VictoriaViper's Ratings and Reviews
Super Metroid: Darkholme Hospital by Cloud12 [SM Quick Play], rated by VictoriaViper on Mar 09, 2017 (Star Star Star Star Star )
83% in 3:32
(v2.0 reviewed)

I love when Metroid gets spooky, and when I heard someone had specifically made a horror-themed hack called Darkholme Hospital, I was eager to get my creep on.

The titular hospital has no save points. You can only save your game at your gunship. Thankfully, each floor of the hospital is fairly small, with all of them branching off from a central elevator that has your ship at the top. This means your save point is always just an elevator ride away. I know some reviewers complained about the scarcity of save locations, but I think it adds to the hack's tone, leaving you with only one truly safe place in the whole game world.

Things are pretty eerie in Darkholme during the opening minutes, partly thanks to the abundance of new background graphics. Things like signs and restroom stalls give the world a more lived-in feel than you typically expect from Metroid, which makes the quiet emptiness of the hospital's halls all the more creepy. There's no music on the first few floors of the hospital, just Ceres Station's humming roomtones. There's not even much in the realm of enemy encounters. It all feels like it's building you up to something scary.

Sadly, it doesn't quite work out that way. Instead of being spooked-out, you'll probably be spending a lot of time grumbling over the endless mid-air morphs and careful speed booster jumps you have to do just to get from room to room, while the backgrounds become more and more repetitive to look at. This isn't helped by the enemies, who are far more obnoxious than scary, and have very dull designs. If you're hoping for some Giger-esque terror-beasts, you're out of luck.

Speaking of enemies, there's very little variety to the baddies you'll encounter, and the enemies you face most often are the most annoying: they spawn endlessly, fly, home in on your movement, can pass through any and all objects, and often take more than one charged shot to destroy. One section tasks you with making careful jumps over a deep body of water before you get the gravity suit (or "immersion suit" as I think it's called in this hack), all while these things are ceaselessly spawning in over your head. You can eventually find an item that makes this section much more tolerable, which is a nice way of making the player feel power growth. Until then, it's just teeth-gnashing frustration and as you clunk your head against these pests and endure yet another slow, watery tumble to the bottom.

The hack also has trouble with visual conveyance in several instances: a dangerous-looking floor texture is actually just a harmless conveyor belt; a shootable node that looks exactly the same as the ones you usually bomb to open instead requires a completely different weapon; and you never see the magnetic key gates visibly change, as they simply become intangible when unlocked, requiring you to walk through a seemingly-solid object. (And for the record, having an item that's just a key is a crappy idea for a Metroid game. Yes, like keys, a lot of items in Metroid allow access to new areas, but they also do other things that make them useful during moment-to-moment gameplay. That's a big ingredient of why the series is so fun.)

And on the subject of confusing visual design, why was Samus's sprite modified so that she's nude when she dies? I mean, it's not like it's offensive, but it feels immature and out-of-place in this grim and spooky hack.

Still, it's not all bad. The background designs do gradually become more twisted and warped, working to deliver on the hack's early promises of horror. And there's one particularly harrowing segment near the end where you're temporarily barred from backtracking. You're forced to push forward through tunnels of dangerous, disorienting obstacles and incredibly deadly enemies, all while your HUD glitches out and makes it hard to gauge your status. If the whole hack could've offered this kind of weirdness and tension, it would've been amazing.

Also, special commendation has to be given to the final escape sequence. Instead of using the usual countdown timer, Samus's energy is constantly drained, meaning that instead of it just being a race back to your ship, it's also a race to the next health station. This results in a thrilling series of peaks and valleys in the tension, as you fumble desperately through the myriad obstacles, and then have a brief sigh of relief when the welcoming green light of the next health station comes into view. Admittedly, the solutions for circumventing some of these obstacles are rather arcane (heck, I beat the hack and I still don't know what triggers some of those doors to open), and you can probably end up totally screwed if you didn't find many energy tanks in your playthrough. Those concerns aside, it's still a very exciting way to cap off the story.

And I suppose I should mention the rather clever keypatch unlock system featured in Darkholme Hospital. You can find information terminals that will unveil a bit more of the backstory, and also give you special passwords to open the Keypatch ZIP files embedded in Darkholme's ZIP archive. These patches apparently have various effects, often making the hack more difficult, but I never actually bothered to try any of them. Still, if you really enjoy Darkholme, this is a good way to boost the replay value. That's assuming you can actually find these terminals, of course, since most of them are pretty difficult to access.

So, what to make of Darkholme Hospital? It's got a strong start, a strong ending and some pretty creative concepts, but with a fair share of mediocrity and irritating gameplay in the middle. I still had fun with it, and hope to see its sequel, Equinox, some day, but I can only hope its successor can iron out some of Darkholme's more tedious aspects.
MetroidMst's Greatest Fear by Literally The Devil [M1 Incomplete], rated by VictoriaViper on Mar 07, 2017 (Star Star Star Star Star )
35% in 2:15
(v1.01 reviewed)

Oh cool! A remake of the original Metroid using Super Metroid's engine and assets! It'll be like Zero Mission but more faithful to the source material. What's not to love? ...Well, several things, actually.

It's pretty impressive how much the hackers were able to alter Super Metroid to emulate that classic Metroid feel. Like in SM, Samus can still aim at angles, aim downward while jumping, and infinite-bomb-jump easily. However, she can no longer crouch, run, wall-jump (except off of frozen enemies, oddly), or mid-air morph (you won't realize how much you'll miss doing that until you can't anymore). Her missile-firing rate is also greatly reduced (though, thankfully, missiles are usually a one-shot kill for most enemies, like in the original game). I admit that playing the original Metroid with the complete Super Metroid moveset would've been pretty cool, but I appreciate the boosted authenticity. Heck, elevators even act as save stations, quietly saving your game when you ride them, and respawning you atop them when you reload a file.

