PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews

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Offline pfrangip

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PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« on: June 12, 2020, 15:19:29 »
Hello! A while back, when the world first entered shutdown due to COVID-19, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. In my infinite boredom, and headaches from having two screaming toddlers, I decided to fight Headache with Headache and play every Lunatic Level in my cache of levels.

Because these are Challenge Levels, the criteria I'm assessing is based almost entirely on the skill-based challenges and puzzles, while artistic-driven criteria have taken a back seat and are summed up under the final bullet.
Difficulty - How difficult is this level to complete? How much player skill is necessary to complete all challenges? (In general, true Lunatic levels score 5 or higher.)
Fairness - How many random elements does this level utilize to become difficult? Are there adequate save points? How dependent are challenges on player skill, compared to luck? How many surprise hazards are there?
Fun-factor - Was the level enjoyable to play? Were the challenges satisfying? Did challenges feel unique and well-designed?
Quality - How did all of the other elements of the level come together? (E.G. Story, art, music, level design)

Reviewed Levels:
Batch 1:
  • Monochorome Jumping (A Clockwork Lemon): JUMP! [Hard/Lunatic][Small][Challenge]
  • Dark Sea 2 (SecretGlitch): Voyage below the bottom of the sea. [Lunatic][Large][Challenge]
  • The Coming of the Dark (Talps): Can you stop the coming dark...? [Very Hard][Large][Challenge/Maze]
  • Salvation (PeppyHare4000): To get to heaven, You must overcome trials [Lunatic][Large][Challenge]
  • Cosmic Meltdown (Fubaka): Save the Knytts from a Major Disaster! [Hard/Very Hard/Lunatic][Large][Challenge/Misc]
  • IWBTG (BladeOfDarkness) [Lunatic][Medium][Challenge]
  • Little Labyrinth (Comhon): A little challenge (v 2.0) [Lunatic][Small][Challenge]
  • Caged In (James Vaughn): Can you get out? [Lunatic][Small][Challenge]
  • THE WORLD FINAL VERSION (EMMORY V): More than one game in one. [Lunatic][Large][Challenge/Misc]
  • Invisable Coin[sic](MelvonDD): Two sided blank space, open mind trick. [Easy/Hard/Lunatic][Large][Challenge/Environmental]
Batch 2:
  • Tower of Babylon (Mateus Dalmedico Gessoni): Can Juni climb the tallest of towers? [Lunatic][Medium][Challenge]
  • Regina's Adventure (Purple Pineapple): She isn't very good at listening. [Very Hard/Lunatic][Large][Challenge]
  • The Healer (Pale Imitation): Juni's friend is seriously ill! [Hard/Very Hard][Large][Challenge]
  • Who Kidnaps The Knytts? (Dr. Korbin): Find out who kidnaps the Knytts. [Hard][Large][Challenge/Puzzle]
  • Deep Freeze (Ultigonio): An Underwater Rescue Mission [Very Hard][Large][Puzzle/Challenge]
  • Gehenna (Salmoneus): Tormented, Unhallowed, Dead [Very Hard/Lunatic][Large][Challenge]
  • As I closed my Eyes (Linus): A small story [Lunatic][Medium][Challenge/Environmental]
  • The Tower (Zetim) [Hard][Large][Maze/Puzzle]
  • Juni's Nightmare (David C. and Sergio Cornaga): That night, she has a horrible dream... [Normal/Very Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Silver Lining (version 1)(Yohji): An essay on optimism. [Easy][Small][Misc]
Batch 3:
  • Cyborg Juni (Sephie)[N/A]
  • Exquisite Knorpse (Pyoko Crew): A community created level. [Lunatic][Large][Challenge/Misc]
  • Paradise Last [sic] (Johnny): Find the code. Save the world. [Normal/Hard][Large][Challenge]
  • Upper Levels (Talps): Cut scenes from 'I Dreamed of the Sky' [Very Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • This Is Not Thirty Levels (Sergio Cornaga): There is nothing misleading about this title. [Hard/Very Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Don't Stop Running (Kyodo): Or else. [Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Pumpt it! Chill out (Sergio Cornaga & Ultigonio): Don't Stop Pumping! Or Maybe Don't Start... [Hard/Normal][Small][Challenge/Puzzle]
  • Monocromatica Grotta (B Man): Courage is not the absence of fear. [Very Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Probability Laser (BloxMaster) [Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Content Load Success (BloxMaster) [Very Hard][Small][Challenge]
Batch 4:
  • Dark Sea (SecretGlitch): ...where an oil plant is![Very Hard][Medium][Challenge]
  • The Oubliette (dessgeega): Listen: the gentle tick of the mechanism[Normal][Small][Challenge]
  • Torchlight (dessgeega): Where there is a light, nearby are shadows.[Normal][Small][Challenge/Misc]
  • Industrial Trap (SecretGlitch): Escape is not Easy.[Very Hard][Small][Challenge/Puzzle]
  • Going Left (SecretGlitch)[N/A]
  • Advanced (SecretGlitch): Be a real game boy.[Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • The Delicious Road (SecretGlitch): To Candy Town.[Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Safety III Normal Hack (SecretGlitch): Atmospheric environment design![Normal/Hard][Challenge]
  • Ascension (Farik)[Hard][Challenge]
  • One Screen Puzzle 4 (Purple Pineapple)[Very Hard][Small][Challenge/Puzzle]
Notable but Unreviewed Levels:
  • Strafe (Salmoneous)[Lunatic][Small][Challenge]
  • Azure Serenity Expansion (Shreeps): Wander a mysterious world. (Requires KS+)[Hard/Very Hard/Lunatic][Large][Challenge/Playground]
  • Safety (SecretGlitch): Juni needs to unlock a path.[Lunatic/Lunatic][Small][Challenge]
  • The Safety Sequal (SecretGlitch): The sequal to Safety.[Lunatic][Small][Challenge]
  • Safety III (SecretGlitch)[N/A]
  • One Screen Puzzle 1 (Purple Pineapple)[Hard][Small][Puzzle]
  • One Screen Puzzle 2 (Purple Pineapple)[Normal][Small][Puzzle]
  • One Screen Puzzle 3 (Purple Pineapple)[Normal/Hard][Small][Puzzle/Challenge]

