General Commentary and Game Overview
Toadette's Sweets Gallery (TSG) seems to use the same game engine as Super Mario Prism. I enumerated many of my grievances with Prism's gameplay in the review I left on it. I won't re-enumerate all of them here, but in case it wasn't obvious from the get-go, this review is treating this as a successor prototype to Prism, and there will be comparisons as appropriate.
Hello did indeed address some core gameplay issues present in Prism, but many other issues have been unaddressed or masked with workarounds. It seems the priority in this game was to demonstrate some new features. This had the disadvantage of distracting from more impending gameplay problems, although it had the advantage of highlighting additional problems with the engine that weren't at all obvious in Prism.
||+Animation is bretty gud
+Physics are less floaty (more like SM64 or 3D Land, which is a plus if that's what you really wanted)
+Enemy variety is non-zero
+Environment feels a bit more alive
||-Most of Prism's problems are still present
-LAG. Even Prism didn't have lag
-Lighting problems are actually worse than Prism
-Texture choice is sometimes worse
-Level design abandons the pretense of exploration and secrets (which is only a negative if you really wanted those things)
-Even the new level design still has oddities
-The increased liveliness of the environment is not accompanied by improved interactivity
-Awful and repetitive puns
6 / 10
|Gameplay largely suffers from the same issues as Prism, most notably the slippery level geometry edges and lousy camera, although there are improvements in these departments.
LAG. After entering "Fruit Sorbet Dream", I just started lagging for some reason, and the game didn't stop lagging afterwards until closing and restarting the game. Coincidentally, this appears to be the first area with spawning objects (Spike projectiles). Might wanna look into that and make sure you aren't reloading those things into memory every time you spawn them.
1. Floaty physics: No longer floaty; Toadette's gameplay is much faster than Mario's in Prism and feels much heavier. However:
2. Ground friction: Is comparable to Prism. Since friction wasn't increased to accommodate the tighter, faster gameplay, the ground feels relatively slippery. I had a tendency to slide right off smaller flat platforms, even when I landed square in the middle, even when I didn't have that much momentum.
3. Slopes: MUCH, much better. Levels include slopes in their shape (although it doesn't contribute much to their design), and vertically rotating platforms are no longer an absolute nightmare. The sudden decrease in friction past a certain angle threshold is still a bit frustrating, but this threshold is in a much more sensible place than in Prism. However:
4. Slope sliding still buggy: There's an issue where sometimes, if the player tries to be clever on the platforms rotating along a horizontal axis, with prongs throughout (e.g. throughout and at the very end of "Cheese Fondue Dream" mission, "Fondue Ravine"), and they try to land on the "top" (facing up) side of a prong as it's rotated around 90 degrees from the upward position, sometimes they might hit the center post instead and start sliding, but THEY WON'T STOP sliding when they hit the flat surface of the prong. I suspect there's similar issues with slopes in general where players won't stop sliding when they hit a (relatively) flat rotating surface.
5. Wall jumping on slopes: There wasn't much need for this in Prism, but I soon found out (the hard way) that TSG doesn't support wall jumping off anything that isn't PERFECTLY vertical.
6. Wall jumping after backflipping: Unlike Prism, there's sometimes difficulties setting up a wall jump after you back flip. If you're too close, you won't back flip as high, and you'll just drag on the wall. Too far, you won't touch the wall at all. If the ledge above is too high to jump onto, but just low enough, it might prevent you from wall jumping if your center of gravity goes above the top of the ledge.
7. Walls near trampolines and rotating geometry: Still seems wonky. I end up accidentally wall jumping when I most certainly was not pressing against the wall.
8. Enemy slipperiness: Enemies are still slippery like everything else, but this is now masked by a more forgiving damage hitbox. If you land off-center, instead of slipping off AND losing health, you still slip off, but usually harmlessly (unless they're charging in the direction you slip off in).
9. Player-high openings: In "Sweet Pastry Dream" mission, "Climb the Cake", there's an elevated hole about one player-height tall. I had issues jumping into this even when the surrounding blocks were cleared, especially if I was standing right next to the wall. This may be related to the issue with unwanted wall jumping.
10. Crushing: In "Fruit Sorbet Dream" mission, "Tower of Ice", there's an area where you press a pressure P-switch on a moving platform to make it do downwards so there's a gap between it and some level geometry above. However, if it moves back up, squishing the player between the geometry and the platform, instead of doing something sensible (like crushing and killing the player complete with animation), it just pushes the player through the bottom of the platform. Before adding other variety goodies and other features, basic gameplay failsafes like crush-killing might be beneficial to prioritize. That would have the added benefit (if done correctly) of allowing crushing between two parts of level geometry.
