Ah, Super Demo World: The Legend Continues, the memories I have for this one. I can't post a full review since, well, I haven't found every exit (nor do I want to) but I have completed the game up to Bowser's Castle.
The level design is generally decent, but rarely outstanding, and occasionally infuriating (I've played very few of the star levels and none of Big Boo's World, so I have nothing to say about them aside from what I may have gathered from watching playthroughs of this hack.) Broadly speaking, most levels in this hack are enjoyable, but forgettable; in every world, unique level design and aesthetics are sacrificed in order to adhere to that world's theme. Case in point are Misty Isle, Water World, and Cave World. In Misty Isle, three out of five levels are generic grassland levels; the one I can remember (other than the castle) is Misty Isle 4, a remake of SMB3 1-1 (which isn't a fault here because it was the first accurate remake from that game). In Water World, there's several similar underwater levels. In Cave World, almost every level uses the crystal tileset from Mega Man X3 and none of them really stand out from one another. So decent, yet unremarkable, levels are the norm throughout the hack.
But there a few levels that stand out, though usually not for good reasons. The Desert Pyramid had a neat flow and structure. Not a few stages, however, stand out for design that is just baffling and frustrating. The first such instance in the hack is Desert World 4 (which was copied and pasted from the original Demo World), where you must follow one or two clouds (reskinned giant orange ground platforms) across the level. At several points in the level, you may be unable to go any further depending on whether you're small, of which of the two platforms you activated. Granted, these instances of bad design are not that common, but they do tend to pop up at least once per world. The World 4 Castle is an instance of Kaizo-ish design, where you must kill yourself after touching the midway goal to progress.
As I said before, I haven't fully played Star World or Big Boo's World, but I am not fond of the Star Road levels having two exits. It is quite easy to lock yourself out of finding every exit in the Star World because the levels disappear once the secret exits are found. Having Star Road levels is cool, but there should have only been one exit in each.
The graphics and blocks were quite revolutionary at the time, and are still nice today, so no negative criticism there.
Overall, this is still a good hack and I can recommend it to anyone who wants to play an older hack or a mostly vanilla hack. Going off what I have seen in LPs, though, I would advise against going for all 120 exits unless you have a very high tolerance for needlessly long, repetitive, uninteresting, and frustrating levels that, upon being beaten, yield no reward.
Well, I finally finished playing through this mighty behemoth of a hack... or leviathan... whatever mythical beast you might choose to refer to this hack as. So, what does Super Demo World: The Legend Continues entail that would drive Counterfeit into madness and lead me to refer to this hack as a monster? Let us begin...
Starting with the level design. The skin of the beast to start with.
And let me tell you, it is a very deceptive skin. This hack starts off innocently enough. Pretty straightforward, linear levels--the likes you might normally associate with commerical Mario games and are pretty well-designed for the most part. You might even find yourself having fun--I thought I was for a while. But if you are the kind of player who is hungry for more than just a simple start-to-finish playthrough, you will probably feast your eyes on those red dot levels of the overworld you are unveiling. You may also frequently find yourself developing this strange feeling of deja-vu as you play on...
From there, you have already gotten past the skin of the beast and are now tasting the flesh. It is a strange, discolored flesh--you aren't quite sure if it is safe to eat, but the completionist in you craves more. The level design goes from being linear to more puzzle-based--and not the good kind of puzzle levels. Suddenly, there is a P-Switch you must carry around most of a level in order to open up a wall of brown blocks to continue on. Sometimes, sprites are spammed all over a few screens, causing not only incredible slowdown but also making things not spawn--possibly important things like platforms. Those screen-scrolling pipes that you thought were fun in the first few worlds are suddenly being woven together into a devious maze where you will likely get lost and run out of time at least once. And we haven't even started talking about secret exits yet... oh no, these are just some of the normal exits.