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Spoiler: Batch 1 (click to show/hide)
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Spoiler: Batch 2 (click to show/hide)
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Link to Batch 3
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Link to Batch 4
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Spoiler: Notable Level Notes: (click to show/hide)
--------------------------------------

If you have any additional challenge levels you would like me to review (even if it's your own) let me know and I would be happy to do so.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2020, 21:44:06 by pfrangip »

Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2020, 06:10:06 »
I think this is a valuable undertaking, Pfrangip.

During DonDoli's blind playthrough of Ultigonio's Deep Freeze, Don and we viewers were very impressed by the sights and sounds of the design aesthetics and amazed by the complexity, uniqueness and endless variety of puzzles that fit together seamlessly. Some of us theorized that Deep Freeze might have done poorly in the most recent Epic Level Competition because the voters couldn't crack the tough challenges and get far enough to understand how impressive it is. It's also possible that challenge didn't play a very large role. I don't know.

I love giving level recommendations. However, I'm not very good at determining what constitutes lunatic. Especially since I tap out on most very hard levels.
Here's what I can think of:
  • Tower of Babylon - Mateus Dalmedico Gessoni
  • Regina's Adventure - Purple Pineapple
  • The Healer - Pale Imitation
  • Who Kidnaps The Knytts? - Dr. Korbin
  • Deep Freeze - Ultigonio
  • Gehenna - Salmoneous
  • As I Closed My Eyes - Linus
  • The Tower - Zetim
  • Juni's Nightmare - Sergio Cornaga & David C.
  • Silver Lining - Yohji
Not all of those levels are enjoyable and aspects of many are certainly unfair, but they all had something that fascinated me.
I'd also like to hear your appraisals of other levels by Secret Glitch, KG, Purple Pineapple and James Vaughan

Cheers and thanks from a proud member of the LOCP!
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 06:14:44 by helvetzia »

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Offline pfrangip

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Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2020, 15:27:04 »
Hello helvetzia!

To determine whether a level is Lunatic or not, I simply went with the author's Difficulty Selection. I just sorted by Lunatic (by clicking it on the Left hand Level Select screen) and played all of the levels I had. Some levels that the author decided were Lunatic, I did not feel were Lunatic. Others, like maybe some of the ones you mentioned, may be the opposite where the Lunatic-level difficulty is there, but the Author only assessed them Hard or Very Hard.

Regarding Utigonio: I, for one, am a HUGE fan of Ultigonio's Deep Freeze... and all of his levels, for that matter. The guy has a gift for creating unique, interesting challenges. I've played Deep Freeze a few times and I'm always very impressed by how he managed to turn KS into almost a new game entirely with the shift mechanics. I might go so far as to say that Deep Freeze contains my favorite challenges of any KS level. Having said that, Ultigonio rates Deep Freeze level as "Very Hard" and I would agree with that assessment. As for why he didn't win the Competition, I mean there's almost no story to speak of, the art is minimalist, and the level design is such that any narrative or artwork takes a back seat to the challenges. 

