One of the game genres that seems to have fallen right out of fashion on the next-gen consoles is the good old 2D platformer.
This is a shame, because although the old 16-bit consoles had far too many 2D platformers, the better ones really shone out and were fantastic fun.
Now everything’s gone 3D and it’s never really been the same. The problem is the programmers have to spend so much more time in creating the 3D worlds that they often neglect the fact you have to make them fun to play in.
It is far easier to make a fun 2D game. It’s easier to make a more focussed level design when your character only goes left and right, rather than in 360 degrees.
When it comes to making platform games in flash, there are quite a few failures out there. Sometimes the main character just doesn’t handle right, other times the worlds they inhabit are boring.
But there are others where everything works perfectly and you can wile away a happy hour discovering all the game has to offer.
Level Up is one of those games.
And here’s where it all begins – with a broken fence!
You play as a purple-shirted girl who has amnesia, who meets a boy who has crashed into the fence of her house. He also has amnesia. It’s an epidemic!
After a brief bit of dialogue that establishes that, yes, you both have amnesia, the game begins.
The first thing you notice is the graphics, which are really pretty. The game also has a nice sense of humour, as shown in the various conversations with the boy, bunnies, ghosts and, er, levers that you meet.
The second thing you notice is the main character is slow as hell and can’t jump to save her life. But don’t turn off just yet, you’re about to discover why this game is called Level Up.
The more you do a certain action, the better you get at it. So the more you walk around, the faster you can run and the more you jump, the higher you can leap.
Just about everything your character does can be levelled up. You can improve your gem-collecting ability, the speed at which your health recovers and, by damaging yourself, you can improve your defence.
This is just about the only game in existence where it’s a good idea to jump on spikes.
You have no means of attack but you do have something that no amnesiac should be without: your codex. In this, you write down information about everything you come across, whether you find a new area, get attacked by a new enemy, or learn a new ability.
Yes, as well as levelling up your basic characteristics you can also buy new moves, such as double jumping and the ability to recover health without having to stand still. You learn these by talking to the bunnies and carrying out a small, but usually tough, task then paying them a few gems. You can also get the abilities by paying triple the normal amount to the ghosts. Which is good, because some of those tasks are a pain in the ass.
There are save points nicely spaced throughout the large level that you can warp between and an in-game clock that gives you a limited amount of time before you go to bed at 6pm (running about is tiring work).
At which point, you have a nightmare and get killed by a shadow monster. Um, what?
This is an evil boss. The first time you fight it, it WILL kill you.
After dying against the boss, you lose all the experience you gained in running, jumping, etc, and the only things you retain are whatever you wrote in your codex and any special abilities you bought.
You may get pissed off by this, but don’t worry. The whole point of the game is in getting the abilities you need to defeat the boss and discover the secrets of your past.
So it’s a good job that the world you inhabit is so much fun to play in. As I said before, the game has a neat sense of humour and there are plenty of things to discover.
The controls are easy to use and movement is fluid; it feels right. Your character is very manoeuvrable, increasingly so as you level up and learn new abilities.
The graphics bring the world to life and you do really feel part of a world, with its own continuity.
The game also keeps track of your statistics, so you can see how many gems you have left to collect, how much of your codex you have filled and how powerful your character is. You can see your progress in a percentage figure at the top of the screen.
One more hint – you can increase your health before the boss battle by giving gems to the boy you first met. This increases your relationship meter, which is measured in hearts… aw.
Although I don’t think a relationship that is based entirely on money can end well…
As an added bonus, if you complete the game 100 per cent you get a sneak peek at the sequel, which plays very differently. Looking forward to it.
Level up now! Level Up!
Written by: Richard Wilson
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