Review Information
Game Reviewed Play To Win, by .M.S
Review Author CM30
Created Feb 6 2024, 4:02 PM

General Commentary and Game Overview
Overall, Play to Win is exactly what you'd expect from a good Super Mario World hack in the year 2024. It looks and sounds good, with a mostly consistent art style and some well chosen music, and plays fairly well too, with lots of fun levels built around specific mechanics in a way not too unlike Super Mario 3D World and its ilk. It's a fun time, and one that you're going probably going to get a good few hours of enjoyment out of as a result.

That said, it does still have its issues nonetheless. First and foremost, there's basically no replay value here whatsoever. Oh sure, if you return to the first level after beating the game you get a cape, and there's a single secret exit in world 1 that leads to a switch palace...

But that's literally it. Apart from those two minor things, the game is entirely linear with no benefit to exploration at all. So it's a fun one time deal, but one that offers literally nothing to justify a replay.

It also lacks a strong identity in certain areas too, since it doesn't really do a whole lot that's actually new. Oh sure, the graphics look nice, and I'm sure many of those are original creations, but that's it. The music, the enemies, the bosses, the mechanics and powerups and level ideas... they're all good, but they're all things found in dozens of other hacks too, with very little to make this one stand out from the crowd.

Either way, it's a good solid game.
Pros * The graphics look great, with a style remniscient of Super Mario Unimaker
* Levels all have unique mechanics to keep them interesting
* The level design is fun, and seems to be designed to keep you moving at all times (like the modern Donkey Kong Country games and Rayman games)
* The overworld map is delightful, and a joy to explore
* Difficulty is mostly about right for a Mario platformer of this sort
Cons * The game is incredibly linear, with only 1 secret exit in the entire thing.
* Boss difficulty is an incredibly mixed bag, since they're whatever sprites were available on SMW Central.
* A few graphics aren't entirely clear as to their function, like the candles in castle levels.
* The game lacks an identity in certain areas, since few of the resources are really unique to this hack.
8 / 10
Gameplay wise, Play to Win is a great time. It's got a good selection of levels with fitting mechanics and aesthetics, with each one making great use of a new custom enemy or mechanic. There's the area with spike pillars acting like pencils in a notebook, one where moving ropes needed to be jumped across to avoid obstacles, and one involving dolphins in space, where these creatures go from being both helpful platform and aggravating foe depending on the puzzle and setup in question. It's all good stuff, and works well due to how 'fair' it usually is; it's always clear what the solution is, with the challenge being to actually pull it off rather than struggle through trial and error.

The bosses are unfortunately less impressive. They're not a bad set for sure, and the way they implemented in this game does work pretty well, but they're the same generic boss sprites you've seen in so many other hacks in recent years, with every single one functioning exactly as it does out of the box. As a result, they swing between being ridiculously easy and surprisingly annoying depending on the level, and feel completely at odds with the worlds and their designs.

And speaking of worlds, those are a mixed bag too. On the one hand, they are fun to explore, with delightful overworld maps filled with charming details and animations that really make them pop. So in that sense, you'll always want to see what's coming up next, since the map promises all kinds of creative concepts ahead.

The problem is, the game doesn't really take advantage of this potential to include any optional extras or secret content. There are no secret exits in the entire game (with exactly one exception in world 1), no bonuses or alternate paths to take and nothing even close to resembling an optional world or additional postgame content. So for as great as the worlds look, they're all one and done deals, with zero reason to revisit any of them once you've completed the game.

All in all, it's a great game, but one which had a few areas to improve nonetheless.
8 / 10
Graphically Play to Win looks great, and feels like a cross between the original Super Mario World style and something like Super Mario Unimaker. You've got foregrounds that seem to fit the latter's artstyle (probably because they're Kopejo's submissions from this very site!), and an assortment of ripped backgrounds and miscellaneous graphics that don't clash too much with said foregrounds. It all looks charming and consistent, and gives me serious Super Princess Peach vibes as a result.

Great job!
7 / 10
Musically the game works well too. None of the songs will stand out once you're done playing it (I can't remember a single level theme from the entire game), but they're not grating either, and they fit their respective levels and situations well.
Final Words
8 / 10
Overall, Play to Win is a great little Mario adventure. With fun levels, varied mechanics and lovely aesthetics, it's well worth a play for anyone looking for a nice traditional Mario experience.

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