As for the level list, I will definitely take a look at them. Most I haven't played before. If any are rated Lunatic by their authors, I will absolutely review them and add them to the top post. If they are less than Lunatic, I may add a "Lunatic-in-Spirit" or "Honorable Mentions" section and add them there.

Quote
I'd also like to hear your appraisals of other levels by Secret Glitch, KG, Purple Pineapple and James Vaughan

To my knowledge I've got all of the levels by KG, and I don't think he calls any of them Lunatic. Having said that, KG's Define is such a monumental effort, I still have no idea how he accomplished it (even with all of the shift magic I put into Miss Pixel). It's basically a new game entirely that was built using the KS level editor.

Secret Glitch has a lot more levels than I thought; I will definitely check those out! And I will download all the levels I can find by Purple Pineapple and James Vaughan.

Thanks for the suggestions!
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 15:30:54 by pfrangip »

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Offline pfrangip

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Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2020, 23:48:15 »

I love giving level recommendations. However, I'm not very good at determining what constitutes lunatic. Especially since I tap out on most very hard levels.
Here's what I can think of:
  • Tower of Babylon - Mateus Dalmedico Gessoni
  • Regina's Adventure - Purple Pineapple
  • The Healer - Pale Imitation
  • Who Kidnaps The Knytts? - Dr. Korbin
  • Deep Freeze - Ultigonio
  • Gehenna - Salmoneous
  • As I Closed My Eyes - Linus
  • The Tower - Zetim
  • Juni's Nightmare - Sergio Cornaga & David C.
  • Silver Lining - Yohji

I've gone ahead and amended my original post with reviews for every level listed here. Thanks for the recommendations! I enjoyed every one of them in some way.

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Offline Talps

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Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2020, 16:31:52 »
Haldo!

I have enjoyed reading these reviews. I generally don't lean towards the ultra-hard levels but I might give some of these a try based on your recommendations.

Thanks for saying nice things about my first level! (How much do I owe you? XD)

In the spirit of taking part, I'll slip in a handful of recommendations (all links are direct download links from the KS archive):

'Cyborg Juni' by Sephie was one of the first mega-hard levels I played. As a newbie KS player I forced my way through it. At the time I thought it was lunatic, though I don't think it's listed as such. Nowadays I can get through it with less difficulty; I still like it, though that might just be the nostalgia talking.
'Exquisite Knorpse' by Pyoko Crew was another lunatic level I played when I first got into KS (ok, my tactic for level-hunting in the archive back then was just to download everything with a massive file-size). I'm not sure if I ever finished it, or if it even has an end. I did, ahem, pay homage to an idea from this in 'The Coming of the Dark'. I haven't played it myself for years, and take no responsibility if it turns out to be awful. Just as a warning, I think it does contain copyrighted music.
'Paradise Lost' by Johnny is one of my all-time favourite KS levels. I'm not sure what difficulty it lists as but I did edit my own copy a long time ago to tone down some of the really nasty challenges (in my defence, I also made it impossible to stand safely on top of the supposedly-deadly ice-spikes - but the above link is for the original, in case that wasn't clear). I'm pretty certain it does contain copyrighted music - but I believe the version I downloaded was a beta, and I don't want to download the final version and find I have to fix all those ice-spikes again if that was never corrected by the author!
And, what the hey, 'Upper Levels' is by some guy I forget; I think his name is something to do with the Andes, or maybe the Thimalayas... You probably won't find it that difficult. ;)
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 17:51:54 by Talps »

Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2020, 19:57:10 »
Pfrangip,
I can't tell you how gratified I am that you considered my recommendations and then played and thoroughly analyzed them. Not to mention astounded by your skill and creativity in completing them.

I think we're both largely on the same page with how difficult classifying level difficulties can be. It's easy to see how designers can get it "wrong" since they are immersed in a level's creation. But often players disagree due to having different skillsets or predilections or even due to variable luck during gameplay.

I have some notes regarding your reviews. Please understand that they aren't meant to dismiss or overly criticize your intelligent and careful appraisals. Only to offer a different perspective and additional information. If I didn't mention a level, assume I agree or understand your critique for as far as I was able to progress in the level.

