LEVEL 22 did provide an adventure, albeit in frustration. It is played through the touch-screen (a bit of a given, since it is an iOS game), but the trouble is precision. You move Gary and have him interact with objects and places to hide with simple taps on the screen, while touching and holding down will allow you to pan and scan the level to check out your surroundings. It’s almost too easy to scan ahead to see where you need to move next or to see if there’s a co-worker coming towards you, then, as you pan back to Gary, accidentally tap a part on the screen and begin moving. Once this happens you’re in a mad scramble to get back to Gary to have him stay where he is. Usually you’ll end up being spotted and then it’s GAME OVER on your screen. Luckily LEVEL 22 has a great checkpoint system that generally puts you right back before you get caught, but if you’re stepping away from the application and restart the game, it’s generally just a tad farther back.
The frustration is increased when you’re trying to sneak past co-workers while using hiding objects like a newspaper or a cardboard box (a callout again to the Metal Gear Solid series that warms my heart); there are times when you think you’re out of view and range from the eyes of co-workers when you’re really not. When you start facing security guards that can instantly spot you (and give you the GAME OVER), the difficulty is ramped up. This is further compounded with the amount of real estate that you can see on the screen – it’s dangerously zoomed in too much. This zoomed-in view, while giving appropriate attention to the amount of detail in the pixel-art graphics (necessary for some clues to unlocking safes or finding secrets), makes it extremely tough to gauge your surroundings and where co-workers and security guards are. What would have been helpful is either the ability to zoom out or a mini-map to keep tabs on preying eyes.
Frustrations aside, LEVEL 22 is fun to play when everything is working out. Sneaking around security guards that are distracted by donuts that you leave behind or hiding out in a closet to wait for a co-worker to walk by certainly requires a bit of skill and timing. After making it through several levels, you’ll face off against a boss. Each boss has a certain way to defeat them, and luckily you have a helpful friend that offers words of wisdom and hints to aid you.
The overall presentation of LEVEL 22 is definitely nostalgic. The pixel-art graphics are a nice touch, reminiscent of the older 16-bit era (although a much-higher resolution) and the music is catchy but unfortunately repetitive. The sound effects get the job done but aren’t really necessary in gameplay – it’s mainly the visuals you’ll need to know and understand to get through a level.
Unfortunately witty humor, the original setting, nostalgic and well-done pixel-art graphics can’t really save LEVEL 22 from the frustrating controls and extremely limited immediate view area issues. As the levels get more difficult and larger, the prospect of dealing with multiple GAME OVER screens and multiple checkpoint restarts due to the above-mentioned issues just doesn’t present enough reward. If you think you can look past those issues then you can enjoy LEVEL 22, but I recommend waiting until an update addresses the issues before diving in.