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Old 07-05-2012   #28
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Originally Posted by Monster Iestyn View Post
At least try Lightless Labyrinth Zone too - that's pretty much the only other SP entry that stands out there to me at least.
Actually I meant I was ignoring all the other entries by only talking about Azure Temple in my posts... Well, whatever, I've written my reviews now, though I'm not sure if they help much in that regard...

Industrial Valley Zone Act 1 by Zipper - 4/10
Eh, this is the kind of stage I could live without. It's fine for the most part, but it's a bit on the big side whilst not having enough content to it, so it comes out feeling rather empty. Then you also have several unfair hazards such as pits you can't detect until you're well on your way to inevitable collision, and unexpected crumbling platforms, both of which immediately steal a life. Further, you have many nonstandard gimmicks, like springs which toss you straight into acid unless you vigorously fight back, and a set of weights that only tilts one way for some reason. On the plus side, I liked how you used a purple color for non-damaging water, so it's nice that we've dropped that taboo, and the bouncy FOF section was pretty satisfying. Scale the stage down a bit and make some of the hazards more obvious and you have a decent stage, even if a bit plain.

Azure Temple Zone by Mystic & Prime 2.0 - 9/10
Well, it should come as no surprise that a stage Mystic made turned out to be pretty good. Well, where to begin...

First off, the fire-breathing gargoyles. Amazing building blocks that are remarkably simple in design, but are applied in a way that give incredible depth to each room. It's plainly obvious NOW that they're a necessity to making a water level actually FUN, so I hope a refined version appears in SRB2 2.1. The blue Buzz is also an interesting mechanic that contributes significantly to the flavor of the stage, but the truth is after you know where they all are, they immediately become a non-hazard. Except for, you know. Knuckles' route. Still wouldn't mind seeing these in 2.1 either.

ANYWAY, let's start breaking the stage down. Right off the bat the path splits so you get to pick your way to get to the next path split, a practice that has become common in SRB2 2.0 with basically all the new stages implementing it at some point. If you make your moves right, both paths take about 40-50 seconds to clear and reach the common star post, which is a sign that they're balanced in that respect, but I can't help but feel the left path is much harder than the right one, to no greater reward. Don't get me wrong, both paths require a considerable amount of skill and comfort with the controls, even if for wildly opposing reasons. The right path gives you all the room in the world, but requires you to land perfectly on tiny spots. Conversely, the left path is much more constricting in nature, and you're always strugglling not to get crushed, but it basically only requires you to thok in the general direction of safety and you'll be out of harm's way with little to no fuss. The thing is, while the right path kills you for lack of mastery of the controls, the left path kills you for lack of good reaction time -- too late, and you're crushed, too early and you miss your jump and fall in the pit. Oh well, I suppose that there will always be an "optimal" choice in these situations, so I guess there's no point in complaining.

The next room after the path joins is pretty confusing. There's a large door to the left which leads to the next room, but there's also another equally large door on the right which just leads to some item boxes. I assumed the next path switch had to be around here somewhere, but turns out I was looking entirely in the wrong place. There's no way to go but left, the next path split only occurs after this long room which has two routes through it, one high and one low. I like how it harkens back to classic Sonic design in that if you fall off the the top route, you can continue following the bottom path, even so far as being able to backtrack and try the top path again, but the merciless design of the stage means that more often than not, if you fall off the top route you somehow end up gravitating towards the nearest hole anyway, so. Depending on which route you follow, you end up on mutually exclusive paths, though there's exclusive path Knuckles is forced into which can be accessed from either one.

The two standard paths follow the same general mantra. The stage pits you through a series of narrow corridors through which fire is constantly traveling in repeating patterns. Fireballs emerge from the left and right walls simultaneously at a set height and constant rhythm while a wave of fireballs is sent from the far end of the corridor. This is where the biggest difference between paths comes into place, as the left path corridors typically send this wave at a constant height, while the right path corridors have the waves alternate between high and low, meaning you have to be careful when to jump and when to stay put. This may seem much harder on paper, but the fact is that this alternating pattern gives you a lot of breathing room, as there are plenty of spots you can stay safely in while jumping in place, as you plot your next move. The left path, on the other hand, is built in a way that safe zones are scarce and you pretty much need to get through in one push, otherwise your rings are bound to get sprinkled over the edge of conveniently placed ridges that ensure you won't be seeing them again.