Who Kidnaps The Knytts?
I disagree with your evaluation of it's fairness and/or difficulty level. I had to quit part way through (I'm guessing a bit more than halfway?) due to a precise platforming area, but even before that, locations of some keys and code pieces didn't seem reasonably possible without consulting the editor. And in addition, those same challenges involved extremely precise platforming if you could even conceive of their locations on your own.

When you say: (Reading my old review, I seemed to have found it much more difficult. I guess I've improved with age.) I would hope you evaluate difficulty in the place of an average or the majority of KS players as much as possible as opposed to your personal experience as an adept. Though, to be honest, I haven't had many opportunities to exercise such Platonic contemplation and restraint myself, so I'm not sure how difficult it actually is.

Juni's Nightmare
Just wanted to mention I ascribe to a 'one drop' definition of difficulty. If in a giant easy level, there is one lunatic challenge that cannot be bypassed in order to achieve a normal ending, it's a lunatic level in my eyes.

Silver Lining
I knew this might make me appear foolish when I recommended it. I know I just need to be more creative or more patient, but I've spent hours trying to figure out the correct sequence of shift progression and exploration required to get a good ending to no avail. I think difficulty encompasses more than just platforming and enemy dodging precision. I wish someone would stream this so I can figure it out.

The Tower
You might know this, but although there is no ending scene, there is a reachable win tile with a default "You Win" screen.

It's possible that this level was released unfinished. I believe it's also possible that every aspect of its design, or lack of design, is intentional.

This level has haunted me. It's satisfaction can be most understood not through it's gameplay nor by the supporting narrative or lived-in world, but by the experience you go through ascending into increasing bewilderment and ultimately madness. The experience feels similar to that elicited by internet golden-age horror copypastas or ARGs. As the creator of The Five Minute Hallway (neat level), I'm surprised you may not have noticed a similar possible inspiration.

It remains, in my mind, one of the hidden, unsung important levels of KS. I think everyone should play this once they know they enjoy the game, have developed decent skill at it and have a good knowledge of how to view the editor. I have no shame in using the editor or otherwise cheating past some parts. I don't think it diminished the experience for me.

It's possible that few or even no others will have a similar experience with The Tower. Especially now that I've spoiled the level's intentions and you won't go in without knowing anything.

Anyway, cheers and thanks again. I look forward to seeing your future reviews and other contributions to KS.

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Offline pfrangip

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Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2020, 18:06:43 »
Hello Talps! I have played and reviewed the suggested levels, and updated the original post with them. I also threw a few more in there to round it out to an even 10 for Batch 3.   

Spoiler: Paradise Lost (click to show/hide)
Spoiler: 100 Rooms and You (click to show/hide)

Hello again Helvetzia!
I have some notes regarding your reviews. Please understand that they aren't meant to dismiss or overly criticize your intelligent and careful appraisals. Only to offer a different perspective and additional information. If I didn't mention a level, assume I agree or understand your critique for as far as I was able to progress in the level.

Absolutely! However, I will respond, not as a defense against any percieved offense, but as honest, enjoyable discussion.
Spoiler: Reponse to Helvetzia (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 18:43:41 by pfrangip »

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Offline sergiocornaga

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Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2020, 13:31:19 »
It was a blast reading these reviews! I would like to formally apologise to both you and the wider community about that key. I hope you can forgive me.

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Offline Talps

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Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2020, 10:56:14 »
Ahhh, the age old experience of reading a post on my phone and forgetting to reply when at a keyboard... (I say 'age old'... How long have smartphones been a thing?)

Sorry Knorpse was not very enjoyable. I remember I had fun exploring it but it was a long time ago; I guess I'd probably find it less tolerable if I replayed it now. I was kinda impressed with the wallswim section at the time, but it sounds like you encountered it before finding the climb upgrade - a weakness (one of many it seems) in a poorly planned community level (poor planning did stand out to me when I played it myself).


I was gonna pretend outrage that you ranked Upper Levels lower than Monocromatica Grotta when I realised you'd reviewed the latter as well - since they're identical concepts of salvaging screens criticised by pesky, no-good beta testers - but then I realised you didn't! I disagree! :P I love Monocromatica Grotta; it feels really solid to me and inspired me a lot about using chasers and other enemies to destabilise the player over a sequence of screens (it's all B-Man's fault!).

But thanks for indulging me. :) And I can't beat it without dying anymore, either (I think I only did so about once, right before I released that excerpt). One of my IDotS testers took two hours to get through those last two levels alone (I won't embarrass LPChip by telling you which tester), so I felt it necessary to make that segment easier for the full game.


