After actually playing through the stage, I feel more strongly about what I said in your level thread, primarily the spritework. This stage feels empty for a castle, and pretty much none of the enemies seem to pose any threat. Players have plenty of time and space to dodge them, and there's nothing thematic to complicate matters or make players pause and think about what is the best way to proceed. Most enemies are encountered in isolation, and there are spaces where there are pretty much no enemies at all. The level doesn't feel engaging
. That's not to say you have to make it overly difficult, but the spritework is too simple
right now. Try to saturate the stage a bit more with enemies, or place the enemies more effectively, or use them in combination more often, or think of some mechanic or concept that will work with the enemies- a castle generally has more intricate traps, no? As-is, it doesn't seem to do anything beyond what Firephoenix's first level does, and that's bad, because we have to make a strong first impression in World 1, slowly working in new ideas.
Also, the top path seems like it has many more enemies than the bottom half, which is strange because players have no way of knowing that. The paths are hidden between two arbitrary doors. For that matter, I'm not sure the best way to split the world map paths is to essentially make two separate levels in one. A LOT
of levels this time around are aiming for that 'parallel paths' aesthetic, and that worries me: it's not the only way to design a level, the SMW engine isn't really built to accommodate it in terms of architecture and the number of sprites on screen at once (unless you separate the two into different sublevels altogether), and it doesn't always make the level "nonlinear," especially in this case where it's really just two linear paths.
That sideways thwomp seemed pretty difficult, and putting a thwomp above a door isn't really necessary (honestly, a lot of people seem to have an obsession with blocking screen exits).
On the upper path, why are some sprites placed below the floor if they're just going to end up above the floor anyway? That thwomp is very oddly placed as well.
As far as architecture goes, those thin pipes need to be shaded differently, because there were times I thought I could walk on them, especially on screen 6 of level 5C where you connect two girder platforms with them (alternately, just don't place them in confusing ways). Also, again, the lower half seems tame and shallow compared to the twists and turns of the upper half. Should an arbitrary choice of doors skew the complexity so much?
Oh, do you really have to wait for that diagonal fireball to go there and back again in order to obtain the 1up? That seems like a bit much for this early in the game, even if it's clever (which it is).
What if you get trapped behind the turn blocks for that smwcoin? Maybe you could use breakable blocks or something?
Is the silver p-switch for something you haven't constructed yet?
Finally, the entranceway puts players through a lot of tedium just to get a powerup and a few coins. Is it necessary to have stuff up there when you start right next to the doors? It seems senseless to go up and down like that.
Much, much better. Wow, that's an improvement over the last time. The sprite reskins are absolutely delightful and you have a really fun atmosphere going on here now. The only potential issue I see is with the ice cream cone sprite: maybe it's just me, but it doesn't look quite identifiable enough, if that makes sense.
The beginning of the level is a very disorienting (read: poor) introduction, and I think you should modify it. The player could accidentally jump into the munchers; it's not immediately obvious that the hanging life preserver is solid; that first jump onto the rotating platform is pretty difficult for the first screen. Having said that, it's nice to see a powerup at the beginning of the stage for once. Not every level has to be stingy :/
I like how you outline the invisible blocks so we can actually see them. It takes a lot of frustration out of the equation, and besides, they don't look half bad in a carnival context. However, players might not hit the first one- they might take the hammer bros. platform instead- and the next one is in a dangerous spot. Make sure that introductions are both nonlethal and
likely to be used by players so they know what's going on. The only problem is, the invisible note blocks are completely invisible, which might
(I'm not sure) kind of breaks players' expectations after seeing the outline blocks. The only spot where it was a big deal, though, was in the second half, where you have to scale that tall log. The first time, I didn't find the invisible note block, and I used a cannonball instead. For secret areas, I would say it probably isn't a big deal.
Speaking of cannonballs, they definitely inject some difficulty and complexity into the stage (and other sprites do as well), and overall there are just a lot of different sprites here, which makes the level fun and colorful, as a carnival should be. What you've accomplished is no small feat given that the tide gives you less sprite room, so color me impressed in that regard.
It'd be nice if you'd couldn't carry the life preserver outside the underwater section, because it can cause slowdown on the main path (especially in the part with all the cannonballs, but I don't think you should get rid of those). Also in that underwater side area, maybe it's just me, but I think it's weird to have the right end bordered by the camera stopping and not by a wall. For the sky side room, if adding one or two enemies doesn't cause slowdown, then I would at least consider it, though I'm not saying it definitely would be better with enemies- I'm just wondering if it would be.
By the way, playing it now, I don't see any problem with the number of hammer bros.
The only other design issues I have right now come at the end of the second half. The pipe arrangement for the torpedo ted reskins (which I love, by the way) seems a little plain. You could keep the ones you have where they are, but do they all have to be the same height, for example? Maybe it would also be a good idea to scatter a few more pipes amongst those (but place them higher so they aren't confused with the ones that generate enemies). In addition, I don't think you can see the bottom row in all emulators...but I guess there's not really a way around that. Actually, players are liable to discover it on their own while trying to swim beneath the enemies, so it's probably not much of an issue in that sense. It might make things a bit easy, though, since you can just wait for the enemies to pass without having to swim. Oh, and yeah, it's probably a good idea to fill in the bottom row so players can't swim under everything.
Also, for the ice cream cone on the next screen, the last two question mark blocks makes it a bit easy to jump over that obstacle completely. Maybe you should just keep the first three?
Anyway, this is a huge improvement over the last version I played. You definitely know how to handle feedback, and that's very good.
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