While a fun idea, the execution unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the issues I had with the design have already been kindly pointed out in your level thread, the biggest being that ducking, the main level's main gimmick, isn't well communicated and never once necessary.
While the super koopas, easily the level's biggest threat, are indicated, their spawns heavily depend on how fast the player approaches the level. When I attempt to rush the level, there tends to be little to no time to react. On the other hand, when I take my time, things quickly get overwhelming, because the super koopas then tend to clutter with other obstacles such as the fishes and spike balls. I'd definitely recommend reworking the pacing, to either have the setups be more lenient and fair for every playstyle or to encourage a certain playstyle by e.g. having the level be on a timer (when done poorly a tight timer could easily worsen the experience as well though, watch out). If you plan to allow for a slower approach, I'd recommend increasing the distance between most setups, because if you only back up for just a little in certain spots, you tend to respawn columns of super koopas with no time to react.
Another issue is the indicators themselves, especially in the second half when coins are scattered everywhere. I would definitely get rid of the coins below the thwomps, as their behavior is predictable. As LuigiTime already correctly pointed out, the level never makes it clear, that you're meant to duck under most super koopas. Tile-merging trickery, a message box or even a different level name could do the trick.
But all of that would also only pay off, if the ducking mechanic were actually made an essential part of the level. It starts out decently but once the thwomps are introduced almost every setup requires you to jump instead. As an additional thing to consider, ducking is only benefitial when the player has a powerup.
Still, even with a somewhat ruffer gameplay experience, I found the level to have a lot of charm and certainly memorable.
As mentioned before I enjoy both the main gimmick as well as the idea behind how most obstacles are setup. Even with the sadly flawed execution aside, setups stay very same-ish throughout. Ducking becomes less and less of an option and instead more of a "find a safe spot in the water", which doesn't feel consistent with earlier sections of the level.
Glitched graphics (orange platform, thwomps and even the superkoopa when killed) are plentyful and unfortunately make the level feel a lot less polished than it is. Too bad the aesthetics are kept "fully" vanilla (e.g. no custom palette or music), which while obviously not bad, is unable to leave an impression. If you swap the orange platform with the brown platform floaring on water and do a little tileset mixing, you should be able to get of the graphical glitches, while still being able to use the same enemy types.
While certainly not the most groundbreaking level gameplay wise, I had a blast playing it. If I had to pick one gripe, I have with the design approach, I would go for the wonky mixture of a regular, enemy-based design and pure platforming-based sections, which often feel less fleshed out. The first half overall is neat and home to multiple fun obstacles and excellent enemy palcement. The addition yoshi-coin challenges and note-block jumps stand out positively.
It's the second half, my criticism mostly applies to. Starting off, I don't think the p-switch "puzzle" doesn't do the level any favors. On my first attempt I carried to switch to the finish, not knowing what to do with it. Then, when I finally found where to go, I instead died on the blind fall to the secret room, which requires you told hold either left or right with no prior notice. The platforming in the second half sadly lacks a lot in variety. Most of it boils down to moving right, while holding down run and jump, to land on wigglers or note blocks. There are very little additional enemies to look out for, nor sections where you have to work with timing jumps right or other types of platforms, to add some variety. Then there's the occasional empty screen (17, 19) which could use some more action, as well as the known wiggler glitch, which allows you to bounce off or get hit by wigglers above a certain height onscreen. The section pictured in the screeshot above (screen 18) was were this was glitch was the most occurrent and usually lead to me getting hit unfairly. But even though simple, and in my opinion worse than the first half, the level's enjoyable all throughout.
Though no unique gameplay gimmick, wigglers and note blocks were used to great effect to create fun setups. The yoshi coin challenges and eye candy aesthetics (pipes, plant columns and clouds in the background) are also very noteworthy. I would have loved to see more variety in the second half's setups.
Very cute. I love the unique coloring, distinct and original FG and BG and general theme. The music's perfectly incorporates the level's cute feel.
Generally fantastic, but also insanely difficult. So difficult in fact, I'm not ashamed to admit that I savestated my way through the cave sections, as well as it being my only "major" complaint with the level. The difficulty curve felt a little unbalanced and with both halfs being fairly length and every little mishap ending in death, things can get frustrating quickly.
The outdoor sections, at least to me, felt a lot more manageable with the only big annoyance being the chucks, who's throwing cycles never wanted to align with what I was going for. The tutorial works great with the messages explaning all you need to know, as well as a few introductory setups, allowing you to practice all you need to beat the level. It's the p-switch setup where I hit my first roadblock, because the chuck and sumo brother suddenly decided to flawlessly work together.
