REVIEW: Level Zero

Level Zero ($1.00) is actually quite prophetic for a game title. A side-scrolling shooter in the most basic application of the term, it never quite starts, or goes anywhere meaningful. Instead, it feels like a demo, a ‘proof of concept’, full of placeholder art and text, scraped together and shoveled onto the marketplace like a discarded child.

Level Zero - Screen

Now before you accuse me of being unfair / dramatic, take a look at the screenshot above. Besides breaking the unwritten rule1 of indie game marketing (never use captures of your menu / title screen as part of your promotional screenshots), the proof is in the pudding… er… the screen grab. Level Zero was made in five days, the result of ‘messing’ around with XNA. To be fair, plenty of games have stewed for even less time in the developmental soup2. The amount of days spent working on something versus the end quality of that game doesn’t automatically equate to bad.

It doesn’t inspire any confidence, either. And for good reason. Level Zero IS a shooter, one that functions and has a definite objective: shoot everything that comes on-screen, and survive for as long as you can. Basic, yes, but it’s a viable foundation. Now, stop me if you’ve heard the rest. There’s powerups, like a temporary shield, or a temporary increase in firing speed, and ‘nukes’ that predictably clear the screen of enemies. Bullets can harm you, as can asteroids, and some kind of gaseous fog that occasionally drifts on-screen.

Level Zero - Screen2

As exciting as it looks?

Sound familiar? Of course it does. We’ve all played this game a hundred times before, under a hundred different names. Sure, Texel Games has built a shooter. It’s a noble pursuit, and a great personal achievement. They should be proud. Yet minus a unique graphic style, an intriguing storyline, or some other interesting mechanic to tie the parts together, all they’ve got is a game that works. That’s hardly a good reason to ask others to buy into it.

Everyone has to start somewhere. XNA and XBLIG were made to be that ‘start’, but that doesn’t mean everything that is created in XNA and XBLIG is created equal. As I write this, there’s plenty of ‘side projects’ and ‘late night hobby’ games being made. Plenty that have came before, and just as many to come. Games that are totally going to be worth your time and money. Just not Level Zero. Not when it’s so basic, and so drab, and so damn uninspired.

  1. Although, really, somebody should be writing this down. 
  2. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but videogames? No problem. 

27 thoughts on “REVIEW: Level Zero”

  1. You are so gonna review recall when it comes out.
    Its a BOB, Sci Fi, Zombie game. With a redhead!

    As for my xbox? Dang you COD: Ghosts Extinction mode!

    Too bad no dino games are inbound.
    And Namco Bandai is making a PS3 Godzilla game.

    1. Oh yeah! If Recall is even half as good as Vixenized, we’re all in for a real treat! <—- All sarcasm. 🙂

      At least I've got some games to cover once Microsoft gets everything fixed. I suppose I should be somewhat thankful this happened, then. I've got XBLIGs, and you've got Godzilla. All is (somewhat) right with the universe!

  2. The “broken” thread is broken. There isn’t anyplace we can comment on it. Or was that be design?

    There are some inconsistencies with that list btw. I mean some may be updates that are approved after the July 19th date (for instance it shows Princess Sarah approved on 8/3 but was released on 7/9) however there are some approvals that where before that date that don’t appear on their either. (Punchys approved 7/16 and a few other names all released by developer Msi/Gtr/Jms……hmmmm wonder if that is some sort of conspiracy or they broke it??)

    1. The “broken” thread is broken

      LOL 😀 Nah, Tim disabled comments for that article, as stated in the footnote.

    2. No worries. 🙂 Yeah, I didn’t want to raise too much alarm, since the issue will get sorted out… Eventually. Didn’t want to make it an official, ‘permanent’ article. Just something to keep everybody informed.

      Those inconsistencies are strange. I read on the forums that the sales data is busted again, too, but only for some games. Release date doesn’t seem to be a factor, either. Just a 50/50 chance that sales / info update. Sounds like they’ve got quite a bit to sort out on this one. Least we can still play / buy existing games, I guess.

    3. I don’t think you are using them properly. I mean sometimes you do but other times it has new info and I don’t think that is the proper use of a footnote.

      Better be careful or the professors of the internet might banish you to BLOGHELL!! 😛

    4. And besides this just feels like a plot by you Tim to get more comments on other articles like this one. Hmmmmmmm??? Evil Tim at the helm!!

    5. Bah, no evil intentions here. If I wanted to rack up views / comments, I would have titled the article like so:

      ‘Microsoft Punches Newborn Baby in Face, Says Kittens ‘Taste Like Chicken’. Also, XBLIG Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Broken’

      And I’m not using anything right these days. Footnotes are merely an excuse for me to go off on another topic completely, or to just ramble on about something from the main article. So yeah, maybe not the ‘proper’ way to do it, but… it’s good to be the boss. 😀

    6. And I learned my lesson well….read the damn footnotes before you end up sticking your footinyourmouth. 😛

      LOVE the headline.

  3. Level ZERO was developed by a 16 year old boy on his 5 days of work experience, Releasing it onto the marketplace was the final part of his work (hence that happening).

    True it is less than inspirational (the tongue in cheek “storyline” does allude to that fact) and, Yes, a much better version with more interesting enemies, A.I. steer and gun assist, higher res, less garbage, and fancier graphics was developed in the following days, if not just because leaving a project in such an alpha state offends the sensibilities.

    However Jake is no longer available to work on the project. Assuming there is some free upgrade path for existing titles (not sure – have to check) then that will be released at some point in the not too distant via that channel. Or maybe a free windows version too.

