Hey everybody, Nerd World Country's Geddy Cahoon here with something... A little different today. For a while now, I've wanted to attempt to review a game of some sort. But, due to the scope of games and the amount of time that goes into a review of anything, I've always dodged it, opting to review action figures instead. Well, today, that changes. I decided to review the third in a series of very fun, very addictive Flash Games, This Is The Only Level 3. The reason being that a friend of mine who isn't too well versed in any things gaming related, and apparently gauging the quality of something based on whether or not I review it on this barely known website, kept imploring me to make a review of Jmtb02's latest gaming effort. So hit the jump to see if my first ever video game review is a massive train wreck, or a rousing success!
For those unfamiliar with the concept, the This Is The Only Level series is one made up of some startlingly unique puzzle-platformers. Essentially, the player controls a little blue elephant, trying to make its way out of the only level in the game. But, the singular level is actually made up of about 30 different puzzles of varying difficulties, often involving a change in aestethic or controls. It's a series that is a bit tough to describe on paper, and I agree that the idea of a flash game starring a very very basic looking Elephant sprite dashing across the same level again and again doesn't exactly sound enticing. But the series has proved itself to be a massively entertaining one, and the little blue elephant is actually a very likeable player-character, likely because it's random and simple. The original This Is The Only Level was minimalist, simplistic, and fantastic, but it wasn't without its flaws. One of the series' biggest draws, in my opinion, is the fact that each playthrough you do is timed. You're encouraged to train yourself and get better and better times, in order to unlock new content and the like. In the first game, each time you cleared a level, the timer didn't stop while the next level was loading. This was an aggravating issue. Also, I just praised the simplicity of the original game, but the painfully basic animation could be annoying at times too. Those two easily ignorable flaws aside, This Is The Only Level made me a massive fan of jmtb02, and set the bar extremely high for the inevitable sequel.
Beautiful in its simplicity...
The sequel, This Is The Only Level Too, brought everything I loved about TITOL to the table (The minimalism, the strange hints to even stranger puzzles) and improved them vastly. This Is The Only Level Too remains my favorite flash game of all time. The clock DID stop between levels. The difficulty fluctuated, with some levels being painfully tough, but it was never cheap. Only challenging. It offered a plethora of unlockable modes and characters, which could only be unlocked through beating the game at faster speeds, again encouraging you to master jmtb02's masterpiece. I still haven't unlocked everything, and TITOL Too came out roughly two years ago, if that's any testament to it's challenge and replayability. It did unfortunately retain that very basic animation style, but everything else about the game was so great that it was an excusable qualm. I have yet to play a flash game that tops TITOL Too, in terms of intelligence, design, appeal, replayability, and accomplishment.
The reason behind that somewhat lengthy history lesson is obviously this: Does This Is The Only Level 3 live up to the standard set by its puzzle-platform bretheren? Or does it ultimately fall short? Press on, dear reader, to find out!
The graphics in TITOL 3 are very different from the previous two entries in the series. TITOL and TITOL Too both had simple, undetailed, blocky styles. That was nice, but I can't argue that a third game with that same look might not have sufficed. So, an artist named Jimp was brought in to create a brand new aesthetic for the game. It's a bit unexpected, but I really like it. It's very cartoonish, but this level of detail is something not seen in ANY TITOL game to date. Everything is a little bit less angular and a tad more rounded, and our little blue elephant friend has received a makeover as well. He looks round and pudgy, and just a tad more endearing. The game as a whole looks impressive. Jimp's art is a very welcome change of pace that distinguishes TITOL 3 from the other two series entries. It really helps keep the game from seeming like a glorified expansion or whatever insults cynical people levy against sequels.
Sound effects here are minimal, but they're not unpleasant or anything. Everything sounds very cheery and light, so the audio goes hand in hand with the game's aesthetic. While the sound effects for walking and shooting pastries out of your butt (It makes sense in context... Oh wait.. No it doesn't...) are good, the background music can get a bit aggravating. It's some very loud, obnoxious calliope-type music, that blasts on a loop at all times. It's not bad at all, but it gets annoying, and the mute option is beyond welcome. The simplicity and (to a degree) overuse of this game's few bits of audio don't hold them back too much, but hearing the same few basic sounds over and over and over is kind of vexxing at times.
This is where TITOL 3 falters a bit, in terms of stacking it up against TITOL and TITOL Too. It just isn't very difficult. Now, I'm now saying all games should be insanely difficult or anything. If every game was like Dark Souls or Rayman Origins, I likely wouldn't be a gamer (Though those games are pretty sweet). But, FAIR difficulty in moderate doses throughout an entertaining game is always nice. The puzzles in TITOL 3 are not challenging at all. I beat most of them relatively quickly, only needing help for one. Maybe it's because I've played the other two so many times, but it seems as though jmtb02 is running out of riddle ideas. TITOL Too was extremely difficult at some parts, and I loved it! TITOL 3 fails to even come close to that level of difficulty at any point. Anyone with half a brain and basic concentration skills could beat this game in 20 minutes or less. It was disappointing, after jmtb02 acheived so much with TITOL Too, to take this step backwards. And don't get me wrong; The easier riddles are entertaining too, and TITOL and TITOL Too are both made up of plenty of laid back, just plain strange but not quite challening puzzles. However, they also included some difficult headscratchers to balance the games out. A few levels in TITOL 3 stand out as unique, but even the more memorable ones aren't particularly difficult. Perhaps it's a sign that there shouldn't be a This Is The Only Level 4... jmtb02 CAN'T balance the entertaining, in-jokey riddles with challenging ones anymore.
This is a level. The premise is that it's wet so you walk slower. The WHOLE game is made up of segments of this difficulty level.
Regardless of my issues with the difficulty, TITOL 3 doesn't mess with the proven formula of "small platforming level finished by solving a riddle." It's an awesome formula that works well. I'm a sucker for platformers, and puzzle elements in any game are usually cool, if implemented well. Again, I can't complain about the gameplay here. You'll have fun jumping from platform to platform, and though the controls are simple (Walk left, walk right, jump) you'll experience variations and gameplay changes as the level progresses. There's enough variation of the basic formula in context to the puzzles to keep the gameplay from feeling stale or boring.
Replay Value: 8/10
Though I complained about the game's lack of difficulty, it is extremely addicting. It retains the timer tracking your speed throughout each play, and each time you beat the level, you're given a grade. Your incentive to keep playing is to get a higher grade, unlock the alternate play modes, and just beat your high scores. If you're anything like me, you'll find yourself replaying this game a lot, in an effort to trump your previous play's score.
Make no mistakes about it, despite my qualms, This Is The Only Level 3 is a great little flash game. It's entertaining and a nice time-killer, which are the two main goals a flash game should aspire to complete. The aesthetic is nice, there are some nice little nerdy jokes in there, and it is still a very clever game, despite not really being challeging. I find myself coming back to TITOL 3 time and time again, each time eager to beat my fastest time. I'd recommend checking out this whole series, but if you play TITOL 3 first, the difficulty of 1 and Too may be a bit jarring. Don't let my complaints get to you; I just expected a little more based on the bar set by TITOL Too. This is a great, smart, quirky little game in its own right. Plus, it's free! What more incentive do you need?
I can confidently say that this game... Is QUALITY!
Well that's it for this review! Like I said, this was my first time attempting something like this, so let me know what you thought! Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) or leave a comment here on the site! Be sure to check out all the other neat stuff here on the site, like the Figure Fraction, Ink Spill, and Podcast! The podcast is on iTunes too, free to download, so check it out there too!
Until next time, thanks for reading, and Welcome to Your Doom!
Play This Is The Only Level 3 here.