Today I am going to do something fairly out of the ordinary in terms of my personal critiques and reviews. I am going to be reviewing two levels at once, in the very same post in fact. Seeing as they share similarities such as being created by the same designer and being within the same series, I am going to be doing not only a thorough review but also a side by side comparison and contrast of sorts I suppose. Of the two levels, I’m not entirely sure which I like more. I actually awarded the original LOTM for Best Visuals in February, but then Tropica 2 released and I enjoyed it almost as much if not more. Either way, be sure to head to the review hub here if you’d like to read my other level reviews after finishing this one.
True to its name, Tropica 1 boasts a sandy, tropical theme. The music even matches for crying out loud. While you listen to antsy island music, the sound of waves crashing upon imaginary shores in the distance, and the gulls calling overhead be aware that the challenge you are about to face isn’t for the faint of heart, nor will it destroy your will to continue. Tropica isn’t without its difficult moments, however it is far more forgiving than other levels I’ve played, giving it a sort of retro meets new arcade feel in the way you can choose between sacrificing lives or points when progressing. There’s no time limit to feel burdened by and you start the level with twenty lives, an amount which you should also be able to end fairly close to considering the amount of hidden treasures and lives scattered about.
Tropica 2 keeps the tropical theme in many ways and retains even similar gameplay elements as its elder brother, for the obvious reason of making the two titles consciously related in the series, however it ditches the sands for a jungle aesthetic. In many ways, Tropica 2 is the more difficult of the two as it opens up gameplay and invests itself in an open world setting more so than its predecessor, meaning there are about ten times as much goodies, ten times as much danger, and ten times as much goop to sift through and explore. Whereas Tropica 1 pleasantly surprised me with its deceptive length- managing to make contained environments seem larger than they were and always managing to hide more around the corner, Tropica 2 makes no effort to hide its size and doesn’t shy away from being a level well over 200% capacity in designing. It’s big, it’s bad (good), and it’s hungry for the souls of careless players. Don’t worry, you still have twenty lives and no time limit, so feel free to spend an hour searching away…
I thoroughly liked the sand theme used in Tropica senior but surprisingly I enjoyed the second level’s theme even more so. The stone blocks, grass tiles, and even lava flows work well together in crafting a diverse landscape and an interesting environment. In the first level I praised Fox for use and reuse of hazards and blocks- something which you don’t see too often and which I always appreciate. There comes a time when you must make your way inside a tiny little mountain (or two) in the original level and the hazards that assail you on the outside also manage to prove to heckle you on the inside in new ways, which I particularly enjoyed. I guess you could say this also extends in general to the environment itself, as things often appear one way on the outside of a structure only to change your perspective upon entering it and seeing the differing layout and position of platforms and hazards.
Tropica junior (also known as Tropica 2) also utilizes this same concept of economic space, ironically despite being a massive and much more spread out level. You’d be surprised at the amount of mere stuff Fox has managed to fit into the level. There are secret sections, easter eggs, more secret sections, blocked off areas later made accessible, large cisterns, basins of molten magma, entire temple segments, hazardous treasure troves, and so much more. Whereas Tropica 1 could only be exploited in the short run, meaning I was only ever able to slightly make tasks easier on myself but never quite bypass entire sections or anything of that sort, Tropica 2 in all of its massive mystique and glory is the easier of the two to actually get around challenges in simply because it must be impossible to go through a level of this size and caliber and prevent players from finding at least one way to scale the walls or otherwise skip things. I never let my apparently amazing ability to find exploits in levels detract from this one’s experience as I do have to concede the fact that larger levels are difficult to playtest and completely prevent players from finding loopholes in. Smaller ones have no excuse.
I think it’s safe to say that pretty much all of my favorite moments from Tropica senior were implemented in some form during Tropica junior as well. The room filled with a shifting sea of spikes was probably even more fun the second time around, and I am being completely earnest in saying that. I loved it both times. Fox has done a wonderful job in listening to feedback and addressing some of the critiqued points in the first level within the second, all the while adding newer things and forming a new vision in the sequel- still remaining authentic and faithful to the original of course. I was never quite as surprised by the breadth or scope of the second level simply because of all the hype over its size, but I must say I was still taken by the fact that no matter how I scrolled about the screen, I couldn’t see out of the frame of the level because it is so monstrously large.
Whereas Tropica 1 was and is an excellent challenge for beginner-level players to put themselves through and a nice leaderboard challenge for the more advanced fools among us, I think Tropica 2 is the crucible of the series thus far. It throws you in and then spits you back out if you are not worthy. I, for what little time I had whilst playing it, made my way through what seemed to be a great majority of the level and its secret treasures, but alas was unable to finish it then. I will definitely be coming back to rectify that but as of now the only person to have braved the flames and escaped relatively unscathed is one good ol’ Fox. So I guess you could say both levels are fairly intermediate in their difficulties, although the second leans further towards an advanced difficulty merely because of the time it takes to complete and the optional challenges it goads you into foolhardily pursuing throughout.
I thoroughly enjoyed both of these levels just about as much or more than any of the other players who have praised them. Portions of them are quite inspiring in terms of new ways to look at trap building or better ways to smooth over some of the mechanics of Atmosphir gameplay. A lot of the first and even the second level is dedicated to flash and thunder at times, making things seem to be something they are not- deceiving players willfully and skillfully in an often amusing and deadly manner. Neither level is frustrating even in their most difficult moments, and I think that is when you should know you have succeeded as a designer. The only exercise in frustration that is somewhat a sin is the large segment of Tropica 2 that features lengthy timed jumps to muka platforms you must (try to) ledgehang on, which we all know rarely if ever works well. Besides this minor annoyance, the rest of the challenges are fair and enjoyable.
Pros: Enjoyability, Leaderboard Challenge, Replay Value, Difficulty.
Cons: Unclear Objectives (At times), Muka Flooring-Related Deaths.
Play Browser Score: 4 Stars, Intermediate Difficulty (Both)
Official Rating: 9.0/10.0 (T1) 8.75/10.0 (T2)