cazort's Ratings and Reviews
Super Metroid: Escape II by Hiroishi [SM Exploration], rated by cazort on Aug 24, 2018 (Star Star Star Star Star )
80% in 7:21
I think this is one of the best-of-the-best hacks. It was delightful to play and had the longest engaging playtime of any hack I've played to-date. My play time estimates 7:21 but that was the QUICKEST I beat it, skipping some major sections. I went back and got quite a lot more play out of it. I think it has high replay value too, and offers speedrunning challenge as well.

There are some changes to the game dynamics, including the introduction of a warp zone, and the ability to change directions and morph while shinesparking, which is wild! Areas are renamed, and the entire map is totally redesigned, but in spite of that it mostly feels pretty vanilla, i.e. one area feels like Brinstar, another like Norfair, etc. The map is huge and areas require revisiting more different times in a typical course of play.

People complain about "everything being blue", but...come on, it's not that bad! Yes, there is a lot more blue, but there were plenty of other colors in the palette too. I never felt like the color palette bored me. Also, come on, blue Norfair? That's some genius to make it mostly blue and still look and feel very "hot". I say, well-done. And the base background of blue makes the other colors (red, green, yellow) really pop out visually. Blue, being a calm color, is a good choice for background colors. I actually thought the color palette worked pretty well; it never looked amateurish.

Highlights:
* Very accessible, and difficulty level ramps up gradually. The hack's difficulty is listed as "unknown" but I'd characterize it as vanilla. This struck me as no harder than the original game, and easier in many points. I would recommend this as a good first hack to play.
* Tons of secrets. Secrets also have a wide range of difficulty levels, both in terms of level of observation to find them, and difficulty of getting into them or through them to get whatever items they contain. Some secrets even evade detection by the X-ray scope, which I like: it makes the X-ray scope useful, but it also makes it not take the fun out of the game. The secrets make the world fun to traverse over and over again. This game is also GREAT at giving hints, things like "Hey, look, there's this area over here you can't access...maybe look for a secret in a nearby room." And, just as I like, some of the hints are more obvious than others.
* The world is massive, but very easy to navigate. The warp zone is a cool idea; I think it is well-executed. There are so many different ways back to the warp zone that it makes the world feel like everything is close to everything else. I never felt like I was bored running from one corner of the map to the other. I also think that the warp zone and well-connected world minimizes the need for savestating.
* AMAZINGLY non-linear, and the nonlinearity is executed better than in any other hack. There are multiple ways to get nearly every major item, and this includes both the item being found in multiple locations, and in some cases, the access to an item in a particular place being accessible by multiple paths. Sometimes an item can be gotten with great skill earlier on, but accessible by anyone later, like the X-ray scope in Brinstar which you can nab with a grapple swing...but one that takes a lot of skill and luck...or you can get it by tricky IBJ off a long surface of crumbleblocks...but it's easiest to get with the speed booster, which you probably will get much later. So a lot of the items become progressively easier or more obvious to get, over time.
* Rich potential for sequence breaking. Even though there doesn't seem to be a single, intended linear path, there do seem to be multiple intended / "normal" paths, but on top of that there yet more ways to find alternate paths relying on secrets or more advanced techniques.
* Walljump, and more advanced techniques like IBJ, mockballing, shortcharges, and opening doors from the wrong side, never seem to be required, but can benefit you and allow you to save time and/or sequence break. I like this.
* Controllable shinespark is cool and avoids some of the INSANE difficulty of the shinespark puzzles in the Hyper metroid hack. Doesn't require shortcharges (a beef I have with some hacks, *cough* SM Decision *cough*)
* I loved the Megaman-games-style "You need to fight every boss again all at once." deal at the end. It may have been unrealistic and breaking in spirit with the rest of the game, but I thought it was creative and fun.
* This hack manages to keep the nonlinearity going right up until the end. Not only does the escape sequence have multiple ways out...but...even before that, there are multiple paths to mother brain. I was impressed with this, and it makes the game engaging to play through more than once.

