Genre: Single Player
Filename: LIBRARY..j2l / coast demo.j2l
Download: THE LIBRARY, Banana Beach Demo
Kejero is mostly known for two things: Tomb Rabbit, and Tomb Rabbit 2. The first of these is arguably the most popular JJ2 episode of all time. The second was an attempted sequel, that was released recently in an unfinished state but is still very good. In the future I intend to review both of these episodes.
What a lot of people don't know is that Kejero also worked on a third episode, one that has to this day never seen the light of day. The two levels I am covering in this post, The Library and Banana Beach, are the only levels from this unnamed project that were ever released. Both of them constitute the first two uploads that Kejero made to jazz2online.com, and were intended to serve as a demo to the episode he was working on. While they were uploaded separately, they were still part of one big project, and so I have decided to review both of them with one post.
If you have played Kejero's other levels, you will know that he has a fairly distinct style. His levels tend to have a large puzzle element, with a lot of secret areas and places where you will have to stop and think about how to get past an obstacle. Often these puzzles involve triggers, using them in a fairly novel way. Tomb Rabbit has a lot of this, and Tomb Rabbit 2 has this sort of thing being an integral part of every level. Another thing that Kejero is generally known for is his use of custom-made tilesets. As far as I know, all of his levels, including the two I am reviewing here, use tilesets that he made himself. Finally, his levels tend to be very hard. One reason is a lack of carrots and an abundance of enemies, but another reason is that the enemies usually regenerate.
The first of these levels, The Library, is definitely the lesser of the two. The biggest problem is that the tileset isn't very good. The colours in it are far too bright, and this causes the overall look of the level to be rather crude. The author admits this in the readme file, explaining that he made the tileset in MS paint. I would guess that this is one of his earliest levels ever, as well as one of his earliest tilesets, probably being made at least a year before it was actually uploaded. His later work tends to be much more polished than this.
Looking past the ugliness of the tileset, The Library is a fairly decent level. It certainly doesn't have the originality of some of Kejero's later levels, but it is still well-designed and has a few areas with unique gameplay. It never gets boring, and there are plenty of secret areas everywhere to keep you from wanting to just tear through the level as fast as you can. Really, the only serious problem with this level is that it has one area where the lighting becomes almost pitch black, forcing you to either blindly run through and get hurt a lot, or move excruciatingly slowly so you kill everything in front of you. Luckily, this section of the level is short, and it is very much possible to get through it without being hurt.
Banana Beach is a much better level. For one thing, the tileset is pretty good, containing a lot of fun details that aren't found in other tilesets, like pier things that stick up out of the water, and beached jellyfish that hurt you if you step on them. One thing I like about it in particular is the background. At first it seems to be a simple view of the ocean stretching to the horizon, but if you pay attention you'll notice that there are actually boats sailing across the screen.
The level also has a lot of stuff that is quite illustrative of Kejero's style, in a way much more obvious than in The Library, like an emphasis on puzzles and a higher than average difficulty. Triggers are extremely integral to this level, and one area has you navigating a sort of maze with at least ten crates in it that open up the path to the next area. It's good when levels do this (in moderation, of course): it makes it so you can't get through them by relying on reflex alone. Play some of the official JJ2 single player levels and you'll see what I mean. You can beat a lot of them with barely any thought put into it at all, especially if you are good at the game.
Still, it's not perfect. Banana Beach is very good up until a point near the end, where the path forks. You are given the choice to either take a route with a heavy puzzle emphasis, or take a route with a heavy combat emphasis. The problem is neither route is very good. The puzzle route is simply too hard (a lot of stupid memorization stuff), and you will most likely fail it, getting automatically dumped into the fighting route. And the fighting route is bad because instead of trying to give a challenge via clever enemy placement or level design, it just has a huge number of enemies. The best thing to do in this section is try to get a sugar rush, and when you do, run as fast as you can, making sure not to miss any trigger crates. I thought this section felt pretty lazy, and it really detracts from the rest of the level.
One problem that both of these levels have is that it is possible, in some areas, to get dumped into an earlier section of the level. This can happen through warps or it can happen through falling off a ledge. When this happens your only choice is to trek through the entire level all over again to get back to where you were. And since enemies regenerate, this basically amounts to playing the whole thing over again. It's really annoying when levels do this sort of thing. Backtracking is fine, but it must serve some sort of purpose. If the reason for it isn't much more than "Ha ha, now you have to play this all over again!" then it's simply bad level design. A lot of levels do this, including, I have to admit, some of my own.
These levels are good, but they're not great. Banana Beach is the better of the two, but I recommend playing both it and The Library. They offer an interesting glimpse into the early work of someone who was soon to become one of the greatest JJ2 level makers, and they show how his style progressed from being somewhat mundane into being something totally unique.
- Beach tileset
- Interesting level design, for the most part
- Comes from the person who made two of the most popular level packs ever
- Library tileset
- Beach level is pretty bad in the second half
- Library level has an annoying dark section