What a change a coat of 8-bit paint can make! There are many games that, while often fun to play, fail to build any excitement due to bland presentation or visuals that lean too far towards the casual / kiddie market. But with a charming or retro aesthetic, a casual game can suddenly be exceptionally appealing. Taito's classic arcade maze game Cameltry is a good example of this, and now I Am Level - a game I have been looking forward to since laying eyes on it back in June - is here, proving the same point.
What could easily have been yet another mobile App with garish 'Candy Crush' style visuals that would send gamers such as myself running for the hills, suddenly becomes an appealing prospect due to the fantastic presentation that perfectly captures the look and sound of classic 8-bit home computer games, namely the ZX Spectrum & Commodore 64. Indeed, it so closely resembles the Monty Moles, Manic Miners, Chuckie Eggs, Dynamite Dans etc of yesteryear that I wrongly assumed that this was another flick screen 2d platformer. While partly true - it is 2d and there are platforms - I Am Level is very different to your usual run and jump affair, choosing to employ a pinball mechanic that sees you controlling your spherical character via tilting the screen (or using the keys on the brower version) and tapping the screen / space bar to use the springs and flippers that adorn the single screen stages.
Like the Speccy games that clearly inspired this title, I Am Legend has multiple flick screens, all with their own quirky names and zany enemies to avoid. Each screen contains stars which can be collected, with the ultimate goal being to collect them all. Upon your death, all the stars you nabbed up to that point are transferred to XP, and as you level up coloured '?' squares that block your path on certain screens are removed, allowing access to new areas. The map is also updated, showing the screens you have visited, the ones in which all stars were collected and any checkpoints that you discovered on your journey. It's a large map too, and it will take you a while to get to all of the screens, let alone collect the stars in them all.
I Am Level is extremely good fun and has bags of charm in its retro aesthetics - the graphics take me back to my early 8-bit days, and the jaunty chiptune music that accompanies your adventure enhances it further. The physics are well realised, with momentum and gravity all working as they should and, much like pinball itself, flinging your ball across the screen with the many flippers and bumpers is extremely satisfying and rewarding when you hit those hard to reach areas you were aiming for. As you delver further into the map, the screens can become exceptionally challenging, and mildly frustrating, but never so much so that you want to stop playing or embed your keyboard in the wall - something that can't be said for many 8-bit games of a similar style - This is due to both decent level design and the fact that losing a life doesn't reset all the stars, allowing you several attempts to clear a screen.
I have to say that the browser version is much easier to control than the mobile versions as, much like every other game out there that isn't Angry Birds, keys are far more accurate than tilting a device and poking a touch screen - but I still enjoyed playing this on my Android phone, and highly recommend you download it to your portable thingy of choice. All versions are completely free to play, and so I strongly urge you to roll on over to the developer's website and grab the version of your choosing - you are guaranteed to have a ball!
- Excellent ZX Spectrum graphical style
- Catchy chiptune music
- Well implemented rolling / tilting mechanic
- Fun and challenging
- Can be occasionally frustrating
Title : I Am Level
Developer : Smiling Bag
Year : 2013
System : Browser, Android & iOS
Price : Free