This reason alone causes me to prefer the right hand path once again, and this is further backed by the one-off unique room that exists in either of the paths, on the left side right at the start and on the right side towards the middle mark. These large rooms don't follow the same concept as the remaining linear corridors and instead have you traversing an obstacle course in three dimensions much like the room immediately before the path split. I guess this is a matter of choice, but I greatly prefer the room on the right path than the one on the left side. The left side room is this large pit with many rapidly bobbing platforms reminiscent of that one room in AGZ2, while fireballs are being shot from each of the four surrounding walls, never seeming to be in line with any platform you actually need to step on, so this room is easy and pointless. The one on the right side, however, is much more interesting and requires the same quick reflexes as the room before the path split, so it's much more appealing to me. Further, the right hand path also has a unique corridor where a single wave of fire periodically sweeps the entire area and you need to jump into safe alcoves on either side in order to progress. (There's also a hidden secret in this path, but I won't go into details. Suffice to say I burst out laughing when I saw it.)

Anyway, the Knuckles path. Dear God, the Knuckles path. What can I say but GET AWAY FROM ME NO NO NO YOU SON OF A- GOD DAMMIT! Go play it, it's mercilessly merciless.

Regardless of which path you took, you'll always arrive at the same room, where a fairly conspicuous puzzle element sits off to the side, ready for you to ignore. If you're like me and DO ignore it, well, you'll soon regret it. Activating the mechanism opens up a separate puzzle route which is just that, a puzzle route. Like that one thing in DSZ1, get ready to push gargoyles around. These ones spit fire, so there's a certain risk factor involved, not to mention you need to periodically take a break to go refill your lungs, but what it all boils down to is a pathetically easy way to bypass the hardest section of the stage completely.

Okay, it's time. Should your hubris get the better of you and you choose to ignore the sad gargoyle hopelessly breathing into the wall, you'll soon face the only part of the stage I can truly say I hated. The gimmick is simple enough, there are these square chutes on the floor which have updrafts, and you need to jump on them to get altitude, then fly across a pit into the next one before you fall too much and undershoot the chute, but not too fast so you don't overshoot it and don't get enough altitude to reach the next one. To encourage you, all the chutes are surrounded by a thin layer of spikes. Now, this mechanic would be infuriating on its own, but add the fact that the prohibitively low ceiling doesn't allow for much in the way of error, and that water physics slow everything down (both your acceleration AND deceleration) and you'll soon find all your hair in neat little piles on the floor all around you.

Now, to be fair, the first part isn't too hard. You can basically just sail on through, even though there's a few extra chutes you don't really need and are mostly just there to trick you into stopping more than you should, since you can just charge through and get through the whole thing in one fell swoop. Then there's an intermission where you go through another long corridor with fire being shot at you, except this time fire is shot from both the far to the near end as well as from the near to the far end! Yeah! Don't worry, there's a star post -- it's right before this very corridor -- so each time you fail the second and last updraft sequence, you'll have to go through the fire corridor again! And there's also a death pit in there! I'm not even making this up!

That's about it. Both the updraft and the puzzle path bring you to the last room, where in a small alcove the level tempts you with a nuke (Armageddon) design on the floor. The only Armageddon I could find was in the room between the first and second path splits, so I guess that's the one you need to get all the way to the end of the level. I'd recommend taking the right hand path for the reasons I stated above, and go for the puzzle route without thinking twice about it. Though as far as I can tell, the reward is pitiful, but hey, it's a challenge posed in the stage so I consider it canon.

Well, that was a mouthful. Okay, so if you couldn't tell, I loved the stage enough to write god knows how many words about it, but that doesn't mean it's the most perfect thing in the world. So it's time for some summarized complaints.

