First of all: congratulations for the very solid concept, solid art style throughout the game, amazingly executed character animation, snappy execution of the game play & solid start screen.
Technically what you have done is amazing and flowing and technically I would give you 5+ starts immediately.
But - as I love games and technicality is not the number one reason why I love games - instead journeying through the game world is or being immersed in the game world or having one on one time with wonderful main character/s & story, or having a big laugh or wonderful puzzlement and awaiting feeling about what is going to come next, I find that these aspects have to be in a game to make me enjoy it with full blast.
Your game has been one of the hardest for me to review.
What you have done is brilliant technical execution wise, yet the most compelling sides of games, those ones which for a player gets really involved with the game world and characters are for me little bit still missing.
Bring in a story line. Write a short wonderful story about the cats and the cook. For example there has been old lady cook in the king's castle, she has spoiled the cats with cream and leftovers. Cook changes, cats are in trouble. They are not anymore spoiled, they have to steal. They come up with a plan to sneak in the castle corridors dressed up as a soldier to steal the food from the kitchen.
Make the cats alive: give them names. Give them different characteristics. Animate the beginning of the story - the big drama for the cats - not being spoiled anymore - just because they are fabulous cats in a castle - and show with animation how the new cook treats them and how they come up with the food stealing plan. Or no animation is needed, it could be done in simple screens as well, where you just press to next to get the story line that leads to the game.
This way player will be more interested to get the cats in the kitchen, and be fond of them, because then they will have personalities and there's a story behind. This kind of story would also make player want to "fight for the cats" which means "play the game", because cats have lost their old lady friend and now it is the tough cook in the kitchen they have to deal with.
Next. Each time the cats have success with stealing food. Animate or make different reaction by the cook to the happening. After each level your obstacles increase so it would be fun to see the cook ripping his hair off and placing more obstacles near the kitchen corridor. The drama arch in the story would increase all the time as obstacles increase. Cook's reaction could become more and more frustrated as game goes on and cats successfully steal the food time after time.
The coins one collects. What is the use of the coins? Could the cats collect something else? What would be more fun thing to collect? Could they for example pick up boots/different helmets? Could you have sort of "dress the cats up" screen where player can put on the collected boots/helmets to the cats?
There should be some reason to collect the collectibles :)!
It might be really fun if you want to develop the game further, to have the cats collect things they can use somehow. Or they could even be able to collect a frying pan which with you can avoid the kitchen axes and knifes if you press a button when a knife is coming towards you?
Like I wrote, technically you are already in the league that can execute all these suggestions. Or in the league that can do anything with the game really. And that is the league where it gets tougher to please the audience and where it is important to start pleasing the players and make it the best possible experience for them. Give them surprises and tricks. Give them a story to relate to.
When I played your game, the points where I was really pleased and that made me happy and where I felt rewarded was when cats were jumping & moving. That animation was amazing and very compelling. But I think I would have loved to be entertained and rewarded in the end too. Like when getting to the kitchen.
The problem for me was that there was always the same cook and the same stealing end and the same way the king looked at the end of his table and that made me feel a bit frustrated when playing your game.
Small thing to do would be that you could alter the faces of the cook and the king a bit. Even give the cook more aggravated look and the king more sad look. Or make the king become thinner and thinner in the end? He is starving then because he doesn't get his dinner. That would make the player anticipate what comes next - like is there a skeleton waiting for them in the king's chair in the very end? Or maybe it is the cats who have collected the hats and they are wearing the king's crown and there is an end picture where the cook is serving them?
The reason why you get 3,5 stars is that technically you're in the league that can do anything already. But technicality is not the only aspect of a good game. In the League of technically superior - it is where you have to start thinking about the other things - collecting collectibles because that leads to something etc. Having a story & rewards because that leads to happy & interested players.
In the end: your game is really good play, solid concept, amazing and eye-pleasing animation with the cats, pleasure to play with once you get accustomed to the jumping, the platforms where you jump to and have to jump with different cats is pleasing experience to get through, and one wants to play it through and it is really really good jam game in a way that it is not too long, not too short, but gives the player some fun time with it and harder challenges as time progress and player learns to control the cats.
