There is little within gaming that is more satisfying that executing a silent takedown. Picking off one of your targets while the rest remain blissfully unaware that not only will Steve the Henchman not be returning to his family of four this evening, but soon enough, neither will they. For this reason, Stealth games are some of my favorite titles. With Watchdogs recently released, I have rekindled my love with the giddy thrill that comes from taking down a room of adversaries undetected. While it would be unfair to compare Level 22: Gary’s Misadventures to Watchdogs, it has to be said that Gary’s Misadventures does not provide me with the same thrill.
That’s not to say Gary’s Misadventures is a bad game. I got my fair share of heart-in-mouth, breath holding moments from the game. But it plays out more like a puzzle game than a stealth one, and the rewarding feelings came from finishing a level, not from being a master sneaker. The premise of the game is simple: Gary is late for work, and he must get to his desk without being caught. The quirky story is matched with the dialogue, music and visuals to create a fun atmosphere, something that is a welcome relief to most would-be stealth titles.
So why does Gary’s Misadventures play more like a puzzle game? Well, for starters, there is a massive emphasis on timing. Yes, there are weapons, and ‘power-ups’ throughout the game. I use quotation marks because I’m not sure how well the term power up describes hiding behind news papers and in cardboard boxes. The NPCs within the game all have a rigidity about their patterns that must be observed, and delicately sidestepped. In a way, the game says a lot about the mundanity of office work and the monotonous way we carry on our lives. On another level, it provided an immensely annoying trial-and-error challenge on par with Super Meat Boy.
Of course, I use the term annoying somewhat endearingly about Gary’s Misadventures. The more challenging a level, the more rewarding completing it feels. However, one thing the game does to take this away from you is the incessant tutorialising of every aspect of the game, from each new item, to new types of enemy, and even to the games collectables. Being told something after you’ve already figured it out in a game is a pet peeve of mine, and detracts a lot from the smug, content feeling you get from working out a puzzle, or new mechanic in a game.
The folks at Noego have included something to counterbalance this hand holding. Safes with numerical combinations are dotted around each level, and to unlock them, you must decipher the code by looking at your surroundings and guessing the code. I’ll be honest, I didn’t manage a single one. I had a few guesses, but nothing immediately sprung to mind. The fact that they aren’t necessary for level completion means that not cracking them and having to move on really feels like giving up. It’s a great and emotive little feature, and makes me want to play through again just to unlock their secrets.
Is It Worth Your Money?
I’d be happy to pay the $5.99 asking price. The visuals and audio alone sell the game as a title that provides a high form of entertainment, and although the endless text-based tutorials can become jarring, the humor within them somewhat redeems their numeracy. While Gary’s Misadventures was a tad lackluster when it came to a true stealth game, it didn’t really hamper my enjoyment in the long term, and was a good mix of frustrating and rewarding.