Wizard's Ratings and Reviews
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Hyper Metroid by RealRed [SM Exploration], rated by Wizard on Aug 05, 2021 (Star Star Star Star Star )
82% in 6:50
This is in my opinion the best SM hack on the market right now. While I'm not in love with Samus's new suit colors I am in love with virtually everything else about this. The progression is absolutely perfectly tuned to be hard enough to challenge you and egg you on, but not so hard as to frustrate or discourage you. The new layouts and zones look incredible and are just as fun to explore as they are to look at. Many upgrades are easily missed the first time around - but that just makes it more fun to go back and try to figure it out.

Of particular note is the challenge level, and how the enemies are scaled. The boss fights are universally just perfectly tuned to where your strength level should be when you encounter them, and I will be impressed for the rest of my life that RealRed was able to do this so elegantly. Every boss fight will have you close to death, just barely beating the enemy - and feeling like you really, really earned the win. Ridley in particular was a monolithic battle and I don't know if I'll ever forget the satisfaction I felt when, with 56 energy left, he finally blew up and I got to take what felt like my first breath in minutes. Finally, the escape sequence was just perfect and had you running across what felt like the entire damn planet at lightspeed and it felt so, so good. Incredible work all around and I plan to replay this many, many times.
Oxide by Cyclamen32 [SM Exploration], rated by Wizard on Aug 24, 2021 (Star Star Star Star Star )
172% in 0:00
Very good, very short, very focused hack. Oxide does pretty much exactly what I want a hack to do, in that it's focused, there's lots of fun side stuff to find, and it offers you a lot of fun with nearly zero buildup. The game starts and off you go to have a good time. Special note is that it's genuinely funny in a few places. It's not dumb slapstick or le epic memes, but it does a few things that as a Metroid veteran you're going to chuckle at. I wasn't expecting it and I really liked it. More than anything though I just enjoyed the focus. There's no BS here, it wants you to get to the next area, find the next upgrade, fight the next boss. I like that because in my book a good game demands to be played, the way a good book seems to turn its own pages. Oxide fits that bill.

Escape sequence was probably the worst part of the game, which is really saying something because there's nothing wrong with the escape sequence, it was just kinda there. I wasn't expecting it to blow my mind or anything but after Hyper Metroid's incredible, tense and unbelievably fast escape I guess I'm just spoiled. Overall a solid 4/5 hack and one I'm glad to have played.
V I T A L I T Y by Digital_Mantra [SM Exploration], rated by Wizard on Aug 05, 2021 (Star Star Star Star Star )
78% in 5:15
I liked this hack, but didn't love it. While the visuals are legitimately stunning in some places, in a lot of others they're way overdone, obscuring the action and making it hard to guess which platform is for jumping on and which is in the background. Vitality's pace is also all over the place - the first couple of hours of my first playthrough were a brutal slog and felt like actual work, and then the game started to open up and feel really good for an hour or two before the end.

Storywise I liked it, and especially liked how it drip-fed me the details of what was going on. This hack does a lot more show than tell and I always love a story that works that way. The ending was very abrupt and I was a little frustrated that it just kinda ends, especially since as I mentioned before I felt like I had just gotten to the point where I could actually effectively explore.

Overall a pretty good hack. Not great, not the best I've played, but certainly not bad or the worst either. I'm glad I played it and you probably will be too. Just be prepared to give it some time to get started.