A) I don't like how you can randomly push some of the gargoyles around. If they're part of a set piece they should stay part of a set piece, it's not like you can move walls or platforms around, so why the gargoyles? Obviously the ones on the puzzle route are exempt from this.

B) Halfway through the right hand path, in the large room full of Buzz which do nothing to mess you up, there's one loner right at the top of the last jump that serves no other purpose than to kill the unaware player the first time he gets there. It's dumb and makes it the air bubble patch there useless because you can't use it until you kill the Buzz, breathing the bubble in the process.

C) It's impossible to tell that there's a gaping pit right in front of you when you first get to the updraft room, especially since nothing like it occurs earlier in the stage. I would suggest having a safety net of sorts in this first part, or arranging it so that the player gets to see the chute and the pit before they can run off into the abyss.

D) Seriously that second updraft part is ridiculous.

E) Why do the flames hurt me when I have an Elemental Shield? I thought that was the whole point of the damn thing?

And that's pretty much all I have to say. Nice comeback.

Sonic's Schoolhouse by Boinciel - 3/10
There's really not much I can say here because I beta tested this stage rather extensively. But to sum things up, Boinciel ran out of time to finish the stage and some stuff got left on the cutting room floor. It's a delightful concept, but it's really only funny the first time around. It desperately needed more length to make an impact as a solo stage, but it's enough for a certain level pack...

Frozen Hillside Zone Act 2 by Blade - 5/10
People have been commenting that this is little more than a rehash of the first act, so I guess it's a good thing I don't really remember it. The deep snow gimmick is interesting but also a bit annoying, and although it works from a functional standpoint, it doesn't feel right because of the gravity fiddling. Apart from that there's really nothing wrong with the stage, but there isn't anything great about it either. It's just average.

Chemical Facility Zone Act 2 by CoatRack - 4/10
no no no you idiot the blue gel is the bouncy one and the orange gel makes you slip around
Apart from that, eh. It has a few genius moments, especially when the gels are introduced, but then instead of making awesome set pieces with these powerful building blocks, you forgo them in favor of stupid antigravity gimmicks and exploiting of water physics, all while you're constantly being assaulted by stupid fucking turrets and those other things that hump your legs. In one particular instance, there was a switch that temporarily opened a door over on the top of the room and you literally could not afford to waste a single tic to get up there or it would close on your face, or worse, crush those who were just barely late. And I'm sitting there wondering how many players are actually able to get through that. I mean, I can see novice players getting through Azure Temple, even if only by constantly abusing temporary invincibility, but this is a massive brick wall that shows a complete lack of awareness on the stage's designer. Shame on you.

Lightless Labyrinth Zone by ShadowHog - 8/10
Okay WOW. At first, I thought you were out of your mind and this was going to be the most painful thing to get through in the entire contest, but boy, was I wrong. There are a few rough edges here and there, as has been mentioned, the second crusher sequence being completely unfair, and having to lure fire ghosts from adjacent hallways was at times excruciating, but there's something to be said about a stage that took me a full 15 minutes to clear and left me incredibly satisfied and happy in the end. In particular, I have to tip my hat to you over the ghastly moving platform, not only did you cleverly overcome one of polyobjects' main limitations, you did it in style and in a fantastically innovative manner. One slight snag, since rings act as important landmarks (and in one occurrence, form arrows that are your only clue to the correct path), if you collect too many of them you may very well end up getting hopelessly lost. This is especially a big problem if you end up backtracking, or die during a netgame.

Originally Posted by Shadow Hog View Post
Definitely recommend those who haven't seen the boss for LLZ to do so... I can probably look up coordinates to warp to if you never intend to finish the stage proper. Seems like people generally like that one; I think I know where to focus my energies with whatever OLDC entry I do next.
Oh yeah, this was great. But it was only the cherry on the top of a very delicious cake.

Last edited by Fred; 07-05-2012 at 08:37 PM. Reason: dammit I knew I forgot something
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