Finished the game a few weeks ago, finally getting around to writing some final thoughts and uploading the rest of my playthrough videos
. (Haven't seen the secret level yet though, need to try to find that sometime.)
My favorite level was Frigid Quarry. The whole experience (music, environment, graphics) was stunning, and I was fully immersed in it. Everything felt like it belonged.
This level is the first introduction to several creatures (not the least of which being the Ormch), as well as the first use of the stone environment, and it pulls it off really well. There was an air of mystery throughout the entire level, occasionally elevated by seeing another new thing for the first time.
The music really sold the atmosphere. Those pitch bends with the tempo change are smooth, really took me by surprise first time I heard them. I was not expecting to hear something so complex in IMF music. Who did this song?
The environment as well is amazing, the amount of detail is staggering. So many types of stone. But what really got my attention was the type that's full of dents and crevices, and I noticed on that the edge of the stone near a pool of water, the crevices were actually filled with water from the close proximity. That blew my mind.
The experience was magical, truly Keenish. My only disappointment is that I won't be able to experience it for the first time again.
One of the highlights of the mod is the creatures. Even with the limited amount of patching, they are unique and add a lot to the game. Some of the creatures have even been made less annoying than the originals.
For example, the Mad Mushroom replacement has only two jumps that repeat, a very short one that you can easily pogo over, and a high one that you can walk under. Additionally they are a bit smaller in size, and this makes them much less aggravating to deal with.
Another good one is the Dopefish replacement. This was really interesting, that one of the most dangerous creatures in Keen 4 was patched into something that avoids you. I was really intrigued by this, and I was hoping to see some more in-depth usage of them. I was a bit disappointed that they were only in the one level.
I think the only really problematic creature was the blue jumping worm guy (which for some reason I keep thinking is some kind of monk). It lunges in from offscreen so quickly that half the time I can't move quickly enough to escape and it just jumps right on me. Seems a little bit RNG. Other than the times it suddenly appears out of nowhere though, it's an interesting creature to deal with.
Also noteworthy is how consistently certain creatures are in certain environments. I found myself becoming very cautious of areas open to the sky, always looking upwards before continuing in case any Enkri are around.
As many things as I love about this mod, especially in regards to the artwork, it has become clear that there are some issues with important level aspects being too hard to see or distinguish. A relevant concept in graphic design is that the more details there are in something, the harder it is to make any one detail stand out. I wanted to offer some constructive criticism on this, because I want to see this mod maximize it's potential.
It's already been said a few times, but the tree branches that you're supposed to be able to stand on are not obvious at all. They have no clear outline, and the shading is noisy and looks identical to the trees in the background so they just blend in together. It's camouflage.
In the Evergreen Gate I was nearly unable to finish the level because I was not able to see the branches. It was totally by accident that I landed on one as I was derping around in a last-ditch attempt to find some way to progress, then after staring hard at the screen to figure out why I was floating I was finally able to see it.
Another thing that I don't think has been mentioned yet: the geysers. I ran smack into those things so many darn times because I had no idea they were there.
There are a few reasons for this.
First, the hole in the ground they come out of is very hard to notice. A small black circle with some pixels of yellow. This doesn't show up well on either grounds that use a lot of black (such as the dented stone) or brown. For comparison, the wooden spike danger tiles are much easier to notice because they have a thick bright yellow ring around them, as well as sticking up a bit even while retracted. If the geyser spout is changed to have a more noticeable opening I think it would help a lot. The small deposit of lava or whatever around it could be made thicker, and perhaps the opening could stick out (think mini volcano).
Second, it doesn't always have a clear outline, it just sort of fades in like something in the background might do. If all the frames are given a full outline around the dominant puff shapes it'll be a lot more eye-catching.
One other thing, the wall shooters are dominantly brown like a lot of the environment and I often don't see them until they shoot.
Finally, some loose thoughts and comments:
I really like how the slopes are used to add variation to the ground, by not following the same pattern as the flat areas. Clever use of tile space.
The levels seem to be mostly consistent in the time it takes to complete them.
Some of the secret areas are a bit difficult to escape from.
The 1.3 release still says "Initial release 1.0" on the startup screen.
Bubbatom wrote: ↑Sat Jan 18, 2020 1:47
Believe it or not the graphics were all done in MSPaint. Very time consuming and limited in many ways but it's what I've been using for keen graphics for years!
You used MSPaint for all this? For some reason I thought you were using GIMP. That makes it even more impressive.
Great mod, had a lot of fun playing it.
Well I had hoped to finish my review before the Keen Day releases start but it looks like that didn't happen.