I'm a huge fan of the hammer bro, but I guess I can find something else to put in his place, since I'll probably open it up a bit to make dealing with spinies a bit easier.
Remember, this is just my personal opinion. I like to think I have a strong knowledge of level design, but that doesn't mean I'm always right. If you like it, feel free to leave it - I just think having that + a Lakitu in such close proximity (in the second level of all things) is quite a bit more challenging than I could have hoped for. I'm sure you can find a solution that involves leaving the Hammer Bro in.
This is the first switch palace in the hack (and the last we'll see until worlds 5/6).
This is a prime example of excellent collaborating on the creator's part. Instead of just starting right into the switch palace, they actually played the level before it and created a transition screen into it. Very clever.
...although in this case, the switch palace ground should probably extend far beyond the pipe to give the illusion that you are in fact entering a palace.
Before this, you're given a message box explaining what the green coins do (they add time). Is it really necessary? Probably not. The green coins could have been easily taught and demonstrated to the player by providing a small cluster of them right at the start.
Notice how much time I have left over after going at a normal pace? Contrary to what most people would believe, this is a good thing for this early in the game. If I'm going full speed and barely make it, then there is a problem with the difficulty.
OVERALL: This is actually a very well designed level. The difficulty is fair, the aesthetics work with the level nicely, and it's clear the creator knows how to properly design a gimmick-based level.
Something to consider about the switch palaces as well:
It's not actually apparent (especially in Countdown Chamber) that the yellow switch blocks past the switch itself lead to a normal exit. Most people are likely to see those and replay the level to see if it's a secret, only to discover it isn't. I think there should be some sort of obvious indication and/or a message box explaining that the four switch palaces allow you to replay them and that there aren't actually any secrets in them.
This is the first castle in the hack, and it's unique in that it has two distinct paths you can take. One leads to the boss (and subsequently world 2), whereas the other leads to a "secret" exit and world 3.
At the very start of the level, it's apparent you can go both ways. One minor (graphical) nitpick is that the shadow of the pipe on the right is upside down.
What I like about the level is that there are a bunch of little turn blocks like this that are floating around and slightly challenging to get. Some have 1-UPs, some have powerups. They're risky, but not mandatory to progress.
This is kind of a sloppy position for a multi-coin block. I might expect this sort of positioning in a later world, but not this early on.
This level has a midpoint on both the left and the right path, which is nice. You can actually get to here in like, 30 seconds tops if you're going fast.
The ball'n'chain there is actually blind. If you're coming from below, the camera scrolls up and you have very little time to react. It might be worth redesigning this part to either a) totally remove the ball'n'chain, or b) modify the slope.
Excessive sprite usage for world 1. You have two ball'n'chain sprites, a jumping fireball, and a Grinder ready to ambush you.
This part is totally unfair. What happens here is that you come from the left and jump on the snake block, which causes the one on the right to start eating the blocks as well. If you're not fast enough, you won't be able to reach the SMWC coin. This wouldn't be a big deal if you could actually see that you need to be quick from the start of the snake platform, but the player will have no idea on their first run-through.
OVERALL: This is a well-designed level at its core, but it suffers from unnecessary sprite spam in certain parts (mostly at those involving the SMWC coins). With a bit of toning down, this level will be just fine.
I think it's good to have a simple, straightforward romp-styled level now and then. Something that doesn't aim to do anything fancy at all, yet is still nice enough to go through. This is the definition of Fringe Forest.
The biggest complaint about SMWCP was the rampant item babysitting and/or requiring players to use items in places that made no sense. Authors have tried to alleviate this in SMWCP2, and I think they've done a fair job at it.
This is a bit of a blind drop into the Buzzy Beetle. Easy to fix - lower the platform you land on by a bit, or raise the ground underneath by a bit.
Depending on what you've left alive below, this could be counted as a blind jump. Since you come up from the left side of this platform, you might think to drop back down to the right - however, it's actually safer (and you'll land on some blocks) if you drop down to the right. Perhaps a small row of coins could indicate this.
After taking a running leap from a previous platform, you land around here. I would suggest moving these Bob-ombs back about 2-3 tiles just to ensure the player can react fast enough.
Not much thought was put into the sprite below. It simply walks off of the edge on its own. Might be wise to replace it with one that actually stays on ledges.
These sprites should be moved back 4-5 tiles. They're really no threat and will simply drop in the water before the average player gets there (note: I was going relatively fast here).
OVERALL: Fringe Forest is a simple, yet good level that is marred by a couple of awkward sprite placements. If these are ironed out, it should act as a great introduction to world 2.
Atma actually suggested that we replace the springboard in the cave with SMWC coin itself, and I'm almost inclined to agree. It's a very small amount of backtracking/item babysitting and the spot is clearly marked with a springboard outline, but it still seems really pointless, doesn't it?
While Fringe Forest acts as a short and fairly simple introduction to the forest world, this is where things start to pick up. This is likely the longest level in the hack up to this point, but how does it hold up design-wise?
It's always nice to see people making interesting starting points in their levels. Instead of the traditional "run to the right" deal, you're given an option of down, left, AND right. Quite the spread, and it's definitely a nice change of pace.
That's a Bouncing Koopa, and it falls right off the edge without posing any real threat. It would be nice if it was lined up to jump to the platform Mario is on as well, otherwise this simply turns into a waiting game. Perhaps raising the ? blocks can help with that?
Nothing up here? That's a disappointment. What's the point of having a Chuck right next to it that you can seemingly jump off of then? Even a few coins would be a bonus.
There's a platform below here, but it's a 100% blind drop. No coins to indicate it, nothing. This needs to be fixed.