Subtle Critiques / Room for Improvement:
* Morph ball too easy to get. Come on! This is so trite, at least make me go through a few areas to find the morph ball.
* No original music. For how new and different this hack was, I thought the vanilla music was conspicuous.
* Besides color changes, pretty much no changes to the visuals. The tiles aren't even used in particularly creative ways; the world felt mostly like the original game, just new, different, and bigger.
* Uncreative bosses. I also though the bosses were way too easy. This is the only game where Phantoon was a joke, and Draygon and Gold Torizo were also major pushovers. Except Ridley who killed me once, none of the other bosses killed me. I like to be challenged. I think part of this is that you can get WAAAY too many energy tanks before getting to any of the major bosses.
* Some puzzle rooms, especially shinespark ones, started to get repetetive. Contrast with Hyper Metroid where each puzzle room is fundamentally different and makes you think in a fundamentally new way or discover a new technique or trick. In this hack, the first shinespark maze was fun, but after that they got tedious.
* I wasn't crazy about the "fall through a pit and get warped back to the start of the puzzle room" dynamic that many puzzle rooms rely on. Although convenient for the player, it made this hack feel a little contrived or unnatural. I like the way the original game and most other hacks work, which is to build the "reset" into the structure of the room, i.e. fall through a crumble block, roll back to where you started.
* I found the "same major item occurs in two places" feature to be annoying. Many times I solved some puzzle or discovered a secret, only to find an empty chozo statue, which I learned from subsequent playthroughs and/or watching others' videos, was actually an alternate way to get an item I had already gotten. I didn't like this. I'd rather the alternate ways of getting items instead rely on multiple paths converging to a single spot to get the item.
* Gray door abuse. This is a criticism that I also have of Hyper Metroid. There are too many gray doors and they're positioned in such a way that makes unclear what you need to do to open them. Some open when you kill certain bosses, some open when you save the animals, some you need to kill enemies in the room itself, and some open from the other side. I think a lot of these could be avoided by better design.
* For how nonlinear this hack was, I still got stuck twice. I found it very hard to find Phantoon and I actually only found him after getting the X-ray scope and scouring everything. That held me back a lot, because lacking Varia pretty much ground my progress to a halt. The second time I got stuck was trying to find out how to get into lower norfair and access Ridley; it was partly due to my sequence breaking and getting power bombs earlier during a heat run and forgetting about the (obvious) entrance. But it was still slightly annoying.
* Some of the items in later areas were too obvious. Like in lower norfair, both a missile and energy tank sitting right out in the open? Come on; what a waste! Especially given how you need to power-bomb a floor under lava to even get into lower norfair in the first place. At least make the player do something interesting so they can feel a sense of accomplishment getting these items. This felt disappointing.
* I think the dynamic where if you save the animals, it opens up a bunch of secret doors that make certain items accessible very early, kind of ruins the fun of the game. Part of what makes Metroid and its hacks so fun, in my opinion, is the process of wandering around the map searching for the next major item(s) that will open up new paths for me. I like to feel a little stuck at least for a little while, and I like the hack to make me work. In this hack, you can bypass this by saving the animals (one you have the firepower and tools to do so) and opening up those doors, and it just got too easy. Thankfully I discovered this later than I think some people do...but...it didn't sit well with me and I think it threw off the balance of the game, which was already on the easy side. Getting screw attack early REALLY unbalances the game.
* Secret area's quick path to "alternate mother brain", skipping all of Tourian and some of the unique things about this hack that come with it. Yet another example of making it too easy and taking the fun out of it. I even was able to skip Ridley (probably if I had saved the animals earlier I could have skipped more major areas.) I wasn't crazy about this. And putting a recharge station right in front of Mother Brain? That was too much hand-holding for me...it's like a cheat that breaks the game.
* The quick-way-out of the escape sequence? Come on. Yet another example of taking the fun out by making it too easy. The shortcut makes too big a difference...the escape goes from actually somewhat hard to trivially-easy, and that's no good. I'd rather the hack make secrets like this bypass only a modest portion of the escape sequence, i.e. make it a bit easier but without giving you too much.

In spite of all these criticisms, I think this hack is still golden. Yes, it could be improved. But...it's already so freaking good. None of these complaints even docks it one star. And if you don't want those "cheats" you can always just refrain from taking the items opened up from saving the animals and entering the secret area.

I recommend: if you want to play this hack for real, either don't save the animals, or if you do, (a) stay out of the secret area accessed from the warp zone (b) don't get any of the items freed up from saving the animals, and (c) don't shinespark up the first shaft during the escape sequence. You can tell when you've entered the secret areas to get these items because of the peculiar background, the change in music, and appearing in the secret area on the map.
So Little Garden by MetroidMst [SM Exploration], rated by cazort on Aug 01, 2018 (Star Star Star Star Star )
67% in 2:23
I LOVE this hack. Along with Hyper Metroid, it's tied for my favorite hack ever, and it's funny how I like both because the two hacks are about as opposite as you can get in a lot of ways.

I also find the other reviews a bit puzzling and I think unfairly hard on this hack. People describe it as "frustrating" and even "unfair", but I'm not getting that. I think this is one of the more accessible hacks, even though it does get genuinely difficult. It seems very carefully designed and never "unfair". Contrast with Eris, a hack I found unnecessarily difficult. This hack is hard, but it has all the types of challenges I like without the ones I don't.

I'll list my pros and cons and that'll make clear just how much I like this hack.

PROS:

