“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.

“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!

“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!

Episode Switch by Kinix

h507pmq | “Episode Switch” by Kinix @vsxhsh | Beginner-Friendly, Simple

This is a nice casual level. There is a good use of gating with the doors to force more of a linear approach. I enjoyed the hidden areas. I think a casual player would enjoy it although that first jump might be a difficult starting point, I’m not sure. The level made good use of save points.

I have two pieces of advice for the future. First, some more variety in tile use and non-rectangular rooms would really spice it up and make it look more attractive. Second, I would consider make use of jems through out for a couple of reasons. First, it might be a way to add difficult for non-casual players so they still enjoy your level. Secondly, any time you can add enough jems off the main path, it’s possible to have separate high scores for time and total score. This make the level more engaging to a wider audience.

Flingo On To Whizblade by Yucca

5pcwrz8 | “Flingo On To Whizblade” by Yucca @krkxsl | Beginner-Friendly, Simple

This level follows the design axiom of “More Whizblades equals more better.” This creator does a good job of providing escalating difficulty and variety in challenges. This level almost could use more checkpoints. A spent a bit of time repeating work but never so much that it go frustrating or overwhelming.

I think a smidge more variety in terrain and use of backdrop might have helped out the aesthetic a bit. I also would have loved to see more Jems and optional challenges. I enjoyed the linear focus, but it would have been nice to be able to compete on the score leaderboards, and currently there just aren’t enough jems to do that.

Overall a fun level, infused with some character.

Sproing Climb House! by The Red Brick

sh9g91r | “Sproing Climb House!” by The Red Brick | Simple, Beginner-Friendly, Explore

This level is definitely an improvement over the creator’s previous level. The Flipwips surprised me the first time because I didn’t realize the columns were walkable and therefore I wasn’t on high alert. The creator does a good job of segmenting the level into different sections and providing checkpoints.

I appreciated the bonus jems because it allowed me to pursue the highest score even if I couldn’t get the best time. I think the cloud section provided a good sense of escalating difficulty without being punishing for new players. I’ll be interested to see this creator produce more intricate levels, I see a nice metroidvania style level in their future.

Escape The Secret Temple! by The Red Brick

9hgthtj | “Escape The Secret Temple!” by The Red Brick @xqsnmf | Simple, Beginner-Friendly, Well-Paced

A great first level by The Red Brick. The design is visually coherent, and I like the escalation in difficulty. I also appreciate the gating of content into individual rooms. I appreciate the optional jems, and the consistent checkpoints.

My main piece of advice is I would have loved to see a bit more difficulty, despite being a beginner friendly level. This could be done via more rooms, more difficult jems, hidden areas etc. this allows for a level to cater well to multiple audiences.

Flipwip Missile Factory by Tardigrade Astronaut

hbjb076 | “Flipwip Missile Factory” by Tardigrade Astronaut | Bombs, Throwing Mastery, Simple

Overall I enjoyed this level. It was well-paced and was broken up neatly into sections. I liked that there were a variety of challenges all based on the same concept. The Creator did a good job of gating the content initially to make sure you understood what you need to do. This is good design.

As a whole, I enjoyed the aesthetic. This creator used a good variety of terrain and backdrop. The Flipwips on conveyor belts was mesmerizing. Having non-platform elements move around was a nice bit of polish.

10/10 for that Flipwip backflip

My one complaint is this level could have been a bit more forgiving. I would add a few more checkpoints, especially near the end. After spending about 12 minutes on the level, I gave up on the boss Blopfush. I also would have considered adding some extra flipwip drops in case you miss a blopfush.

I simply could not beat this section

Balloog Toward Victory” by Spekio

0n286p1 | “Balloog Toward Victory” by Spekio | Precarious, Simple, Quick

Balloog toward victory is a fun little level that takes and idea and runs with it. I found it challenging, but not frustratingly so. The checkpoints are well spaced and the platforms give you just enough space to get a bit of a run. Jems are spread throughout to add some challenge. I thought the last section where the spikes are moving in the opposite direction was really neat. Overall a good level.

The Short Package Level. by redstonepro23

55185wdw | “The Short Package Level.” by redstonepro23 | Simple, Quick, Casual

This is a nice short level. It’s got a good variety of terrain and obstacles. I particularly enjoyed the timing challenge with the blopfush and the burny whirler because it was hard to guess the exact time to jump. The music change for the second half is perfect, I really love it. Overall a well designed level with 3 recommended changes.

First, I would probably change the player cam to a package cam, to prevent people going to wrong way and then locking themselves out. It might have been by design, but when you lock yourself out a level so easily, it can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. Ideally if you do lock out a player, they should know what they are doing and feel like it was their fault. A perfect example of this is The Steel Forest Factory by BmiClock.

Second, I would probably add a checkpoint right before the giant flapjack just to make things easier for newer players.

Lastly, there are a number of cloud blocks, but there are just a few jems at the top in a difficult to reach spot. If you are going to add a space like that, reward the player with Jems for exploring and make them feel smart in the process.

For a second level, this is really great, and I think with a tiny bit of refining, the creator could be making some amazing levels.