9 Overall Score

Highly intuitive gameplay | Logical progression with challenges & difficulty | Cleverly devised obstacles & momentum-based platforming | Pleasant soundtrack | Enjoyable gaming experience regardless of duration of play

No indicator of how many “resets” are left before player needs to hard exit a level and simply start over

What happens when you remove the jump button from a platforming game? The folks over at ToasterFuel and The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild sought to answer that in their new puzzle-platforming title Deleveled, which was inspired by Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

The basic concept is to “reimagine your relationship with gravity” to solve the puzzles. You control two squares at the same time as you make your way through each level: You can move the squares horizontally (left and right), but all vertical movement comes from bouncing or falling that considers real-world physics for gaining or decreasing momentum.

It really is as simple as that. The art is minimalist and slightly abstract, it has a retro feel and chiptune soundtrack, and has little to no learning curve at the outset. Get yourself into trouble? Reset the section with the touch of a button. Make your way to a goal point? Press a button to re-center yourself and head for the next goal point. You’ll know you’ve finished each level when your little squares get transportered (yes, that’s a verb now, deal with it) to the next level.

There is a small consequence for resetting too many times, however—you’ll lose your “star” for that level, and you need a specific number of stars to unlock certain levels or move onto the next world (page of puzzles? there’s no story here, you can call it what you like). This will require you to use your memory if you solve a puzzle but have lost your star, as you’ll need to re-enter the level and try it again without too many resets. This didn’t impede enjoyment, however you won’t know how many resets it’ll take before losing your star until it happens, which can be a bit dismaying if you’ve almost got a puzzle solved and your finger slips or you accidentally hit the wrong button (of the two you’re using apart from moving the blocks left or right).

There are 120 levels to this little gem, and as mentioned above, there’s little to no learning curve, assisted by the very simple tutorial levels that get you familiar with the gameplay. When your blocks fall, they’ll bounce against each other—either in tandem, or knocking each other back and forth. It’s up to you to determine where and when they need to fall in order to solve a given puzzle.

As the game progresses, new obstacles are introduced, but each time they’re prefaced with a level that more or less demonstrates how to manage the obstacle before presenting you with a brain-teaser. You’ll experience things like spiked no-touch sections, floor that vanishes, or blocks strategically placed to make you think you can’t gain enough momentum to pass. There’s a natural sense of increasing difficulty, a steady but logical progression to the challenges, and a solid sense of satisfaction after solving each puzzle.

Deleveled is the type of game that feels easy to sit down and accidentally play for an hour when you only meant to beat a level or two. While some puzzle games frustrate after tens (or twenties, or hundreds) of attempts to figure out a particular level’s puzzle, for some reason Deleveled never felt tedious or aggravating. It never felt hard just for the sake of being hard, if that makes sense? It didn’t feel like the game was trying to pull one over on me, or sitting back and smirking while saying “bet you can’t solve this.” Rather, it felt like it was working with me to ensure I stayed challenged and engaged, but in a pleasant way.

Really, it’s not much to look at. Deleveled is white lines and a few colored blocks. Lines and squares! But sometimes you try a puzzle game and something just clicks, because the simplicity isn’t there for simplicity’s sake, it’s because it works and that’s all it needs to be. Add in a great chiptune soundtrack, and you’ve got a surprisingly delightful indie title that’s worth checking out.

*Nintendo Fire received a copy of this game in exchange for review.


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Author: Faith View all posts by
Faith likes games and books and cake and writing and Lara Croft, not necessarily in that order. She also thinks a Skylanders cartoon show is a really, REALLY good idea...

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