* This game is marked "veteran" in terms of difficulty level but I find that it is much more accessible because the difficulty level ramps up gradually. There are some genuinely tricky points, but I find that it starts out very easy, and it gives you ample opportunity to develop the skills necessary to get through the tougher points. In early areas, enemies don't do too much damage, and they do more as the game progresses. It felt natural to me...I became more challenged as I went through the hack, and although it got up to a pretty advanced level, it felt like it took me there on a gentle slope. Save-stations are conspicuously and conveniently placed before boss fights. Nothing ever felt like it was wasting my time or toying with me; rather it felt like this hack was genuinely challenging me the way I wanted to be challenged.
* Beautiful, and totally new world with a radically different look-and-feel, incredibly well-executed. Even though it's all in one area and it just has a single tileset, much less diverse than the original game, it looks really slick. This is one of the few hacks out there that looks as good as a professionally-made game. (Eris being one of the others.)
* All new music and I love it. Not only does the main area have new music, but there is quite a lot of new music in the boss fights, and it's really great music too.
* I know some people list this as a con but I LOVE the removal of wall-jumping and bomb-jumping. I think wall-jumping is often abused by more advanced players to the point that it makes the game less fun...and this game throws a wrench in that. Maybe people complain about this game being frustrating because they've basically developed wall-jumping and IBJ to the point of breaking the intent of the original game...this game kinda restores it in a sense, and it felt more like the sort of exciting process of playing Metroid for the first time.
* Secrets are just brilliant. Some items are out in the open, some items are hidden with obvious hints, others are hidden in new and creative ways, and there are some really tricky things, utilizing new game dynamics, to get some of them. It's a great balance. And I still haven't found a large portion of the secrets...it's like there's a lot more to explore even though I've finished it.
* Some opportunity for sequence breaking using advanced techniques (including at least one trick specific to this hack.) This gives this hack rich potential for speedrunning.
* I like starting with 500 energy, and then having energy tanks only give 100. I think this makes for a smoother game progression early-game...in some hacks, and the original game, the difference between 0, 1, and 2 energy tanks feels way too big. Here it's not a huge game-changer to get a single energy tank, but it does make a difference to get a lot of them. (And the boss fights get tough, to where you actually need them.)
* Long and rich for a mini-hack. I know it's marketed as "relatively small", but it is big enough to make it feel like a real adventure. And it's a relatively full hack in the sense of using a wide range of items in the game.
* Some substantial changes to items and game dynamics. The rocket ball is such a unique idea, and synergizes beautifully with the removal of wall jumping and bomb jumping, and the different behavior of the ice beam is interesting, especially how you need to utilize it in different ways to get items and even get through the basic game progression. I love the changing of the space jump to a single-use boost. I also like the physics of double-jumping...it plays very nicely and the rooms are impeccably designed to fit with the physics.
* A lot of the really hard stuff, like some of the really difficult grapple-beam parts, is neatly compartmentalized so as not to be necessary, i.e. it's mostly to get optional missles, and you only need to do it once. Although you need to traverse certain areas of the map many times, there is nothing tedious or difficult about the retraced routes (*cough* unlike Eris *cough*) and the difficult acrobatics are mostly compartmentalized into one-time-only things.
* Enemy placement and behavior makes you think, much more than the original game. The enemies are pretty simple, for the most part, but they're used in clever ways that can throw you for a loop. Because some common enemies are pretty tanky, but easily killed by missles, I also needed to switch between missles and beams more frequently in this than in the original, and I liked that.
* I love the silly area names, and the general silly vibe. This game never seemed to take itself too seriously and that made it even more fun to play.
* Boss inovation! Rather than just replaying the same bosses with minor tweaks, this game creates totally new boss fights. Some of them are pretty simple, and some of them are more interesting than others, but the experience is novel. The game ends with a familiar boss used in a very novel way -- one that forced me to adjust my usual strategy and die several times before I got it.

CONS:

* The map is hard to read; it makes it hard to see where you've been and where you haven't. And then there's the map bug; just use savestates if you want to save.
* Boss fights lag because of too many rinkas. And in general, the over-reliance on the rinka in boss fights was the one thing I found uncreative about this hack. It made the boss fights feel too similar. But only slightly...a lot of them were genuinely fun (and sometimes hard, a few of the bosses I got killed and had to replay once or twice.)
* Several bosses you kill, but there is only a weak signal that you've progressed...i.e. the rinkas keep coming and a door opens (which might be off-screen.) This could have been better executed...maybe a change of music, stop the rinkas? I don't know. It felt anticlimactic.
* A random bug crashed my emulator once and I have no idea what triggered it...I lost a little progress (thankfully not much.)
* I wish every hack were this good. And do wish this hack were a little bit bigger. This hack really highlights all the things I want other hacks to do more of: new music, new bosses, new look-and-feel, natural progression of difficulty, change to game physics.
* Screw attack (which you can get pretty early with a minor sequence-breaking trick) makes all bosses except the last one too easy. I think this game would be improved by either making the screw attack defense-only, or making the bosses immune to it.

But these are small concerns. Overall, this hack is pretty much golden.
Hyper Metroid by RealRed [SM Exploration], rated by cazort on Jun 05, 2018 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
This is my first hack that I liked enough to play through. I thought it top-quality overall although I had a few things I disliked about it.

It took me a little while to get used to the new physics (from Project base) but I liked it overall, perhaps not quite as much as some others do.

Overall it was very fun and engaging, and had a dynamic of exploration.

What I like about this hack:

+ Huge world. New layout, new ways the areas fit together. Exploring was very fun. The world seems hard to traverse at first, but over time you discover some alternate paths and tricks that make it a lot easier. I thought this was well-executed.
+ I love the ammo system; it makes me excited about finding missles, even towards the end of the game. Also, actively using missles while traversing the world becomes a necessity for the early game, and I like this. I thought this was a HUGE improvement over the original.
+ Great secrets. Just the right amount of subtle hints. Keeps the spirit of the original games, but adds some new ways of hiding things and some new types of obstacles to get around.
+ Backtracking is usually pretty interesting because I found when I returned to areas, I had new items and was able to explore new areas. I got genuinely excited when I got each item that opened up new areas.
+ Doesn't require advanced techniques like IBJ and mockballing, but these techniques can be useful, and the designer seems to have taken these things into account in the level design, i.e. allowing users to SOMETIMES profit from them but not letting users totally break the game. This makes advanced speedrunning fun and challenging, and I'm pleased to see there have been some users speedrunning this (although no one has taken it to the level of the original yet.)
+ Natural sequence of progressing through the game which usually has good hints. Other users have talked about getting "stuck" at various points, and I did have to backtrack a lot, but I never got stuck or frustrated.
+ Sequence breaking is possible which makes this attractive for advanced players, and gives it good replay value.
+ Different order of items from the original makes this more interesting to play the first time through.
+ Some fun puzzle rooms. Made me think harder than the original super metroid ever did, but the rooms were always do-able in the end.
+ Some subtle tweaks to enemy AI and dynamics that kept me on my toes. This contributed to the fun factor.
+ Bosses are more of a puzzle. Bosses have weak-points and (sometimes surprising) strategies that work against them.
+ Gates introduce a new dynamic to the game, which I think was well-implemented programming-wise.
+ Crateria is more fun than in the original...much bigger, richer area.
+ Norfair also really inspired me, exploration-wise. I never got stuck, and was always finding new secrets. There are also many different sections of norfair that have very different feels to them. The area near Ridley is genuinely scary. Parts of it just feel vast and interesting.
+ I especially loved lower Brinstar...it was beautifully executed and had a vast, expansive feel unlike the original...it felt like I was poking around a damp and rusty basement in some abandoned industrial site, and I kept returning to it to find more stuff.

