“Little Jogger” by Spikeynator

4h0h20z | “Little Jogger” by Spikeynator @kknrmp | Kaizo, Precise, Teaching

I absolutely love this level. It does a great job of teaching some of the basic mechanics. I really enjoyed the challenges and the increasing difficulty, that was great. I’m not sure if I had done the ocula throw and bounce before.

There were signs and clear indicators everywhere, but still a little bit of space for that lightbulb moment as a player. Each section feels different and the use of backdrop and variety makes the levels aesthetically pleasing

I have a few recommended changes. First, I think for any level like this, there should be a checkpoint after every challenge, even the simple ones. Second, I would consider swapping out the kaizo with beginner friendly. This is a great beginner friendly kaizo level! and I know for me that I generally avoid kaizo levels because they are too hard, but thankfully the diamond indicator exists. Finally, it could be longer! I was surprised it was only 3 challenges, you could easy have 5 and it wouldn’t be too long if you had a checkpoint for each one and a forgiving difficulty curve.

This level unabashedly earns the Popdonk Recommends badge!

“Light Bridge!!!” by Noob Jr

f506z20 | “Light Bridge!!!” by Noob Jr @2sjrkc | Casual, Clever, Paths

Edit: The author has made some changed based on feedback

I found this to be a nice simple level. The overall design makes good use of backdrop and decorations to create multiple different areas. There are regular checkpoints, and given the lack of ways to die, the level is pretty forgiving. I think it’s great looking overall.

I think there are a couple of changes that could make this level really enjoyable. First, I would make the decorative flashes a lot slower, probably 4 times slower. I was having a lot of difficulty orienting myself at the start of the level, but this wasn’t an issue once I got going. I’d also see if there are any good ways to have an escalating sense of difficulty throughout the level. By expierment with gap distance and possibly some hazards, you could have each section get more difficult than the last, building the player engagement.

Finally, I would continue the theme of a score route and a speed route, which I really enjoy. The use of hidden areas and by making some jems more difficult to reach could really enhance that. You could also have a few level skips that are really difficult to use, such as a spring jump with spikes to avoid, that could give a super short route for really skilled players.

Overall a really great second level!

“Kronkrete Canopy” by AglowMarmot9883

w32jp5t | “Kronkrete Canopy” by AglowMarmot9883 @4d7dk3 | Panic Moments, Tiptow, Well-Paced

I like that this level had distinct sections and wasn’t just a bunch of boxes. It made use of hidden jems and definitely encouraged a sense of exploring. I would have loved to see some hidden, but visible mega-jems that would encourage exploring even more. I appreciated the use of checkpoints, although checkpoints closer to the spike challenges near the end might have been nice, since I probably died a dozen times on the last two.

I thought the big saw portion was really funny and I think some sound effects for a music change when it started moving could have been really thematic.

I kept getting stuck here

I thought the way you found the power up was clever and made me feel smart when I found it. I had to look around quite a bit for the first key, I don’t know if there would be a good way to make it easier to find without ruining the exploration aspect. Maybe something subtle with signs or arrows pointing the player in the right direction.

Gotta make that jump

Overall I enjoyed the level!

“Flame! Speed Run 2” by liquidwater

c9cp0vq | “Flame! Speed Run 2” by liquidwater @jb9q5d | Clever, Intense, Troll

I enjoyed the theme of the level, with the mushroom biome and the fire below, it felt very ominous. I would love to see some more variety with the backdrops and tiles outside of the playable area. I think it would only take a little bit of work to make this level feel like a lived area.

I definitely enjoyed the challenge of the level. I would consider making some changes for some more optional difficulty. For example, you could move some of the jems to above the spikes you normally run right under, so that the player has to take a different path if they want all the jems. I’d also consider having some jems guarded by non-spikes for variety and optional difficulty. For example, a spike chainer protecting a big jem could add an interesting timing challenge.

Normally I recommend that most levels have a checkpoint, but this one if short enough that it works without it. Still, I could see a situation where you have a checkpoint in the middle and casual players can play it and speedrunners can ignore it. I also like the fact that the jems mean that the fastest time isn’t guaranteed to have the best score, this makes the level more engaging for different styles of players.

Regarding the troll part of the level, the level is short enough for it to be funny instead of frustrating. Still, I would consider adding something on-screen with the level so show it’s at least working, something that turns on or off when it’s switched. I’d also consider putting a sign by it or and arrow pointing at it. When I first tried it, I assumed it was left in by accident.

Overall, a fun level. Some small edits and it could have more reply value and engage different types of players. Finally, I’d love to see some changes with the backdrop and the types of tiles used so there is less repetition in the overall look. Great work!

“Uh, Ninja Help” by mattrob77

949xw5r | “Uh, Ninja Help” by mattrob77 @p47sma | Beginner-Friendly, Raceway, Simple

EDIT: the author has updated the level to take the feedback into account!

This is a nice simple beginner level. I like the escalating difficulty and the challenging but manageable jumps involved. I think a few small changes could really make this level stand out.

First, I would move the checkpoint to somewhere earlier in the level and maybe add a second one if this level is for beginners. Right now the current placement is after all of the difficult parts, and it would be much more useful after the first challenge.

