Onnyks's Ratings and Reviews
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V I T A L I T Y by Digital_Mantra [SM Exploration], rated by Onnyks on Jul 11, 2022 (Star Star Star Star Star )
82% in 5:40
I treated this hack like a walk through of an art gallery, the quality of the tiling was just mind blowing. So many visual moments to appreciate: baked in lighting on the terrain and background, perspective and reflections, detailed forms of both organic and mechanical objects, deep variety, interesting geometry. The hack felt grounded in its otherworldliness, believably exotic, with a flowing diversity of environments. I cannot say how pleasurable it was to explore, probably 2 hours of this run time was just me gawking at the rooms.

The secrets were fun to find, the environmental clues were subtle enough to make me feel clever, but they still stood out from the already creative tiling variety, something that I was afraid would not be the case when I started. No need to bomb every corner, just keep your eyes peeled.

Story elements were very successfully integrated into the environment. There were many moments in the playthrough where I got to stop and take in a scene that was richly detailed and mysterious, not only using visuals but also game mechanics. This was largely in part by making many segmented regions be self-contained loops, often resulting in a change to the world upon returning, or concluding with some cinematic flair.

I can give it no less than 5 orbs for these achievements.

The hack is not free from criticism, but the following would not be enough to diminish its score:

The darkness and contrast levels sometimes hurt navigation. I found myself using tricks like short charge or IBJ, only later to realize the path forward was easily available but visually unclear.

The hub area felt too mazelike. Item window dead ends and overlapping rooms were interesting to clear, but something could have been done to improve their necessary revisits.

Midgame combat was a bit of a slog. Worst offenders were flying enemies in tall rooms swooping on and offscreen to land a lot of blind hits. Farm spots were also somewhat rare, especially for such a limited arsenal.

Overall this hack is inspirationally creative and beautiful. Bravo.
Super Metroid: Subversion by TestRunner and AmoebaOfDoom [SM Exploration], rated by Onnyks on Sep 05, 2022 (Star Star Star Star Star )
90% in 11:26
So much praise should be given to Subversion for so many things. Very in depth additions to the hack make this a great joy to play. I can't call it my favorite hack, but I can definitely say it has been the most impressive.

First of all the music is top notch. Classics and remixes and originals blend together to give the many various environments a great feel. Whether they be tranquil, mysterious, energetic, or dangerous, all the moods you want in a Metroid world are here.

Tiling is textbook Metroid, in the best way possible. Highly detailed yet easy to read (mostly), whether using the classic SM sets or imported new varieties. Along with the music these sold each area as new and intriguing, making me want to explore.

And explore you will! The world is vast, every time I thought I had filled the map, another hidden connection led me somewhere new. The amount of content is staggering.

Samus felt very well scaled in this hack, power-wise, each combat upgrade felt appreciated and useful in fighting through increasingly dangerous baddies.

Above and beyond all of that however, what I'm sure will be most remembered about this hack is the amount of innovation in mechanics. I won't mention anything specific, but the execution of each of the many item reworks and new toys was just about perfect. Solving puzzles and navigating the world really went to the next level because of this, and that's always my favorite part.

Some criticisms, none of which could make this any less than a 5 orb hack, in no particular order

- There are many rooms that lag, often as a tradeoff for being very cool, but it is jarring
- The connections between areas can be clunky, especially with the choice of some gating
- Some backtracking was very "there and back again" as opposed to the really great sections that used a looping design

Bravo! This really is an exceptional, must play hack!
Super metroid familiar by Tundain [SM Exploration], rated by Onnyks on Nov 09, 2022 (Star Star Star Star Star )
82% in 3:40
An aptly named hack, this is a solid rethink to the Zebes floor plan. Rooms will cleverly remind you of their vanilla counterparts but play very differently. I liked the general structure of the progression, I won't say anything specific about it, except that I wasted some time based on my own assumptions. I feared a great deal of backtracking was going to happen if I didn't find certain things but that wasn't the case, once I got over my flawed expectations there was always a path forward.

The motif of layout changes made for some good and some bad rooms. Familiar certainly highlights just how many long horizontal rooms there were to edit. Kudos to making them feel unique, but man Samus' legs are tired after all that climbing.

Map layout was very sprawling, and I wish that there were more intertwining pathways or branches to make certain pathways less linear. This might be a difficult ask given the way Familiar specifically goes about its redesign, but it was noticeable.

The feature noted in the credits was very cool to see. I'm impressed by the effort put in to show off what I'm sure many hack players will be trying to figure out themselves, it's always great when that's possible.
Super Junkoid by P. Yoshi [SM Exploration], rated by Onnyks on Aug 24, 2023 (Star Star Star Star Star )
100% in 3:56
This was a really fantastic experience. I'll start by saying that the world felt divergent in terms of progress. I took one path but I'm pretty sure once a key item was obtained there is a fork that very elegantly would have led me to the same place, a well designed hub that allowed revisiting the other prong OR going forward into dangerous territory early. I took the challenge and got rewarded in terms of items and a very satisfying but still fresh vanilla homage. My pathing choice allowed for tons of exploration, I saw every area after only knocking out one major boss, which is a very fun option.

There was so much creative world building the entire time, using the environment to lead the player through the hacker's vision of a fitful nightmare. The pacing of the hack was good, with each area feeling like it's own adventure and not overstaying its welcome. The visuals are top notch with creative use of heat waves and glow effects, custom and remixed tilesets, careful color and lighting choices, polish on the HUD and pause screen, but MOST of all the hugely detailed sprite art overhauls. This hack is inspiringly crafted, I was in awe from beginning to end, and I would recommend it to all players.

It's not worth an orb off or anything, but getting 100% was extremely easy. It was pretty clear that the author did not want a glut of items, nor a great deal of backtracking just to find ammo, which is a fine choice, but that does mean very few gates or puzzles pose a challenge beyond seeing the tiling hint for a hidden passageway. By the end of the hack I felt like I was just ducking in and out of very interesting rooms but not using any of my tools any more, occasionally bombs, maybe speed booster, but often simply morph. Perhaps this was the most appropriate choice for a hack that wants to be as richly symbolic and thoughtful, an easy adventure so as not to distract from its purpose.
Super Metroid: Ascent by Benox50 [SM Exploration], rated by Onnyks on Oct 06, 2023 (Star Star Star Star Star )
84% in 6:06
Ascent was an impressively good time. Three things really stood out from other hack experiences.

First the design of the whole game was a fresh take on Metroid, kind of like 3 independent open-world adventures played back-to-back, almost episodic. The areas were very large but not obnoxiously so, with interesting room ideas absolutely everywhere. There were obviously some gates in the way, we are playing Metroid after all, but so many of them in this hack felt suggestive rather than mandatory. Often times you'll find yourself behind a blockade you noticed earlier and wonder how else this might have all played out, what other routes there were. I can think of very few other hacks with this much freedom that don't simply make you feel lost.

Second there is the art, which was enormously detailed and creative in a less conventional way. My best description of most rooms would be high-fidelity chaos, an exotic array of tiles blended in a way that doesn't offend the senses. Such a style could easily have become confusing, but the palettes were doing such heavy lifting in keeping things cohesive that it read very well. The whole feeling of the planet was incredibly alien and imaginative, a vibrant playground, reality be damned.

Last and most impressive to me were the huge number of creative puzzles to be solved. Almost no items were simple pixel-hunts, this hack takes the abilities you get and makes you use them in so many unique ways to earn rewards that if puzzle-hack was a category I would put it there over exploration. Speed booster felt like it got the most attention, and given the changes to it that's very reasonable, but BTS manipulation, enemy mechanics, room names, you name it and there's something in the hack to test your knowledge.