The downsides:

- Morph ball sound. UGH. Why?!? It is too loud and sounds like an explosion...just sounds wrong...and it took me quite some time to get used to it. Also, the bomb sound is very annoying, it sounds like a beam, not a bomb. I wish it had either left these sounds intact or used better ones.

- For how new the world and game dynamics were, the music disappointed. I wasn't crazy about the use of the alternate music for the main game area in Crateria; I got used to it, but I would have preferred the old music, or better, original music (I know it's a lot more work, but some other hacks have done this exceptionally well.)

- Tourian is too straightforward (and too easy, up to the escape sequence.) The escape sequence is good, it can really freak you out if you're not expecting it; I won't share more. IMHO Tourian was a weak point of the original and this hack does too little to improve on it. Compare to Z-factor; that hack does what I would want to see, take that hack's Tourian and put it in this game and it would be close to a perfect hack.

- Phantoon was very hard when I encountered him for the first time. I had to repeat that fight many times. Was this some deficiency on my part?

- Boss difficulty felt slightly too easy towards the end. After Phantoon, all the bosses except perhaps Draygon felt too easy (including Gold Torizo, but especially Kraid and Ridley were also both surprisingly easy.) I could use a little more challenge and I would have made Phantoon a bit easier (perhaps I didn't collect enough ammo, but I was pretty thorough and from watching playthroughs I had more at this point than a lot of others did.) This is a minor complaint because I think the "puzzle" nature of the bosses made fighting them fun -- more than in the original it was more a matter of figuring out the right strategy.

- Gate dynamic is heavily under-utilized. Many of the gates felt too straightforward to discover and open, and didn't require any backtracking. I would have preferred if the game were set up so that you always encountered at least one closed gate, before opening that gate. The first gate is just-hidden-enough for me (the crab crawling the ceiling makes it obvious, which is good for the first one), and I expected the difficulty level for finding the gates to go up, but it didn't in most cases. The gates felt too obvious; with the exception of the last gate, I was unlocking most of them before encountering them blocking my way.

- Uses gray doors too much, and it's not always clear how to open the gray door. In some rooms (like the room with the charge beam) I think this is a cleverly-executed mystery, but in the other cases it can be confusing and opaque. For example, SOOO many gray doors open after Draygon or Ridley? Or the gray doors after the dragon mini-boss. Why gray doors? Gates could have been used instead, so that the player could know WHICH paths were being opened at which point.

- Maridia just...didn't do it for me. It seemed very straightforward, with big, open rooms that lacked interesting features. Not enough mystery. In the original game, Maridia *really* got my interest up and felt truly exciting to explore, with things like that tube that sent you across the area with the baby metroids, the hidden areas under the sand pits, the glass tube from Brinstar giving you an early glimpse into it. With the exception of the very beginning of Maridia, before getting the gravity suit, it just didn't do it for me.

- I thought upper brinstar was less interesting than in the original. It felt a little too linear and the returning later to get items once I had the other items to get stuff felt boring.

Note, I'm still giving this 5 stars even with the downsides. This is a top-notch hack, and I think just because it could be improved in various ways, doesn't make it fall short of best-of-the-best.
SM:Decision by JoshShoeWah [SM Exploration], rated by cazort on Jul 03, 2018 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
I haven't yet finished this hack, but I may do so, and as I do I will update this review if my impression changes. I've currently played up to Tourian. I got a little bored at Tourian and lost interest.

Definitely one of the better hacks I've played, although I liked it less than Hyper Metroid, which remains my gold standard. Marketed as a "small hack" but it felt bigger than I expected given that it was presented that way. "Small" in the sense that the major areas are all a bit smaller and simpler, and that there have been no major changes to tileset or gameplay, not small in that sections or items have been omitted or the overall sequence of the game has been shortened.

