“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!

Jungle Tower Trouble” by BscotchSeth

h9zc5z5 | “Jungle Tower Trouble” by BscotchSeth | Well-Paced, Secrets, Precarious

This is a good example of level design. The creator starts of with a sense of ambiance with the use of rain, house-like structures, a good variety of terrain and ropes. This level very much feels like a place. Why you would live somewhere where Kromblers keep banging on the roof, well that is not for us to ever know.

We see early on in the level a gentle escalation of difficulty. The first battery is highlighted on a pedestal, but that pedestal also protects any new players from the vacrat to the left of it.

Ahh, that’s where I left me aaa’s.

We see this escalation is well with the elevators, which use a variety of mechanisms. The first one using a level is smart because it forces the user to focus on it, it make new players feel smart and it slows down the initial pacing.

Going up!

The second floor is more challenging but still doable. I appreciated the implicit pause point shown below, as well as the use of checkpoints overall.

On the third floor, I feel a bit mixed about the puzzle with the blopfush. It works overall, but I could see someone jumping straight into the fray and then realizing too late they need to do a package jump right after. I very much appreciated the portal at the bottom of the level that brings you back to this floor. I fell down the once and was quite grateful I didn’t have to do things over or force a respawn. This was a very thoughtful touch.

The last floor was quite challenging, but it was short enough that you could brute force it and rely on lucky timing. I appreciated that aspect. Finally, I enjoyed the fact that there were some hidden areas and bonus jems.

Overall a great level and a Popdonk Reccomends!

Rumble Ridge, Cross Country? by minichibisart

h2v7z75 | “Rumble Ridge, Cross Country?” by minichibisart | Well-Paced, Zipper, Secrets

This is a good example of an autoscroller level. The level felt cohesive and had a good variety in the layout and terrain. The level was challenging without being overwhelming. I think it may have benefited from one extra checkpoint earlier on, since I nearly gave up at one point. I really appreciated the hidden area with the jems.

Something else that was interesting for an autoscroller is having different speeds for different parts. It might have been nice if the scrolling was player activated, so people could get their bearings a bit. Good level overall.

Diver Excursion, Down Under by Retro Banana Man NL

px034xt | “Diver Excursion, Down Under” by Retro Banana Man NL | Panic Moments, Paths, Secrets

This level is a really interesting take on a theme. The idea of being underwater is apparent from the title and the overall look. The most interesting piece was the jems on tracks, looking like they are floating through the water. I found this level to be simple, challenging, and enjoyable. Really creative idea.

Bomb Reasonably, GR-18! by RetrophileTV

4l7b3m3 | “Bomb Reasonably, GR-18!” by RetrophileTV | Bombs, Secrets, Well-Paced

This is a fantastic use of the daily build and an AMAZING entrant into the weekly challenge. The theme for this week was “Reasonably” and the implementation here is hilarious and on point. The bombs don’t respawn and it’s easy to accidentally blow them all a way. The hard clay underneath the boss section covers spikes, so you have to be “reasonable” there as well.

I really appreciated the scaling difficulty and heavy use of checkpoints. I found the challenges to be challenging, but not discouraging. The timing on the dbot section was quite difficult. The different sections were a great combination of the available components.

Overall an amazing level and a great start to the challenge. Popdonk Recommends!

Double Ditch Of Doom! by Cajoma01

30dlwpq | “Double Ditch Of Doom!” by Cajoma01 | Beginner-Friendly, Panic Moments, Secrets

This is a fun little level and a great use of the daily build. It does a good job of breaking the level into sections and taking advantage of the objects available in the daily build. I appreciated the checkpoints as well as the hidden area. It was quick and simple enough that I wanted to try to optimize my run and play it again and again.

A few small recommendations: First, I would suggest using backdrop to make the level feel more coherent. Also, I would add more hidden areas with lots of jems to allow the highest score to be separate from the fastest run. Overall a fun level and fantastic start.

Switch Otherwise Ha! by docblock

cp7n0sg | “Switch Otherwise Ha!” by docblock @yejqvq | Puzzling, Secrets, Switch-Heavy

This is a very well done level. It makes a good use of terrain variety, backdrop, asymmetry, and separate “rooms” to create an aesthetically pleasing level. The is also filled with little hidden areas to find if you are in to exploring. Clearly the level creator had fun making this. The level is a joy to play.

On top of that, the use of spikes make it challenging, but never feels gratuitous or overwhelming. The checkpoints help with that as well. The puzzles are interesting and well thought out.

There is one tiny detail preventing this from being a perfect level. It’s possible to accidentally skip over an early puzzle and leave the package behind. You can go a long while until you need the package, but when you do, you are trapped.

Need the package. Hmmm….
And I’m stuck 🙁

Overall a great level. I’m excited to see what docblock makes next.

The Peaceful Castle by PureKnickers

dhfvgrq | “The Peaceful Castle” by PureKnickers @ref0kg | Secrets, Casual

This level is a great example of a beautiful level. The interweaving of different types of tiles and backdrop is just gorgeous. This level does a great job of taking a single mechanic, the sky wigglers, and introducing them to what might be a casual or new player. The jems are well placed in a way that guides the player and are fun to collect. They also allow for players to choose to speedrun the level or explore and seek jems.

It is incredibly rare to see a cakewalk level of such high quality and effort. The only change I would consider is how many of the vacrats are on a single space and can’t move. If this was done to to reduce difficulty, then perfect, leave it alone. If it was an accident, then it can be a bit akward to have these immobile bad guys throughout the level

This level unabashedly gets the Popdonk Recommends badge!

Secret Package. Doom Temple by Padwoo N Boopafunka

wfvkjdq | “Secret Package. Doom Temple” by Padwoo N Boopafunka @zxj3rx | Secrets, Traps, Well-Paced

Initial Thoughts:
I love this level. It’s such a cool idea of having to get really close to the package cams. It makes a normal navigation challenge feel a little bit more puzzling. The layout with the pedestal for the package and all the package cams makes it feel like you are stealing something from an ancient temple, and have to run through all the dangerous chambers. Reminds me a smidge of Indiana Jones. Good use of checkpoints to make it manageable.

The only two changes I would consider: Some way to get back up on the pedestal if you miss a few of the cams. I fell early and had to restart there. Also, making the second to last chamber sliiightly less crazy. I almost gave up on it because of how chaotic it was. But I managed it and the last chamber was pretty easy.

Later thoughts:

I thought I was supposed to be seen! I didn’t realize it was the opposite. What I would probably do if you make a sequel is have something that gets turned on within visible range of the player (maybe I missed it)I completely misunderstood the goal of the level. I really like the idea of having to sneak out with the package.