some people enjoy that kind of design, well - this game also commits some cardinal platformer sins that should not be done ever:
there are a LOT of blind jumps
there are a LOT of enemies placed in the exact location where a player unfamiliar with the level would probably go, especially right after jumps or slides
there are a LOT of unnecessary low ceilings with spikes. often it's likely that you'll bounce on an enemy (which the player should be rewarded for!) and get hit by the spikes
the combination of these three break the pace of the game, punish going fast and freestyling and force the player to consciously slow themselves down to avoid whatever unseen obstacle is looming ahead. This type of level design is very tedious without save states. I'd go as far as saying that some of this game is Kaizo-lite, and that's definitely not a compliment.
Another MAJOR problem I had with this game is the length of the stages. As the author has mentioned, almost all of them are made up of multiple sections. You'll finish one section, enter a pipe/door and go the next one. Some levels may be composed of 5-7 of these, and they're rarely short. These rooms often feel loosely related and bloated. Worse, they're of wildly varying quality: sometimes you'll have a room with a really fun gimmick, but then you'l reach the pipe at the end and get thrown into another section of the level that is incredibly tedious (did I mention the swimming and the autoscrollers?) so you end up forgetting all about how much you enjoyed the previous part.
So to put it simply, almost every single level overstayed its welcome, sometimes very badly. After a certain point every level started feeling like the previous one and made playing the game quite a chore.
That really sucked, because as I said some rooms are damn good, enjoyable and even very original (in Super Mario World! a game hacked so often that you'd think you played every level possible). Like an incredibly long manuscript the levels lack focus, polish and need a serious reduction in size.
I don't regret playing this game but I highly doubt I'll do it again.
I have not finished this hack 100% but I feel this deserves a review regardless. And after, you know...being absent for some time, I feel it's best to start with a reload of a hack that inspired me to hack in the first place!...and thus careen me into a convoluted career of trial-and-error indie game design. Let's go!
Also, other players please read at your own risk. There may be spoilers in this review.
Aside from the original sound effects from the core game, the soundtrack in here is excellent! TSRPR's soundtrack was catchy, and some SPC's rang in your head as you'd play along, but this one makes the original pale by a longshot! Every track feels like it has been beautifully crafted by a skilled midi orchestra, and each level playing these songs feels just right with the theme. Themes like athletic grasslands of High Hill Thrill to dire and dank caves of fire like Venom Cave string this soundtrack together in a way only brand name developers like Rockstar and Sucker Punch could--punch your eardrums hard, stay ingrained in memory for a long time, and give you something to feel! I also really liked the cameo song of Green Hill Zone in one of the levels, as much of a Sonic fan as I am not. Good show!
It feels like playing an HD version of an older game. Seriously! A complete upgrade from the original version, along with completely new graphics for some levels--meaning no core graphics used whatsoever--was what this hack so desperately needed after the release of TSRPR. I personally loved the new gradients that were implemented over the previously flat colors and textures of the original sequel, along with new little additions of details like the pirate bandannas on most of the Koopas and eyepatches on the pirate Goombas. It really gave the parts of the story their proper theme. Oh, right, Kamek's Second Reality counterpart looked very impressive as well, although when I first saw him, I remember tilting my head in utter confusion. Zycloboo, too, looks much better this time around, and his flashing eye in the background of most Reality Base levels was a chilling little detail that gave the story a new layer of depth. My only gripe with the visuals? Maybe it's me and my computer's brightness, but after a few levels of playing the game on full screen, your eyes just kind of get tired from processing all those different color combinations and unique texture packs. Other than that, this was an excellent presentation of graphical skill.
Level Design: 8.5/10
Ye olde port of original installment levels, beefed up with additional content and cutscenes to move the player along in your plot, adds a whole new layer of fresh frosting to this classic cake of hack goodness. You've taken some levels previously scattered about the old TSRP2's worldmap and condensed them into some other levels, quite cleverly, to give this hack a more legitimate game feeling. And you know what? It works. It works so well that it gives the player something new to look forward to upon replaying the level each time they enter it. Did you miss that one bonus room in the beginning of Tet-Retropolis? Need to look more closely at the landscapes of High Hill Thrill or Goomba Cave? Be sure to check every corner you can if you want to find even the Yoshi Coins in order to thoroughly complete this hack! Now, the reason the level design is at an 8.5 instead of a 9 or even 9.5 is because most of the levels' openness really throws off some exploration aspects. Just to name what I mean, most of the levels like Maniac Manor, Cursed Launch Puzzle, or Thirlox' Stronghold features some pits that seem like they lead to nice treats, but are instead insta-kill traps or pitfalls. This goes hand in hand with the nature of the game, the nature and looming theme that "everything is trying to kill you," but it does sort of point and laugh at the player for trying to look around and check for any additional bonuses and small gifts. Thankfully, this remake does not do this so often as the original, so I can forgive many of those instances here. More often than not, when the player dies in this hack, it is the player's fault, not the design of the level or the way the controls work, or...something. My other, more personal, gripe is the claustrophobic feeling of some tunnel-like levels. Maybe it's just my eyes trying to adjust to the amount of decoration placed on the screen at one time to give these levels the intended feel. In any case, I would replay this hack from start to finish again, given that these levels do have some very enjoyable design and replayability!
