Saturday, January 31, 2015

CountChunko_2014.02.21 Feb 21, 2014

Alright, I got all the way up to map 48 in Default Difficulty before composing this, and was ultimately pleased with what I saw from a gameplay perspective. Simple, clean running and jumping and an intense, sometimes panic-fueled dash for the exit. However, map 48 is as far as I got without some technical issues and aesthetic choices just bogging the experience down for me. It makes me feel a little dubious as for the future of the game as a whole.
The technical issues may have been my computer just in need of some maintainance, which is getting resolved right now, but the problems occurring might happen to some lower-end machines as well. What ended up happening was that I ended up dropping frames randomly, especially during times of high explosion counts. The end result several times was that I wound up looking at a screen that had stopped updating while the game was running and then things would jump forward and then the screen would instantly catch up to where I was, most times too late to avoid a death. A little bit of optimization would go a long way here.
Aesthetically, there was nothing that set my heart alight with sheer glee. There was no sense of progression, other than an incrementing number telling me which map I was playing, and the Jackson Pollock of blood all over the background. Difficulty pretty much started at 10 and only went up to 11. Along with that, the bombs that I could drop (with X, not with Mouse clicking debug cheatery) only served to break some of the otherwise challenging levels. I did have great fun initially when the game looked to be both challenging and each level looked like it was going to add a slight variation as to how it would present itself, but a few levels in, it just felt like it had devolved into simple challenge over presentation. As if
The lighting effects were good, but ultimately Muddy and while left on, mostly obfuscated the greater portion of the level. I eventually turned them off so that I could read the entirety of the level at a glance. Bombs on the level were clear and easy to understand, so there was no difficulty in attempting to understand what would happen when I set off a chain before I did. Level design as a whole, everything was awesome and worked.
As I wrote this review, I went back and checked the notes, and realized that the flare box, bomb drop button, and all were debug features, but then again, it would provide some tasty challenge variations. I also tried out a couple more of the level packs, and they only had a modicum of variety that set them apart from each other. Some new tools that changed up the style would have done some good, either new tools in the level designer's belt, or in the player's belt would have made a world of difference.
A few more general notes:
- The ceilings were kind of odd, sometimes jumping into a breakable block would halt your upward trajectory, sometimes they wouldn't, sometimes I'd run my helmet across several blocks and break them all, and it was generally hard to tell what would make them do what in each situation. There was one level that stuck out in particular, as you needed to begin by jumping into a button, which would cause some bombs to go off, but if you jumped a little too hard, the flames would come through the button and hit you.
- Deaths were frustrating, primarily because the screen would zoom into this absolutely confusing clusterfuck of fire, bombs, more explosions, and for a while I thought I was just having a hard time telling which sprite was me, until I realized that there was only a couple frames after the zoom where I was still visible before being replaced by blood splatter. That in and of itself was kind of frustrating, because it was hard to tell what exactly was causing my death so I could get a better sense of what to do next time, or if I was two or three pixels too far to the right or left.
- Being dumped to an interim screen after deaths was a pain, because after all the confusion of the last note, the interim screen finished the job of piledriving all sense of flow and pacing into the ground. Especially since the only thing you could do from there is re-start the level.
- The music was dull, repetitive, and I could here the loop point whenever it came around.
- Every sound effect sat in the same gravelly bass tones and really just did all of nothing to really set themselves apart from each other. explosions and landing on the ground sat in the same tonal range, fire and longer explosions were indistinguishable... Sound design was a total mess.
All in all, the game is doing fairly well, and these are my first impressions so far. I'll go back and through it all again and make some more refined notes, and bring them all to each of you as appropriate, This initial shot is just going to go to everyone, and if I get word back from anyone as to what types of elements I should try paying attention to in further extent, I'll do so in the future.
Expect to hear more from me soon.
- Bren Krasmer.

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