It takes a special group of people to pull off stealth games. The entire genre has been defined and reinvented by each Metal Gear game in such spectacular ways that it has been hard for the casual developer to come in and showcase something new. I would say it takes a group of people who would name their company Noego to tackle this project, but Noego isn’t trying to showcase something new with Level 22 – Gary’s Misadventures. They are trying to make something fun.
Adding a bit of comedy to the stealth action genre is a novel concept. Adopt from the big boys and use the setting and story to make it your own. It’s a smart strategy. Let’s see how it paid off.
Level 22 is a top down stealth game in the same sense as the original Metal Gear Solid. The focus of which is on each unique level of the game. Gary doesn’t have an inventory, so whatever he finds on each level is what he has to use to move forward. This idea simplifies the action while expanding upon the strategy elements of the game. Thankfully, they put their focus in the right space.
Revolving around this structure, the game is able to set up the comedic elements of the story without having to worry about how the player will react to the situation. They’ve limited the gameplay so the comedy of the game can come out through our protagonist Gary’s interaction with each level.
The way Level 22 is presented is through Gary’s absolute fear of getting fired for his habitual tardiness. After another late night bender, he has to sneak into the building without alerting anyone of his presence and get his. A tricky proposal as his boss has a raging hard-on against inefficient practices. Security is tight and an office full of drones dressed as coworkers are out to undermine your attempts to work your way up and back to your desk.
This premise is able to bring out a lot of comedic elements as Gary has to do some of the most unscrupulous things to move himself through the building and past security. All to hilarious effect of course.
Gary’s interactions with his items and elements of the office are what makes this game stand out. With the help of his best friend over the phone, Gary will learn to use newspapers to sneak past coworkers, donuts to distract security guards and find boxes to hide beneath in an homage to Metal Gear‘s classic stealth technology. Where it gets mischievous is when Gary has no other option other than to damage printers, add laxatives to coffee, and use giant books to beat coworkers over the head in an attempt to move forward.
It really does beg the question of what a person would do to save their job and whether or not Gary is indeed a good person.
Gary’s chaotic adventure through his peaceful workspace is nice to look at. The pixel art is great and the game forces you to look at it all as they’ve hidden secrets in each level for you to unlock. Finding staff rooms full of Futurama based merchandise or picking up Batman dolls is a great way to pad the game out and add some replayable elements to it.
Honestly the only thing really holding Level 22 back is the fact that is its control scheme. This debuted originally on Windows Phone 8 so, if you’ve played any games that were made this way, you’ll know that they tend to rely heavily on mouse based movements. There are around 100 buttons on my keyboard, but I’m using inventory and precision movement with a mouse. It works in 98% of the situations, but the moments which require you to move to and fro while interacting with an item in a precise manner will probably take you a few times unnecessarily.
At the low price of $5.99 ($1.99 for you Windows Phone 8 users), Level 22 is a solid choice. There is a level of respect the developers have with their characters and animation that shows how much care they had for this game. It is a very good first step for the company and I look forward to seeing more from the developers at Noego. If you’ve ever wanted to whack your boss over the head with an accounting book, I think Level 22 is the perfect game for you.
[+Nice Pixel Art] [+Solid Gameplay] [+Interesting Situations] [-Tricky Controls]