Through The Whatever is a great example of what an engaging beginner level should look like. It provides a direct route for speed runners, it provides lots of jems for high score seekers, and it provide plenty of checkpoints for casual players. It’s short, but engaging with interesting puzzles. For me it took 75 seconds the first time exploring, and 33 second speedrunning it.
I really liked the surprises and exploration aspect. Players are encouraged to jump off a cliff into the unknown. There is a mega jem just barely poking out. There is a hidden cache of explosives. All of these things encourages players to explore, gives the non-speedrunner somthing to do, and they all make the player feel smart.
Other brilliant touches is the use of multiple paths in the first puzzle, forcing players to cover the same physical space in multiple ways. I love that there is multiple ways to deal with the flipwip enemies, providing a way to explode them, fight them directly, or completely avoid them.
Another smart piece is the gating mechanism. Retro Banana man uses a package cam to lock the player into the last section of the map. This is great for subtly guiding new players.
Overall, a fun level that meets the needs of multiple audiences. A concise example of good level design. Popdonk Recommends!