What I think is that, you might want to add more "soul" and more "reward" and "surprise" to your game after the jam, to make it completely solid. With "soul", "reward" and "surprise" your game will be a top game definitely and people would appreciate it even more.
In the end: It is very good job for little time, but the technical aspect and the "soul of gaming" are not yet in the right balance with each other.
Entertain. Surprise. Reward. You get all 5 stars then. (You have the technical skills necessary and beyond to do it!)
WOW! What a huge response :)
First of all thank you so much for playing and taking time to think and talk about the strong and weak parts of our game :)
I agree with you that the game needs more work, but you might have in mind that this is a game jam game, made in less than 3 weeks by a team of 3 while doing other stuff. When your resources (mainly time) are limited, you have to focus on some things, and leave to your future self some others.
I can see you are o like a lot to think about games as an experience, as an overall enterteining piece, and you don't forget the most important goal, to connect with your players.
I will recomend you to read "Art of game Design - A book of lenses" or at least check the free app with the full deck of lenses. In his book, Jesse Schell, explains and propose different ways to approach, analize and improve your game, he puts these lenses a name and they include a bunch of questions to guide you through your own search for answers.
On your feedback I could recognize the "lens of the character", "the lens of the story", "the lens of surprise", just to name some. You will love it if you didn't read yet.
One of my favourites is the "toy lens", where he says...
"Think of your game as a toy... without explicit goals for the players. And then ask yourself... Is your game fun to play with ? How can you make it more fun to play with even with no goals."
Anywhay, as you've been really honest i will be aswell, and i must say that I think context is important, and it might be too much asking for more content, like animations, different endings, etc... I mean, i agree the game would be better with all that (and it will be :) ) but i think it's too much to ask a game jam game to have all that content.
For example, with the same limited resources, it means that to add something we would have not to do another thing. What would you take off the game to include something else?
No Cheff/King scene, but a better animation when winning a level could have been smart, but we wanted to include the king somehow (becouse what we have planned for the future of this game, with, as you mentioned, more story)
If you want to send us more insights i invite you to send us a PM
I hope to have you around for the future versions :)
The graphics in this one are amazing. I appreciated especially the eerie orange glowing alien moon landscape and the nice details in the platforms. The player character has really good animation too! :) Music goes well with the atmosphere too.
Suggestions: Add a life system! That would be very great bonus for the player. I don't know what it was with me and the spikes, but I always got as far as it was possible, but with first spikes the death got me :D.
Couldn't use the shop with ESC so I wonder is there a problem with that, or is it just me? :)
The last thing to say: You have created very cool atmosphere to your game - congratulations! And damned spikes, I would have wanted to see what comes out next after all the first double jump platforms :D!
You have some really nice pixel art in the game. Especially the branches look good and the lives system made out of the tree leaves.
Good things come in trees was a fun way to interpret the jam theme :D!
I like the music you chose for the game, it is upbeat and makes one want to try the game again. It is fast enough and loopy enough to keep the player interest for a longer time - fast and loopy tunes sometimes transfer you to in odd meditative game play state where you just want to try and try and try again until you get it right.
It took me a bit while to understand how the game works with all the floating branches, but I got it in the end. Didn't succeed to advance much though, only to the first bee. That nasty squirrel got me too many times before :D.
This might be a really fun play with a vertical view port. Then the player could see more branches that are there to move and move onto. Vertical view port would allow the player little bit chances to earlier think where he/she might want to move the movable branches and how to best avoid the enemies with the branch system.
Also you might consider making really easy practice level for the player, because getting to know the branch system and getting to know how to navigate with it takes some time. With easier first practice level one could have enough time to learn the ropes of the game, before advancing to harder challenges where the nasty squirrels and slippery branches await :D.
P.S. I liked the main character and the way it was animated, that was one funny looking walk and made me smile while I played :D
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