This is more of a graphical bug than a design flaw, but it irks me. Since the main background has been moved to layer 3, the Jumping Piranhas go behind the layer 2 trees.
OVERALL: This is a rather long level, but it's easy enough that you can probably beat it without too much trouble. I think it's mostly well designed, but there are a few spots (i.e. blind drops, pointless platforms) that are questionable.
This is a direct continuation (graphically and musically) from Treetop Toss-Up, which is already a great touch.
It's very easy to jump to the left of this guy and avoid him entirely. I know there are a few situations like this throughout the level, but in those cases the Chuck is in the middle of the platform, making left and right equally dangerous.
This is abnormally challenging compared to the rest of the level. If the Diggin' Chuck wasn't trapped in a box, you could run over and kill it before going up, but as it stands, you're left trying to dodge rocks while dodging baseballs mid-jump. Potential solutions could be opening up the right a bit, or replacing the Pitchin' Chuck above with a Koopa.
NOT PICTURED: WhiteYoshiEgg did a great job of giving a sense of progression in the level by introducing Grinders in the second half. It adds a new element of gameplay, and I think more people should do this rather than making the second half of their levels carbon copies of their first half (doesn't actually happen much in SMWCP2 thankfully, this is just a general statement).
This is a prime example of where the hitting the Chuck once and leaving it could pose a real threat .. or that would be the case if the two platforms above the Chuck were each one tile lower. This would allow a one-hit Chuck to jump to the platform above Mario (in the image) and pose more of a threat.
OVERALL: This is a very well designed level. It considers a lot of fundamental aspects of gameplay (progression, clever sprite placement, etc) without ever getting boring. Aside from one or two rough patches, I'd say it's ideal.
Here we have the first ghost house in the hack. As such, this was the author's chance to introduce various kinds of ghosts. How did he do?
(you appear to have a glitched sprite here)
So this is the second screen of the level. I feel that it's a relatively poor introduction of both the Boo Ring and the regular Boo. Why? As you're coming from the left, you're very likely to spin jump on the Boo, but doing so would make you inevitably hit the Boo Ring above you. A simple solution would be to move that Boo Ring over to the right, giving the player a bit of breathing room.
On the other hand, I think Nimono did a superb job of using the Fishing Boo. I've played many hacks where people Mario is on the same Y coordinate as the flame like 95% of the time (bad, given how unpredictable it is(, whereas Nimono made sure the flame was almost always consistently above Mario's head. It still poses a threat and you still need to watch out for it while jumping, but on the whole it never feels unfair.
NOT PICTURED: In WhiteYoshiEgg's level, there was a solid progression where a new mechanic was introduced after the midpoint. This level feels a little strange in that regard. You start in an outdoor area, then go to the Fising Boo area, then go back outside to the midpoint into another outdoor area with the same mechanics as the first area. Could I propose swapping the second and third area such that it goes "outdoor -> outdoor -> indoor" rather than "outdoor -> indoor -> outdoor"? This would make the difficulty curve of the level feel a lot more appropriate as well, especially since the Fishing Boo area is by far more difficult than the other two.
OVERALL: The fact that a level could use the Fishing Boo in a way that didn't want me to rip my hair out shows the designer's capabilities. I think this was a great introduction to the various kinds of Boos in the hack, and the gameplay was solid overall.
This is the second cave level in the hack, and it utilizes numbered platforms as "mine carts".
Upside-down Buzzy Beetles and mine carts are used religiously throughout this level. The problem is that they are introduced at the same time right here, making it next to impossible not to get hit. It's also worth nothing that the beetles fall way, way too fast, so slowing them down might be wise. As for this portion, I'd just remove the upside-down Buzzy Beetle and introduce it past this point.
This part isn't very intuitive. Your first instinct would be to jump down the hole between the Munchers, effectively trapping you. I'd either fill in the hole or make the coin trail lead to the other side of the right Munchers.
This part screams of inconsistency. You're able to jump through the middle mine cart (the one I'm currently standing on), but the one above is solid .. meaning if you don't actually initially jump on the middle mine cart with perfect timing, you'll get trapped underneath like I am here.
A very cramped area with a very difficult-to-avoid enemy.
OVERALL: I like that this level has a unique gimmick associated with it. It's not too hard, nor does it ever get boring, but the spots pointed out above could really use a bit of a makeover.
Upside-down Buzzy Beetles and mine carts are used religiously throughout this level. The problem is that they are introduced at the same time right here, making it next to impossible not to get hit.
And I thought I was only dumb to regularly get hit.
I supposed it would be better to actually elongate/move the ceiling to the right, and give the space beforehand as the place to encounter Mr. I-Exist-To-Fall-On-You.
Originally posted by S.N.N.
Love the background (finally has one), but I believe it'll be better if it gets pushed up a bit. Too much negative space which isn't helping much emphasizing the positive space.
Originally posted by S.N.N.
That cluster is still in that level? I really can't be the only one who thinks it really does not fit with the level. Ruins the rustic mood of the ghost house. Plus clusters create a subtle chaotic feel to it, as it's a rapidly moving object. This really clashes with the level's playstyle, as it encourages careful and patient playing.
Originally posted by S.N.N.
I personally always found that used block platform odd alongside the low ? blocks.
I know with some of the other big projects going on right now (SMWCP1.5/SMWC Island) this is likely very, very low on the priority list but do you plan on eventually continuing this or will everything just hold over until official beta testing begins?
And no, I'm not asking because my level was one of the next ones to be put under the microscope. Seriously, I'm not. Leave me alone.
I'm actually putting it on hold until the remaining three biggies are in (credits, cutscenes, final boss, of which the first two are basically finished now). I will definitely be continuing/completing this, and I haven't forgotten about it - I'm just shifting it off to the side for a bit.