Level 22: Gary’s Misadventures is a “humorous stealth” (yes, both of those belong in quotes) game with some cute moments and several fun levels, but it’s also hindered by many dreadful levels caused by bad design. The premise is simple enough. Gary has partied too hard on his birthday, and waking up late the next day, he realizes he must sneak into work or risk being fired.
In this plot, Gary needs help from a master of slacking, so he calls Marty, who knows the company’s security and all the ways to exploit it. In return for helping Gary get to his desk, Marty asks Gary to find some of his prized toy collection, which was scattered all over the building after Marty got fired for destroying some office equipment.
Thus begins Gary’s ascent to Level 22, a trip that will take him up and down through the convoluted maze of his company, each floor starting and ending with a stairwell. Which, even being nice, is a perfect example of stupid video game logic. In every single real world building, the stairwell is a single continuous structure used primarily as a fire exit. Want to go to level 22 without being seen? Take the stairwell, because no one in their right mind is going to climb 22 flights of stairs when there’s a working elevator. But whatever, the building is set up by a masochist who hopes everyone dies in a fire. Let’s just run with that.
Unfortunately, the stealth aspect is almost instantly ruined by some of the tools offered to the player. For instance, in some levels, Gary picks up a newspaper to hide his face from co-workers. Note that without the paper, they can identify you from the back easily enough, but somehow, holding up a paper makes the back of his head harder to recognize?
Next is the donut, the only way to distract guards, which must be laid down on the floor within their line of sight. So of course many times you’ll lay it down, only to be seen and forced to restart the section. Or how about the coffee, which is used only to short circuit computers. Yeah, no one’s going to notice coffee dripping from their monitor and look around, are they?
There’s a box to hide in, because “hur hur Metal Gear,” but it only works on certain co-workers, while others can somehow see through it and recognize Gary. Because…reasons. Similarly, it’s possible to run past certain enemies who will see you, but won’t identify you if you don’t stop. In another bit of head scratchingly bad logic, it’s possible to stand directly beside someone patrolling the halls to bypass them. And if you really need to get rid of someone, slip some laxative in their coffee, which take effect immediately after they swallow it. Sure, makes sense.
About the only tool I found amusing is “the big book,” and that’s because when Gary first finds it, he says “with this, I can blackmail the executives!” Then Marty says, “Or you can use it to hit your co-workers and knock them out.” So that’s what Gary does, risking murdering his co-workers with brain trauma rather than just take the stairs.
Oh, and nobody in this building is actually working like in a real office. They go sit at their desk for two seconds and then get up and walk a little patrol route. Others will “cat nap” in such ridiculously short cycles that’s it’s extremely hard to move around them. Which is the point, I suppose, but it’s taken to such a ridiculous level that I spent a good deal of my time shaking my head at how goofy it all seemed. I mean, if these people are all such slackers that they’re never working, why should Gary have to sneak around them? And for that matter, how does EVERYONE recognize Gary regardless of their department?
Setting aside the silliness of the level designs, they’re not even all that good. Walking along a garage wall with numbers written on it, it’s possible to make Gary walk under the painted numbers. Similarly, he can walk onto sinks in bathrooms or through certain filing cabinets because the collision detection is iffy at best.
One of the levels takes place entirely in the dark because…because a stealth game has to have a dark level, I guess. Even though it’s pitch black, a light shines around Gary because….reasons. Using the same logic, everyone can see Gary with the same visual range, and everyone is “working” despite the blackout. Does any of this make sense? NOPE. The whole thing is probably just set up like this to check off a box in some internal design document.
Then there’s the boss encounters, because of course there is, and all of these are terrible. I think the worst is the “Gnith” a giant man shoveling incriminating corporate documents into an incinerator in the basement. There are three incinerators constantly opening their doors on a timer, and to get past this boss requires sneaking around the light they cast to grab a bottle of “explosive,” turn on a steam pump to blind the Gnith, and then put the explosive in the bin of documents so that he shovels it into the fire and loses some health. In short, Gary murders a man to avoid being caught showing up late to work. OH HO HO, SO FUNNY!
I can’t think of much I liked in this game. The design is dumb, the jokes are lame, and the ending is painfully stupid. I give Level 22: Gary’s Misadventures 2 stars, and the only good thing I can think to say about it is that I’m glad I only paid 7.99 for it.