Thanks for the detailed write-up, it's very much appreciated!
Most of your concerns echo those of our testers, particularly with regards to the "emptiness" of certain sections, and the frustrations navigating through water. You can read about how we plan to introduce some critters to the world in our recent Kickstarter update here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/63454976/tanglewood-an-original-game-for-th...
The pacing of the levels and abundance of enemy waves came from two influences - LIMBO and Another World - where each puzzle is isolated away from enemies, boss fights are few and far between, and each section of the game tells a light story. The first level on show is supposed to introduce the world and the friendly creatures of TANGLEWOOD, show off some beautiful vistas, and reinforce to the player that it's safe during the daytime. In reality, we either need to do more to pull this off in a way that doesn't make it seem empty, or restrict the world introduction to the first act and allow for smaller enemies to come out at dusk.
It's worth noting that each chapter in the game introduces a new set of mechanics, so some of these changes may not translate well to other areas. For example, take a look at our early Heritage demo to see the section filled with contraptions and traps:
Other areas of the game have you battling the elements (wind gusts that blow your Fuzzl out of your hands, lightning strikes that have you taking cover under tree branches), underwater sections, sand dunes (with not-so-friendly things underneath) and underground gold mines (with carts on rails). Hopefully each section keeps players engaged in new ways.
We recently experimented with critters in a later section of the game - some small razor fish in an underwater section - and this trial went very well. They require a new level of skill from the player to circumvent, but don't seem out of place in the world or its paced gameplay.
Above all, we need to be careful not to detour from the game's original vision too much and change its genre overnight. We'll make sure every change is well tested as part of the bigger picture, and strive to make sure the game still "feels" like the TANGLEWOOD we had in our heads from the start.
We've already made some steps to improve the water movement, and we'll be doing further tweaks soon. Originally the water was supposed to be a blockade during a monster fight, creating a barrier for the player that was a little more interesting than a wall and played on players' chase anxiety by slowing them down, but in practice it's less scary and more frustrating. We'll be redesigning these fights to allow for the player to move faster through water. A later section in the game takes place in a swamp, perhaps the original design for viscous water movement is better placed there.
As for the background detail, we need the final video memory figures to determine how much we can spare to make improvements. It's on our list.