Museum of the Dark Lord is not quite an art level and not quite a puzzle level either, but it’s very silly either way. As the name states, the entire level takes place within a museum owned by ‘the dark lord’ and there is virtually no danger and only a small amount of platforming involved. There are a bunch of different collectibles here set up as display pieces, each with a short and humorous description. One shuriken is simply at the end of one of the item hallways and the other one demands some simple platforming while not touching red crystals, but the remaining three tie in to the museum itself. Most of the items in the museum are guarded by a security system which will block off the shurikens with piko plants if you try to take them, but you can safely take three items which the dark lord is afraid of, each of which unlocks one of the remaining shurikens. To figure out just what these items are, you need to look for clues in the item descriptions. While most art levels simply hand the shurikens to players or contain challenges entirely unrelated to the art itself, Museum of the Dark Lord stands out by directly combining its art and gameplay elements.
Tag Archive: player level
There are platforming levels and there are story-driven levels, but few balance these two elements as well as Colors. The basic premise this time around is that Juni and her friend have landed on a desolate, though still somehow inhabited, island and are temporarily trapped by a terrible storm. Other than the villagers, the island is almost completely devoid of color and even the water is pitch black with the only glaring exception being the vibrant home of the mysterious elder. After the initial walk through the village Juni must explore three locations, each of which gives her a new ability and restores some form of life, and color, to the island. This is an almost entirely linear level, but each of the three locations has unique challenges. The first area has plenty of lasers and wall jumping, the second area is the most vertical of the three and makes extensive use of the umbrella, and the final area is all about precise jumping with careful timing.
The extent to which the island changes after each area is impressive and NPC dialogue changes as the game goes on as well, making it worthwhile to walk all the way through the village after each adventure even though it’s not necessary. However, some subtle storytelling is still at work even when Juni is not in the village as Juni must travel backwards through every area after reaching its end and gaining the ability it has to offer. This trip back to town occurs after restoring part of the island and the effects of your actions can be seen all around you. These changes are also not just purely aesthetic either as new hazards will pop up along the way, forcing you to make use of your newly acquired ability in order to return alive. Checkpointing is also good for the most part, though there are a few longer or just slower sections along the way which I wish had one more checkpoint and the difficulty overall is challenging without being overly demanding.
Despite its name, The Piko Predicament doesn’t actually have all that much to do with piko plants beyond the fact that they initially block off access to some shurikens and slightly alter the shape of the level. The real star of the show here is the dark effect as it allows players to imagine for themselves what these overgrown ‘diseased plants’ look like while also somewhat hiding a few elements, such as spikes and climbable walls. The sole checkpoint in the level can only be accessed after you dispel the darkness and destroy the piko plants after making it to the shrine at the end. I normally don’t care much for levels which are frugal with their checkpoint distribution, but in this case I think it works out as the level is on the short side and basically consists of two medium-sized fights with a few easy encounters between them (the somewhat difficult jump in the lower-left room can be avoided until after activating the checkpoint).
Both of the encounters have something of a puzzle element to them and are likely to end poorly if you rush in. The first encounter starts with blood bats which need to be picked off with kunai or baited closer and then leads into a fight against a group of ‘bandits’ which are best dealt with by stunning them and picking them off one at a time. The second major encounter is probably the easier of the two and consists of frogs and bees on tiered platforms, which can quickly turn deadly if the bees aren’t taken out. With a design which looks great in shadows and in the light and encounters which encourage careful planning, The Piko Predicament makes for an all-around fun and challenging level.
With the introduction of grind rails a level like this was bound to be made. This stage sticks almost entirely to the basics to create a short grind rail course with some sharp turns and a few tight jumps near the end. Falling off of the rails results in almost certain death, but other than a handful of jump pads near the end the focus here is entirely on a single track devoid of enemies and branching paths. While I wouldn’t want to see this degree of simplicity in every grind rail level, in this case the stage’s simple nature works in its favor to create a quick and highly replayable experience. The racing flag at the start of the track is a particularly essential component which goes well with the straightforward approach to level design here as it allows this level to transform into an intense competition between players striving to shave off precious fractions of a second from their top times. A long or extremely difficult racing level would become a chore to go through multiple times, but here it is easy and painless to restart over and over for the sake of achieving a better time.
Our first Below Kryll level in quite a while is an old favorite of mine. Anyone who has made it to the second region of this game is probably no stranger to getting crushed in one way or another by all sorts of things, but what I like about this level is just how efficient it is. With a few moving platforms, a bunch of totem pole ‘pistons’, a nearly equal number of bouncy ecto cubes to make the pistons move, and no other objects or enemies to speak of beyond a single golden shuriken and a healthy number of checkpoints, Perilous Pistons creates a pleasantly varied set of platforming challenges.
Though the very first of these challenges is the danger-free task of jumping between two horizontally moving totem poles, the level soon lives up to its name with a set of pistons which players must quickly dash on top of and between while narrowly avoiding being crushed. The third challenge of this level is by far the longest and it forces players to avoid the pistons while jumping towards increasingly higher (and slightly narrower) platforms, which I particularly like because the nature of the playing area allows the challenge to change organically, especially when the halfway mark is reached and players must begin to time their jumps to dodge the pistons from above rather than from below. The final challenge in this level is entirely optional and requires just as much precision as the previous challenges with some minor additional puzzle elements, making it the most interesting and my personal favorite as players must watch the movement patterns of platforms to figure out where the save spots are to avoid being crushed while also figuring out how to reach the shuriken at the very end. Lastly, in addition to being an entertaining challenge, this level has some educational value for other creators as it’s on the very first floor of the second region and shows off a number of different ways in which to use these new objects.