The first cave has multiple very creative setups and the difficulty still felt manageable. I do think there was too little time to react to the first podobo, when sliding the full distance. Also having bats immeditaly come at your while near the top of the screen feels a little harsh (screen 7). All other setups were good to great to me though, and having to race against a skull raft, while having to glitch through a corner, stands out as one of the level's most memorable moments.
The second outdoors section is the calm before the storm. Enjoyable overall, aside from the screen scrolling setup. The second cave section is insane with each setup more bonkers than the latter. I don't think the warning sign is enough of a warning. I expected a layer 2 smasher, but expected the cement blocks to still be safe. Guess not. Maybe see if you can find a way to slow the player down even more (e.g. wall of throw blocks to get through), to have them see the layer 2 in action beforehand. My least favourite setup in this section is on screen D, as it's one that most feels like trial and error. Another thing to watch out for too is the time, which can get fairly low if you take your time with each obstacle (and happen to beat it in one go lol).
Huge compliment on making one of the most clever and varied level I've played thus far. I had a blast playing and crying for help.
This was a first for me. While I was certainly aware of "note block surfing" being a thing, I never knew it was reliable enough to build a level around. Having a slide on the left and right corner have a hugely differing effect, made for even more creative setups. The variety stays high throughout, easily justifing the level's length.
Visually simple but pleasant to look at. Both new palettes are neat and the atmosphere in the cave section is particularly tense due to the fantastic song choice.
I'll avoid talking around the bush. Large collections of rooms and ideas are very hard to pull off well and often suffer from similar issues. These type of levels used to be more common during the eariler days of VLDC and often have a ton of charm. However they often lack coherency, with too many concepts for their own good and none of them properly explored. The quality of the rooms varys immensly and room 7 quite possibly could be difficult enough to be considerd kaizo, which is a big no. I believe the best feedback I can offer is by commenting on the rooms separately:
The first room is alright but the first two flat and easy screens feel very separate from the last few jumps. I'd recommend extending the room by a little, and having the difficulty increase more subtly.
Room two does very little and is over before it even started.
If find a way to get rid of the blind jump (neither spinys nor munchers at the yoshi coins jump are visible), and have your enemy placement on the final few screens feel a little more deliberate, you've got a fun room on your hand.
Room 4 has interesting ideas but can be frustrating to play. Using exploding block enemies underwater to get additional time to dodge them is clever, as is having to avoid getting too close to enemies to preserve a throw block. Since the latter isn't immediatly obvious and easy to mess up, a way to reset or have the goal be clear from the start, would help a lot.
I'm glad the puzzle room is optional because it requires the awareness of mulitple glitches and tricks, I'd doubt all judges to be aware of, to even have a chance at solving it. I skipped it on my first playthrough as I didn't know how to get the second mushroom. But even when you know the correct solution, lining your reserve item up in the exact way to feed the baby yoshi, is more annoying than it has to be.
Room 6 is all about the mechakoopa section, which although somewhat jank, is clever because you're unable to jump on them. The jump over the muncher near the very start is way too precise though.
It's room 7 where I unfortunately draw the line. On my first attempt, this was where I quit, as I couldn't figure out how to progress. I assumed it had to with a eating block snake, but didn't know how to activate it. Turns out, you have can't collect the coins of the blocks in your way, bounce on the disco-shell until the p-switch timer runs out and then use a turn block to jump on the, now brown blocks, to avoid the disco-shell from falling off screen. This isn't just cryptic but also insanely tuff to pull off. And best of all, what follows is tricky platforming while balancing on a single block snake, which might be even more difficult.
The final room is a lot tamer in comparison, even if the opening jumps can be ruff and I have yet to figure out the intended solution to getting to the exit. On both my winning attempts I found weird ways of getting rid of the koopa, for example through random screen scrolling.
Overall, we have an interesting set of rooms, which are held back by bad pacing. Rooms often feel like the start or end of a neat concept but stitched together they make little sense, with a difficulty curve that couldn't be further off.
Even though I've been fairly harsh towards the gameplay experience, the level is chock-full of short level ideas and concepts. Some great, some not so much, but creative nevertheless.
Visually the rooms themselves are kept very vanilla, but look mostly fine. The problem I have instead is that there is no consistent theme going on, making not only the rooms clash gameplay-wise but unfortunately also atmospherically. The music on the hand in my opinion fits the hectic pacing of the latter rooms very well.
Check out my new hack thread: