I'm a long-time fan of puzzle games. I've plugged away for hours at puzzle games, probably more than most other genres. Some of the games I've enjoyed include: Tetris, Tetris 2 (NES), Tetris 2 + Bombliss (SNES), Super Tetris 3 (SNES), Tetris + Dr Mario, Mario's Super Picross, Tetris Attack, Bust-a-Move, Wario's Woods, Pac Attack, Kirby's Avalanche, Hebereke's Popoon, Tetrisphere, Sokoban, Boxxle, Zuma, Bejeweled, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Picross S, Sparkle 2 and many more I can't think of right now. Boulderdash (NES) is another game I'd suggest is quite puzzley.
I'm not a Grand Master at chess or anything super clever - I'm less keen on tricky puzzles with mind-bending solutions. But I do enjoy the mechanics of puzzle games. For me, a puzzle game might have a number of different things:
- a decent number of unique levels to beat - they don't have to be wildly different, but it's good to have a decent amount of content
- special items or power-ups - something to look out for, to help with clearing a level, or to change up the game a bit
- computer opponents - they're not always appropriate to the game, but where used they can be really effective - Wario's Woods and Kirby's Avalanche are good examples
- different game modes - Tetris does this well, with a standard high score mode, and another mode where you need to clear the screen
- it's fun to play, but not pointlessly easy - later levels get trickier, or things get faster.
Levels+ has almost nothing I'd expect from a puzzle game.
I'll go over the gameplay briefly. Blue tiles can be used to collect yellow tiles or defeat red tiles. Blue tiles can be stacked, as can yellow tiles. Red tiles cannot be moved, only defeated. The numbers are important: two identical, adjacent blue tiles can be stacked to make a higher value tile - for instance, two blue "1" tiles will make one blue "2" tile. Blue tiles can defeat red tiles with the same value or below; blue tiles can collect yellow tiles with the same value or below. So a blue "2" can defeat a red "1" or a red "2", but not a red "3". You'd then need to stack blues to get a blue "3" to defeat the red "3". As you progress, higher numbered tiles start appearing.
That's pretty much it for the gameplay. As you move tiles onto others, new tiles appear at the edge of the board - so the board is always full. If you run out of moves, all the red tiles will be automatically turned into yellow tiles as a once-only bonus. If you run out of moves again, it's game over.
It takes a bit of getting used to the mechanics, but it's easy to pick up. I'd daresay it's mildly entertaining as you get the hang of how to defeat the red tiles of increasing value.
However, it falls far, far short of what other puzzle games offer. The game is the screen you see above and a settings screen - there isn't a title screen. There are no other boards. You cannot clear the board - you're only going for achievements (basically, you get an achievement for getting high-value tiles onto the board) - which are forgettable. Some have called this similar to the popular mobile games, Threes, or 2048 - it's sort of like those, and it's sort of not. In my experience, those games are fun for 5-10 minutes when you're bored, but are hardly going to capture your attention for hours. Maybe they do for you, but I found them very samey.
The difference with Levels+ is that once you run out of moves and have to start over, it feels like a huge chore. It's a slow game to play, and not particularly fun for the third or fourth playthrough. Its presentation is poor, and its music annoying.
Let's go back to the list of things I'd like to see from a decent puzzle game:
- a decent number of unique levels to beat - Nope, there's one screen. The "levels" in the title refers to the increasing numbers on the tiles, rather than actual levels you can finish.
- special items or power-ups - There's a lightning bolt that clears out the red tiles when you run out of moves from the first time. That's it.
- computer opponents - Nope.
- different game modes - Nope.
- it's fun to play, but not pointlessly easy - Nope. It's not much fun; it's pretty boring. It's also not great to play more than once or twice.
To be fair, Tetris is a simple game that doesn't do most of the things on my list, and it's still great. That's because it's fun, it has a couple of game modes, and in most versions you can play against an opponent (either human or computer).
Let me draw a quick comparison. I often play Bejeweled Stars on my iPhone during my morning and evening commute. It's a free game with optional paid upgrades, but you can get by without paying anything at all. It's fun to play, and currently has 750 levels. I'm stuck on Level 690 and have probably sunk 100 hours into the game. I'm a bit behind as the levels have got quite difficult, but for a few months I had run out of levels. When the game updated, I played the new 15-20 levels until I completed them. Then I went back and tried to get 3 stars on some of the earlier levels while I waited for new levels. This is what I do with games I really enjoy - I play them a lot. It's a totally different game, but Bejeweled Stars has a huge amount of content in it. When compared to games like this, Levels+ simply can't compete.
In summary, Levels+ is not an addictive puzzle game as the subtitle suggests. It's a forgettable game that's not fun to play, it lacks content, and it'll last you up to 1 hour at the most. There's nothing redeeming here at all. It's an embarrassing game that I strongly urge you to steer well clear of. I'm so embarrassed by it, it's currently the only game I've deleted from my Switch. (I had to redownload it to give it one more try, and take the above screenshot.)
WOS Rating: 1/10