Levelhead review
+ Universal App
$6.99 Buy now!

Levelhead review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on April 30th, 2020
Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: LEVEL UP
Share This:

It’s no Mario Maker, but that’s kind of the point.

Developer: Butterscotch Shenanigans, Inc.

Price: $6.99
Version: 10.0.106
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

It's very clear that Levelhead is a game inspired by Super Mario Maker, so let's just acknowledge that to get it out of the way. They're similar because they have the same goals: Allow players to make, share, and play each other's 2D platformer levels using a robust set of tools. In competing with Mario, it's hard to rise to the level of polish and charm of Nintendo's flagship franchise, but developers Butterscotch Shenanigans make one hell of an effort to get there. Although its mobile form is not the ideal way to play levels, Levelhead is a pretty fantastic level-builder that benefits immensely from cross-platform compatibility and a really smart level curation system.

Delivering deliberate differences

Levelhead is more than just a clone of Super Mario Maker, and the clearest illustration of that is front-and-center in the game's core design. In it, you play as a delivery robot who must retrive and deposit packages from alien worlds. This makes every level a two-step process. As opposed to simply reaching the end of a level, you have to first find an object and then determine the best way to bring it with you to the exit.

This sounds like a small difference in the grand scheme of things. After all, the rest of the gameplay is very similar to Mario. You still run and jump in 2D space, kill enemies by jumping on them, etc. But, as you play through the game's pre-built tutorial stages, you quickly learn that this opens up a different world of possibilities. Package retrieval is an open invitation to make non-linear levels, and there plenty of other tools to support and encourage this kind of design.

Get on my level

This brings us to the other half of Levelhead as a game. The suite of creation tools in this game is staggering. Part of this has to do with the fact that objects here aren't immediately recognizable as they are in Mario Maker, but it's also because Levelhead just has a boatload of switches, portals, grapple points, and other kinds of wild things that let you make all kinds of levels that you usually don't see in a traditional platformer.

I have a feeling we're far from seeing the full potential of these creation tools, but there are already a ton of creative and fascinating levels out there to play. Here are some examples: a level that replicates the heat mechanics of something like Lost Planet where you have to rush from building to building to stay "warm" (read: alive); an arena where you have to shoot at enemies rushing at you; and a sort of puzzle game where you have to find unique ways to stack boxes efficiently to open sets of doors to your goal.

Curation station

Perhaps the best way that Levelhead distinguishes itself from Mario Maker is in its search and creation tools. User-created levels are separated into two buckets, one of which holds all the newly created levels with low play counts while the other highlights creations that many people have found, played, and enjoyed. The untested area (referred to as the "Marketing Department") has virtually no search tools to encourage players to test out random levels and stumble upon hidden gems while the "Tower" showcases levels that have had enough exposure from The Marketing Department and includes things like tags, filters, playlists, and more that let you find exactly what you're looking to play.

All of this wouldn't amount for a whole lot if the platforming Levelhead felt floaty or off in any way. Thankfully, the game feels nice and tight, plus it's bursting with the color and charm that has become typical of Butterscotch Shenanigans titles. On mobile, I will say that platforming using touch doesn't feel great, but creating levels feels intuitive and you can always switch to a controller when you want to play some levels. If you don't have a controller, Levelhead is also available on other platforms, and the game cross-plays with just about everything you can think of, which means you can share and play anyone's levels, no matter which version of the game they have.

The bottom line

Levelhead doesn't reach the same highs as Super Mario Maker, but that's ok. It reaches different highs. This mobile version is probably not the ideal package (unless you regularly have a controller in tow), but that doesn't change the fact that Levelhead is an amazing creation and curation platform with its own, unique mechanics and a great feel to match.

Share This: