[590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M

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Offline pacifishi

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[590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« on: October 17, 2023, 00:18:11 »
Tja! With this installment, I've officially crossed the halfway point in my quest to play and rate every KS level. Here are my personal letter grade reviews for levels submitted by authors I-M corresponding to pages 12-18 on knyttlevels.com.

Disclaimer: I don't consider myself an authority on what makes a "good" level. It's a lot easier for me to fill in a single letter on a spreadsheet than spend hours making these levels so if a particular grade seems unfair I am more than happy to give more in-depth thoughts on any particular level.       


What each grade corresponds to:    

OUTDATED   Obsolete versions of levels (see newer version for review)     
N/A  Tileset showcases, demos, etc. that can't be judged for gameplay     
---   ---     
F   Broken / flawed to the point of unplayable     
D   Severe issues (see criteria below) that makes completing the level unenjoyable / will not replay     
C   Average levels / no strong feelings one way or the other / good aspects counteracted by flaws     
B   Great levels that are replayable, or great level concepts       
A   Must-play levels     


Things that may negatively impact grade (-):           
           
Broken levels           
Random tile or enemy spam           
Excessive "hallway screens" that pad-out level with no challenge or noteworthy visuals           
Unnessesarily long walking period before recieving run powerup (unrelated to challenge)           
Arbitrary hidden spikes / invisible death tiles           
Wall clipping on screen transitions / void pits           
Poor distinction between foreground / background tiles           
Poor save point placement (e.g. save point > multple hallway screens > challenge)           
Surprise death by environment/enemy immediately on screen transition           


While playing each level, I've considered its gameplay (challenge, platforming, puzzle) , art (quality of assets/tileset), worldbuilding (unique lore, worlds that feel "alive"), atmosphere (mood), music, and storytelling. My ratings are gameplay-forward, meaning, for example, that a "fun to play" level with average graphics typically will be rated higher than a tedious level with great graphics.


I'm biased in favor of (+):
difficulty:   hard / very hard
genre:   puzzles
art style:   simple and stylized (e.g. Hostile Landscape) can score just as well as 'realistic / heavily detailed' art
mechanic:   use of minimap
   
I'm biased against (-):
genre: mazes   
genre: massive exploration levels   


Without further to do...

SPREADSHEET: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1iqTcMh2Vx9ujmfPZI4gUQPXoWWMrimuNX9iAyO3GijE


If you are unable to sort/edit due to the permission settings, feel free to make a copy of the sheet.

Stats (Imgur): https://imgur.com/a/NI8n9fZ

Sorted by grade (Imgur): https://imgur.com/a/MzG7MLe

Sorted by author (Imgur): https://imgur.com/a/6vZL4uu

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Offline pacifishi

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2023, 00:23:44 »
As always, these ratings aren't meant to discourage anyone or be harsh. Making a level always beats not making a level  <3

My favorite levels of part III: Saving Thalanill - ixMarcel and Iasthai - Lucinda!

Special shout out to the incredible art by Lingon (Lost-Beta) (Insomnia)! Both of these levels can be found in the 'N/A' section as they were unfinished.


Looking ahead:

Part IV [Authors N-S] will contain a whopping 702 levels (gulp), followed by Part V [Authors T-Z] with "only" 450 levels. I've already rated a decent chunk of these over the years but it may be a while until I finish them up. There's some incredible level creators ahead and I'm looking forward to it!


Part VI will be for all the levels that aren't on the archive. As of now, I'm planning on looking at egomassive's, mitorun's, across the juniverse, under the umbrella, as well as the Nifforum. Feel free to DM me levels or point me in the right direction!


Finally, Part VII will wrap things up with a spreadsheet of all (likely) 3000+ levels, a stat pack, in-depth reviews of my favorite levels, and more. I'll also go back and review all the levels that had been released after I made each part.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2023, 01:03:11 by pacifishi »

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Offline Lucinda

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2023, 03:37:15 »
Seems like you enjoy levels by ixMarcel and me. As you know, Marcel and I happen to have a podcast. You should be on the podcast.

Really, though, it's shockingly flattering to receive such good marks from you when you're also praising wizards like egomassive.

Gonna be interesting to see you grade Nifflas levels, oh and there is a serious amount of wizardry on the back half of the alphabet (TigerNDV, Talps, Vegetal Gibber, plural, [our new superstar] Polana)

Also I suggest you play Lit Knob's delicious vignette The Gate of FiveCoin!

You are a truly amazing person.

PS My resource list got renamed to "Juni Speed Dial" and I'm planning on massively redoing the level recommendations on there
« Last Edit: October 17, 2023, 04:33:31 by Lucinda »
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Offline Lucinda

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2023, 03:46:05 »
Off the top of my head, cool/amazing/incredible/intriguing levels not in the archive are:
Purple Ink - Reditus
Vegetal Gibber - Forgotten Realms
Fubaka - Cosmic Meltdown
DrKorbin - Who Kidnaps the Knytts
Sinix and egomassive - Island of Mimir
egomassive - Through the Swamp
Shreeps - some Azure Serenity levels (there are three of them not on the archive I think?)
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Offline kilicool64

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2023, 18:29:17 »
Shreeps - some Azure Serenity levels (there are three of them not on the archive I think?)
I'm sure one of them is the 2014 version and another the latest release of the ongoing remake. But what about the third? If it's Vanilla Lite, that one is small enough to be there. Perhaps you meant the open world version of the 2014 Azure Serenity? That's simply the same level with all powerups except the hologram already obtained. Or were you referring to an earlier version of the level? I hear Shreeps originally released an incomplete version in 2008 that they abandoned for several years until KS+ inspired them to finish it. It seems people were considering deleting it from the archive due to its use of copyright-infringing music. So perhaps that's why it's no longer there. Would be interesting to see what it was like.

Though it sounds like Azure Serenity is precisely the kind of level pacifishi wouldn't like.

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Offline Lucinda

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2023, 19:00:29 »
I was referring to original Azure Serenity, then Salty Seas, then Tranquil Dreams. Vanilla Lite is on archive already, the others are not. Did I get mixed up somewhere?
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Offline kilicool64

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2023, 19:30:41 »
I was referring to original Azure Serenity, then Salty Seas, then Tranquil Dreams. Vanilla Lite is on archive already, the others are not. Did I get mixed up somewhere?
To my understanding, Tranquil Dreams is the name of Azure Serenity's remake. The Salty Seas is the name of said expansion's first chapter, which was completed in an update at the end of last year. So the two refer to the same level.

As for why these two are missing, I believe they exceed the file size limit.

According to https://nifflas.lp1.nl/index.php?topic=54.msg258#msg258, it sounds like an early build of the original Azure Serenity was included in the archive in the past, but there were concerns over its illegal use of copyrighted music. That's probably why it's no longer there.

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Offline pacifishi

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2023, 19:45:08 »
Really, though [...]

Your levels speak for themselves. There's a poetic quality to the writing in your levels (e.g. the themes of coping and self-denial from the people in Duvall) that I think is really rare. The feeling reminds me of playing levels like plural's 'A Climbing Alike' or Talps' 'I Chased the Moon'.

there is a serious amount of wizardry on the back half of the alphabet


Theres soo many good levels coming up. Like every time I play a TigerNDV level I think "Wait... you can do that in KS?".

Off the top of my head, cool/amazing/incredible/intriguing levels not in the archive are:


Thanks! I gasped when I first saw the map for Shreeps' Azure Serenity expansion.

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Offline pacifishi

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2023, 19:49:15 »
To my understanding, Tranquil Dreams is the name of Azure Serenity's remake. The Salty Seas is the name of said expansion's first chapter, which was completed in an update at the end of last year. So the two refer to the same level.

