Level 22 – Wii U

Gary. It’s hardly the most heroic or inspiring names for a video game protagonist, but that’s precisely why it works so well. It’s the common man, it’s me and you. We are Gary.

Gary wakes up with a massive hangover from his birthday party the night before, only to find he’s late for work. Again! We’ve all been there before. As Gary is punctually challenged he is already on his last warning from his boss. No doubt Gary is now in a bit of a pickle. His only foreseeable solution is to sneak to his work desk without being noticed by anyone in his building. A seemingly impossible challenge is instantly boosted by a call from Gary’s friend and ex-colleague Marty who will give you advice through out the game.

The humour in Level 22 is fantastic. I’m not always a fan of humour breaking the 4th wall, but it works well here. The banter between the two throughout the game is great.

Gary, with the help of Marty, must now make his way from the basement of the building all the way to his desk on floor 22. Level 22 is a stealth game through and through, a rather good one at that. As Gary makes his way up the building floor by floor, he must not be seen by anyone. If he is spotted you’re instantly take back to the last checkpoint.

Along the way Gary will find a handful of everyday objects to assist in his stealthy entrance. Following the game’s style, it’s all very tongue in cheek and humorous. You can use a newspaper to hide your face from everyday workers and even the classic cardboard box to shuffle forward during safe moments. Security guards are a little more difficult to fool, however, but they have one true weakness: Donuts! Place one of these irresistible little buggers on the floor within sight and they’ll come running to ‘investigate’, leaving you enough time to slip by.

You can even hide in cupboards, vents and even the boot of a car as you try to make your way back to your desk. Considering the brevity of the game, there’s a lot of things available to do, and they’re all well used. You can pour coffee over machinery to put them out of order and distract workers, lace workers’ coffee with laxative to send them to the bathroom and the game even has a rather relaxed attitude towards feeding guards radioactive material. I don’t want to keep harping on about the game’s humour, but it really is a highlight along with the gameplay.

Ways to get by are usually fairly simple, it’s usually more about planning your offensive and then biding your time. It’s a little bit too trial and error at times, but the instant respawning and checkpoints means it’s never too risky to be experimental. The only time I felt the game tested my speed and dexterity was when I was riding a conveyor belt, switching between hiding in a box and shooting switches without being seen. Even the boss battles are fairly relaxed which I liked, aside from the second one where it seemed to go on too long and it was a lot of waiting around, especially as I kept being discovered at the very last moment so I had to keeping going through the whole thing again, quite a few times.

One of the few complaints I have about the game are the controls for the items. Items are used with the D-Pad, with each item assigned to a different direction. I often found myself wishing they were assigned to the A, B, X, and Y buttons instead as I would always need to either stop moving Gary in order to use something or reach the D-Pad with my right hand. It sounds bizarre, but that’s what the game made me feel like I had to do on occasions.

There are only 4 worlds with 5 levels each and one play through the game lasted me just over 3 hours, but that’s enough, 22 Levels doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. I had fun playing the game from beginning to end.

There are tonnes of hidden things; rooms and Easter eggs to find in the game, you won’t see them all in your first play through. The pop culture references are off the roof and it always brings a smile to the face finding them. My favourites of which were seeing the ship from Futurama on a desk and Marty’s secret hideout. Some of the references are even collectable in the form of toys. Apparently Marty left some of his toys behind and you can retrieve them for him, you’ll find cameos of Batman, Pikachu and even Totoro amongst others hiding in each level. Because levels are fairly short and decently compact, I think you’ll get the urge to go back and vacuum things up, especially all the secret codes for the safes.

I love the art work for Level 22. The sprites are so nice and chunky; I really love the style they’ve gone for. While there’s not a whole lot of variety in assets, they’re all really well done. It reminds me of Theme Hospital for some reason. I originally didn’t like the characters’ weird sized heads but it grew on me quickly.

The music is pretty awesome too. At times it sounded almost Shovel Knight-esque, although obviously more suitable for an office environment. Think of it as a lounge version. It’s very retro and very well done.

Overall, Level 22 has been a bit of a surprise for me. It’s seriously come out of nowhere and I adore it. It’s short, sweet, but packs a lot of fun and a nice challenge even if it relies on trial and error a little too much. You’ll be getting caught a lot, often in the same place, but you’ll keep going because you’re enjoying yourself. It looks great, sounds great and plays great. What more can you ask for? I’d heartily recommend it.

Good points

– Good humour

– Nice stealth gameplay that’s not so serious

– Love the style and music

Bad points

– Item usage is slightly awkward

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