11. Box collision checking: I didn't comment on this for Prism since, although boxes were required for a puzzle or two, they weren't nearly as prolific as they are in TSG. There is an issue in both TSG and Prism where boxes tip or randomly change direction when moving onto a different surface, e.g. from geometry to a falling platform, or from flat geometry to a slope. Boxes also are a bit of a pain to get onto pressure P-switches, since they're a bit elevated (this also leads to issues where the player can slip off of a P-switch as well). There's another issue in "Cheese Fondue Dream" mission "Rising Lava" where the player appears airborne every few frames while standing on a box on the lava while it's rising; this appears to affect friction as well.
12. Trampoline cheese: Bizarre bug I was unable to reproduce, but something about the jump timing and/or positioning when I landed on the spring at the beginning of "Spooky Cookie Dream" mission, "Fun With Springs", it catapulted me ridiculously high. I flew over the house, and skipped two checkpoint's worth of gameplay!
A few minor improvements over Prism, but still lousy all around. A few notes:
1. Distance: TSG's camera seems to do a better job of choosing a distance to the player based on the angle. However, you should still really allow manual zooming.
2. Camera centering: Absolutely FIXED. The lousy instantaneous camera centering from Prism is gone, replaced by a gradual (but not too slow!) camera centering. Very nice! Please make sure this keeps working this well while you fix the camera.
3. Camera correction: I mentioned this with respect to rotating platforms in my Prism review, but the level design in TSG also caused me to notice that for long-winded areas where you really want to go side-to-side, the camera doesn't move along the same axis as the player, rather it moves like it normally does when the player moves in any other area. Setting up zones that alter the rules for camera following is a bit of work, but it massively improves the gameplay experience.
4. First person: This is a bit in line with both manual zooming and camera zones, but something to keep in mind when in claustrophobic areas like in "Rock Candy Dream" is it helps to have the player be translucent when the camera is sufficiently close, a la SM64. That way, the player doesn't block the entire view!
Basically, TSG just forgoes exploration and secrets in favor of 3D Land-style linear levels, for better or worse.
1. Artificial: Many components of the designs seem contrived, as they were in Prism. While common elements between the design and layouts of the levels were less of an issue (although "Sweet Pastry Dream" and "Fruit Sorbet Dream" were both literally just "sweet things on water"), there is still little reason thematically why the levels are designed as so. While having platforms out and about, and in conveniently located positions, may fit into the cute surreal schema of 3D Land, it's really jarring when you have an actual realistic theme, such as "Cavern" or "House", which deserves less surreal and more organic or industrial artifacts, respectively.
2. Claustrophobia: "Rock Candy Dream" and "Spooky Cookie Dream" have areas that are unacceptably claustrophobic. Don't get me wrong; tight spots by themselves aren't bad, and the way they were incorporated into the level design is decent. However, combined with slippery landings, sketchy wall jump controls, and lousy camera, it's a disaster. That these parts of the levels made it into the final product with the controls and camera in their current state is unacceptable. Note that in the canon Mario games, these kind of spaces usual require the special camera zones I mentioned.
3. Enemy placement: In some cases, it seems like Goombas are there for no good reason. Like, their entire purpose in life is to fill up space that Hello couldn't think of anything else to fill with. Placement of other enemies was okay, although I was wondering why Spikes were even an "enemy" at all, since once I got close enough to jump on them, I could usually just ignore them, much as I would an inanimate projectile dispenser.
4. Putting an earlier checkpoint directly below a later checkpoint when there's no reason to go to the earlier checkpoint and all it takes to lose 100 meters of tower-climbing progress is one missed jump followed by a bad landing: ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!
1. NPC dialogue: Still meh. Text boxes are still huge and obtrusive.
2. Box spawning: Boxes and other critical progress components, such as the box-throwing Spike, still don't respawn.
3. P-switch speed: In light of the increased usage of pressure P-switches to temporarily move platforms out that you then have to jump on, I'll reiterate that speeding up the moving-out bit (not the retracting) would improve quality of life.
4. Coins: I appreciate the removal of the redundant purple coins, but yellow (regular) coins still do nothing, it seems. They aren't even used to sensibly provide hints to the player. Why do they exist?
5. Hub respawning: Since the level hub is larger than Prism's, it'd be helpful to have the player spawn just outside of the last painting upon completing a star, so they don't have to (in some cases, literally) climb all the way back up just to enter another level in the same painting.
6. Rising lava: in "Cheese Fondue Dream" mission "Rising Lava", the lava suddenly covers a very wide path (that you need to cross) with no warning; the only way to tell exactly when you'll get burnt is by checking when the lava lines up with the height of the path. Whereas, if the path were high in the center, and sloped down towards the outsides (a la SM64 "Bowser in the Fire Sea"), the waning path (when the lower, outer part gets swallowed up) would be a welcome warning, even if it only lasts a fraction of a second. This isn't so much of an issue for the narrow paths where you still wouldn't get any warning even with slopes, and it's not an issue when the lava stops cycling, and just starts rising, as you don't need to worry about timing; you just need to worry about going up!
