This game appears to have all the elements that would make it fun, but it's faulty mechanics and a ton of other stuff just ruins the fun.
It is a very hard in all the wrong ways; very punishing and somewhat repetitive.
I'll try to justify why I'm not recommending it, since it seems like a lot of work was put into the game and the dev updates it regularly, which tells me at least he cares.
First about the levels.
- Within each world some levels are super hard but others are a walk in the park. Specially if you are just shooting for the end without exploring. Having branching paths and secrets is ok, but have your main level be interesting as well. That's just like making an RPG have awesome side quests and a bad main story. Side quests are a bonus, not the main stuff, it's like the topings on an ice cream.
- Variety is also an issue, each world has a lot of levels, but they all feel like the same level with rearranged stuff. Each world introduces some new baddies and graphics, but they are not well distributed or introduced.
- Also, levels are long but they don't flow right, I find myself a lot waiting idle for a monster to get out of the way or a moving platform to reach me. Or sometimes the opposite, for example on the flooding levels, where you "escape" water that rises, since it expects you go down the bazillion secret paths, if you just follow the main level the water is never even close to you. This just tells me the levels were not really planned much, stuff was just thrown there. I would much prefer fewer levels but better planned than a ton of levels all the same.
The enemies don't follow any "consistent" pattern, they move, jump and shoot whenever they want. This extends to other stuff, for example one of the enemies throws a big snowball that sometimes hits the wrong pixel and rebound on a different direction from where it was supposed to go. This happens with a lot of stuff including the bosses, they rebound against the walls in a weird fashion when they jump.
You die because you can't predict stuff, it's just twitch reactions a lot of the time or simply impossible to dodge.
I'm honestly not sure if this is related to framerate or whatever, but it's just an ingredient for a bad plaformer.
Consistency is what makes these kinds of plaformers fun (at least the ones this game is trying to emulate). On most games from the NES/SNES/Sega era, the enemies and the enviroment reset on each life, and always move the exact same way when you respawn, so you can learn the level. This way when you die you know it was your fault.
Moving on to glitchy stuff
- Hitboxes are weird. Sometimes you don't properly hit platforms or pass through them.
- Solid blocks and non-solid blocks look the same.
- Some of the background can be confused with platforms.
- Breaking squares from below also behaves badly, sometimes you have to hit squares twice or more.
- Throwables from enemies go through stuff. I was hit a couple of times by one of the small snowballs from an enemy I wasn't even seeing on the screen.
Finally, my biggest issues, several game mechanics are bad:
- Level exploration is super punishing. On my playthrough I was going through levels in a straight line to the finish. Levels are super hard already without exploring, and exploring is just pointless, any benefit is crushed by the fact that any mistake and it's back to the start without power ups. Exploring stops being fun after the 30th death, where you have to redo the entire level from the beginning, while also loosing the power up. Risk is not worth it just to get a couple extra coins.
- The power up system is very unbalanced. The game doesn't know if it wants to be a shooting plaformer or a jumping plaformer, and the mix is not well done. A power up makes enemies super easy, but no power up makes them a nightmare. You are massively underpowered without a power up. And, let's not overlook the fact that, if you don't have one, you die in 1 hit. So you can't shoot, but you also insta-die, it's the worst and not well balanced.
Levels don't help at all, some enemies are even impossible to kill by jumping, for example the birds that fly high and shoot at you. If you compare this to super mario for example, the difference is that in super mario the main focus was jumping, and you could finish all levels just with small mario, the flower was just a "nice to have". And if you compare to most shooting plaformers the difference is that you already start with a gun or have means to handle enemies other way. In this game the balance is bad, and you start with nothing each time you die....
- Last, the lives are just worthless. The fact that, loading the save restores your power up when entering the level, just makes it better to have 1 life with a power up and get a game over on each death. Also, harvesting lives is horrible. If you are going to make a game inspired in old games, bring only the good stuff, not the bad. In any case, harvesting lives doesn't work here, because A) it's super hard so you would need like 2000 lives B) there isn't any fun level to quickly get lives C) on each death you loose the power up D) it's better to get game over and continue than having lives
The rant ends here, these game mechanics were the last thing that ruined it for me, but they could be fixed with changes like:
- Adding checkpoints would encourage exploration. Super nintendo games added them for a reason. If you want to keep the difficulty, you can do something like Shovel Knight or Bit Trip Runner 2 where you have the option to break or skip the checkpoint if you want.
- For the power ups the easiest would be to make the shield be a default on death, and make the first pickup be the red berries. An alternative would be to better balance the levels for when you don't have any pickups. Since right now it's a death sentence.
- The behavior on death should be the same as loading the last game or something similar. I would just get rid of the lives system entirely. The game could keep track of the deaths but have them be meaningless except for points or something.