PROS:
* World felt fun to explore, with a natural progression through the game. Great use of secrets: there are easy secrets to get, some more hidden ones, and some that require some tricky moves. The secrets made this game feel like it had something to offer players of all ability levels.
* The decision dynamic is a great idea, and well-executed. I chose grappling beam, space jump, screw attack, and x-ray scope. I really like the "choice of choices" if that makes sense; the first choice is grappling beam vs spring ball and I find that's kinda low-stakes as if you're a skilled player you can usually get by without either. Maybe I'm a more thorough player than most, but I didn't benefit at all from the x-ray scope; apparently I had found all the secrets on my own, at least in the areas I scoured with it.
* I LOOOOOOVE what is done with the earlier bosses. Especially Kraid...that's just brilliant. You reach Kraid early, with little ammo (even if, like me, you explore super thoroughly), and you can't quickly kill him with that level of ammo. The fight lasts a while before he rises up to the top level...and then you're forced to farm missiles (or use the charge beam if you found it -- it's hidden and some players miss it) to beat him. It forced me to adopt a new strategy, and Kraid was genuinely a little tricky for an early boss...yet while not feeling out of touch with the rest of the game. Spore spawn also had an interesting twist (crumble blocks in floor)...and Phantoon (that raised wedge area in the middle of the floor).
* There are some clever traps in Maridia...more hidden enemies and they do more damage, and some cleverly-placed crumble blocks that are enough to throw you for a loop but not enough to be hopelessly frustrating. I thought the hidden-enemies and crumble block placement in Maridia was one of the highlights of that area, an area I thought was weak overall.
* Change in order of areas is nice.

CONS:
* Difficult level is wildly inconsistent. Parts of this hack felt WAAAAY too easy, others, slightly too hard...overall, the beginning of the game played about as easy as the original and even easier in spots, but there are a few things thrown in that felt more advanced. Very early-on, you need wall-jumping to escape the room with bombs. But at the same time, the addition of that little platform made the boss fight trivially easy. Either make the boss harder, or don't require wall-jump to get out of the room...the juxtaposition of those two things I think highlighted the "Both too easy and too hard" pattern I saw throughout this hack. Another example...the first two items are WAAAAAY too easy to find, just right out in the open...the original game didn't do that. But then...getting out of the green brinstar area and back to the ship requires a tricky walljump-to-mid-air-morph. Seriously WTF? And then getting back out of Maridia either requires a short-charge or a tricky mid-air-morph-to bomb-jumping...but after this the rest of it is trivially easy. Either make this hack hard or easy...it's a big hodge-podge. Norfair, for how late in the game it comes, was WAAAAY too easy, especially lower norfair.
* Later bosses felt too easy, in spite of the pared-down energy and ammo relative to the normal game. Draygon was a bit disappointing. Like other bosses the room was edited to make evading the attacks harder, but I found him too easy for how far into the game I was...killed him easily on the first try. Botswoon was also disappointing as there was nothing new about that fight, also killed him too easily on the first try. Contrast with phantoon who got me a few times in this hack before I won that fight. With a clear boss order, I want the boss difficulty to ramp up gradually. Kraid was a little tougher but not because of any changes, mainly because there are fewer total power-ups in this game. I still thought Kraid was easier than Phantoon and I wasn't crazy about that.
* Space jump physics suck (this is a complaint about the original game, but having played other hacks like Hyper metroid that fix this, it was really hard for me to go back to these crappy physics that make you time it just right to actually use the space jump.) Made me almost regret that choice. However...this might not be as big of a con because it makes the high jump boots a lot more attractive relatively speaking.
* In the wrecked ship, there are some really frustrating underwater-with-no-gravity-suit areas, where it just becomes a grind because of repeated, precise underwater jumps on extremely narrow platforms (many only 1 block wide, even more 2 blocks wide which IMHO is still hard.) And the room with the ice beam? TOO HARD NARROW JUMPS UGH. I used savestates, and I always HATE when I'm pushed into using savestates because of some STUPID unnecessarily difficult thing with a long recovery if you mess up. If you're gonna have fine-tuned underwater jumps with no gravity suit as heavily as this hack does, PLEASE at least fix the game physics to make it more doable...the physics is AWFUL at making it so easy to overshoot the landing on these narrow platforms. What's also kinda stupid about this is how easy the jumps are in Maridia before you get the gravity suit...if you're gonna make a hard underwater area, make it come later, not earlier. This is an other example of inconsistent difficulty: the wrecked ship, which came first, felt too hard, and Maridia, which came later, felt too easy.
* This is a really minor issue but L-shaped sections of rooms (which this hack makes HEAVY use of) consistently handle scrolling poorly...including a really bizarre glitch I encountered in one case where the scrolling moved off-screen and for a brief moment it looked like I fell through the ceiling. In a couple cases, a secret was revealed by me seeing the screen scroll into a hidden area. This kinda took the fun out of a couple of secrets, although in other cases it wasn't immediately apparent how to get to the area so this was okay. The original game, and some hacks, do a much better job of hiding these secret areas from scrolling, and keeping the scrolling more consistent in weird-shaped rooms.
* Like Derxu wrote in their review, I would like to see more things truly off-limits without certain items. this hack did flexibility well, but it would be nice to see some "higher stakes" to the choices you make.
* I don't like the reliance on short charges. Not only is one shortcharge absolutely necessary to get through the game, but there are several other points where a shortcharge avoids some really tricky acrobatics, and/or where you need a shortcharge to get various special items. I don't like the reliance on this technique because I think it favors the use of emulator tools and it feels a little glitchy to me, outside the spirit of the original game. It's not hard to design levels with enough space to make shortchanges unnecessary. People can then choose to use this technique in advance speedrunning and/or sequence breaking, if they want.

