FPzero's Ratings and Reviews
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SM - Cryogenesis by Onnyks [SM Exploration], rated by FPzero on Feb 12, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
79% in 2:21
There's a lot to love here, and when I mean a lot I'm also talking about the sheer size of this hack. I've seen normal hacks that are smaller than this, and it's a contest entry to boot! It's incredibly impressive what Onnyks accomplished here, especially how much hack there is and how well tiled a lot of the areas are.

Every room seems to tell a story, meticulously tiled to a stunning degree. Metroid doesn't often delve into the supernatural, but the lower left area of Teranul and all the hands make it feel like the Space Pirates awakened some kind of demonic force hellbent on destroying their underground outpost. Same goes for the mutated Chozo statues--you never know what kind of abomination you'll see next time you find a major item. And there's something sinister about all of them being shades of orange, in such stark contrast to all the icy blues used throughout the hack. I kept expecting them to come alive in some horrible twisted Torizo fight.

Level design is full of secret paths and hidden areas, all the while never really letting you get too lost for too long. You can always go back and look for a few extra missile tanks if you really want but the meat of the game is really getting stuck in deeper and deeper under the frigid surface, navigating collapsed passageways and the twisted grips of stone claws. Switching between different layers of specific rooms was really fascinating, as was the rotating turbine puzzle in the space pirate ship. If I had one main complaint it's how often you're expected to just bomb everything to proceed or find secrets. X-Ray would've been a nice pickup but it appears to be unavailable.

I feel like the pacing was well-balanced throughout most of the hack, with the final parts of Void Engine being the exception. You get a lot of stuff dumped on you in rapid succession once you find the hack's new powerup, an interesting take on a speed booster alternative named Meteorite. I think this item has some potential, but it definitely feels like more of a proof of concept in execution here, useful for little else other than the occasional speed boost block below you. The game also just kind of ends unceremoniously with a Ridley fight behind a random door at the start and then a quick escape sequence.

Really though, my complaints are rather minor. There's lots of fun to be had here and great exploration to uncover, with optional minibosses and upgrades, beautiful scenery and a good difficulty level throughout. I never knew what to expect through the next doorcap, and I think that's when Metroid is at its best.

4.5/5 Orbs but I'm choosing to give it the full 5 in the actual rating.
Super Duper Metroid by Metaquarius, Daltone [SM Exploration], rated by FPzero on Feb 19, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
90% in 3:38
This hack's openness is both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness.

The early parts of the hack feel great to explore and find things and is by far the strongest part of the game. There are secrets hidden everywhere, with hidden paths letting you get around what you think are dead ends. The intended item path isn't very clear so for a while you're just stumbling upon upgrades during exploration. Your first missile or super missile tank could be from a number of places if you just explore carefully. X-Ray can be obtained super early, giving you extra incentive to track down as many secrets as you can, and there certainly are a lot of them to discover. Sometimes you'll find secrets within secrets, or a dead end with a powerup will turn out to actually have a hidden path in it out to a different nearby hallway. Undoubtedly this helps with the randomizer mode, giving you tons of ways to navigate the planet.

Now, part of this will be my own experience talking from the route I ended up finding everything, But I feel like the mid-to-endgame was very boring to actually play. See, I stumbled into Maridia some time after finding Grapple Beam since that seemed like where the grapple ceiling in Crateria was leading me and after some time ended up finding Gravity Suit and fighting Draygon as my first major boss. My reward was Space Jump. After that point, I never really had any trouble with anything the game threw at me, and I had barely half the major upgrades. Outside of finding Varia Suit, I basically spent the rest of my playthrough doing fast area cleanup with nothing threatening me any longer, even faster once I found Plasma Beam. The whole second half flew by in a blur with barely a care in the world. I didn't have to pay attention to anything really, I was just so overpowered. Like I said, this is definitely a result of my routing, but it was all totally possible to do with little difficulty, and frankly I don't recall any other obvious areas I'd found by that point to go towards instead of Maridia.

