Wow. Where to begin. I can tell there's a lot of great, polished content available here so I'm forbidding myself to rate any lower than 4 stars. I'll admit I'm pretty pissed and irritated at a lot of mechanics and small things, but I can tell there's an otherwise near-bugless, very rich and fairly original game, so I'm gonna try not to lose sight of that. But let's get the ugly part out of the way...
Things that really bugged me about the game's presentation:
-Changing direction is fairly key and heavily problematic. I notice that there's threshold for starting movement in a "new" direction for the player where they can kinda go in that direction, but not actually change facing, so those of us that are used to more fluid and intense platforming mechanics are really disappointed to notice we can't dance on the hair's breadth as much as we'd want or would feel is natural. This makes turning around (which is key in using items such as slingshot) something that has to be done relatively slowly and occasionally just doesn't react how we'd think, this is a bit of a pain. Also, someone mentioned not being able to change mid-jump, and I'm not sure if that's true, but I could see that being annoying if you were doing something just after jumping, but otherwise mid air usage is very minimal, except for meleeing things out of the air, so on a second thought, I remember this pissing me off a lot with duri fruit and frogs.
-Slingshot becomes a matter of rhythm and not aim. I don't mind a bit of new ideas here and there, but this means it has to be used at a certain facing (or ELSE!) and that you have to play a mini-game timing your shots relative to angles. Why not just be able to place the angle yourself? This would reduce the bias at making very fine shots or very quick shots against high elevation targets. The slingshot seems more of a nuisance than a "fun" mechanic, but then again I am a huge player of shooter genres, so maybe I can't speak for the less aim-y and reflex-y persons playing, but in a 2d environment I imagine it'd be simple enough to pick up.
-Scarcity. Honestly, this should be number one on this list, but this game emphasizes scarcity in a really odd fashion, almost excessive if you will. Scarcity in health, scarcity in money, scarcity in information. This makes the player sometimes go out on gambles with their limited resources and get bit in the ass fiercely. Loot zones almost never replenish, health doesn't restore on travel and often healing stops just don't exist without paying cash, and mobs drop health/money extremely rarely, so they become very unreliable for anything other than making you lose money, meaning most often you just don't want to go into combat zones. There is one major exception to this rule: the forest, the first hostile area you actually enter. It has respawning duri fruit out the ass, so whenever short on health I find myself just stopping by there, because god forbid I spend money while dying or while stopping at an inn. Farming ensues, and a lot of the time there are respawning bits you can sell for cash... more farming ensues. This game just doesn't seem like it's one meant for or desired for farming, so this scarcity, at least to me, ends up whiplashing its entertainment value down, where previously fun things lose value incredibly quickly.
-Lack of clarity. I cannot stress this enough, but having shown up at the 2nd town and doddled around for 3 hours and looking up the faq page (Which was minimally useful, sorry) I finally get to where I needed to be, stacked with frustation, confusion, and lots of backtracking. Then upon showing up at said bandit HQ I'm dealing with health scarcity, mega aim infinitely-generated enemies, some traps that were a "fun" touch I actually liked, and then the cave of cock-punchery. Upon entering said cave, over a half dozen bats flying into my position and MORE infinitely generated little sand-shitters. There's also 2 switches in the room that don't seem to do anything obvious and particular, and the tendency to die in said shithole figuring out what all these facets are about, I come up with nothing and end up dying to its onslaught of baddies. It's a penalty area, I would be okay with this, normally, if not for the fact that upon dying I'm paying 10 coins per to show up with 10 measly health, that gets you absolutely nowhere. 10 health is like "shit son, better pop some medical items!", and you're only 3 or so hits away from dying AGAIN. I died 5 times in that cave from its shitstorm, mostly due to health scarcity coupled with respawning under siege from nearly a dozen enemies off the bat. I won't lie, I had a lot of cash on hand atm so I was "okay enough" with it and had a very high health cap going in. After backing out, I found myself farming the forest to get back up to 39 hp and bought myself a suit of improved armor, but either it's a quest item "that would look good on me" or it's functioning so minimally I've yet to notice it at all. Let's fast forward some after that entire barrage of crap, I come back to bandit camp, use the save point as I'm now broke with no obvious sources of cash I would enjoy actually obtaining and have to use every time, well that's why it's there, fine. Except here we go again raiding said lair and contending with utter mobs of guys, including some guys that have superb aim, occasionally attack in groups, and will throw knives at me through the god damn walls. I wouldn't mind if they either weren't so relentless and long range (a lot like the sand-shitters, honestly) and didn't hit through the flipping walls (and while it's very retro... why can't I do the same? Inconsistency) and I'm back in an exceedingly punishing death-loop with no health supply to be found, having already arrived at full preparation (Except buying food items, but that should be less necessary IMO), and by the time the whole affair is so done and over with I'm just disinterested in the game as whole.
-Bat has narrow swing range (more like a line, which is fine until you realize it's a VERY picky line that's bad against bees, bats, frogs, and spiders alike) and serious delay. The delay wouldn't be an issue, except midair, if it weren't for the combined narrow range. Most times the crap payout for health/cash with enemies and the excessive amounts of enemies that just dodge your main attack pattern in all but the most ideal of placements makes me not enjoy the combat as a whole, except maybe in the forest where health was less scarce, and even its less scarce sources had potential backfire that I found EXCELLENT for limiting infinite duri exploits.
I shouldn't even need to list the positives of this game for anyone else who has played it. Great art, decent sounds and music, okay enough plot, although a bit abrupt in intro and vague at times, and a lot of the general magic that makes a game like this glow and shine with quality and pride. I just wish what seems to be the simplest of progressions and the most commonplace of combat wasn't so damn frustrating and at times elitest or just plain saying "spend cash to do the thing" because it's incredibly stacked against you. Maybe it's just a taste in difficulty, maybe it's not so bad if you are familiar with retros with such familiar mechanics (bat = whip?) or were on the dev team that gave you a significant amount of experience playing the game as it was built and progressing. I don't know.
Came home to play this and "see what fun awaited" in my 2nd session, found several times more sorrow and agony than fun, and its minimal hook on me to begin with really just killed any of its playtime's worthwhile to me...
Excellent game in design, but not really my choice in mechanics and playstyle.
8/10, 4/5 ~WCCC