Second, I really like that there is a direct route that speed runners can take. I might make this a little bit more difficult. I would also add tons of gems for players who go the long route. In an ideal world, a player who rapidly takes the long route should get a better score than the player who beats this level in 2 seconds using the short route. This adds replay value to the level.

Finally, I would consider having an extra challenge bonus with the pinball bumper and the moving fire. You could have a platform just barely visible to the right, that you can only get to by jumping on the bumper. This would require some testing to make sure you can do it, because it’s very hard to land on the bumper right now. Some big jems and maybe the ripcord powerup could make this feel very satisfying for the players who like to explore.

Overall a great beginner level, I enjoyed it.

“To Vanish Quietly” by Notutorial

klmpmnf | “To Vanish Quietly” by Notutorial @zw705q | Chase, Intense, Precarious

I like the general theme of the level, where you have to use Ripcord to get from platform to platform. I found it to be a challenging and engaging set up, trying to stay on screen was quite the task. I also enjoyed the variety in enemies and traps. One of the really good parts is that the level ramps up in difficulty as you go. I like the use of backrop and the fact that the level was asymmetrical instead of being a bunch of straight lines.


I would recommend a few small changes to make the level more approachable and enjoyable for less skilled players like myself. First, I would get rid of the time requirement to make it to the end it quickly. It took me 35 second to make it to the end, and the door to the finish was shut, which felt frustrating. I tried to look for an alternate way to the end, but fell to my death.

So close to victory

I would also add three checkpoints to the level for slower players like myself. I enjoy grinding hard levels, but without checkpoints I kept repeating the first 3 platforms over and over. Checkpoints can be a nice way to allow players to retain progress. Overall, an interesting level!

“Asteroid Cavern Trek” by 0twlrf

hkcz26z | “Asteroid Cavern Trek” by @0twlrf | Simple, Secrets, Explore

I really love this level, if follows a lot of good design principles. The different sections feel different and have an organic feeling layout. I also enjoyed the choice of music and tileset. The level forces the player to back track and re-use space. It hints at bonus areas and encourages the player to explore. It make good use of signs and arrows to help guide the player as what to do.

I enjoyed that there was a good amount of variety in the challenges. The was combat, platforming, sneaking, finding hidden tiles, and key transport. Plenty of options for all tastes.

I had a lot of fun playing this level, there is only two things I would consider changing. First, I probably died two dozen times trying to get past the first hurdle, because I thought I had to land exactly on the last conveyor tile, but eventually I figured it out. If this was intended, then this is a great puzzle. If it’s not intended, I would consider either restricting the player’s movement or adding a few more hints to make it clear what to do.

This did not end well for me
Doing it the wrong way leaves you juuuust short

The other thing I’d consider changing is there is a very soft soft-lock if you beat the boss battle but don’t have your package with you. I was able to get around this by resetting to the last checkpoint, but it would have been nice to go back and retrieve it. Not a big issue, but the door opening when you kill the boss might be a nice touch, assuming it didn’t encourage people backtracking.

I want to know why there is a door switch up there!

Overall a great level! And deserving of the first Popdonk Recommends of the year!

“A Descend Into Madness” by Parkecon

vp8ztpc | “A Descend Into Madness” by Parkecon @qp4mh3 | Complex, Traps, Switch-Heavy

This level does a good job of having different sections and using backrdrop and tile types to provide some variety. It also does a good job of using checkpoints to make the level manageable. I also liked the fact that jems appear mid-way, encouraging you to go back if you want more of a challenge. I thought it was cleaver how a counter was used to implement this.

I found the level design overall to be good, and I enjoyed the differing pace of the more puzzly part in the beginning and the more open area part of the second half. I found the platforms and missiles to feel very chaotic without being overwhelmingly so, very enjoyable. It was especially nice to have to go back and forth a little bit and reuse existing space.

The spawn point starts out in the line of fire.

If I had to make any recommendations, I would only suggest two changes. First, I would work to make the first two or three rooms a little bit more visually distinct so that it felt like there were three total sections instead of the main two. I also would change it so you don’t die if you start the game and don’t move. More casual player will appreciate a chance to get a handle on what’s going on in the level before they have to start reacting. Overall, a good level.

“Lizumi Chill” by Redzur | Simple, Boss

6rmdvbg | “Lizumi Chill” by @j7mzq1 | Simple, Boss

This is Redzur’s first boss level and I like the overall approach. The creator make use of the snowstorm effect, a variety of tiles to create an interesting level. The level feels approachable to new players and has good use of checkpoints, but still has some challenges.

I appreciated the use of gems to add some extra difficulty for advanced players, and I think this could have been done even more with some extra vertical platforms. Given how linear the level was, some extra challenges for advanced players would really make it pop. Same thing with the intial door switch, this could be changed into a minor challenge of some sort.

This got me 3 times!

Ironically, the hardest part of the level, was the air platform before the first checkpoint. I must have died 3 times falling into the vacrat, which was a little frustrating because of the checkpoint being right after that.

As for future improvements to the level, there are a few things I think that could be done to round it out. First, I think the snowstorm effect could be turned off when entering the boss fight. This would help to signal that you are in a different area. Second, I think some more hinting on the level secrets would be really nice. I fell into the hidden gem area and never noticed the hidden blocks until the second run through. Some gems to hint at these things could help make the player feel smart.

Overall, a great starting level!