Space Barnacle (2007)

This is one of these exploration platformers where you ran around and collect upgrades that allow you to enter new areas (though areas once visited don’t really get revisited, minimal backtracking here). Excellent graphics that remind you of old games of similar ilk, especially Metroid, well-done controls, everything could be perfect.

There’s just one flaw. It has lots and lots of pits where you can fall to your doom. Which, in an exploration platformer, is IMHO a deadly sin. Worse, the level layout doesn’t make it obvious whether there’s a pit below or not and even looking down (by pressing down) doesn’t help much in these cases (as it doesn’t go far enough). There’s a reason most of those type of games use abysses never or very rarely, since exploration means plunging ahead into the unknown. When this is far too often followed by plunging to your death, this transforms the gameplay from fun exploration to annoyed frustration.

05/2010: I tried this again to see if my opinion has changed. I really like some of the sprites and the death animations of most creatures are lovely, but the level design is still abysmal.