Developer: Smiling Bag
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

I Am Level is a pinball Metroidvania game. It’s a weird taste that actually comes together pretty well!

Players control a ball, that I presume is a living thing, around an open world that’s segmented into different rooms – exploring and trying to discover everything that there is to see. Now, our spherical friend can’t actually do anything other than roll around a bit. Thankfully, the maze the ball finds itself in is full of springs, bumpers and flippers, which are perfect for knocking it around. So players must properly time the launch of the springs and the action of the flippers with the ball’s slow rolling in either direction to get them where they need to be.

IAmLevel-1Playing I Am Level is simple: tilt left and right to move in those directions, tap on the screen to activate all items at once. Everything’s very subtle: it’s about the timing of when the flippers come into play, but also about using ground movement to influence where the ball goes in the air. The tilting could be a lot more sensitive; right now it feels like it requires tilting the device all the way to one side or the other in order to get the ball going at all. As well, the game seems unoptimized, with lots of slow loading screens when booting it up. Perhaps other games just do a better job at hiding this sort of thing, though?

The game is very much inspired by low-fi PC gaming, in particular the Commodore 64, with its color schemes and its room-based gameplay style resembling another famous game inspired by the C64, Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV which sadly hasn’t made its way to iOS. The game is kind of ‘ugly’, but it feels very intentional in how low-fi it is.

IAmLevel-4Given that the whole game is about exploration with limited lives, and incentives for collecting all the stars in a level, this can be rather challenging. Thankfully there’s checkpoints spread about to make getting back in to the swing of things a swift experience.

While I don’t think I Am Level is anywhere near a perfect experience, its oddball genre combination and gleefully retro look is captivating, and definitely worth the time to download at its free launch price, and even for the interested when it presumably goes paid later on.


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