Overall though these cons are more minor...the forced-savestating was just in a few isolated areas, not a chronic problem as with some hacks. And by and large the hack has been really fun, and that's what matters.
SMConflict by SMILEuser96 [SM Exploration], rated by cazort on Jun 07, 2018 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
This hack was incredibly fun, but disappointingly short. It's like a mini-hack, but with enough work put into the assembly, aesthetics, and game dynamics to justify a whole full-size game redesign. I felt like I was really getting into it only to find it end suddenly and unexpectedly. The world and gameplay is REALLY different from the original game. It took some getting used to. I died a LOT right at the beginning, but once I got the hang of it it was straightforward, even too easy.

The shop is one of the highlights.

Pros:

* Really silly in a fun way. The game made me laugh several times.
* Challenging in a pleasant way. There are several enemies that will throw you for a loop and require some thought to overcome. I felt like I had to develop some new skills and strategies to play this.
* Significantly different from the original game. The coin / shop dynamic makes it play a little like an RPG.
* Familiar bosses have some pleasantly surprising twists on them that make them fun to fight and demand new strategies. The bosses are just at the right level of difficulty to force you both to explore the world to get powerups, and to get you to examine your strategy critically.
* TONS of secrets...and both small secrets (extra ammo and coin) and big (a hidden area with a boss and major upgrade.)
* Areas need to be revisited, some multiple times, to get all the items.
* Some items require significant cleverness to get, including exploitation of new game dynamics that did not exist in the original.
* I love the look-and-feel of the outdoor area, with the beach moving into the ocean, and the forest.
* The underwater area manages to feel and play TOTALLY different from Maridia. This is a tough accomplishment; good job.
* I know people complain about it but I really like that music.

Cons:
* I thought this was a bit too hard at the very beginning (those hoppers are brutal when you only have the starting equipment, and the fast crabs are hard to dodge and inflict crazy damage) but too easy at the end.
* There is a glitch / broken strategy thing on the final boss in that there's a place you can stand where you can't be hit. This needs to be fixed. The boss is way too easy if you find this spot.
* The new game mechanic to break those mystery blocks is a bit hard to discover. The game could do a better job of cluing you into it.
* WAAAAAAY too short. It took me less than 50 minutes to beat the game the first time through, with 70-something percent items (forget the exact stats, I think it was around 48 min. and 73%) For the incredible assembly work, the new concept, new game mechanics (all of this stuff seems HARD to make in a hack), new graphics and look-and-feel of the world, all this hard work seems under-utilized. The game also under-utilizes the existing material in the original game -- it only uses a fraction of everything, from the tileset to areas to enemies to items. I'd love to see a hack like this, but on the scale of the full original game. I think you could make a whole area out of that forest concept with things lurking in the shrubbery (that one room felt totally different from green Brinstar). And maybe that hallway with spikes could be developed into a dangerous (and scary) new area of the game too.

I would love to see someone build on this hack. It is incredibly high-quality and has huge potential. It just is soooo short, which is the only reason I am giving it 4 stars out of 5.
Phazon Hack by A_red_monk_called_Key [SM Exploration], rated by cazort on Jul 03, 2018 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
I have not finished this hack, not because it's that hard, but because I got bored some time into it. I may return to finish it at some point in the future, and perhaps add to this review at this time, but I think I've played enough to review.

This is one of those epic, complete hacks that radically changes the look and feel of the game. It's like a whole new game...and there is some really remarkable stuff about it that makes me say "WOW". That said, in the end it wasn't as fun to play as some other, less remarkable hacks.

I'll hit the pros and cons:

PROS:
+ Graphics. The look-and-feel is amazing...it feels like a completely different world. Some rooms just had me saying "wow" at how well-crafted they were. It's a lot more StarWars-esque than Metroid. The author of this hack clearly got the "world building" element of this...it has a consistent vibe or feel throughout the game, and it's richly developed. Each area of the game feels totally different from the others, and totally different from the original game. Seeing and exploring the world was what made me most interested.
+ Relatively accessible difficulty level. This is marked as "Veteran" but I find it much easier than, say, Eris, which I thought was a beautifully-crafted world but unplayably difficult.
+ Some great creative changes to bosses. Each boss somehow feels radically different from the original, even if it's super clear which boss each was derived from.
+ Great change to item order, leading to a very different feel for how the game progresses.
+ Original beam system. Some people complain about the way the beams work (activate many different ones and the result is weaker) but I like this -- in my opinion it fixes something that was broken or a weak point about the original super metroid, which is that the beams compound to become stronger so it usually makes sense to have them all turned on. This game makes you think and carefully choose which one(s) to have turned on -- turning them all on makes it weaker. Overall I think this leads for a MUCH better gameplay...it's more interesting and more fun, a richer experience.

CONS:
- My first pro was the graphics, so it's appropriate that my first con is also the graphics. Some graphics, particular tiles just look bad...sloppy, amateurish, blocky. There are areas where I feel like I'm playing an 8-bit game on a 16-bit platform.
- World is VAST and empty. Emphasis on the EMPTY. A huge portion of the time I spent playing this hack, I was just wandering around empty rooms...many had no enemies, no features worth mentioning, no secrets or items, nothing to do other than walk (or jump or climb) through them. VERY large roooms...WAAAY too big. This is true right from the start of the game and it doesn't seem to show much sign of slowing down for quite a ways into the game.
- Other users have complained about the game closing off areas to you that were previously accessible. Maybe the particular way this played out for me, it didn't bother me as much (I'm pretty thorough at exploring the first time around), but, even though I turned out okay (I think this was perhaps luck), I also don't like this aspect of the game.