I'll give my shortest review here, because SPOILERS! The use of cutscenes finally clears up Zycloboo's heavy involvement in the plot, and the cast of new characters Mario meets along the way are surprisingly three-dimensional. Be on the lookout for a My Little Pony reference with one of the characters here, although it could be just coincidence. From start to finish, you will want to see what happens next as you meet each new character and their effect on the plot. This is some solid writing, here!
Just a quarter of a point short of a perfect ten here, and I will explain why: the cutscenes and character speech bubbles sometimes take too long to wrap up and proceed to the next part of the game or level. That being said, the puzzles remained mostly the same, with the exception that there is now a hint system with speaking to most characters. Puzzles are no longer figured out through simply looking and exploring within the alotted time. You can save much of this time now with the substantially more useful message blocks placed around some levels, so it feels fairer to solve the puzzle and (god forbid) fail to do such a thing and restart. Each boss is unique, and some Zycloboo battles remain slightly the same with visual exceptions, and some enemies are fun to stop on! What really gives this gameplay here a fresh feel is the engine being completely taken advantage of to give this hack a feel of a "souped-up" engine. That is, minor ASM tweaks to some parts of the engine, like the save feature in Marty's Base and (finally!) the ability to keep your 99 lives, and just some clever use of Lunar Magic to the overworld to create some plot-centric levels. I've gone off track here--there is some solid gameplay in this hack here, and whatever the trick here is, keep it up for TSRP3!
Eh, I do have to give something on this list a low rating, and it pains me to say that the overworld gets this rating. Now, the good parts first, of course: each map is a feast for the eyes, and it really gives each world their intended theme. From a grassland-like World 1, through the broiling sands of World 4, into the fiery caves of World 6, and on top of the starlit mountaintops of World 8, the palettes and choice of graphics combine wonderfully to appeal to the eye! That can be said for most worlds. For some reason, Catgoom Kingdom didn't really hold up as well in those respects, and that really killed it for me. Aside from the bare feeling of the Catgoom map, the palette was too colorful for me. I don't know what it is, maybe it's me, but I felt the choice of colors here could have used some work. And seeing the purpose of Catgoom, I felt maybe it could have been a little more eccentric feeling with its colors? Again, it may just be me. But that is my review on this section and I am sticking to it.
Final Score: 54.25/60 or 9.04/10
Great job reloading this hack, FPI! Seeing the job done on TSRPR and this one, I can't wait to see what is in store in the third installment! Keep it up!
Before the remake, I liked TSRPR more, but when the remake came, it impressed me. Well, let's go:
Level design: 9,5/10
Very well designed levels, nice gimmicks and some nice challenges here and there. There are also lots of secrets that allow you to explore the world and help in hard levels. There are a lot of puzzles in some levels. A few of them may feel long, but they are enjoyable.
Nice graphics. Some of them are remade, while some of them are the same. Nothing bad, some of the old graphics have been remade or fixed. They look much better now. They give out a nice atmosphere.
I like challenges, because why not? Your levels are fun and they have fun gimmicks with interesting enemy placement. It feels a little harder than TSRPR, maybe because the levels are longer (?).
No complains. It looks good, well used graphics, nicely made theme. There are no glitches, so let's give a 10.
There aren't many blocks, sprites and other stuff to call it a very ASM-y hack. I like the cutscenes and some ASM fixes. Some gimmicks are made well with the use of ASM.
Because why not? Simple goal, but a long plot. It has also some humorous moments which fit well for a hack like this. I liked the plot, nice work.
Cool themes. Many custom stuff, some from the SMWC section. Many of them fit well or perfectly for levels like these. Some of them feel a bit similar to the first "Reloaded" hack. I enjoyed them a lot, great stuff.
Replay value: 10/10
Definitely worth playing. Do you like challenges? Do you like secrets? Do you like long hacks? It's something for you!