Even as a long time player of puzzle games, I mistakenly thought that Levels+: Addictive Puzzle Game looked too simplistic from the outside. It seemed like a basic tile matching game, and I didn’t really get how strategic it could be. In reality however, Levels+ is like a combination of chess and checkers – but with numbers, and addictive as all hell.
If I recall correctly, it was somewhere during my my second (and first proper) round I knew that I’d be coming back to Levels+. It had that “one more go” factor, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I remember thinking about the mechanics of it all. Bad tiles were red, and could only be taken out by an equivalent numbered blue tile. Yellow tiles are points, and can be combined before taking out with an equivalent numbered blue to get much higher scores. Blue tiles can be combined as well, which is the way that you’ll build up the upper limit of what red tiles you can take on. It seems very straightforward, but a few more goes at it and I saw something deeper. There’s absolutely a hidden layer coming into play here.
Beneath the obvious “problem and solution” style series of small puzzles within the big puzzle is a game of forethought. Do you eat up the yellow tiles in order to take out a red tile quick, or do you save them so you aren’t backed into a corner? Do you upgrade your blue tiles as fast as possible, or do you move forward with multiple tiles at a time? Do you eat up all the red and yellow tiles that are easy to chain, or do you save them for when you need a little help? There’s a lot to think about, and getting as far as possible requires a delicate balance between playing it safe and going for it all. If you’re smart with your yellow tiles you’ll even unlock the Thunder Bolt, which will turn all red tiles yellow once per game. It can really up your game if used right, especially if saved for when you run out of other moves. 😉
Adding to the addictive factor of the game is how easy it is to access, finish, and play again. The game starts right into the play board, meaning there’s no menus or additional loading to wait for in order to jump in. Finishing the game is obvious and comes with a pop up, meaning you’ll know near instantly when you run out of moves. Starting a new game is as easy as selecting “Play Again.”
But that’s not all, as the final piece of the addictive factor here is the online leaderboard system. It’s very easy to check your best, cumulative, or minimum scores against your friends and the world – which happen to attempt an auto-upload after every match. It’s really a very painless experience, and one that’s built around just one more try. That said, you’d be hard pressed to get off with just one more go if you ask me.
It’s at this point that I should note that Levels+ is nothing special graphically, but at the same time it’s very smooth to play. You can control the game with the controller or touch, and though the layout of what you’re playing is simple it’s not offensive in the least. Every bit of the game is pleasing to navigate and use, and I don’t think I can say honestly that a game of this type would be better suited to another style. It is what it is, and what it is works – plus it loads from the home menu in less than eight seconds.
A little less pleasing to the eye is the developer style menu. Aside from the toggles to turn off the music and sound, it also offers Record (stats), Mission (achievements), Panel Collection (another stats page), Ranking, How to Play (a tutorial), Language, and Credits options for you to explore. It’s basic, but it definitely covers the bases, and is very easy to navigate (if a bit uglier than the rest of the game).
The music and sound on/off functions I mentioned will be your absolute best friend soon though, as this game can be quite annoying to play with any kind of audio enabled. The “music” is a retro styled loop which repeats very frequently, and the sounds are rather annoying after a few goes. There are only so many times you can listen to a cymbal crash for making or taking new tiles, you know?
In the end however, Levels+ is more than its basic effects. It’s a great game that requires a lot of thought to play well, and a solid choice whether you’ve got a few minutes or a few hours. Those of you who are chess players and have learned to play a few steps ahead will definitely do better than others, but Levels+ is a title that can work well in anyone’s hands.