Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that when one body exerts force on a second body, then that second body will exert a force equal in magnitude in the opposite direction. In Deleveled, these two bodies happen to be cubes and understanding the Third Law of Motion is going to be essential for making progress. This is because there is no jump button, meaning gravity and the conservation of momentum is the only way to move the cubes to higher platforms.
Starting out, there won’t be many obstacles to overcome and instead Deleveled focuses on teaching these mechanics. The concept of the game is simple enough. In each level, two cubes will spawn and move in tandem with each other, moving left or right whenever the other one does. Each cube is also affected by gravity, however; one cube is going to be pulled towards the bottom of the screen, while the other is pulled towards the top. Each level has an asymmetrical design, both vertically and horizontally, with switches scattered throughout.
The goal is to navigate both cubes so that they are on two different switches. Once they are all the player needs to do is press A, toggling the switches and spawning the cubes back at their starting position. Once every switch is toggled then a final puzzle will appear and once both cubes touch these new switches the level is complete.
The fundamental mechanic to understand is how to get the cubes to “jump”. If one cube falls from a platform and lands on the opposite side of the other cube, that momentum gets carried through and causes the other one to bounce. If both cubes fall from the same height and land at the same spot, then both cubes will bounce to the same height again.
The first few levels walk you through this, and once you have the basics figured out Deleveled will start to introduce new hurdles to overcome in the form of either obstacles or new mechanics – the first of which is going to be spikes.
Touching these spikes will force the cubes to respawn at their starting position, and while it won’t deactivate any previously toggled switches there is a penalty, which is noticeable by a little star popping up and then splitting in half. To elaborate, each level has a perfect completion bonus in the form of a star. These stars are nice to have, because if you can collect enough of them a bonus level gets unlocked.
To get these stars, the player needs to finish a level without the cubes dying or using a level refresh. The cubes can die in a few ways: they can either touch the spikes, collide with each other, or they can fall off the map. If any of these things happen it is no longer considered a perfect run and the level needs to be fully reset to get the star bonus.
The other way to lose the bonus is by using the refresh feature, which is done by holding the B button. When a player does this both cubes will respawn at the start but all of the switches will remain toggled. This comes in handy since if one cube gets stuck and needs to be reset then that level’s progress won’t be lost. This is a super helpful feature, especially in later levels when figuring out the puzzles becomes a lot more complicated. Keep in mind it will lose the bonus star, but each level can easily be reselected to try again later.
Speaking of bonuses, there is another way to unlock levels. Each group of 10 levels is separated into different chapters and some can be completed in unique ways. If the player manages to toggle two switches in a way that’s a bit more complicated than intended, then there is the potential that a bonus level is unlocked. This way of unlocking levels is a bit more random since I didn’t find any way to distinguish which have these switches, but it’s a nice extra that is added.
And while unlocking those levels might be a bit more difficult than it needs to be, the rest of the game will take plenty of time to get through on its own. As I said, each group of 10 levels is separated into different chapters and each of these chapters will introduce new mechanics. Some have walls that can be passed through in only one direction. Others have platforms that will disappear once a cube touches them, only to reappear later. And even more unique are the ones that have platforms that can be moved by the player. Each new grouping of levels introduces more, and the higher levels will start to combine these mechanics for even more challenging puzzles to solve.
As far as difficulty is concerned, the level designer, Patrick Dance, said that he hopes Deleveled hits those right notes of difficulty: “tough, but also tough to put down”.
And to that I have to say I think they have done a great job. The levels progressively get much more challenging and I found myself genuinely stumped at multiple points. But each time I was already halfway through the level and I didn’t want to stop. So, after wrestling with the mechanics a bit I’d finally have an a-ha moment and the rest would come together.
Probably the best thing about Deleveled on Xbox One is the fact that it feels like some of the levels can be completed in the “wrong” way. By that I mean I could do things that seemed unorthodox and still finish the level. And I think that’s the mark of a good puzzle game – it isn’t confined to a single solution and doesn’t penalize players for attempting to find new ways to complete it. Overall, Deleveled is a great puzzle-platformer and I think anyone who is a fan of the genre and wants a good challenge should definitely pick it up.