We’ve all been there. We’ve been out celebrating the latest birthday milestone whilst promising to only have one or two drinks because we’ve got to be up early for work the next day. One thing leads to another and before we know it, many pints have been sunk and the alarm clock is trying its best to stir our alcohol ridden bodies into life.
The next thing we know is that we’re stupidly late for work (again!), before quickly throwing on a shirt and trousers, hoping and praying that we make it to the office before the boss finds out.
Gary is in one such situation and it’s up to us, and his good friend Marty, to help him find his way through the office building, ensuring that he rocks up to his desk without the big boss finding out.
The premise may seem simple, but you see, Gary is a bit of a useless human being and needs guidance along the way. A lot of guidance. Despite the name, there are 20 levels for Gary to work his way stealthily up, down and through, and you’ll need to help him out as he dodges co-workers, guards, androids and ultimately the big boss, just so that he can save the job he quite obviously doesn’t really want.
Set out with a pretty good overview of the level in front of you, you’ll need to sneakily move Gary around the maze like levels in order to reach the safety of the stairs, which signal the conclusion of each stage. But get spotted even just the once, and Gary will be in big big trouble. Now, things start off relatively simply as many of his co-workers obviously like their place of work as much as Gary does. Their field of vision is limited and they will easily be duped by some cunning disguises. Either that, or they just don’t care for their fellow workers. Whether Gary decides to pull a newspaper up to his face or hide inside a cardboard box, Solid Snake style, they’ll never even bother taking a second glance.
But as the story progresses, more competent employees are found wandering the office block. Security Guards won’t be fooled easily and you may have to resort to bashing them over the head with a big book, firing erasers at them or tainting their coffee with a laxative or two in order to make your way past. Hell, whilst I would never advise you to try this in real life, it’s even good fun to combine a donut with radioactive waste…before tempting an overweight security guard in for a little taste!
Manage to progress even closer to your desk and you’ll discover a few little secrets about your place of work. I won’t spoil things too much, but it would have been nice if Moving Player had decided to ultilise the hidden monsters and roaming Androids a little more. If only so we can equip Gary with a lightsaber a bit more often. That is all I’m going to say about lightsabers but yes, Gary gets access to a lightsaber! A rather brilliant one at that.
Controls are simple enough with the left stick moving Gary on his merry way, whilst the right allows for a very brief overview of the plan ahead. You can’t scan the entire area in one go though as Gary can only see so far, so if you want to discover all the humourous secret areas or help Marty find his long lost toys (yes, Level 22 ain’t anything close to serious!), then you’ll have to send Gary off on a bit of a misadventure. A surprisingly fun misadventure at that.
I do have issues with the use of equipment however and whichever madman decided that it would be a great idea to allocate the d-pad to different pick ups really does need shooting. With triggers and bumpers seemingly free to use, placing pickups onto these would have been a much better idea than seeing the player struggle to move Gary swiftly out of a security guards view whilst also attempting to fire an eraser at a conveyor switch – all with the same hand. It gets a bit too tricky for my liking and nearly ruins an otherwise enjoyable romp. But hey, I guess there is a method to the allocation madness. Don’t ask me what it is though.
Whilst each stage is well designed and cleverly created, the boss battles which crop up at the end of each ‘World’ are far too easy to work out and complete. I’m pretty certain I could have handed a controller to my six year old daughter and asked her to complete the boss stages without too much effort and for any serious gamer, are a big big disappointment. Not only are they over just as they begin (within a minute or two at most), but the slight puzzle aspect that is included in each of them is poor at best. I understand the need to not scare off the gamer, but I need a bit more of a challenge in my boss fights and I was expecting much more with those found in Level 22.
Ultimately though, the rest of Level 22 is a good fun blast. Whilst neither the gameplay or puzzles that have been included in Level 22 reach overly spectacular levels, they are most definitely solid. In fact, other than the crude soundtrack pinging away in the background and the slightly disappointing blocky visuals that set it apart from the rest, there isn’t much to dislike about Gary’s misadventure. There have been a couple of small issues in which I’ve had to restart a level again, but seeing as each and every one are relatively short affairs – especially when you work out the solution – the odd bug and glitch here and there is never an issue.
I have to admit to being completely stumped in my search for safe codes however and so if you’re one of those who just must have the full 1000 Gamerscore that Level 22 brings, you’ll quite possibly be needing some kind of walkthrough in order to understand the safe cracking procedures. I’ve had a look and still don’t understand how they are worked out, so chances are that will be one thing which will keep you going for some time. Similarly, the secret rooms and Marty’s toys are well hidden and will need a good thorough search of all air vents and dark corners should you wish to discover everything held within.
Despite not ever feeling empathy for Gary amidst his plight, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time spent traipsing around the 20 levels on offer. Whilst the stages may only really have one solution and in their basic form won’t test even the most simple of minds, there is a great deal of fun involved in taking in Gary’s story, especially when you understand the video game style humour that is drip fed throughout.
It may not be the longest game in the world and the standard completion rate will only be a couple of hours at best – I’d have loved to have got to grips with a few more levels – but what is in place is most certainly enjoyable and well worth a little look. Especially when you consider the cheap price point and the fact that Level 22 quite simply replicates real life.
To a degree.
Related: Let’s Play Level 22 on Xbox One