LVL ($1.99) by Ertan Unver of SquareCube is a minimal puzzle game that blends 3-D and 2-D into a seamless experience. If you’re the type of person who enjoys solving things like a Rubik’s Cube and need a bit of de-stress time from the hectic pre-holiday rush, then LVL is definitely one that you should add to your mobile game collection.
While the holidays are upon us and the year is coming to an end, I don’t think there’s ever a time that is as stressful as the pre-Christmas rush. It’s been a crazy past few months for me, but honestly I couldn’t be happier. After braving the crowds at the mall several times in the past week and completing my first semester back to school after five years, I’ve been diving into plenty of video games as a way to relax lately, especially on my PlayStation 4. However, because I can’t take my PS4 with me everywhere I go, I still enjoy having my iPhone and 3DS with me at all times. And as an iOS gamer, I mostly like to sit back with a good puzzle game every now and then to unwind. Even though I feel like I’ve played almost every puzzle game out on the App Store, I can’t help but check out what’s new, and LVL certainly is one that caught my attention in the past week. Needless to say, if you love a good, minimal puzzle game, then LVL is worth checking out.
Visually speaking, LVL is gorgeous with the minimalistic design aesthetic. The game is an exquisite blend of both 3-D and 2-D elements in one, and this unique mix brings a unique perspective to what you know about traditional puzzle games. In LVL, you’ll be welcomed with a grayish-white background that provides nice, stark contrast with the thick, inky black lines and the bright and vibrant hues of the puzzle pieces themselves. And if you’re into typography design at all, LVL uses a nice sans serif typeface that fits in well with the overall modern representation. Animations in LVL are smooth and fluid on my iPhone 7, so I had no lag or choppiness while playing. There is also an atmospheric and ambient soundtrack that I found rather soothing, and it should help players calm their minds and focus on the puzzles at hand. In the end, the developers have done an excellent job with LVL in terms of the graphics and audio department.
Like every other puzzle game, LVL is level-based. While there are no different “chapters” in the game, there are 50 levels that are available and players must go through them one-by-one in linear order. However, sometimes clearing one puzzle will reveal a path that splits up and opens up two more stages instead of one, so you get a little bit of leeway when it comes to choosing which puzzles to play first after you get going. The objective in LVL is simple: fill each side of the cube with color using the pieces, which are fittingly shaped liked tetrominos. However, since you are trying to fill a side (2-D) of the cube (3-D) with color, you will have to rotate the cube around in order to see the whole picture and each twist and moved piece can bring new complications to the puzzle itself. It sounds easy at first, but things do get much more intricate and complex as you get further along in the game.
Controls in LVL are a simple affair. To rotate the cube, just drag your finger across the screen in the direction that you want to spin it towards. As you twist the cube around, you will see the colored pieces on each side (like-colors are always opposite of each other), and ones that are available to move will have a white border around them and be a tad brighter than normal. To move these pieces, just drag-and-drop them where you want them to go. In order to fill a side, you’ll have to go back and forth between those two sides in order to fit all of the pieces together so that there are no empty spaces left. Once that is done, the game does a nice little animation that solidifies the color blocks on that side and they’ll become locked in place so you can’t mess it up further. When you’ve done that with all of the colors, then the stage is complete and you can move on to the next level or see what becomes available to you next.
While 50 levels may not seem like a lot, technically the game has about 150 puzzles to solve, since each stage features three colors that act as their own puzzle. In the App Store description, the developers have calculated that the game will provide more than five hours of gameplay if you go from start to finish, which I think is reasonable for the price of entry.
Even though I’m mostly on my PS4 these days, I still like to take a break every now and then and just chill out with a puzzle game on my phone. I’m glad that I discovered LVL on the App Store, because the game itself is downright beautiful with the minimalist look and feel, the music is calming, controls are simple and intuitive, and the combination of 2-D and 3-D into one brings a fresh new experience to the puzzle genre. This is certainly a game I’m going to be keeping on my iPhone for those moments when I just want to take it easy with my gaming time.
I highly recommend checking out LVL if you are looking for a distinctive, challenging, and relaxing puzzle game to pass some time with. You can find LVL on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for just $1.99. There are no in-app purchases.