Happy Feet Two was my first Level Design gig. It was a very ideal first, too - a platformer wherein I could leverage my years of relevant gameplay experience coming from the days when SNES and genesis reigned supreme (and, in my casa, still do).
Platformer Level Design
I worked with our game's director and fellow team programmers and designers to bring the game's vision and intended pacing to life. This was done using 3DS Max for level geometry via simple plane extrusion and shaping. Volumes were added for water, camera alterations, and death triggers.
In tried and true formulae, the levels were divided into thematic chapters - each with five levels of gradually increasing difficulty.
Snowy Plains - Introduces basic platforming mechanics and swimming
Ice Mountain - Introduces sliding down mountains
Icy Caverns - Introduces environmental hazards and more advanced platforming
Wrecked Ship (personal favourite) - Tests player's learned skills with lots of platforming, swimming and exploration.
Glacier Side - Advanced sliding and platforming
Echo Chamber - Advanced platforming, more hazards introduced
Hazards & Obstacles
At project start - when I was brought on - there weren't any level mechanics, which made the plafroming feel static. I worked with engineering to get some nifty obstacles and hazards into the pipeline. Their inclusion did just the trick, but they felt too gamey until Environment Art stepped in to provide some cool context for them. For example, teeter-totters were made into floating ice blocks or shipping cargo containers when in water, and shifting ice columns or crane platforms when suspended.
Floating teeter-totter - ends reacts to player physics, used to gain height to adjacent platforms
Suspended teeter-totter - falls upon player interaction, tips to side
Falling stalactite (over breakable platform) - Triggered by player proximity, can harm player, creates gap
Falling stalactite (over static collision) - Triggered by player proximity, can harm player, creates stairway
In Happy Feet Two, players acquire three helpers from the film - Erik, Atticus, and Bo. These helpers can be called upon to reach certain secret areas. Each helper has a special ability that I designed their secret areas' puzzles around. Atticus, for example, had the power to break ice blocks with his THUMPPP.
I took a few of his puzzles and strung them together for the example below - in game, each of the four rooms were in different levels. The objective was to attain the special musical note at the end.