Still, Retroid is not quite a 1:1 remake of the original Metroid. The neatest addition is a slight layout change to accommodate the inclusion of a few of Super Metroid's minibosses. Though the battles aren't particularly challenging, they do spice up the old Metroid gameplay a bit.

Other changes are far more inexplicable, however. The most obvious is the alteration to Super Metroid's jump physics. Spin-jumps now have maximum momentum at all times, no matter how fast you were moving when you left the ground. It's like always taking off from a full sprint. This gives you much less air control and makes precision jumps needlessly difficult. I spent most of the hack doing vertical leaps that I'd gingerly correct to the left and right.

But the changes don't stop there. The original Metroid had many seeming dead-ends that could be bombed to allow access to other areas. In this version, the bomb blocks are usually gone and replaced with empty squares, making these "hidden" paths plainly obvious now and removing much of the game's puzzle-solving. There are also several areas that contain shootable blocks, which would regenerate after a short period in the original Metroid, but never return in Retroid. This can make platforming more difficult if you accidentally destroy all of your footholds.

But by far the most egregious alteration is how items have been gated off. The best thing about the original Metroid (and what keeps me from believing that Zero Mission is wholly superior) is its near-total nonlinearity. Once you get the morph ball, bombs, ice beam and at least one missile tank, you can go absolutely anywhere in the game. Not so in Retroid. The most painful example is how the screw attack can no longer be obtained until Ridley is defeated. This makes getting through his enemy-infested lair far more tedious. Was this really a necessary change?

The difficulty balance is a lot different than before, too. Obviously it's much easier to survive since you don't have to start with 30 health all the time anymore, and Samus being able to aim at more angles helps as well. But beyond that, Kraid, Mother Brain and the final escape sequence are all stupidly easy now: Kraid's torso spikes don't offer him nearly as much protection as before; Mother Brain doesn't have that almost-inescapable death pit in front of her tank anymore; and the blue platforms in the escape shaft are wider and much harder to miss. By contrast, Ridley is WAY more difficult, and is tougher than anything else in the hack by a wide margin.

There's a handful of other minor nitpicks: your Brinstar map will occasionally erase itself; the varia suit's colors don't kick in until you deactivate and reactivate the suit in Samus' equipment screen; the game over screen still says "Find the metroid larva!" even though you're not doing that in this hack; and the item-collection rate seems to max out at 35% (though as far as I know, you might not be able to modify that).

I was hoping that Retroid could fully replace the original Metroid, retaining the original gameplay but adding smoother controls and a better audio/visual experience. Though it achieves this in many ways, some rather stupid alterations and balance issues weaken the end result. And if you never liked the original Metroid in the first place, the addition of a map (that occasionally erases itself) and wonky jump physics probably isn't going to be enough to win you over.
Super Hauntroid by Scyzer [SM Quick Play], rated by VictoriaViper on Mar 10, 2017 (Star Star Star Star Star )
34% in 6:47
(v1.0 reviewed)

Samus Aran: Ghostbuster.

In Super Hauntroid, Samus is tasked with clearing some spooky spectres out of a cave. And that's pretty much it.

It's a very short mission (to clarify, my clear time is 6 *minutes*, 47 seconds, not 6 hours), as the game world is basically just one large room. It's little more than a tech demo when you get right down to it.

However, said tech is kind of interesting. Much like in Metroid 2, you're given a target counter and have to seek out and destroy all the targets until the counter reaches zero, which will allow you to move onto the final zone. Upon destroying certain targets, they will bestow new abilities upon you. You don't even have to pick up any items: they'll simply be installed into Samus' suit automatically once the target is eliminated. It's just kinda neat to see new gameplay systems like this in Super Metroid.

Of course, that's assuming you can find all the ghosts, as it's not always clear where and how their appearance is triggered. It does make it feel more like a hunt -- like the creatures are hiding from you -- but having to retrace your steps, occasionally finding new targets in places you've already been, is a bit awkward.

Hauntroid makes a few other tweaks to SM's gameplay as well, and they're kinda weird. The physics on wall-jumps have been altered, as they force Samus further away from the wall than usual when she executes them, making it harder to gain height. You can also only lay a single bomb at a time when in morph ball mode. These seem like changes that were done to eliminate or reduce sequence breaking, but there's very little sequence to break in the first place. I'm not sure why these changes were made, and they cause a tiny bit of annoyance when you're just trying to recover from a little fall and don't wanna backtrack so much.

There's also a teleporter, which is a cool idea, but aside from the sound it makes when you activate it, you can't even tell it's done anything: your immediate surroundings don't change at all upon using it. I had to use it several times before I realized what it was, as you'll only notice you've been whisked to a new location if you step into the teleporter and then walk away from it.

There's also no map whatsoever, which isn't a huge problem since the game world is so tiny. But even if there was a map, you couldn't get to it anyway because you're not allowed to pause your game. Meanwhile, much like in the Wrecked Ship in the original Super Metroid, ghosts are constantly materializing on top of you, so there are no safe spots. So if you need to step away from the game for a moment, that's too bad: you're locked into this until it's all over. (Or until you go into one of your emulator menus and pause the emulation.)

So yeah, Super Hauntroid a very brief diversion with a few neat code tweaks and graphics/sound modifications, but that's all. Technically impressive, but the gameplay isn't very engrossing, and the whole thing feels more like a tiny snippet of a larger project than a standalone hack. And it's just a tad too cutesy to be particularly creepy either.