Princess Draykon

Created to yearn for freedom
I don't normally vote on the OLDC, so forgive me if I'm a bit rambly or have trouble expressing my thoughts. I completed each stage as Sonic & Tails, which means I'm sure I missed some good character-specific routes.

1. Foliage Furnace Zone by Kanna/Kwiin
I'm a sucker for a good rollercoaster level, and this one is definitely fun to zip zoom through. I do feel that as memorible as the giant rotating polyobject platforms are, they don't mesh super well with the rest of the level's frantic slope jumps over lava pits. The custom textures are very pretty up close, but blur together into a noisy mess in the distance- in general it's not a good idea to use dithering on SRB2 textures, and I think they're a bit too high contrast beside that. Overal though, a solid experience.

2. Shadow of Aztlán Zone by akirahedgehog
A super fun and unique aesthetic, and while I haven't been able to follow the actual narrative here, the map has a very interesting mysterious feeling. Custom enemies add a lot to that- though I'm a little dissapointed that they don't have much in the way of custom behavior. (I thought I saw a cultist shoot a fireball at me, but only once? Is everything coded correctly?) Wasn't a fan of the flashing-church section. Flashing sectors are uncomfortable enough to begin with, and I had to spend more time in there than I'd like to confirm it was a "defeat all enemies" trigger. I enjoy hunting for the secrets, though I do wish they gave me more insight into the narrative here- as-is they just kind of feel like cute easter eggs? Unless I'm missing something big. Overally, a very strong aesthetic mixed with good gameplay.

3. Overgrown Heights Zone act 2 by InferNOr
I am in love with the mysterious visuals of this level. The colormap gives a spin on some familiar decorations to give everything a serene feeling. The use of Rollout Rocks leaves a bit to be desired- the sloped water section near the beginning is kinda jank, but the long section towards the middle is far worse. It isn't really telegraphed that well that the rocks are needed to proceed, and Sonic can easily get softlocked in the water pits below if he proceeds without one. That happened to me twice, which soured my experience on what was otherwise very solid level design.

4. Gate Garden Zone by Ruberjig
Gosh so many striking visual styles this OLDC. This one feels like a PS2 game I never played. The custom knight dudes area little boring mechanically, but play with the use of Facestabbers to sell a fun enemy theme. The use of puzzles is a gameplay style not often seen in SRB2, and while the use here is interesting, I did get stuck my first time through on a room where Sonic has to spindash into a rock. Said rock's bustability could probably be telegraphed better. Probably the level I most want to explore with other characters. I never did figure out what those crystals do...

5. Emerald Aether Zone by Krabs
More fun rollercoasters! This is the kind of crazy slopespam level design I love to see. Very different from vanilla level design, but fun in its own way. There's not much complex going on with the level- it's mostly a showcase for the modified physics. So fun as it is, it very much feels like a "first level" that mainly exists to get you used to the controls. The big slope jump at the end is a bit out of place- it's the only real dangerous hazard in the level, and requires the player to look ahead and make a plan to get past. That's pretty at odds with the rest of the level's rollercoaster design, and I ended up shooting myself off into oblivion a couple times before I figured it out. It should probably either be more forgiving, telegraphed better, or else put into a completely different style of level.

6. Galactic Facility Zone by Mondongo
Low gravity slope-jumps are super fun, and building a level around them works pretty well. The level makes solid use of them throughout, and there are a couple memorible moments I really liked. I do feel that the space sectors are a bit too unforgiving- the countdown timer kinda ruins what should be a fun platforming sequence by being just a little too tight. (Though I'm aware there aren't easy ways to tweak it >.>) I do feel it could use a bit more visual variety- the wooden planks don't feel exactly right for a space level either.

7. Pagoda Park by Rogerregorroger
Your levels are always a unique treat, with a completely unique visual style, and a knack for narrative level design. The waterslide bit at the end is exactly the kind of flashy narrative setpiece I wish we saw more of in SRB2. It's exciting, memorible, and fun! That being said, the rest of the level design suffers a lot from being just a teensy bit too cramped. Once second I'm soaring back and forth over rooftops, the next I'm slamming into a wall. Then another wall. Then another. I feel like the whole level would play better if everything was just a teensy bit bigger. Don't neglect 'flow' as an important part of Sonic gameplay.

