In a way I'd advise both the opposite and the same as what GradualGames suggested.
1. Compare your game to the best
The best way to learn art is by copying good art. Find something good to use as a model and study it. Learn about all its components, and learn how to recreate each of them.
Take a sprite you like from a game, erase its head, try to draw a new one that fits the style. Take some music you like from a game and completely recreate it in Famitracker, then erase the melody and write a new one. Study how a character jumps and runs and stops and slides, and recreate them.
Focus on learning each little part by itself until you're comfortable with them all. Compare yourself to the best, and you should quickly find things you can improve whenever you want to. Don't worry about being "original", all good art is just a synthesis of elements borrowed from prior art. You'll be able to do original things once you have enough experience with the details, when you no longer have to suffer so much for every little thing.
Don't feel the need to stick with something just because you worked hard for it. If you did something once, you can do it again. Don't make one sprite, make ten and only keep the best one. This doesn't just improve your output, but it also builds experience. Get into the mindset that everything can be replaced. “All poets write bad poetry. Bad poets publish them, good poets burn them.” -- Umberto Eco
2. The other thing that's really important, and calima said stuff about this, but finish things and share them to get feedback. This also means picking small projects so that you can manage to finish them. In that respect I'm probably suggesting the same as GradualGames. You can always keep improving your game, but you need to stop that and just finish it if you want to get it out there.
Finishing stuff is a difficult skill of its own, and requires practice. You have to balance the desire to improve, and the need to finish things. Pick a point to stop trying to make it better, and instead focus just on making it feel complete.
You also don't have to finish a whole game to share it. You can share little pieces of it. ...and you don't need to do every part of it yourself. Most of the entries in this compo were not made by one person. If you want to develop all of the different skills involved, that's great, but your personal progress will probably feel slow if you compare yourself to other people who are doing just one thing.
(I think you actually did a good job of picking a good scope here and making something that felt complete with this game.)
Now If you want specific feedback on your game... I could give you individual bits of feedback on various details which I think could be improved, but I think it might be more helpful to think about what's missing from your game. Most importantly I would think about what would make a person want to keep playing your game. I'll try to give comparative examples with other games here:
- A game doesn't have to have great music, but if it does, it gives me a reason to want to play the game. Nebs & Debs has a fantastic soundtrack, and it's something that I would listen to just by itself. I want to keep playing to hear the music on the next level. I want to play again just to hear the first level music again.
- A game doesn't have to have a story, or cutscenes, but if it's there and you like it, it's a reason to keep going. Lala the Magical opens with a simple but well drawn story page, and it sets me up to think there's going to be more as I keep playing. It makes me want to see what comes next.
- Your game seems to take a lot of cues from Zelda. One of those things is unlocking abilities that allow you to progress... but think about the way that Zelda does that compared to your game. Zelda lets you explore many different paths without needing those abilities. It shows you places you can't go yet, and opens questions in your mind, making it interesting when you finally find an item like the ladder. All of a sudden places you've already been are changed, and you want to go back and try them. -- Your game, though, is very linear. You pass a chest, then you go forward until you find a key, then you backtrack to the chest, then you go back again to proceed past whatever wall the ability in the chest was for. You end up travelling the same space 3 times, but it's the same each time. The new ability only lets you go forwards, it doesn't add anything new to places you've already been.
- There also seems to be some elements that remind me of Chip's Challenge. There's the boulders that you can push, which immediately made me think there would be transport puzzle challenges using them, but instead they just kind of make walking through that particular room slowly. There's no clever way to push them to gain an item. There's not really even a wrong way to push them? They set up some expectations but are never really made good use of.
- The ice also reminded me of Chip's Challenge, and that game used a similar ice mechanic to construct mazes and made you look around and think about how to proceed. Your game did a small bit of this, but ultimately the only thing that felt like much of a "puzzle" was figuring out how to backtrack to get back to the chest, and instead of that being about the ice mechanic, it was more about figuring out that the edge of the ice is slightly "sticky" and you could change direction there; it felt like I had to just learn an arbitrary special rule to proceed, rather than being able to deduce a solution from the information I already knew about how ice worked.
A game doesn't need great music, great art, puzzles etc. to be a good game, it just needs to have something
compelling about it. I don't think Zelda really has good mechanical gameplay, but it does some great things with exploration
. Chip's Challenge doesn't really have great art, but it has some very clever and interesting puzzles
. Sinking Feeling had humour
with its "achievements" that made me want to keep playing and try things to find them. Filthy Kitchen had some surprising novelty
with the giant fly boss at the end.
So... looking at your game, I'm sorry but there isn't really any element that excites me. A lot of working components are there, and it's a functional game (you should be proud to have accomplished that much), but there's not much that wants me to keep playing, or play again. Mostly I wanted to keep playing to see what else there might be in the game, but that's about it. (Maybe the final boss was the most interesting thing that happened.) You could make the controls a little better, etc. but I don't think that's really what your game needs.
(I might suggest editing the original post's subject to add the game's name. i.e. "How can I improve? (The Paths of Bridewell)", just to make it clearer what this thread is about.)