August 6, 2014. What exactly does this date mean? Well, unless it also happens to be your birthday (in which case congratulations) it is the exact date that I posted my review of a very similar level to the one I am currently supposed to be reviewing. Treasure Hunter, the first of (so far) two ingenious and gorgeously crafted levels by the idolized Papsmaster itself (Papaya). In case you don’t understand half of what is going on here, that’s alright, feel free to read my other reviews and musings on gaming and games and media in general. This review and critique will get to the appropriate audience by some means.
Although I’ve regained a position on the Atmosphir ‘Editorial Staff’ for yet another stint and although I of course review special levels for that, this review is a little bit more personal and a little bit different. I’ll admit, I’ve been quite busy of late and it’s been far too long coming, but it is my pleasure and honor to cajole such a beautiful work of art into speaking words for itself and causing this review to serve its purpose- speaking volumes of the talented mind behind it and providing some unique and fresh criticism for the next chapter in kind. If you would like to request your own review then you know by now the appropriate channels to go through. You can find the hub post here. Now, without further delay let’s get down to the meat and potatoes.
A little background information goes a long way, and I aim to provide plenty but not so much that you feel like gouging your own eyeballs out. Treasure Seeker, not to be confused with the aforementioned predecessor Treasure Hunter, is a level featuring a finely crafted storyline, plenty of goodies to procure, a nice level of challenge, and its own unique flavor of sorts. Needless to say, I can spout off without boasting, that Treasure Seeker essentially has it all. It is one of the quintessential Atmosphir levels out there. Hands down. Does that mean that it is perfect? Of course not- but it comes pretty darn close to it, and among the dwindling talent pool we have on the servers nowadays, it may as well be. Grab your stone idols and prepare to worship the almighty Papaya.
Whereas Treasure Hunter allowed you a no-lose scenario right out of the gate, allowing players to teleport to the finish room upon death, having collected or not collected treasures or explored every nook and cranny on the table, Treasure Seeker has a different kind of challenge in store. This time around there is no easy way out. Even if you gather ten thousand points of treasure in one life, there’s no guarantee of success upon one accidental mishap or another. You’ve got to find a handy dandy bomb first if you’d like to make your escape, and I reckon finding the special key while you’re at it would be a good idea. I came into Treasure Seeker wondering how Papaya was going to pull off the new setting and look of the whole thing and let me say, I came away a believer- I was not disappointed in the slightest. The purposeful placement of blocks and props was a selling point in the original and remains one in the sequel.
I wouldn’t say there are really any overarching puzzles besides the constant push to unravel a little bit more of the narrative mystery piece by piece, however each little puzzle or unique challenge, though confined mostly to being on a room by room basis was refreshing and enjoyable. The difficulty doesn’t lie so much in the traps or platforming but in knowing when to go after treasure and when to start formulating a plot to get out. Sometimes enough is enough and you’ve got to weigh whether it’s worth potentially losing one more life to get that extra mask or not. Again, the attention to detail and the unconventional approach to using and reusing gameplay elements and space, props, and treasure collection opportunities is truly commendable. I wholeheartedly believe it took Papaya every moment of the near-month spent working on the level to fine tune this particular experience.
Like the well-thought out achievements of the previous entry, the narrative- from the diary entries to the hastily scrawled hidden notes left by terrified facility operators, perfectly captures the exact feeling and tone Paps intends to set the stage with. I couldn’t have written it better myself, nor would I have wanted to. What was and is here is and was fantastic. Eerie and phantasmal even at times. Hysterical and hilarious at others. Add in a few more earmarks and easter eggs hither and thither and you’ve got a perfectly replayable story with some perfectly replayable gameplay. It’s addicting, simple as that. And that’s just what quality work deserves to be recognized for. You’re about to see my struggle in a moment, but before I get to my pros and cons segment I would like to note the terrible time I’m going to have trying to come up with accurate criticisms of the level. I had virtually none for Treasure Hunter and I have virtually none now.
Pros: Setting, Narrative, Use and Reuse of Areas, Replay Value.
Cons: I don’t know what devilish deal you’ve struck, but this is nigh perfection.
Play Browser Score: 5 Stars, Intermediate Challenge.
Official Rating: 9.75/10.0*
*You just barely surpassed Treasure Hunter, and that’s something any sequel should be proud of when compared to its predecessor. I truly hope this is the Empire Strikes Back of a trilogy, mainly because I’d love to see another level. If it didn’t break my review scale, I would give it a 9.99 because it’s as close to a perfect score as I’ll likely ever give until the next Treasure Seeker…