That's it. But that second con is SOOOO bad that it docks it 2 stars for me. Seriously...I feel like this hack is so amazing and all the strong points of the hack are under-utilized by the mostly-empty, boring world which you will find yourself traversing over and over again figuring out where to go.

To point to other hacks that I think have elements that could be used to improve this one, Hyper Metroid also has a HUGE world but somehow makes it feel more connected and easily-traversible than Phazon hack did. Eris also manages to have an extensive world, but it's very dense and richly-packed with interesting features (although IMHO way too difficult.) I think Phazon hack could be improved by either making the world more compact and/or easier to traverse, or just making it richer and more interesting.
Eris by Digital_Mantra [SM Exploration], rated by cazort on Jun 10, 2018 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
Played the 2012 edition, did not complete it. If I had to pick one word to describe it, it would be tedious. It's challenging, but offers all the types of challenge that I don't like (to a degree that seems ABSURD to me) and doesn't offer the type that I do. The game is very front-heavy on the difficulty and the difficulty does not seem to ramp up gradually; if anything it seems to get easier as it goes along, which makes the crazy difficulty level early on all the more ridiculous.

Clearly it is the product of a tremendous amount of effort and skill, but in my opinion all that effort and skill has been wasted producing something that isn't fun to play. Maybe I'm just not a good enough player, and this hack is only really appropriate to players at a high skill level, but it seems wasteful to put so much effort into a hack that would be inaccessible to most players.

So while I recognize (and generally agree with) the qualities that other players like in this hack, like the aesthetic, with the incredible detail and artistry placed into the tiles, and the fact that it is an EPIC, extensive, complete hack that effectively creates a whole new (and radically different) game and world...I found that this hack was not very fun to play. I'm by no means an expert player, but I'm also not averse to a ramp-up in difficulty: the base game felt too easy overall, and hyper metroid (which I completed recently) also felt easier than I'd ideally like. I took on this hack specifically when I felt ready for something a little more advanced.

But this hack was WAAAAY too hard for me...and perhaps the biggest issue was not just that it was too hard, but that it was hard in ways I didn't like, thing that seemed "hard for the sake of being hard" rather than having a deeper purpose behind them, and that the difficulty was not well-compartmentalized.

- Stupid, time-consuming steps necessary to navigate through basic areas. The original game (and most hacks I like) makes you do some fun tricks to get through an area the first time, but then doesn't waste your time making you repeat those techniques while backtracking (usually b/c of items that allow you to bypass the obstacles.) This hack makes you repeat the time-consuming things...traversing the world felt like a chore. Maybe if you want to drill yourself to improve your skills, this hack would be good, but I wanted to play a game for fun and exploration, not to drill myself to become an expert. Contrast with hyper metroid that has a HUGE world, sometimes requiring significant acrobatics to get through particular puzzle rooms, but compartmentalizes the challenge, making the world mostly manageable to explore.
- Countless things that require fine-tuned technique. Jumps with next-to-no margin of error? Platforms that plunge almost instantly and are slow to return? A block placed JUST in the right place to make a particular jump possible, but extremely difficult to execute? Tricky wall-jump? Wall-jump to mid-air morph? Excessive mid-air-morph in tight spaces, often where Samus is hidden behind tiles at BOTH top and bottom of the jump so you can't clearly see what is going on (right from the start of the game, I might add)? All of the above, and these types of things are used heavily; they're routine in the game, required for the main path. Maybe fun if your technique is so fine-tuned that this stuff is second nature, not fun if you're like me and you just want to play an open-ended exploration game casually. I like these little challenges but only when they're used sparingly, such as in a one-time challenge to fetch an item, or in later-game areas. I do not like their excessive use in basic game areas most players will traverse multiple times.
- Other annoyances...blocks you can shoot that don't respawn, that you need to stand on to jump up to something up above, making you waste time leaving the room and coming back if you shot too many of them. Crumble blocks that aren't actually hard to avoid, but just make you waste time. Long, time-consuming (and sometimes dangerous, b/c of overpowered enemies) recoveries if you miss a jump (including in some areas VERY early on). These things don't provide genuine challenge, they're just annoying. It felt like the author of this hack was just trying to screw with me and waste my time.
- Extremely sparse ammo (2 missles per pack!), combined with very early contact with enemies that require ammo to kill in areas not populated by other enemies. I actually like the idea of sparse ammo (many hacks give too much ammo in my opinion.) but it was the combination of this with the overall design that was frustrating. This hack's setup gives you no margin of error: if your energy is full, you can (usually) kill each one and pick up a missile to restock, but if you take a single hit, the enemies start giving you energy some of the time, and you quickly run out of ammo. There are large areas full of enemies you can't kill without missiles, so this forces you to (a) farm energy and ammo to get full before entering these areas and (b) backtrack and repeat if you take a single hit. Again, wasting my time. In some cases taking a single hit can be an un-recoverable setback and spell death. Again, surprisigly early on in the game.
- Enemies do STUPID amounts of damage right from the start. I do not expect to die in 2-3 hits in the first few areas.
- Unnecessarily confusing tileset. You can't tell what a lot of tiles are from looking at them. Water? Solid ground this time, fall into it this other time. Is that a wall or platform? No, it's foreground that you walk behind. Is that a hole I can pass through? This one is, that one isn't. This area at the edge of the screen looks open...oh, I can't walk through it. Oh, these are spikes!?! Oops. Is that an item? No, it's a background tile. Sometimes a room has a totally dark border, part of it is wall, part of it opens into the next room and the only way to figure out is to push up against it. Some rooms are so dark you can't really make out much without turning up the screen brightness. Some areas are a complete shit show of chozo statues, some you can walk through or in front of, others that are solid, others that are disjoint with body parts missing that almost look more like a corrupted ROM than genuine level design. The issue isn't that this hack DOES these things, it's that it makes them routine. The original game (and the hacks I like) play around with occasional things that aren't what they look like...but it starts out by establishing clear ideas of what things look like and how they behave. To me, it's the establishment of patterns that makes it exciting when you find something that breaks the pattern, and this hack just felt chaotic to me, like the graphics were disjoint from the reality. Given how polished the aesthetic of this hack was, this aspect of it seemed like it was either amateurish (if unintentional) or just plain mean (if intentional.) I see this as a missed opportunity -- the authors of this hack created a whole new look-and-feel for a world; they could have built up expectations and then selectively broken them for dramatic effect, but instead they just created a chaotic jumble that looked like what I'd imagine a bad acid trip being like. (The planty / organic-looking area with spore spawn and botswoon is the worst; it's just chaotic to the point of requiring blanketing it with trial-and-error "go everywhere and shoot every block".) Either that or I'm just not at the level to pick up what subtle hints existed.
- Like the original and just about every major metroid hack, there are dead-ends. What I didn't like about this one was that the dead-ends felt very time-consuming, and as I progressed not-very-far into the game, sometimes dangerous. I felt like I needed to use savestates at every branching path, which is not a good sign. Getting stuck and not knowing where to go next meant I needed to painstakingly traverse the world using advanced techniques and savestates, often searching for a small detail somewhere or another that I missed.
- In spite of all of this I felt like the hack was not challenging in the ways I most like. The item order was surprisingly uncreative. There were enemies that I had to experiment with to develop a new strategy on how to handle, but they fit into the "too little too late" category (grapple beam opens up this when you discover it's actually a powerful weapon.) There were no enemies where their AI or placement in the room threw me for a loop. (Contrast with SMConflict, which I recently played and reviewed...it did an EXCELLENT job of this.) The enemies would kill me just because they were overpowered and I was underpowered, not because they were placed in clever places or configured to act in new ways. Lots of hidden items, but they're all hidden in straightforward, if tedious ways (LOTS of mazes of crawling around in small, poorly-marked passages, shoot a wall, shoot an object in the room, and often the item is hidden behind something that requires an item like power bombs or super missiles). Maybe I would have encountered something satisfying if I went farther in the hack, but there were no genuinely clever things, like a puzzle room that had me do something genuinely new and creative, or a hidden passage with a subtle hint that I didn't see the first time but made me say "Whoa!" and find the clue as obvious in hindsight. To point to a hack that does this excellently, I think Hyper Metroid nails this again and again. This game just felt like a chaotic jumble and finding items was a tedious process of trial-and-error.
- Bosses are made harder mainly by placing obstacles (spikes, lava, blocks) in the room, not by changing the boss dynamic. Contrast with SMConflict and So Little Garden...those are two hacks where the boss fights were FUN, like they made me smile and made me happy to lose a few times to figure out how to get through the fight. Heck, even the "Decision" hack changes the bosses more. Again, like everything in this hack, the bosses were tedious, frustrating, and prompted excessive savestating.

