Since the reviewing/voting period of Jam 11 has now finished, I've compiled all the feedback Letterboxes received during the Jam. Thanks to everyone who left feedback- this is a great example of why the Jam is such a good event to try out your game ideas: an abundance of feedback!
And while I'm posting, I promised to respond to TheUltimate's feedback:
This is one of my favourite Jam entries (though Im saying this every ten games or so...) because its relaxing, fun, runs smoothly, and has that very unique letterbox feature.
Not only is it very polished, but its fun too. Its rare to see something of this size and quality in the Jam. I like the cartoony graphics and the animations. I like uncovering the boxes and revealing the level. I also like how you can barely see the sides of platforms that are still hidden, which makes blind jumps slightly less blind. But for some reason, rolling has acceleration and walking/crawling doesnt. It messed up a few of my jumps.
Thanks, I'm glad you appreciate the level design- it took up the majority of my Jam time putting all those tiles in place, and visualising the bigger picture as I went along. Having played through it a few times now, I've seen places where I could make improvements, and have also slightly expanded the world slightly. As for the movement, I wanted the walking to be precise so you knew what would happen and to keep easy movement, and rolling was for a bit more speed and going through smaller gaps. There are places where you need to jump while rolling though, so thanks for letting me know some jumps were messed up. I'll have a think to see if I could improve the mechanics of the roll.
The exploration was the main (and best) part of the game. I really enjoyed finding new places, fossils, and mailboxes. Obviously a lot of time went into the level design. Letting players leave letters is a great idea! Its very interactive, yet discreet enough for anyone looking to just explore in solitude. Im going to replay it again to check for new messages. I liked leaving something behind for others to find and Im sure lots of others did too.
Theres no story, and thats the best and worst part of Letterboxes. The good part is youre not being forced to go anywhere, and there are no items or locked doors restricting you to certain areas at certain points of the game. The whole world is open from the beginning for you to explore and uncover. The bad part is that this leads to a lot of aimless wandering that gets boring in large doses. Retracing ones steps to find the last few letterboxes without any sort of direction isnt very fun. This will probably be less of a problem once the save system and music get put in. Then the game can be finished a little at a time.
I was really disappointed not to have time to get my save and music system working. It was so close, and I had what I thought would be a reliable system for both in place less than an hour before the end of the Jam, so when they didn't work I was forced to take them out, and I knew it would be detrimental to the game. The good news is I've got them both set up now in the version I'm working on, and they really do add a lot more to the game, and it is nice being able to save and continue and as you say the game can be completed a little at a time.
Visually, the game needs more variety. Exploration is the main draw of the game. Different, non-recolour tilesets for each area are a must. Only the first letterbox you find needs the instructional message, and Id love to see each distinct area have its own history that you can learn by reading the main message in each letterbox. Landmarks would be cool too; each History Letterbox could be located by the areas biggest one. Maybe some letterboxes will point you towards other letterboxes or fossils or something bigger. Itd keep the games open world while giving players some goals. Also, a map showing the areas explored, the locations of mailboxes found and which ones have new messages would be great. Since the world is so big, why not have checkpoints you can teleport between after youve found them? Itll be beneficial if (when?) you add more areas.
Overall, the game is very basic, but its going to be great once more levels and different graphics are added. As long as theres a steady stream of new players leaving messages, itll stay fresh on its own.
I absolutely agree that the more variation in the graphics I can add and having more localised areas will really improve upon the exploration. It was a balance between variation and time for the Jam, but I'm planning to work on improving the graphics when I've finished all of the gameplay area so I know exactly what I've got to play with, so to speak.
I think the history in each letterbox is a great idea, it will tell a story without imposing it upon you and I think will add a nice extra dimension to the exploring. I would tell the story through the tales of the ancestors, which will build upon the current story which is at the moment left to the graphics and the poem at the beginning.
Thanks for the thorough review, it's really appreciated!