8. Alabaster Fountain Zone by BronsoKip
Ordinarily I'd find cubic level geometry kind of boring, but the 'fountain' theme sells it pretty well. The level breaks down into room after room of solid platforming, which is certainly fun. It definitely needs a decoration pass though- three of four new textures, some unique visuals to set the rooms apart. I haven't had a chance to explore as thoroughly as I'd like, but it seems like there's excellent use of alternate routes too. Overall feels like a greybox of an excellent level.

9. Hakuryu Dojo by Zaxel
I'm always a fan of little narratives in map design, so I got a kick out of this one. Now that I've done all the trials, can I do a hadouken? A lot of the level does depend on its custom enemies, which are fairly boring in terms of mechanical design. One strategy that might help for custom enemy deisgn is to think in terms of what "actions" the enemy demands of the player to avoid damage. By demanding different actions of the player in sequence, you can build interesting challenges around enemies. These ones are modeled after crawlas though, and crawlas exist more to be a basic tutorial of enemy combat than a real threat. Making me fight a bunch of them in an arena is particularly silly with that in mind. The hardest part of that fight is actually hitting them with their tiny hitboxes! The boss leaves a fair bit to be desired as well. 14 health is entirely too much for a boss that barely changes up its tactics- especially with how much it avoids taking hits! I thought at first that the energy ball attack's knockback was a glitch, but looking at the SOC it looks like it's intentional? It tends to function as an instakill when it knocks you out of the arena, which becomes extra frustrating when it resets that oversized lifebar. Remember the only instakill attack in the base game is Brak's sniper shot, and that has a giant dramatic windup animation to prepare you for it. Overall there are lots of good ideas here, but there's a need for a lot of polish.

10. Fatal Factory Zone by Kuba11
Rows and rows of platforming challenges in square rooms is a bit boring as far as overall map structure goes, but the challenges themselves are fun! And the connecting theme of "running down an assembly line" helps tie them together fairly well. If there were just a few completely different rooms to spice things up, or a few big branches it would probably feel a lot better.

11. Knothole Coast by Apollyon
This suffers from the same problem as Foliage Furnace, where textures that look fine in isolation blend together into a painful mess in the distance. The platforming is fairly good, but nothing particularly memorible stood out to me. I did get stuck in the sinewave-sloped room. It's generally bad form to hide the only way to progress in a corner. >.>

12. Dark Marsh by Vixuzen
The visuals here are very striking, and the theme quite memorible, but the same problem as Pagoda Park rears its head here. Everything is just a little too small. Sonic doesn't have enough midair control to pull off so many narrow jumps in sequence, and the frequent death pits turn that from annoying to frustrating. There's a reason I play the OLDC with an infinite lives cheat. It's a shame, because I otherwise really like the look of this map.

13. Square City Zone by Riolucariolu
This level feels like an earnest attempt at a rollercoaster level, which I applaud. However the "Square" of the city hurts it a fair bit. If you want the player to have fun just running through, it helps to make aggressive use of slopes and slight angles. Struggling to stay on the track is part of the fun. If not that, then the level would benefit from adding more hazards to throw off your movement- things to run around or jump over. The lack of enemies is pretty conspicuous- even tossing a few crawlas here and there would give you some fun landmines to dodge while running through the longer areas.

14. Azlant Ruin Zone by Gambit
Water levels are kind of an annoying paradox in SRB2. The aesthetic lends themselves to a calm, peaceful feel, but the timer pushes it in the exact opposite direction. The jumping sequence puzzles in the first area would be super fun to slowly puzzle out if I wasn't terrified of running out of oxygen. The map takes a pretty unfortunate drop in quality after the first checkpoint- the rollercoaster section feels like it's trying to be something completely different. It would've been better to focus on one or the other gameplay style, to try and make a more coherent experience. The boss fight is honestly kind of unnecessary- the arena doesn't add anything to the fight besides being a bit too small, so it just sort of feels like padding.

15. Aquatic Port by WasifBoomz
This level feels like a squence of experiments. The different goop and gloop gameplay concepts are sometimes interesting, sometimes boring, sometimes frustrating. It would be best to pick out which concepts players seemed to respond the best to, and build around them. The way the rooms are put together early on is kind of frustrating too- it's very easy to get turned around and just end up running in circles. Lastly, the level's visuals have a lot of room to grow- there are lots of approaches you can use to find a strong aesthetic, but in general just try to avoid sequences of boxes.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this OLDC! Even the weakest maps had a lot of interesting ideas, and gave me lots to think about. Thanks to everyone who entered!

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