It's a lot of fun, but why on earth should your score go to zero if (or rather, when) you die?
Difficulty ramps up as you progress, a good thing. Punishment for failing kills gameplay.
I really like the game but...
A checkpoint would come in handy.
I would like to put up a counterpoint to jhungmr's review. The mouse controls are fine, and the platforming focus around the hook gimmick is wonderful. I just have a problem with a few levels which feel extremely drawn out for no good reason.
For example, level 21. We have a terrible safety net (a moving platform that takes a miracle to jump on) that comes after an extremely easy part of the level, and before an extremely hard part. This results in a ton of wasted time trying to complete the hard part of this level because the easy part is so damn long. It feels like a fake challenge when this kind of issue exists.
It's too bad though, because level 21 feels like a great challenge. It's ruined however with this problem, as it takes several hours to pass because players keep dying.
Also, many of the jumps feel like they need a virgin sacrifice to the Aztec gods in order to land. The camera is too small and cramps the player too much. Dirk seriously needs glasses.
Finally, the boss fights should be fixed. These guys are way too easy to exploit and if not exploited they become nearly impossible unless with extremely strong skills of observation. It's the worst possible case in regards to designing combat encounters.
And that's about it, hope you guys make a sequel!
I originally played this game a few years ago and fell in love with it, so for the sake of old times I found it here and tried it up once more. It hasn't aged as well as I would've liked. Some have already done very well to say what this game does right (sprite work, music, gradual introduction to game mechanics, level design, walking controls), so I'll focus on what doesn't quite work.
First, and the biggest problem, is the camera. This is only the 2nd 2d platformer I've played (the other being Yoshi's Island) where the camera is actually an issue, which feels...weird, to say for a game like this. The problem isn't just b/c it results in a sluggish scroll and pan, but that at many points it makes it impossible to tell where hazards are. It leads to miracle jumps where you hope nothing dangerous is below...sadly there usually something is.
Secondly, and I think this is valid, but mouse controls DO NOT WORK for this kind of game. With the number of hazards you come across later on, and the scale of precision you need (hit boxes don't seem that big), using a precision control like the mouse is counter-intuitive. There are many times where I will obviously aim at an enemy right in front of me, but fail to hit them with my cannon. It's not b/c I lack good vision-the cannon is clearly facing them-, it's b/c if the aim is off by even a few pixels, it can go right past them or hit some object on the ground or behind them, b/c like I said earlier, the hitboxes aren't quite that big. That's good for my character, and a pain for enemies.
My other big problem is the boss fights; they suck, honestly. The first boss is impossible to beat in the "intended" fashion, so I merely perched myself on the right platform corner, waited until he came by and aimed my cannon to hit his weak spot. I hardly think this is what you had in mind, b/c tho it made the fight magnitudes easier, it made it much more boring as well. And, if memory serves me correctly, you can do the same w/ the final boss fight too, or similar. This sort of "breaking" has existed in plenty of games past and present, but it's usually only something I do when I find the intentional method to be unfair towards the player, which it is in this game's case.
Another issue I have regards jumping. I understand that Dirk's main hook is to use the cannon chains as platforms, sort of like you'd use the arm in Bionic Commando, but at least in that game there aren't very many instances where you actually HAVE to rely on jumping, and there aren't hazards to break the arm. Here, jumping is still a necessity, and I hate the fact it feels so floaty. This makes certain challenges more arbitrarily difficult, and that doesn't even begin to factor the camera into play.
Lastly, there's a little issue of where you might suddenly end up facing a different way (and thus reversing your aim) b/c of the camera panning. To flip your aiming direction, you have to move the mouse into that direction, but this can be cumbersome due to your character still walking in the opposite direction, resulting in a jarring flip that can be a little disorientating. I blame this more on using mouse controls than anything; had the cannon aiming and firing been mapped to buttons (Yoshi's Island style, essentially), it would've made for much tighter controls and you'd still have the mobility advantage the combination of keys + mouse give you.
I don't know if you've made a sequel to this game yet or are planning to, but I hope it addresses these issues in particular. The seeds are there for a great action-platformer but it's very rough around the edges. Playing some of your more recent games like Flightless, your programming skills are much better, and I suppose for it's time Dirk Valentine was ahead of your average flash platformer, for sure. But I can't ignore its faults-most of them design decisions-in light of other games of its ilk regardless of the platform they're on or their release date. As-is, this gets 3 1/2 stars out of 5; solid mechanic/gimmick, good level design, fantastic sprite work, decent music, nice sound effects, character designs, and sense of progesssion....hampered by a few major issues.
a steam punk game cool