I only have the Vanilla-Lite and Tranquil Dreams versions downloaded. Would adding the original version or Salty Seas chapter be redundant?

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Offline kilicool64

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2023, 20:09:15 »
To my understanding, Tranquil Dreams is the name of Azure Serenity's remake. The Salty Seas is the name of said expansion's first chapter, which was completed in an update at the end of last year. So the two refer to the same level.

I only have the Vanilla-Lite and Tranquil Dreams versions downloaded. Would adding the original version or Salty Seas chapter be redundant?
IIUC, if you have the latest version of Azure Serenity: Tranquil Dreams, you also have The Salty Seas, as that's simply its first chapter.

The original is a fairly different beast, I believe. I haven't played Tranquil Dreams yet, so I can't say precisely what the differences are. But the original is a complete level. Whereas Tranquil Dreams is a remake that aims to give significantly more polish to the original's content while also greatly expanding upon it. But it's still far from completion.

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Offline bulbapuck

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2023, 22:16:10 »
Great job getting through so many! Awesome source for finding levels  :)
Emma fell down a well - Enviromental KS level inspired by Salmoneous/Elder
Level in the works: Whitebow Island

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Offline Lucinda

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2023, 05:25:06 »
I'm so glad you like my levels! I have a creative writing background, maybe that's why it comes off as poetic? In return for me putting Part 3 of your ratings on Juni Speed Dial, I would appreciate more in depth thoughts about Shalev and Vleindergurk. ;)
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Offline pacifishi

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2023, 19:04:08 »
General spoilers below:

Shalev (B)

A spontaneous night walk around the archeology site turns into an unfolding mystery with twists and turns. I thought the music choices were spot on, transitioning from the peaceful beginning to more eerie and primal tones that suggest there's more to this place than meets the eye. The lore was the highpoint for me. I was excited to go from bookcase to bookcase, learning more about what happened. Will I have to fight the conquerors of these ancient knytts? And what's this about a snowflake? Without spoiling too much, I'll say that the ending area is great. From a level design standpoint, I really like how the player is introduced to multiple inaccessible routes along the way to the first powerup. (i.e. "I need a high jump to get up there, I need to climb over that later, this tunnel needs a key).

I was not a fan of the maze part, especially once I realized I had to backtrack to find a key and return yet again to open the red door. On my first playthrough, I either missed the bridge to the red key or didn't remember where the purple door was, so I remember retracing the whole level not knowing what to do. In the fortress/library section, I don't think it's intuitive that the pink square is interactable (showing you the code) - a stone tablet or sign indicator would have helped.



Vleindergurk (B+)

The culty/religious attitude of the townspeople is just hilarious and feels so alive (carols and prayers included!). Everyone's telling me not to go to Vleindergurk, so of course I'm going to go. Yet, reaching the museum, I start to wonder if maybe they aren't crazy after all? The challenges are nothing fancy, but the story and atmosphere steal the show. I loved the twist and multiple endings. The townsfolk weren't thrilled with my return, but at least I found friends with Gävlebocken-esque pyromaniacs. The lighthearted humor belies the more (disturbing) themes under the surface. So good!

 
« Last Edit: October 18, 2023, 19:07:26 by pacifishi »

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Offline Lucinda

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2023, 20:37:39 »
Thank you so much for the feedback <3 Your points about Shalev stand, I mean it was my first level so obviously I made some design mistakes. And I had no idea how to make or implement custom content, so the stone tablet concept was so far out of my reach. Anyway, Shalev II is coming, after I finish my current project!
« Last Edit: October 18, 2023, 20:39:32 by Lucinda »
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Offline Lucinda

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Re: [590+ level reviews] - Grading levels by Authors I-M
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2023, 18:35:12 »
Btw Fishi - remember how you said that one song in Iasthai sounded like Born Slippy? Well, I talked to one of the guys that made the song yesterday and his mind was blown because he said that Born Slippy is one of the band's most profound influences. Despite their songs sounding nothing like it.
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