Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Game Dev PvP Fight: A Portal 2 level Peer Review

Today I will be taking a critical look at a Portal 2 level made by a good friend of mine, Cole Bonvarlez (http://colebonvarlezgd.blogspot.ca/). I've made two of these myself which can be found on my Steam Workshop page (http://tinyurl.com/le8hdwb). You can find Cole's level to try it for yourself at this link (http://tinyurl.com/nx7teoj). Now without further ado, let's talk about my impressions of this puzzle.

The first room serves as a hub to the level's two other small chambers. I found it to be somewhat confusing in the beginning, since my initial path lead me to a dead end with a large gap.

This is where I ended up for following the most natural path (according to the player's starting trajectory. 

It's clear that I need to launch myself across the gap with the help of the angled platform which you'll need a cube to trigger.

After seeing that a cube was necessary to progress, I began to backtrack and found another room beside the initial entrance. Although there is nothing "wrong" about this placement, I personally would have opted to switch these two rooms' locations. I say this because there seems to be a slight disconnect between where the player should be looking, and where they should be going. However, one could argue that this simply increases the puzzle's complexity and Cole may have done this intentionally.

The cube chamber has multiple buttons that are supposed to be pressed, however only the one that drops the cube is necessary thanks to a poorly placed grating that allows for early access.

So I've grabbed my cube through this grating, shimmied it over the wall and am ready to go back to the previous dead end.

Ok, the cube is in place and I see an angled platform with a very high, portal able ceiling. This is clearly a momentum based, falling launch type maneuver. Unfortunately, despite fully knowing what to do, the tile placement was a bit tricky for me to fall with the correct orientation to shoot the exit portal at the angled platform. The solution requires the players to orient themselves to face the away from the gap, such that when they fall through the portal they are facing the angled platform.

Once I crossed the gap I was met with a companion cube, a switch, and a laser shooting at a blank, portalable wall.

The necessity of the cube was questionable to me, as it was placed directly beside the switch it was designed to trigger. This cube is not useful for any other task so in my opinion a simple button switch would have been a better, less confusing choice. I do however like the use of a "bounce" here, as the switch enables a light bridge that brings you back across the gap. Cole sees that you've already earned your way across once, and allows players to forgo the deadly goo on the return trip.

Before heading back to the main room, you'll want to leave a portal for the laser to shoot into. I'm telling you this because I didn't realize until going all the way back to the hub room. To be honest, this laser is placed a bit too far from it's trigger for my liking. Again this may have been a conscious choice on Cole's part. 

 After using the laser to trigger it's receiver, this button becomes accessible, initiating a somewhat time consuming sequence of a ball being launched across several bounce pads, until it finally lands inside a tractor beam in the hub room. When the ball reaches the top it triggers a switch that allows access to the final room.

The final room is a series of two momentum based jumps. The first uses an angled platform and is similar to the first large gap, the second is simpler and requires little to no finesse to cross. The entire floor is portalable and there is a significant drop. A portal is placed on either side of the floor and simply jumped into, giving the player more than enough height to clear the edge. 

Unfortunately if you do manage to fail in crossing these gaps, the only way to get back is these elevator platforms. These would not be so bad if the trigger switches were placed in a more friendly manner. In order to trigger the switch and still ride the elevator, you must be standing right on the edge of the platform.

All in all I had fun with Cole's level despite a few moments of confusion. To be honest it took me a little longer than expected to beat, clocking in at at around 10 minutes. If I had to give any particular criticism it would be regarding Cole's switch selection and placement throughout the level. I feel some of the triggers could have been placed to be slightly more player friendly and less confusing. Also, I would recommend that next time, Cole evaluate where players tend to look and tailor the flow of the level with regards to this.

Thanks for a fun level Cole, and I hope my feedback has been of use. Feel free to review one of my levels some time!

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