I didn't play very far into this game. I found myself relying on savestates both for exploring and to prevent time-consuming recoveries from a misstep like getting hit by an enemy or missing a jump. I'm not averse to using savestates but I usually just use them to save the game and come back -- I don't like using them to replay my every move, and don't like using them in boss fights, because that stops being fun. And that's exactly what happened with this hack.

I don't recommend this hack unless you're an expert player and a lot of the advanced techniques are second nature to you, or you're someone who is able to enjoy a hack even when using savestates every few seconds.

Basically, it came down to the hack being technique-focused and me feeling like it was continually wasting my time. And I'm a little pissed because...there is a lot about this hack that is really good, I think my rating is so low mainly because I feel like the creator of this hack made it like this elite thing that isn't accessible to me (or most players.) And that's a kinda crappy thing to do.

I don't think it would be that hard to fix this hack. I've watched a playthrough of it. It gets easier, not harder, as you go on. And this is the problem...the beginning is just WAAAAY too hard. A few simple things (maybe not all of them, but some combination of them), I think would fix it: (a) an extra energy tank early on (b) more early ammo (c) a way to bypass some of the maze-of-small-passages-with-jumping-in-ball-form and truly compartmentalizing this stuff to areas you only need to traverse one or two times (I'm thinking the tree room, that room is crap because you go through it SO many times when playing the game, either eliminate it or make some shortcut opened up by an early-attainable item, seriously I absolutely hate that room and I think it is crazily inappropriate in difficulty level for how early in the game it appears) (d) enemies in the early areas do less damage. (e) more easily farmed enemies early-on (What I REALLY don't get is like, how crazy abundant this hack makes farming areas late-game...when they're so rare in the first few areas. This is a garbage design choice and it makes me get the feeling that the creator of this hack is just so good as to be totally out of touch with what playing this hack would be like for players with a more modest skill levels.) (f) move some of the crazy tile madness later in the game. unintuitive-looking spikes is a great idea...move them later into an area where they catch the user by surprise after setting up the expectation of more normal-looking spikes. You could do the same thing with tile-weirdness.

That's it. I think that would fix this hack and probably bring it up to 5 stars for me.