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Sorry for the wall of text.

For the positives: I think you have a great basic gameplay and aesthetic to build from, and I really enjoyed the music, especially how sections faded in and out in response to oncoming waves of enemies.

For some more nitpicky critiques: I didn't like the control scheme. I usually find games use Z and X instead of Q and W, with the up arrow also being able to jump. There was also one screen where you had to jump across a set of platforms while being shot at by ...lightning? (even though it looked like fire underneath?). I felt that was bit too much: it was the first platforming section, but we also had to deal with the parry that we just learned about, so it was pretty overloading. And the screenshake got a bit intense at times, especially when attacking / being attacked by more than one enemy at a time. I'd suggest toning it down a bit, plus adding an option to eliminate it altogether as an accessibility feature.

I think your game falls into the same traps that a lot of game jam games do: a really good core gameplay, but a way too intense difficulty curve with an overemphasis on the gimmick - in this case, having to rely on the parry far too quickly and too heavily. I've always felt the best way to introduce a complicated mechanic like that is "this is how it's done, it'll make your life easier, but it won't be mandatory outside of very specific situations for a few hours". With such a short development time, that few hours became 20 minutes and I just could not get into the groove of the game.

I think Stellar Sky Games had a lot of good ideas, like delaying when the attack registers to allow the player to parry ON the beat instead of just before, and including an assist mode was a good idea, and that the hi-hats were too prominent, and the waves were inconsistent in their length, and when multiple projectiles came at you you could only parry one of them and get hit by the rest.

For reference, I gave up on the sniper boss fight. I was going to quit in the first phase, but I found the assist options, gave myself more health and a longer parry time, but gave up on the second phase.

I guess I just didn't have enough of an investment in the game to really keep going. There was no story, no intrigue, no interesting visuals or set pieces to entice me to continue on, just the gameplay, which was good in short intervals but not enough to sustain me. I think some more obvious narrative elements, whether that means abstract imagery (if we have a visual reference, we can more easily see our progress) or a persistent voiceover (have you played Bastion? Because I think that kind of narrator would fit the gameplay well.) If it's more symbolic, then maybe the vertical falling and horizontal running sections could have some kind of deeper meaning? Falling into a pit of despair versus running from your problems? I dunno... You could also pad out the game with more platforming sections to get the player more acclimatized to your game.

You mentioned it being difficult to tell which 'weapon' to use. I think that could be done in a few different ways: enemies weak to the sword are small and have squishy, organic shapes, while bigger and more inorganic enemies need to be parried. You can also make the ghosts semi-transparent or dithered to show they're non-corporeal and you NEED to parry their attacks. Individual health bars could also show the relative damage of each attack, but that would probably distract from the visual design too much.

Hope all this useful, I'd be interested in seeing more of this game.

(+1)

Hi!
Thanks so much for playing! Sorry for the insanely late response. Glad you liked the music transitions and the basic gameplay.

For controls, I'm planning on letting people rebind the controls, but that's in the works for the future. I'll keep the default controls in mind and see if other people have similar feedback on Z/X vs Q/W and whatnot. Controller support is also enabled in this build.

Allowing people to control the screenshake is definitely on the list of accessibility options, thanks for letting me know it was a little intense.

Haha sorry that the lightning platforming section felt like a bit much. I wanted a non-combat section where you're forced to parry lightning to let the player know "oh I can parry ANYTHING". That said, I sort of forgot that it's also the first platforming section. I like the idea of breaking the flow of combat a little with more platforming/less-intense sections, so I'll keep that in mind and try that out as I continue.

I agree the difficulty curve is a little intense, definitely still a work in progress so I'll keep tuning and refining that part. As for the parry being a gimmick: I actually want the core gameplay to revolve entirely around the reflect/parry, so that's the main reason why it's so hammered in at the beginning.

That said, it needs to feel fair, and I think it feels really bad to miss a parry by a tiny bit, which is what probably happens to most people on their first time through. I think delaying the attack to allow the player to parry on the beat is a good way to make the parry feel a little easier. Perhaps lengthening the window as well could work. 

Glad you made it to the sniper (and glad you found the assist modes useful!). The second phase is definitely a little insane, especially for a first boss. If I can come up with an elegant way to nerf it, I probably will. The sniper is the last thing in the current build right now, so you've seen everything I have to show you for now.

As for the lack of story: The story is in progress! I've written a lot of the story already, but I'm still looking for elegant ways to introduce it to the player. I think it'll help a lot with breaking up the flow of combat, but it's still in the works. I'm trying to iron out gameplay before I invest too much in the story.

As for 'which weapon to use', I like your suggestions. I think the core of your suggestion is to make it visually clear that an attack is unavoidable (MUST be parried), vs which enemies / attacks can just be fought conventionally. 

One design I've been thinking about is to allow for 3 levels/degrees of player skill expression:
Level 1 player skill is just attack enemies, and run away / dodge enemy attacks (low risk, keep yourself out of harms way, low reward).
Level 2 is attack enemies, and parry attacks when they attack (put yourself in harms way, high risk, get rewarded by parrying enemies which deals tons of damage / stuns depending on the enemy).
Level 3 is parry attacks WHILE you yourself attack the enemy (put yourself in harms way and time parries while also attacking for maximum reward).

I think the issue right now is some enemies REQUIRE you to be experienced enough to use level 2 skill expression, which is kind of unfair for new players who are just getting used to the parry. I think the solution to this is to keep unavoidable attacks (things that MUST be parried) to an absolute minimum early and make them very visually distinct from other attacks. I also want to emphasize to the player that parrying is the MOST EFFECTIVE way to play. I still need to iterate on this though, so thank you for your suggestions.

Thanks again for playing, and thank you for the wall of text!