Eventually, you cut into the beast's muscle. At least, you are pretty sure it is, but you can't quite figure out what it was for. And this is where we get into secrets, for you know they exist. There are red dots scattered throughout the overworld but no matter how often you play through the level, you can't seem to find a key or secret exit goal. Secrets in this hack are well-hidden. Very well-hidden. I would even go as far as to call most of them cryptic in nature, as there are several really bizzare things you must do to find some secrets, from throwing fireballs at a completely inconspicuous block in an ice cube cave to needing a star that is hidden in an otherwise ordinary stack of bricks. One particular exit that is needed to access a super-secret world required using a glitch! Even if you don't factor in the really cryptic secrets, you will still find yourself bringing capes and Yoshis everywhere you can to search for keys and keyholes. Check every pipe, and I mean *every* pipe. Often, you might need to jump into blind pits to find these--I hope you are using savestates, because you will kill yourself many times searching for those! I actually had to look up guides and youtube videos just to find a few of the cryptic secret exits in this hack, and you are a madman if you think you can find them all without some semblance of guidance.
Finally, you reach the bone. If you were a mad enough person to discover the existence of the Star Road and cleared one of the secret exits within before finding the normal one, you will have witnessed the true evil of this behemoth. For you see, the secret zones of this hack have some incredibly devilish surprises in store for you, where clearing the exits in the wrong order could forever lock you out of having a 120 exits file as the level transforms into a star warp to never again be used as a playable level. I am not joking, this really happens, and it is the completionist's worst nightmare, especially if they forget to make a savestate beforehand. This isn't even going into the nosedive the level design takes at this point--as many of the secret levels suffer from ill-conceived gimmicks that, while they must have looked fun on paper, were executed in the most annoying ways possible. Such as using iceballs to freeze coins for platforms--sounds cool except its difficult to aim them and create wide enough platforms, and you find yourself using slippery 1~2 tile platforms to continue making more slippery 1~2 platforms. Or how about an autoscrolling level where you must switch between using a fireflower to melt ice block walls and a feather to smash away yellow brick walls. Not only do you have to think pretty quickly, but if you get hurt by anything in the process, you will fail the moment the next wall shows up and you're missing one of the powerups.
It's not just the level designs that get really obnoxious, but also the fact that it becomes more repetitive too. Many of the secret levels use an absurd amount of screens for what seems like no purpose at all except troll the player and drain the clock. The super-secret world is loaded with repeated terrain/block usage for many screens, and the true final level is a tower of ridiculous length, surpassing that of even Skewer's superlevels--without any of the midway points!
TL;DR version = Overcomplexity is not fun.
Yes, all of those paragraphs were just about the level design. I haven't even touched on the other stuff. Like the graphics... which are really just a mixture of vanilla stuff with some tileset and background rips from Super Mario All-Stars, Yoshi's Island, Donkey Kong Country, and Megaman X. It was no doubt revolutionary at the time seeing these things in SMW, but nowadays its very common stuff--though that isn't to say it's bad at all, as it not only worked, but was often used pretty well in many places (I've certianly never seen the YI Snow tilesets used so well before in SMW).
There is no custom music to speak of, being made before the creation of AddMusic, though it does make use of quite a few ASM additions, namely in the form of custom blocks and even nonstandard reserve items you can find if you discover the secrets for them. Really neat stuff, actually, which you don't see in many hacks.
Overall... I give this hack a 3/5, only because a lot of effort was put into it, and I heard it ended up getting rushed out at some point--I don't know many people who can put together so many levels that quickly, and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone either, but these guys somehow pulled it off, albeit flawed. It wasn't all bad, and it did have some saving graces, but I would be very wary of playing this hack, unless you are prepared to test the limits of your sanity. I also highly recommend using savestates too as a precaution.
I noticed your message MercuryPenny and let me just say this:
This hack gave me PTSD, depression, and insomnia. I am taking Viagra to overcome this. It still burns from 2007 and the Super Demo World demo I just played previewed nightmares to come. I still have to play this hack. God help me.
@Counterfeit: I will be doing a "full review" of sorts for a second opinion on the hack even though it will probably take you a year to notice this message, though that will probably give me time to get most of the 120 exits in this monster of a hack.
scratch that i hate this hack to the deepest depths of my pitch-black soul and will for the rest of time
This hack was released in 2003, so it should be compatible with all emulators, since Addmusic didn't exist back then.
That said, some of the secret exits will drive you to insanity if you hate item babysitting, such as the one in Desert World 2, which is borderline unfair thanks to having to find blocks you need to pass through via a silver p-switch you find at the end of the level that you may not even be able to use because a certain checkerboard platform doesn't spawn occasionally. If you want to go for 100% completion, savestates are a must (along with several metric tons of luck).