I agree with you a lot on 'Paradise Last'; probably the best plot I've found in a KS level, albeit a sad one. I felt so drawn in, so drawn along, by Ivy's quest to find her father (I think it was her dad). Exploring her world with all its strange people, places and mysteries was a constant string of delights. It has its jagged edges but it's a gorgeous world.


I have a few other incomplete or barely started levels I don't expect to continue working on. Maybe I should create an anthology thread and upload them. One in particular got two complete and complex (if vastly too difficult) areas before I lost my way with it.

100 Rooms and You was a concept I really liked, but I am rubbish at designing puzzles. It became far more challenge-based than I'd wanted, and those challenges were in turn way too hard. Maybe I should have handed the concept to Ultigonio and let him make the level. :P
« Last Edit: July 21, 2020, 11:11:15 by Talps »

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Offline pfrangip

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Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2020, 21:35:30 »
Batch 3:
  • Cyborg Juni (Sephie)[N/A]
  • Exquisite Knorpse (Pyoko Crew): A community created level. [Lunatic][Large][Challenge/Misc]
  • Paradise Last [sic] (Johnny): Find the code. Save the world. [Normal/Hard][Large][Challenge]
  • Upper Levels (Talps): Cut scenes from 'I Dreamed of the Sky' [Very Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • This Is Not Thirty Levels (Sergio Cornaga): There is nothing misleading about this title. [Hard/Very Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Don't Stop Running (Kyodo): Or else. [Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Pumpt it! Chill out (Sergio Cornaga & Ultigonio): Don't Stop Pumping! Or Maybe Don't Start... [Hard/Normal][Small][Challenge/Puzzle]
  • Monocromatica Grotta (B Man): Courage is not the absence of fear. [Very Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Probability Laser (BloxMaster) [Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Content Load Success (BloxMaster) [Very Hard][Small][Challenge]
Batch 4:
  • Dark Sea (SecretGlitch): ...where an oil plant is![Very Hard][Medium][Challenge]
  • The Oubliette (dessgeega): Listen: the gentle tick of the mechanism[Normal][Small][Challenge]
  • Torchlight (dessgeega): Where there is a light, nearby are shadows.[Normal][Small][Challenge/Misc]
  • Industrial Trap (SecretGlitch): Escape is not Easy.[Very Hard][Small][Challenge/Puzzle]
  • Going Left (SecretGlitch)[N/A]
  • Advanced (SecretGlitch): Be a real game boy.[Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • The Delicious Road (SecretGlitch): To Candy Town.[Hard][Small][Challenge]
  • Safety III Normal Hack (SecretGlitch): Atmospheric environment design![Normal/Hard][Challenge]
  • Ascension (Farik)[Hard][Challenge]
  • One Screen Puzzle 4 (Purple Pineapple)[Very Hard][Small][Challenge/Puzzle]
--------------------------------------
Spoiler: Batch 3 (click to show/hide)
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Spoiler: Batch 4 (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: July 22, 2020, 21:39:20 by pfrangip »

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Offline pfrangip

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Re: PFrangip's Lunatic Level Reviews
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2020, 21:55:05 »
Quote
I was gonna pretend outrage that you ranked Upper Levels lower than Monocromatica Grotta when I realised you'd reviewed the latter as well - since they're identical concepts of salvaging screens criticised by pesky, no-good beta testers - but then I realised you didn't! I disagree! :P I love Monocromatica Grotta; it feels really solid to me and inspired me a lot about using chasers and other enemies to destabilise the player over a sequence of screens (it's all B-Man's fault!).

Until you posted this, I didn't realize/remember Monocromatica Grotta was cut from the Great Race! I'm sure it was groundbreaking when it was released, and maybe it does have some of the best well-placed chasers, but it also doesn't have custom tilesets, music, or objects, and really only one type of challenge.

Quote
I felt so drawn in, so drawn along, by Ivy's quest to find her father (I think it was her dad).

I highly suggest replaying it; she wasn't looking for family in the story, but trying to save her floating island/home.

Quote
I have a few other incomplete or barely started levels I don't expect to continue working on. Maybe I should create an anthology thread and upload them. One in particular got two complete and complex (if vastly too difficult) areas before I lost my way with it.

You could... or slap them all into one patchwork level and release that!

Quote from: Sergio Cornaga
It was a blast reading these reviews! I would like to formally apologise to both you and the wider community about that key. I hope you can forgive me.

I think you've given back enough to the community at large that it juuuuuuust about evens out.  :^^: