From my videos and livestreams to the countless reviews I've written across the Web, I've been a game critic for something like 15 years. After participating in the first MaGMML, I expressed an interest in being a judge for the second one. I was briefly considered for the position...but then people remembered that I was the guy who made the love-it-or-more-likely-hate-it "Maze of Death" level for the first contest, so I was back to being a contestant. Recognizing good level design and creating good level design are not the same skill, so I had something to prove going into MaGMML2.
With "Guts Man's Asteroid," I attempted to address every complaint I'd heard about "Maze of Death." By all accounts, I was successful—despite some flaws (read: boulder droppers) that kept the level just barely out of the top ten, my submission was well received by the judges and remains a fan favorite. Hence, this was the level I chose to submit when applications opened to become a judge for MaGMML3.
Nineteen of us applied, but only three of us—Shinryu (creator of MaGMML2's first-place level), Pachy (creator of what might be MaGMML2's best-designed middle-tier level), and yours truly (creator of this blog post)—were offered a judge position. There were two phases to the application process. The first one consisted of playing, rating, and reviewing seven sample levels, which represented a typical spread for this type of contest: the thoroughly mediocre level, the obvious troll level, the level that looks great at first glance but secretly has some issues, and so forth. Eleven of us made it to the second phase, which had us sending the contest hosts an example of our level design ability, be it a new level or one that we'd already made.
During the whole process, I kept telling myself that I'd be happy no matter what the result was. However, the anxiety, excitement, and preemptive disappointment I felt at various points made it clear to my wife, if not to me, that I really would've been crushed if I didn't pass the test. I say "preemptive disappointment" because, for a while, it looked like I hadn't made the initial cut. I was watching for an e-mail or private message with a status update, but I didn't realize a new "Phase 2 Applicant" role (or something to that effect) had been added for me on Discord. Oops.
Because I'd already created the level I wanted to submit as a sample of my work, all I needed to worry about were the reviews. We were given a rubric: 35 points for design, 25 for fun, 15 for creativity, 15 for aesthetics, and 10 for functionality, adding up to 100 possible points. We were also asked to rate the difficulty on a scale of 1-5, indicate whether the level should be skippable (and if so, why), and designate a favorite and least favorite.
I can rate things on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 just fine, but I had trouble determining what would separate, say, a 23 from a 24. I ended up breaking each category into more manageable subcategories, getting a second opinion from my wife and tinkering with the balance until I ended up with this:
Design - X/35
Learning curve - X/5
Challenge design (deliberate, clear, meaningful, fair) - X/5
Challenge progression (↑ complexity/difficulty, challenge arcs, climax) - X/5
Focus (coherent theme, manageable roster, nothing over/underused) - X/5
Architecture (logical, efficient, unobtrusive) - X/5
Level design (length, layout, pacing, checkpoints) - X/5
Capability consideration (abilities shine without destroying the challenge) - X/2
Name (does the level reflect the title) - X/2
Perfectible (no damage w/ buster only) - X/1
Fun - X/25
Totally subjective rating - X/10
Worth my time - X/5
Highs (do the best parts boost the level) - X/5
Lows (are the shortcomings forgivable) - X/5
Creativity - X/15
Originality (have I seen anything exactly like this) - X/5
Novelty (does this offer new experiences) - X/5
Impressiveness (am I surprised or wowed) - X/5
Aesthetics - X/15
Graphics - X/5
Music - X/5
Atmosphere/theming - X/5
Functionality - X/10
Stability (flawless construction; no glitches) - X/5
Feasibility (can the player reliably complete each challenge) - X/5
Now I was ready to judge some levels. I downloaded an executable file containing the sample levels (which you can download here, if you'd like to try them yourself) and got to work. I played everything once, jotted down some notes, then circled back and played everything again before finalizing my scores and writeups.
Preserved for posterity, and so that you can ask, "Wait, how did this guy get accepted as a judge?", here are the opinions I offered. Note that the numbers in parentheses correspond with the subcategory breakdowns listed above. Also note that this is the last time you'll see level reviews from me in excess of 500 words; no one should spend more time reading my review than I spent playing their level.
Difficulty Rating: 1
Design - 21/35 (3, 2, 2, 2, 4, 5, 1, 1, 1)
Fun - 12/25 (5, 2, 1, 4)
Creativity - 3/15 (2, 1, 0)
Aesthetics - 8/15 (3, 2, 3)
Functionality - 10/10 (5, 5)
TOTAL - 54/100
This is—and I think we can all agree on this—a level. The name “Midnight Man” conjures up images of what might be in store for the player—at the very least, a boss at the end named Midnight Man. Will there be werewolves to fight under a full moon at midnight? Some darkness- or shadow-oriented gimmick, given how dark it is at midnight? Perhaps a battle on a clock tower as the clock strikes midnight? The heart of a lion and the wings of a bat, BECAUSE IT’S MIDNITE? Why, the possibilities are...not really fleshed out here at all.
The background of the first half of the stage suggests that it is nighttime, and there are bats. This is a good start. In general, the graphics are pretty good; there’s some nice detail in the foregrounds, and the damage-ridden background for the indoors portion (despite being a bit too close in color to the foreground) suggests there might be an interesting story behind this level—especially on the last screen; I want to know what that cool-looking capsule thing is. Unfortunately, the challenges do nothing to bring that story to life.
I applaud that the enemy roster is a reasonable size and that the enemies aren’t placed all willy-nilly. I like the one screen where the dense starfield in the background makes it harder to see the Haehay’s bullets (I hope that was intentional), and I like that the Battons blend into the background for a similar sneakiness (which I also hope was intentional). But that’s about all that stands out as particularly positive about the challenges.
There’s no sense of theme to the enemies, and their placement is often less than ideal—the first Beak you meet should not be on top of the first ladder you find, nor should you hide Beaks behind the health bar. The Shotman guarding the entrance to the secret room (which is satisfyingly well hidden) is all well and good until you realize you’ll practically walk right into him on the way back out. Many enemies can be avoided or dispatched with no risk to the player whatsoever, like the useless Hot Dog near the halfway point. And I’m not sure it’s even possible to avoid damage while fighting the secret Hot Dog with the buster; that is a looooooong string of fireballs. The lack of gimmicks is a letdown, too. The level needs something to make it stand out, and the enemy challenges aren’t novel or complex enough to compensate.
The music is fine; I found it a bit abrasive at first and I’ve already forgotten what it actually sounds like, but it fills the noise void well enough. I didn’t find any technical issues; there was one screen transition at the top of a ladder that could’ve been a little smoother, but that’s a minor thing. Otherwise, there’s not much to say. This level needs a stronger theme and an actual MIDNIGHT MAN to live up to its name.
Difficulty Rating: 4
Skippable: Yes (the graphics inconsistently and unreliably convey the actual level architecture)
Design - 3/35 (0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0)
Fun - 2/25 (1, 0, 0, 1)
Creativity - 3/15 (2, 1, 0)
Aesthetics - 3/15 (0, 2, 1)
Functionality - 1/10
TOTAL - 12/100
What an exquisite level. While other developers waste their time on such outdated concepts as “learning curve” and “solid floors,” you have masterfully eschewed every so-called “good” game design principle in favor of something truly revolutionary. Like the Pirate’s Code, any graphical representations of spikes or solid objects are more like guidelines, really; they’re a cue to the player that spikes and solid blocks are in the vicinity, but not necessarily exactly where they appear to be. This generates a sense of paranoia that, previously, only the likes of Stephen King or, say, Baby Groot holding a detonator have ever achieved.
Amplifying the paranoia is the constant surprise of new enemy types assailing the player when they are least prepared to take them on. A sudden Apache Joe while the player is being launched uncontrollably off the ground by a powerful fan? Genius. Nevermind crafting cohesive challenges or giving the player a chance to understand the nature of each obstacle; tossing handfuls of miscellaneous robots onto each screen is a sure-fire way to create difficulty without expending any effort in the process. Imagine how many more Mega Man games we could have had if Capcom had taken that approach.
I’m glad to finally see a level that recognizes graphics for the scourge they are. All those differently colored pixels everywhere take too much of the focus away from the gameplay. A solid-color background, a few pipe tiles, and a handful of different spikes are really all anyone needs—and honestly, I think you even could’ve gotten away with ditching the pipe tiles.
I wholeheartedly support the music choice. The high-pitched noises of Tornado Man’s theme have captured fans’ attention for years, and the decision to loop the music in an unconventional way is a clever tie-in to the level’s overall theme of never knowing what to expect. Truly, this captures the essence of a “Coptar.”
I was so inspired by your masterful work that I decided to take a page from your book and score your level with numbers that don’t necessarily match up with anything I’ve said here. Hopefully you enjoy that as much as I enjoyed your level.
Difficulty Rating: 3
Design - 32/35 (5, 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 2, 1, 1)
Fun - 21/25 (8, 5, 4, 4)
Creativity - 12/15 (5, 4, 3)
Aesthetics - 12/15 (4, 4, 4)
Functionality - 10/10 (5, 5)
TOTAL - 87/100
Good, good, good. This is a level that reflects both an understanding of good game design principles and the skill to do them justice. Although this level doesn’t elicit the same “Whoa, cool” reaction that I’ve had to other levels in this contest, I respect the heck out of the craftsmanship here.
From start to finish, there is a clear learning curve and steady difficulty progression, introducing new elements in relatively safe environments and gradually combining them for more and more interesting and challenging scenarios. There’s a perfect balance of focus and variety, with each enemy and gimmick having a chance to shine without overstaying its welcome. Challenges require a combination of observation, planning, and straight-up platforming skill to overcome, giving the level a bit of a puzzle slant that I appreciate. It took me a few tries to reach the end, but every death was entirely my fault—a mark of truly fair difficulty.
Aesthetically, the level is a unique combination of colorful and serious, and the energetic music compliments the visuals well. Highly detailed graphics like these always run the risk of being distractingly detailed and clashing with the simpler 8-bit Mega Man sprites, but for the most part, everything meshes well. The enemy and obstacle selection and coloration go a long way in creating a cohesive look. A couple screens are right on the edge of looking too busy, though; I had some trouble distinguishing between foreground and background on the screen with a Springer in the top and bottom half, for instance. Also, the architecture in one or two places makes the challenge at hand appear a little confusing at first; for example, there’s one screen with four X platforms leading you across spikes to an exit on the right, but the bottom-left corner of the screen has an irrelevant cavern of spikes that appears to be part of the challenge somehow.
The autoscrolling section at the end is a nice culmination to the level, yet not quite as satisfying as it could be. It’s tricky to nail the pacing of an autoscrolling section, and this one errs just a smidge too much on the slow side for my taste. I suspect most players will find it fine, but I got antsy a few times while standing around idly for the next challenge to appear. It’s mostly the very end that’s a bit disappointing—it’s extremely easy to wipe out that whole row of B Bitters before they become a problem, which makes it that much more anticlimactic to discover the Energy Element sitting around unguarded on the next screen. Swapping out one of the B Bitters for a Crystal Joe might’ve been sufficient to spice up the final challenge (and as a side note, the Crystal Joes don’t entirely function like they do in MM5, but they serve the challenges just fine). Adding even a simple gimmick challenge to the Energy Element screen would have been enough to remove that feeling of “Oh, it’s over already.”
These are relatively minor issues, however. This is a thoroughly solid level with very deliberate and well-thought-out design decisions, and I would love to see more levels like this one.
Difficulty Rating: 3
Design - 23/35 (2, 3, 3, 2, 3, 5, 2, 2, 1)
Fun - 21/25 (8, 5, 5, 3)
Creativity - 12/15 (4, 4, 4)
Aesthetics - 15/15 (5, 5, 4)
Functionality - 10/10 (5, 5)
TOTAL – 80/100
This was fun! I'm a sucker for outer space, and the stage lives up to its name. Between the groovy music, the eye-catching blend of space-themed tilesets, the reskinned enemies, and the story element provided by the NPCs, everything works together to create the atmosphere of an exciting space crusade. I could tell that the stage was referencing...something...(I looked it up afterward; it's Warhammer 40K) but the whole experience is crafted in such a way that you don't need to get the reference to appreciate the stage.
I like variety in a stage, and this one has plenty of it—too much for its own good, in fact. On the plus side, most enemies and obstacles are used at least twice, in situations where they have at least a partial opportunity to shine. There's a lot of creativity in the challenges, and nothing feels completely wasted. I love the screen where you're sliding into time bombs with the cannon firing at you, and the screen where you've got to slide under spikes on a Splash platform...and the screen where you're sliding past those dreaded Up'n'Downs is surprisingly not awful, further demonstrating that you have the chops to turn the familiar into something pleasantly different. The boss is a clever synthesis of different bosses and minibosses, and a satisfying end to the stage.
On the minus side, the “sampler platter” approach means that none of these challenges have the chance to be fully developed, which is a right shame. Cutting a handful of foes and hazards would allow more room to explore the potential of the remaining ones, bringing more focus to the level without sacrificing the feeling of variety. In particular, the reskinned falling platforms add nothing to the stage; you’ve already got Shadow platforms and indestructible blocks that could serve the exact same purpose.
Unfortunately, many of the rooms are fairly cramped. This isn’t inherently problematic, as claustrophobia-inducing architecture can allow for some tricky challenges and can add to the character of a stage. In this case, however, some rooms feel tight because the entrance and exit aren’t ideally positioned—take the room before the checkpoint, for example, where all the action is jammed into the top left corner of the screen. Moreover, it’s not uncommon to have a few too many objects on the screen at once, or a complex challenge concentrated into a very small space.
The learning curve on these challenges is fast, but standing perfectly still at the entrance to a screen will usually give enough time to figure out what’s going on. The few exceptions are brutal, however. The introduction to the reskinned falling platforms seems specifically designed as a beginner’s trap, with only the most agile players making it out alive on their first try. The following screen with the reskinned Sniper Joes and Shadow platforms over spikes demands even faster reflexes, and the screen after that surprises you with Up’n’Downs in a place where they’re totally unexpected and impossible to dodge if you’re caught off guard. Part of the problem is making every screen a self-contained challenge; occasional use of camera scrolling would go a long way in giving the player and these challenges enough space to breathe.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed this level. The shortcomings aren’t deal-breakers for me, and almost all of the challenges are individually satisfying, even if there are ways to improve them and the level as a whole. I was promised a space crusade, and by the Emperor, I did not leave disappointed.
Difficulty Rating: 2
Design - 14/35 (2, 1, 1, 1, 3, 3, 1, 1, 1)
Fun - 9/25 (4, 1, 2, 2)
Creativity - 4/15 (2, 2, 0)
Aesthetics - 9/15 (4, 4, 1)
Functionality - 10/10 (5, 5)
TOTAL - 46/100*
This could have been a fun romp through a robot-ridden airport, with our hero on a scavenger hunt for the keys that unlock Gate 303, where an airplane or aviation-themed boss lies waiting. Instead, it's a well-meaning collection of rookie mistakes.
The stage starts out well enough: pleasantly backgroundy music, unremarkably but competently used vanilla graphics, and a few simple challenges with a very gentle learning curve. I like the use of the Elec beams as a less punishing alternative to floor spikes (though it looks odd to have the beams overlap with the floor; either give them more space or hide them behind a higher-priority floor tile). Combining them with Guts platforms is a decent idea, and WAIT THAT'S A SOLID WALL NOT A BACKGROUND TILE OH THE ELECTRICITY IT HURTS.
Suddenly, the exceedingly gentle learning curve is gone. It's never demonstrated that Guts platforms can pass through solid walls, so it's an even worse shock (literally and figuratively) when you're dumped off. It's not long before you're thrown into a tricky timing challenge involving sliding, falling a fair distance, and dodging Sniper Joe bullets—none of which has been required previously in the stage—while also avoiding an Elec beam trap. And I should mention that the Elec beams across the stage are inconsistent about whether they fire constantly or are on some kind of timer.
One enemy after another is introduced in a way that assumes the player already knows how to handle these foes. Never seen a Shield Attacker? Too late; you got hit. What's a Pandeeta? It's that thing you almost fell on, which is now shooting you at unnecessarily close range. Worse yet, these enemies are never seen again. I can easily imagine an inexperienced player getting smacked around the entire stage, never truly understanding how to deal with all this pain. Fortunately, the stage is a wholly appropriate length, and checkpoint placement is good.
The last area before the bosses is simultaneously the best and worst part of the level. On the one hand, it's a neat idea to have the player clear out every last bad guy in a large room to collect enough keys to proceed. On the other hand...the whole room is a mess, with enemies all over the place and no real structure to the challenges. Not to mention that the key doors come AFTER you get all the keys (a recurring theme here), which kind of defeats the purpose of having key doors. Although it is easy enough to avoid the enemies and then need to backtrack to get the keys, but that also feels like a waste. Tease the player with a locked door, THEN let them look for the key.
At least there's a boss fight behind all those locked doors...except it's the same Plant Man fight we got in MM6. Devkit bosses are fine, but do SOMETHING to set them apart. Bringing in those Elec beams or Guts platforms might have been good. Cutting the second boss fight also would have been good; Gemini Man is pure padding, and the lack of a checkpoint at the start of his battle is a bit of an oversight. There's no thematic connection between Plant Man, Gemini Man, and the rest of the stage...though the stage doesn't really have much theming to begin with.
*When I received my applicant feedback from the hosts, it was brought to my attention that I missed an exploit where you can grind for infinite keys, so Design and/or Functionality should've been a point or two lower. What I learned from that oversight is to play these levels like a playtester, not just a critic.
Difficulty Rating: 3
Design - 27/35 (3, 4, 3, 5, 3, 4, 2, 2, 1)
Fun - 19/25 (7, 4, 5, 3)
Creativity - 14/15 (5, 4, 5)
Aesthetics - 13/15 (4, 4, 5)
Functionality - 9/10 (4, 5)
TOTAL - 82/100
It took me a while to warm up to this one, but once I did, it brought a smile to my face. Initially, I was a little bored with the stage. Lots of empty space, music that’s nice but far too sleepy for a Mega Man stage, and pretty basic challenges (except the one with the fork blocks, which is good but too exacting to be an introduction to the gimmick). Then there’s a joke boss (which gave me a chuckle) and the stage is over. OK, fine. Except...it’s not over. It’s only just begun.
I love that the first part of the stage simultaneously sets player expectations for one type of stage while subtly exposing the player to the normal enemies and gimmicks they’ll face once the main gimmick kicks in. When the music ramps up and you start seeing Volt Men everywhere, there’s this wonderful revelation that you’ve been fooled, and the stage can jump right into more complex challenges because all the basic elements have already been introduced. But I think the intro section could have been tighter and more efficient while accomplishing the same goal, leaving me saying “Oh, that was really clever” instead of “Oh, so that’s why the first part was kinda dull.”
The Volt Men challenges are totally worth it, though. I’m a big fan of seeing Robot Masters repurposed as stage enemies, and you got some terrific mileage out of this one—both in terms of gameplay and the fact that the “Volt Man is overused” joke could inspire an entire stage. The challenges are interesting, varied, and continually humorous, and the many flavors of Volt Man mix well with the other enemies and gimmicks in use. I might’ve liked some sort of subtle visual distinction between the different Volt Man types, or at least a shorter timer before the shield-launching ones decide to attack; I frequently sustained damage after (incorrectly) determining that the Volt Man in front of me was just going to hold his shield forever. A little caution is fine, but the stage requires a bit too much idle waiting if you truly want to play it safe.
The challenge progression is solid, with a smart blend of timing and speed as the core focus. Probably my favorite part is the screen where you’re riding Spark platforms past fork blocks while a Volt Man keeps shooting at you. Great stuff. That being said, a few spots could benefit from a bit of finessing; for example, I was a smidge disappointed by how easy it was to use Super Arrow to bypass every challenge in that long hallway toward the end.
I was thrilled to find that Sakugarne can bounce off the boss projectiles, and I laughed at the unexpected deterrent to using Slash Claw on the stationary, shielded Volt Men. The boss fight is a superb culmination to the stage, offering another good chuckle as well as a challenge that’s well in line with everything preceding it. I experienced a little wonkiness during the boss fight when using Flash Stopper, but otherwise the programming seemed pretty solid.
This is a stage that could be improved in places, but it doesn’t need to be. A fun premise coupled with good design instincts makes for a charming addition to the contest, and I’m very happy to have played this.
Difficulty Rating: 3
Design - 24/35 (4, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1)
Fun - 17/25 (6, 4, 5, 2)
Creativity - 14/15 (5, 5, 4)
Aesthetics - 12/15 (4, 5, 3)
Functionality - 7/10 (3, 4)
TOTAL - 74/100
The Good: Custom assets that look professional, evocative music that fits the level well, several fun and clever challenges, generally smooth learning curve
The Bad: Inconsistent theming, lots of clutter, too many enemy types
The Ugly: Problematic level layout, some spikes aren’t even spikes, a deadly and easy-to-trigger glitch
From the very first screen, this looks and sounds like it could be an official Capcom level. I’m a sucker for Westerns, too, so this level started off at an advantage—which gradually slipped away as more and more problems became apparent.
At first glance, everything seems totally fine. All the custom enemies, gimmicks, and tiles look and feel perfectly at home in a Mega Man game, and they work together with the music to develop a strong sense of theme. New types of challenges are introduced fairly, with only a few mild exceptions (eg, the exploding bullet enemies are a bit of a surprise). The oversized revolvers and springboard platforms are really creative and used extremely well, and there’s a satisfying boss fight at the end. Level length feels a mite long but within acceptable parameters, and the frequency of checkpoints and power-ups is just right. If we left it at that, this would be a dynamite level.
Upon closer inspection, however, there’s a disappointing lack of focus in the enemy and gimmick selection. When I remember the Alamo, I certainly don’t remember Electric Gabyoalls. Tanks in the desert I can understand, but tanks in Tombstone? When did John Wayne ever ride into the sunset on a Tondeall? For a few dollars more, would Clint Eastwood have agreed to a shootout on bouncy platforms? This is Mega Man we’re talking about, and tradition dictates that it’s OK to include a few elements that don’t strictly fit the level theme, but Magnum Man takes it a little too far. Not only are these miscellaneous elements disruptive of the otherwise fantastic atmosphere created by the themed assets, but they clutter the enemy roster to the point where several enemies only appear once—or twice, if they don’t scroll themselves off the screen before you get to them.
This overabundance of different enemy types also contributes to a sense of clutter, which is amplified by the busy backgrounds. The graphics look very nice, yes, but there’s so much variety and fine detail that they tend to draw the focus away from the gameplay. There’s not quite enough of a gap between challenges to give the player a chance to properly appreciate the set pieces. The architecture is occasionally a contributing factor in that cluttered feel; for example, one screen toward the beginning has two random spikes underneath an oversized revolver for some reason (wouldn’t a regular wall have been enough of a deterrent to go that way?), and one screen toward the end has a gunman buried inside a wall above the screen entrance, which is pointless when the height advantage is already a deterrent to using any weapon that can’t pass through a wall.
I also got extremely confused about the level layout upon reaching the second Noble Nickel, which is sitting out in the open like it’s a perfunctory health refill. Special items like this are meant to be a reward for accomplishing something out of the ordinary, so I could only conclude that I had accidentally found a secret exit to the previous screen...but then I couldn’t backtrack out of the room, and the only way to progress was to walk through pillars that looked solid. This dropped me awkwardly into the middle of a scrolling section, but there was no indication whether I should go right or left. I arbitrarily went left (which is good, because right takes you to a pointless dead end), but it felt the whole time like I was backtracking through challenges I had inadvertently bypassed by choosing the path that led to the Nickel. As it turns out, the level is completely linear—and it’s a horrible feeling to be lost in a linear level.
That really soured the whole level for me, which is a shame, because there are so many parts that I adore. Individually, the majority of these challenges are well designed and highly memorable. Riding oversized bullets from place to place is a hoot, and combining that with sliding challenges is AWESOME. Likewise, bouncy gunfights (despite making no sense in the context of the level) are satisfyingly tricky, particularly when the gunmen’s bullets track you, and I approve of how the spike challenges take advantage of that momentarily delay between landing on the springboard and being launched into the air. All the Noble Nickels (save for the aforementioned second one) are exactly the right amount of difficult to obtain. The battle against Magnum Man is solid, and it’s neat to see him use a couple of the attacks you’ve been practicing against throughout the level. And like I said, this has the production values of a Capcom level.
Except...Capcom probably wouldn’t have left an entire floor of spikes as background decoration instead of actual spikes that cause you to explode on contact. And I suspect they would have playtested those springboard platforms more thoroughly—firing Super Arrow and especially Wheel Cutter at an extended platform leads to some interesting visual oddities, and it’s all too easy to get Mega Man stuck inside one...and then speedily shunted to the opposite end of the screen, where he explodes.
Other issues with the level may include the following: A few late-game challenges are decidedly easier than their earlier counterparts (eg, going from an unavoidably bouncy gunfight to a gunfight on the ground with a nearby springboard if you feel like using it). The background sometimes utilizes black rectangles (like on the checkpoint screen next to the boss chamber), which look less like holes or windows and more like...black rectangles. The fight with Magnum Man is aesthetically problematic; for one thing, his boss chamber is technically underground and shouldn’t have that desertscape in the background, and for another, his generic looks don’t help the inconsistent theming. Also, Flash Stopper freezes Magnum Man’s projectiles but not the boss himself, and Electric Gabyoalls don’t freeze when hit by a charge shot like they do in MM6, but those oddities may well be intentional. However, I will say that Magnum Man’s animations, especially the gun twirling, are pretty sweet.
There are the makings of a truly great level here, but the biggest shortcomings seriously belie the professionalism this level projects.