7. Missed the opportunity to make the butt-burning torch the P-switch needed to enter "House of Pain".
Takeaway: Stop adding gameplay features; fix the core gameplay and the camera.
7 / 10
|The graphical presentation is overall about as solid as Prism. There are some improvements, but there are also some new, minor issues.
Once lighting issues (see below) are accounted for, the visual clarity is actually better than Prism. NOT accounting for that, however, it's worse overall.
Categorically better than Prism.
1. Animation landing reset: When landing there's still a bit of a delay before reverting to the standing/walking animation, but it's much less noticeable than in Prism. Furthermore, jumping, then landing, then jumping again before your animation completes results in the animation starting again, instead of awkwardly ending mid-air. Good!
2. Ground pound animation: No longer awkwardly loops. Good!
3. Spike: The Spike projectiles don't appear to move naturally with the Spike's hands. The Spike does a throwing animation while the projectile remains stationary, then all of a sudden, it just starts moving.
Thanks to the increased usage of moving obstacles and the occasional well-placed enemy, the environments feel ever so slightly less soulless than they did in Prism. The levels do a fairly good job of maintaining a graphical theme to accompany this, although the way in which the graphical theme makes the level "come to life" is sometimes a bit contrived (floating kiwifruit platforms?) and requires some suspension of disbelief even higher than required for Super Mario 3D Land. Aside from that, there are a couple of technical issues.
1. Water: It's in the game, but it doesn't splash when you land in it, neither in the hub nor in the death floors in the levels. The water's there, it's a natural organic substance. Make it feel ALIVE. Falling into the water without a splash just feels awkward.
2. Lava/Firebars: I didn't comment on this in my Prism review, but the FIRE lacks, well...the smokey flamey stuff. A smoke trail when you hit these obstacles would make it feel more FIERY. The firebars in particular might benefit from a heat haze that perhaps trails behind the path of the bar, so it doesn't look like a bunch of giant circus balls (when I first saw them, I thought, "It's Lemmy Koopa!", but then I was disappointed).
Texture issues are few and far between, thanks to the blocky level design, but when they occur, they are noticeable, and I don't recall these being problematic in Prism.
1. Level geometries containing certain textures, esp. the cookie texture, often don't match the texture resolution of the geometry behind it. The biggest issue with this in Prism was the lava texture, but that nearly functions as a background texture due to its positioning in the level, so it didn't detract so much from visuals in the way that these other textures do in TSG.
2. Moving texture direction: Specifically, the lava textures on horizontal surfaces don't always appear to "flow" in a natural way. It's better not to have the textures move at all than to have them "flow" into a wall.
3. Texture misalignment: There are a few instances of textures not being aligned correctly on their geometry, resulting in artifacts such as stretching in curved areas and gaps between the wall and floor in certain corners.
Although it seems the lighting-texture combinations work a lot better for determining level geometry in TSG, everything else about it is basically worse than Prism.
1. Shadows: Actually a bit better, since the light sources are generally higher. However, there is still a lack of a proper XY coordinate reference, since there isn't guaranteed to be a shadow directly below the player and interactable objects, and there is no alternative reference to use.
2. Brightness: In the dark areas, worse than Prism. It's so dark you end up having to take a literal leap of faith in some areas. Turning up the global brightness in "Rock Candy Dream" and "Spooky Cookie Dream" would be a great benefit to the playability of these levels. To reiterate my recommendations in the Prism review, having emissive materials on the player and interactive objects, even if only slightly emissive, and even if its emissiveness is only really noticeable for objects that are relatively close to the player, would mitigate this and help improve contrast even if you want to avoid making the level too bright.
3. After-effects: Oh god oh geez oh my eyes (tone down the Bloom effects, please, especially in "Sweet Pastry Dream", it messes up focus).
Takeaway: You've done well on player animations, but be more judicious in your additions and changes to the graphical scheme, as lackluster or incomplete integrations will be noticed.
6 / 10
The music choice was not as impressive as Prism (which wasn't particularly impressive to begin with), even less memorable and perhaps more repetitive within the same track. This doesn't work without the graphical presentation to carry the weight.
1. Environment: The expanded use of lava and the addition of water were not accompanied by appropriate environmental sounds (splashing, sizzling).
2. Projectiles hitting ground: New projectiles (i.e. Spike thrown rollers) were silent and deadly, without any apparent reason.
3. Boxes: The expanded use of boxes makes it clear that boxes are very, very quiet, even when they are splintering against the ground.
4. Toad: Toad/Toadette's SFX were not as annoying as I thought they'd be, although Toadette's voice was a bit loud. Good selection there.
2 / 10
|TSG's replay value ain't any higher than Prism.
As a matter of fact, it's a bit lower, since you'll want to avoid playing it just to avoid the puns.
Yes, the puns are that bad.
||Better than Prism, but many important issues haven't been addressed. Focus on the fundamentals, not features.