Part of that was the placement of Varia Suit. I'll just touch on it briefly, but it's just so far out of the way. I didn't find it until I had Power Bombs and discovered I could break the Maridia tube from outside the tube. If I didn't go that way, I would've had to do a very lengthy heat run. It's obtainable way earlier than PBs, but it feels highly unlikely a player would dedicate their time to such a long run without knowing a heat run was actually required. It feels like a real misstep to place Varia where it is.

My last major critique is that I felt like a lot of rooms were big just for the sake of being big. Some of them are downright sprawling. Others are very open but have little in them. I know I had Space Jump for most of my playthrough, so this is probably not a fair critique, but it felt like the actual level design mattered very little after a while. This may have more importance in a random run or if you take a different route though, so I'm not going to be too harsh on this topic. My playthrough is subjective, I understand that.

It's a good hack, competently made and definitely replayable even without the extra modes it adds. It just didn't live up the the transformational expectation I got from looking at the rating and reviews. I'd still recommend playing it, but I wouldn't put it in my favorites list personally. Commendable effort nonetheless.
Super Metroid: Hotlands by MetroidNerd#9001 [SM Exploration], rated by FPzero on Feb 09, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
68% in 0:59
First completion in 00:59, 68.2%.
100% completion in 1:18.

This is a pretty great hack that shines when you fully commit to its scavenger hunt, and falters a bit when you don't. How easy it is or how well you survive fully depends on how many hidden items you're able to find along the way. While most have some kind of tell to them hinting at their location, not all do. It's very possible to get to the final "fight" or the ninja pirate fight with three super missiles, a couple energy tanks, and maybe 20 missiles and be totally overwhelmed. The hot blocks you need to destroy at various places all take 6 missiles each, so if you haven't been locating extra missile tanks, you'll be stuck farming rinkas. That might even be true if you *have* been finding extras for some of the fights. I found myself having to use a few refill bugs near the end of the hack more than once just to have the energy and resources needed to deal with the final fights.

The hack feels like it should have spring ball or high jump hidden somewhere, because a lot of secrets involve mid-air morph + bomb to access, screw attack needed walljumps, and spazer needs a combo of both to access, all spot that would've been made easier to access with the aforementioned items. In fact, because the game up to those points never seemed to suggest that I needed anything other than basic vanilla techniques and some good grapple abilities on the surface, I nearly skipped spazer and screw attack entirely. I'm very glad I didn't, even if screw attack turned out to be strangely underwhelming this time. I guess when you make special copies of all the main enemies that are invulnerable to the item, that will happen.

However, if you find the secret area, the difficulty is pretty much negated outright because the things you find there make your beam very powerful and can damage what even screw attack can't. While this is a great reward for careful exploration, it does leave the rest of the game strangely frustrating to traverse before that. I never found the secret area in my first playthrough, so I have a good idea of both endgame experiences.

I know this is a lot of complaining but that's just because the hack starts incredibly well. The surface is very fun to explore, items aren't hidden too hard, the frequency of meaningful powerups is high, grapple is used to good effect by making it a weird but effective way to defeat a lot of the enemies there... It's just a great time with lovely tiling that really sells the inhospitable landscape. Tilesets overall are fantastic, especially the one in the secret area--I'm honestly in love with how it looks. Music is fun to listen to and well-ported, though maybe a bit odd as tracks for a Metroid hack.

Overall the hack is genuinely really good and absolutely worth playing. I wish I could rate it higher but the frustrations I was feeling by the end with high resource requirements, some claustrophobic jumps and lots of nearly invincible enemies stuck out too much. If anything, it does make me really excited to play anything else MetroidNerd#9001 makes in the future!
Ice Metal Uninstall by Crys [SM Exploration], rated by FPzero on Apr 02, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
86% in 3:05
I know I played this when it originally released but it's been so long that it was pretty much a new experience. It's not that bad given its age but it's still kind of a middle of the road hack even accounting for that.

The exploration aspect is both really strong and really weak. Sure, you can explore the world pretty openly, and find copies of some items in a few different places, but it means that if you find those rooms where the duplicates would normally be, you're left with an empty feeling. I'm a bit baffled by the decision to backload most of the beam pickups, including Charge Beam until post-Speed Booster and Space Jump. Steamfair is quite possibly completely optional depending on where you go, as are a number of major items in general. Navigating the world can get pretty confusing at times too, and even when you do get Plasma Beam or manage to find Screw Attack, neither help speed up your exploration very much because both have had their damage values sunk straight into the ground.

It's a strange experience to play these days but you could do a lot worse.
Temple of the Winds by Moehr and Albert V. [SM Exploration], rated by FPzero on Feb 13, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
91% in 1:42
There are so many interesting little custom additions here that it's a shame to rate the hack a 3/5 but I just had so many problems with the game's execution that I can't overlook them. First off, no matter what else I say here I need to get out of the way that the game is absolutely beautiful to look at in all areas and most items are really interesting to play with. Certainly an insane amount of work went into the hack's creation and I want to make sure I give credit where it's due in my review. The Mode 7 bit zooming into the final area is super neat to see, using Power Bombs to evaporate water layers was inspired, and being able to do ultra short Speed Boosters was fun when the terrain allowed for it. Applause and congratulations are well-deserved for the hack's creation.

I'll start from the beginning. The whirlwinds are thematic but rather annoying to have to leap through often, leading to awkward platforming right from the word Go. The hack also has a fondness for making unmarked crumble blocks be the triggers for other blocks to break or move, and you'll immediately run into this when you try and get the Cloud Boots, and it will show up again multiple times during the playthrough. Level design is alright but not amazing. Individual rooms tended to be cramped and full of enemies, and without any kind of normal Bomb or X-Ray there's no real good way to search for secrets or check if something needs to be crumbled without standing on random tiles. Grapple use is abundant early on, sometimes over pits that transition you to a previous room, making you go all the way back around to try again. I did feel rather confused navigating the world at times. I don't know why I had so much trouble finding my bearings in such a small hack but I did, over and over. I think part of it was the random times I got warped to places without a firm understanding of why. Like, there's a warp that seems to happen in the right side of the main temple that takes you all the way back to the start by the map station, and then if you speed boost through the bridge in that very same room you end up warping to the side temple where Windwalk is. There were also a few times where room events seemed to trigger, and then somehow untrigger, and sometimes that even meant the addition or removal of water or heatwave from areas.

This is all complicated by the enemies in the hack. I don't know what it was, but I just had so much trouble dealing with them. A lot of them have projectiles, reflectors, or will do their best to slam into you as quickly as possible. Not to mention, you generally have to stop to deal with enemies because they take multiple hits. The reflector enemies were especially slow to deal with because you had to switch to Grapple to defeat the reflector, then back to a weapon to finish them off. My health was constantly taking a beating throughout, and I really didn't appreciate the addition of Poison tanks hurting me even further. Like, why is that a thing at all, especially when they look exactly like the Medicine tanks? Bosses were also not great. The big statue one in the Windwalk temple felt like nothing more than a damage race where you just tank hits as best you can while being conveyed around the arena firing Thunder shots until one of you dies. The Wizard thing was kind of neat but was mostly a gimmick fight once you realized you could destroy the top white orb without damaging yourself. Finally, the Torizo at the end was just a painful slog as you need to escort quest him all over the room to break walls. At first I thought I was totally missing something as he didn't want to break the right wall at the bottom, so I fired everything at him uselessly until he died. It's just not a very fun fight.

Speaking of fun, I just wish I had more of it while playing. The effort is clearly here visually and in new custom aspects, but I feel like the level design fundamentals are lacking throughout. Given that you're constantly interacting with the world, you gotta make sure it feels good to play, move around, and fight foes. Beautification and cool ideas only go so far, and for me, that's why my rating is the way it is.
Harvest by Oi27 [SM Exploration], rated by FPzero on Feb 10, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
71% in 1:57
There's something unnerving about playing Harvest. Its level design has a kind of chaotic energy you don't really find elsewhere, with tons of claustrophobic spaces, wraparounds, parallel paths, randomly breakable terrain, strange tiling choices and more. Navigating this world is made all the more challenging due to the long absence of a certain round series staple until the end of the game. Accidentally stumbling across X-Ray was a godsend because there are secrets around every corner, with secrets inside of other secrets hiding plenty of powerful gear upgrades.

The actual path through the game is surprisingly quick even though all of your major upgrades are present. It's just that most are considered optional. I think you can get to the ending sequence with nothing more than Missiles, Power Bombs, Charge, Ice, Speed Booster and Grapple, but doing so really only lets you see about half of the game's world. So much of what Harvest offers is optional, which I suppose lends itself well to replayability, but does also obscure the critical path. You can be exploring a far area for a while and come to realize that there's actually nothing critical to proceed there. The beginning of the game has you scrounging for powerups that drip feed themselves to you, but once you get to the Factory you're suddenly in for a deluge of items in rapid succession, and if you explore well you'll come out of there equipped to handle pretty much everything else the game has to offer. I'm glad I explored because doing so gave me the tools to beat the hack's final boss without too much difficulty. It's just that the pace of upgrades feels a bit lopsided.

Speaking of upgrades and explorations, man that lack of Morph Ball and chaotic room design with many hidden or obscured paths make exploring a bit of a pain. It's easy to be going in circles, especially at the start of the game, as you wait for the bomb enemies to maybe unveil some mandatory hidden path forward. The worst culprit is probably the path that connects east and west Silo, with the elevator between Feelds and Silo not far behind. Plus, the bomb enemies do a whole energy tank of damage, are all over the place, and don't really drop any meaningful health. I found myself at low energy and resources multiple times throughout my playthrough's midgame, and it felt bad every time I had to sit and farm some respawning enemies.

It's a shame that the hack feels pretty rough at times because the technical skills on display here are amazing. The item loss sequence is cool to watch, the new enemies are interesting, the alternate ways to use items like Charge Beam and Power Bombs are genius, the final boss fight is super impressive... Everything new feels incredible to witness and are really good reasons to stick with the game to the end despite its stumbling points. I do recommend playing the hack to experience what it has to offer, just be prepared to get lost in the corn fields for a while.
Super Metroid Alliance by Mentlegen, Tundain, Dewhi100 [SM Quick Play], rated by FPzero on Feb 02, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
83% in 1:30
I think my biggest complaints with this hack come from the level design itself. It feels like the hack was made to be large almost to impress the contest judges since you wouldn't necessarily expect a contest entry to be so big. But it meant that many rooms felt like filler to me. Lots of large rooms with dash jumping back and forth and rarely any number of enemies that felt challenging or fitting to rooms of that size. A number of rooms felt copied across environments, particularly any room with lava or acid draining. The Pirate lab was very boring overall, made to be symmetrical which was nice but not really having anything to fill the rooms with. I checked the map someone made after I beat it and it's almost barren for pickups or other things to find. There's tons of ground to cover and explore, but it feels like the hack could be 50% smaller by volume and still give the exact same core play experience.

I got lost a few times. The first was leading up to Bombs when I didn't realize you had to dash morph jump across some pits, and then the second when I didn't immediately realize that the ally in Pyroxias had a cooling effect attached to him. These incidents definitely contributed to my inflated play time. Progression overall seemed fine but unexciting. I'll agree with MetroidNerd#9001's review in that you just kind of stumble across major upgrades with little fanfare. Both Suit upgrades were probably the biggest culprits, as you spend so little time navigating the heat run and suitless underwater that the fact you must do both feels a bit arbitrary.

In terms of presentation, I think this is where the hack definitely shines. New music is good, the graphical combinations and expansions look nice, and I like the new touches such as the lava drains, the allies, and the various lockdowns in places. The hack is sufficiently moody and the visuals and music definitely help with that.

Despite all I've said, I don't think this is a bad hack at all. It's definitely solid, especially when you consider it was finished in just two months. It's just a bit underwhelming at times to me. Fewer large rooms, fewer extraneous connecting passageways and a bit more thought in the leadup to major pickups would help this one more for me. It's still work to be proud of though.
Stardust by Tyjet66 [SM Quick Play], rated by FPzero on Jan 30, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
96% in 1:21
This is on the mini-hack side of things and honestly? It's not too bad even today. Its biggest faults are hiding required progression behind obstacles with no real indication a hidden path is there (the room before your likely first Super Missiles, the sandfall to Draygon). But aside from those moments, the hack is pretty non-linear. I found my way to Gravity Suit before finding Varia, and later discovered I could've had a Power Bomb right after getting Bombs proper. Its open-ended nature is both a strength and a weakness for the reasons listed above. Getting a map isn't a terrible idea when you get stuck, especially if you're looking for 100% completion.

Visually, it's a bit outdated, but this is about what to expect from most hacks' visual styles at the times. Palettes are alright, tiling is usually fine. Challenge is roughly vanilla as well. Escape timer was surprisingly short.

Is it the best hack on the site? Absolutely not, nor even the best hack of the year it was released. But it's solid enough, and you can easily finish it off in a single sitting. It's a decent enough time overall.
gossamer by neen [SM Exploration], rated by FPzero on Feb 29, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
82% in 3:40
There is something deeply unpleasant about playing this hack and you become aware of it as soon as you start playing. It honestly reminds me of some ancient half-hacks I played 15+ years ago, which is not really a flattering comparison.

-First, the physics are changed but not for the better. Your jump height is so low that getting High Jump simply makes it so that you can now jump as high as you would in vanilla without high jump. But the physics are also heavy like Redesign
-Second, half this entire hack takes place underwater, and you will be suitless for much of it. I will say it's at least interesting that your jumps underwater are way higher than out of water, but it does mean that once you find Gravity Suit all the platforms in underwater areas aren't as reachable any longer.
-Third, rooms are large but rarely smooth to traverse. There are plenty of little nubs, ledges, and outcroppings to jump over that make simply running across rooms a chore. The altered physics make this part more annoying too, since you're constantly having to jump more due to high gravity and low jump height. Forget about speed boosting much, the only times you'll be able to do so are when you need to shinespark somewhere. On the other hand, if you have a clear area to actually build a speed boost, you probably need it somewhere nearby.
-Fourth, the whole hack is so dark to look at. Every area aside from Ship is dimly lit or built out of dark foregrounds that can obscure your path.
-Fifth, on top of dark palettes, many rooms also have various FX applied to give strange palette warp effects, transparent overlaid tiles, or some combination of the two. Voiddragon is probably one of the worst looking areas I have ever seen in a romhack, looking straight like the game has bugged out. I assume you were going for some kind of dream-like, highly alien, or even "Samus's brain is unravelling" aesthetic but it just looks like pixelated garbage to me.

And this is all before we get to the actual progression. It's really weird and the hack makes no effort to tell the player what it expects of them in terms of skill requirements. Early on you'll be going back and forth between Slumberland and Mladicia slowly trying to eke out any manner of progress. If you're playing with an assumption that no major skills are required since the hack description doesn't say anything and there's no readme, you'll quickly find that progress after speed booster is pretty much impossible without one-wall wall jumps and some short charges to get into Ship. Once I realized there was an unspoken skill requirement in the hack, I started walljumping everywhere because it seemed like the hack wanted me to do it. I know it's generally always considered optional in hacks but I have no idea how to get Spazer without doing a shinespark drop where you stop a run on a corner and fall through while still being able to break speed booster blocks. Maybe that *was* the intention. Space Jump seems to require damage boosting, Wave beam is accessible very early but only if you do an Alcatraz-like mid-air morph, Power Bombs are well-hidden in a room that felt like I accidentally stumbled upon a random PB pickup, not the first one, and Charge Beam is possibly the latest I've ever seen in a hack. Energy tanks are at a premium here, and if I hadn't solved a kill-room puzzle using Shinesparks on other-wise invincible pirates I would've had only 3 E-tanks going into the final fight.

The hack feels very uneven, like its main focus was on providing a weird visual experience. And yeah, that's a neat idea, but actually traversing the world and finding upgrades should be fun too. Half the weird alien rooms have nothing in them either, instead just being purely visual as you run through them. I hate to rate the hack so low but I just didn't enjoy my time with it very much. I stuck with it to see if it would be better by the end and I can't say that it really was.