Level 22 Gary’s Misadventures is an overhead stealth game, where you’re sneaking your way through an office building to work. Even if its Gary’s birthday, he has been late to work for the last time, so if he’s spotted sneaking into work he’s fired. Think of the game as Die Hard without the guns or explosions. To sneak your way in, you’ll be dodging the view cone of fellow employees, dumping coffee on electronics, pouring laxative in coffee, hiding in a box, crawling through vents and using explosives on security guard bosses as you work your way to the end of each level or floor. I have a feeling its dumping coffee on electronics that will get him fired.
Most stealth games put you in a soldier’s uniform, let you take down enemies, hide bodies or avoid monsters, but Gary takes it in another charming and happy direction. Dodging coworkers feels too lighthearted to evoke any dread like dodging monsters does. Along your way you’ll get calls from Gary’s friend Marty to explain via text dialog most of how everything works. Why you’d have a cell phone with a ringer is beyond me when you’re trying to evade attention.
The well polished visuals and old school chip tunes are the highlights of the game. The art style stands out and enhances the product. Everyone has big boxy heads so you can tell which of the eight directions people are looking. It looks different than every other stealth game out there. There are a lot of little details that show the care that went in. Such as starting in a parking garage and another moment where you’re on the high rise balcony sneaking past people enjoying the view.
Its a tough game from the onset, perhaps too tough; you need to have eyes everywhere. The game lets you look ahead which is helpful, unless someone sneaks up from behind. You never see the vision cones until they can spot you. Even then most of the time you have a brief moment to duck out of sight around a corner. Other times its game over and you’re taken to a scene of your angry boss looking over a monitor. After each game over, you can keep playing and restart from the last frequent checkpoint.
You’ll need to play each level a few times to get a feel for everyone’s patterns. There are no tells if someone is about to turn around, they just do. So it can be a matter of trial and error. Each level is linear. There can be a moment of which way do I go? But there’s only one correct way. You’ll need to go that other way later once you have a box to hide in or whatever accessory you need.
There are a few office cabinets and car trunks to hide in. When you hop in one there’s a limited view, which makes it a gamble if someone will be standing outside when you pop out. Crawling through ducts has the same limited view. Has anyone ever crawled through an air duct before? They make a lot of noise. Sometimes vents are hidden by machines, so you’ll need to bump into them and they’ll move.
The levels get larger as you progress and before you know it you’ll have to juggle hiding behind newspapers in plain sight, running to safety and using doughnuts to bait guards away from their post or throwing erasers to distract them. Some of the items feel ineffective, because your foes are smart enough to spot a box that looks out of place. Yet somehow you can hide behind a newspaper in the digital age without being caught.
As you progress, you can find safes with extensive combinations that I was never able to unlock. Other than that there are toys that act to find around the office. These seem to only be collectibles rather than have an actual use or power. Their only real interest is how a Batman or “Dark Bat” toy can be allowed in a game. I have a feeling there are other things from popular media, but I have yet to find them. It would have been nice if these toys were alternate costumes for Gary. He could be dressed up as a ninja going through the office.
Its easy enough to play with a 360 controller or keyboard, but the big problem with the controls are the items relegated to the D-pad. On a controller you move with the left thumb stick and look further with the right thumb stick, so having to take either hand off a thumb stick to use the D-pad when I’m running feels counter intuitive. It seems like it would be simpler to use the face buttons, since the only one that seems used is the A button for interacting. Worse than that the directions for each item can change. So if I have a stapler and explosive, then I use one, the other might then be reassigned to a different arrow. Its inconsistent and the directional arrow on the icon seems subtle when I’m focused on avoiding coworkers.
While it does seem like a simple game of avoiding coworkers, there are so many fresh facets that keep it interesting and diverse more than other stealth game out there. Its just troubled in my opinion by its trial and error difficulty. As gorgeous looking and enjoyable the music is, its just a genre that makes it tough to enjoy.
Another thing holding the game back is how generic the title is. Of course it could be worse, it could be called “Stealth Office.” Off the top of my head, the name Gary or Garry has been in the title of two other games, but that’s why its Level 22 Gary’s Misadventures… which says nothing about the game other than how many levels it has. Perhaps Super Mario Bros should have been called Level 32 Mario’s Adventure.
I’m on the fence about this one. If the game had lower production values or less charm, it would be a no. There are great game mechanics, its just tough to find the fun through all the challenge. I would like to thank Adrian for granting me a copy of this game. Oh and if a boss wants Gary fired, they’d look at his punch clock and call him up when they see he’s out, but then you’d have no game.