Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: Levels+


At first glance, based on the limited description and screenshots, I wasn’t quite sure what Levels+ would be like. I’d somewhat assumed it’s a variant on the popular game Threes and the many variants that are like it out in the mobile space. To a degree that assumption is correct, but there’s another layer of strategy it adds to the mix that I haven’t seen before. Getting right to the point I will say that there’s more involved in Levels+ than there has been in most of the games of this type that I’ve played and so, in that regard, it is a pretty challenging and good time if this is the sort of experience you’re seeking for the Nintendo Switch. 

The hook in these types of games is that you’ll need to combine your like-numbered pieces to create a single piece of the next numbered rank up. With that in mind it becomes an exercise in carefully trying to control where your numbers are. Periodically you’ll then look to combine a series of pieces, buy yourself some room to work in, and roughly continue the cycle until you run out of moves. 


What Levels+ does, and I personally haven’t played a variant like this before, is add to the challenge by differentiating blue “attacker” pieces, yellow “points” pieces, and red “enemy” pieces. The blue tiles are able to both combine with other blues of the same number or overtake yellow or red pieces of the same or lower number. Yellow pieces can only be combined with other yellows in order to increase their value. Red pieces you can only remove through the use of a blue piece of a high enough level. The flow in how you choose to manage the order and execution of your moves will help determine your success. Your attacks and combinations will ultimately have less to do with “making a play” and more to do with how making that move at the right time will set up an opportunity for another piece. 

As I said this style of play, in general, is reminiscent of other games I’ve played but the twist with the colored pieces substantially alters how everything plays out and is refreshing! As you might expect there is quite a bit of strategy to the game, especially in regards to how you level up your yellow spaces. Rather than simply running them over because you can there is a strategic component to combining them first in that you’ll gain a higher score the higher the yellow tile value is when you finally take it with your blue tile. Of course the higher a level it is the higher the level your blue tile will also need to be so you’ll need to be cautious. In addition I’ve run into at least one hidden power-up that you can permanently unlock in the game once you’ve leveled a yellow piece up to 6 and consume it, so there’s an added incentive to try to get your level up for that purpose as well.


Getting past the core game there’s not too much more to discuss since there’s really not much else to offer. There is only the one game mode, though in theory you could play it endlessly and try to top your highest score. It can be played either with the controller or with the touchscreen though I will note the pace you can play in touchscreen can’t get too quick or you can either have issues executing moves or sometimes you’ll get a move you didn’t intend for. This only happened periodically and I had a hard time telling if the issue was just me not being precise with my fingers or the game having an issue but it is worth noting. I found controller play to be perfectly workable and fast so I generally stuck with that style. About the only other complaint would be that the loop on the music track is very short so over time I may recommend simply turning it off if it gets grating, I don’t believe there was an option to control the volume.

With all of that in mind Levels+ does a better job than I would have expected and provides for an engaging experience. If you’re looking for a light puzzling experience you can just pick up and play semi-thoughtfully for a while it’s probably better than any other game of its kind that I’ve played on other devices, though I just may not have seen this variant before. With its relatively inexpensive price the question ultimately becomes whether this is the kind of game you’re looking for. If it is, and you understand that the goal isn’t to “win” but to challenge yourself to continue to try to up your score, I’d say this is a worthy purchase.

Score: 6

Pros:
  • Among games of its kind this is probably the most strategic that I’ve played
  • The inclusion of an permanently-unlocked power-up based on meeting a challenging objective was a nice touch and a game-changer for future scores
  • Great for picking up and putting down randomly as you have “filler time”

Cons:
  • Ugh, the music loop is so short and gets grating
  • Some hiccups in control with the touchscreen periodically that I couldn’t nail down a cause for
  • There are no variations or multiple modes, what you see is all you get

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