    I personally felt that the ABOUT disclaimer said it all “This is what it is”.
    As a late night drunken Pass-The-Pad title it’s not Monkey Ball but it was not utterly incomparable to the other titles in release/playtest (or it would never have been posted)

    It gave a young lad an opportunity to release a title onto a platform he owned, Which – for me – is what the now near-death indie program was all about.

    As for being all about the money. Total project profit (not including staff training time, software, and other annoying things like rent) but including the annual license for Jake.



    Thanks for the review. It was a genuine surprise to see anyone even noticed.

    Be well.

    1. Always nice to hear the backstory on projects and really nice to know that support is to follow. And yes there is updates you can do. However I read your comment several times and feel there are missing pieces. Like why did he only have 5 days and why isn’t he able to work on the project any longer. I’m sure there is a reason for the vagueness but it really just makes me more curious than anything else.

    2. 5 days of work experience,- and he was 15, my bad. School restarted the time was over. I’ll have a dig around and see what I can find. A long road of garbage collection tidyup I would imagine. We will see about that update once the code is sanitised.

    3. @Simon: No problem on the review, and thanks for taking the time to comment / respond. I’m with ‘Dream Poet’ in saying it’s nice to hear the backstory of the games being created. There’s programs like that here in the U.S. (a college in Utah does the same, with the team releasing the game on XBLIG at the end of the semester), so that’s very cool to get young programmers / designers into the field early. I’d be happy to take another look at the game if / when the update goes through on XBLIG.

      While it might seem I was being unfairly harsh, my ‘job’1 is to lay it all out on the table, holding nothing back. Is a game worth the money? In this case, it’s certainly not, even if the cost is $1 / 69p, and even if it is the work of a teenager and the result of a five-day crunch. It’s admirable, though. He’s done much more (and much better) than I ever did at fifteen. If anything, the review will be part of the learning experience, and hey, he can say his game’s gotten some press from across the pond. 🙂

      1. Albeit an unpaid, amateur ‘job’. 
    4. You can update an XBLIG title as many times as you want for free! YAY! Well, as long as you have an active subscription. The sub lasts for 1 year, so, plenty of time to clean up the project. However, it is unlikely to result in higher sales. Not only is XBLIG dying, but the first week of release is the most important to how a game will perform. Usually. There are some games that do well later due to press, but it’s unusual.

      As for not earning anything off the service, that’s pretty normal as well. Even if you spend more (MUCH MUCH MORE) time on the project than 5 days. Like you said, it’s a $100 learning experience.

      BTW: here’s a video of a guy who liked the game:

    5. 1280×720 Res, Steady 50 FPS, can handle 100’s of entities per screen now. Runtime Garbage refactored to under a Mb.
      Cleaned up a few foofs with ranges, lists and statics to allow more fluid asteroid and rock creation/movement.
      To this point mostly cleanup and refactoring but the base is now tidy.
      Will think about what could enhance the gameplay and shove in some extras. Measure twice Cut Once ey 🙂

  4. This review made me think about something. You know how they have those cooking shows challenges where the cooks have so much time with certain ingredients or obstetrical to make something good to eat? Why not a game building competition doing the same type of thing?

    Maybe that is what this game was. Maybe it was the winner in fact and this was the best that came out of the 5 day competition. Maybe…ohhhh never mind….I bet they just said lets see what we can slap together and see how much money we actually make on it.

    It really would have been nice if they would have set a standard that needed to be met on the Indie games on the 360. Sorta like what they are doing on the One.

    1. Another thought: Someone could develop a game about those cooking shows, or even better, something like Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmare – The Game. Now that would be hilarious. And if you successfully complete the game as a contestant, you unlock Ramsey himself and can unleash hell.

    2. @Dream Poet: They’ve got those Ludum Dare competitions, which are always built around a certain theme. They’ve got a time limit. A lot of games that come out of there are passable, but not very great / fun. Which is why some Devs then go on to evolve those ideas and build fuller concepts around them. That’s cool.

      I can appreciate that Level Zero was a learning experience, made in a short time span, and probably not meant to anything too fancy, but that doesn’t mean they should just throw it up ‘as is’ on the marketplace and expect others to find gold where there isn’t any.

      @Soosh: It’s bad enough they have the game on the Wii and the 3DS. iPhone / iPad versions, too. Oh, and… (shudders) a Facebook game. Not to mention the guy has done like thirty commercials for various products. He’ll sell his face / likeness for anything, and the last thing we need is more of it. 😀

    3. Actually, there ARE such competitions. They are called Game Jams and many popular indie games today had their roots as a submission in a game jam.

      Also, there was a TV show exactly like you are describing… for like a day… then it died:

      It wasn’t a bad idea, just bad execution.

      Quality on XBLIG: many people wish that there were such quality controls on the 360, but MS decided early on to take a hands off approach. Oh the plus side, if it wasn’t for such openness, we wouldn’t have some of the better games on XBLIG because the dev’s wouldn’t have gotten in the front door of something like XBLA. Now those same devs are working on the XBone because of their successes on XBLIG!

    4. Really, it does already exist on various platforms? (fires up Google) Oh, you’re right, didn’t know that. 😀

      PS Did my last post (… and welcome to The Retro Years) show up in your Reader? I’m asking because I’ve heard that some people had trouble after changing their address.

    5. @NVO Games: Yeah, but you said it better. That’s more or less what I trying to get across with the good and bad side of not having ‘quality control’. 🙂

      @Soosh: You know what? I checked the ‘Reader’ earlier this morning for new articles from a few different sites, and didn’t see anything for yours. Checking it now, it’s there. Might’ve been the address change. Funny, but at least it auto-corrected on its own.

    6. In case you didn’t see my last two posts (‘Choplifter’ + ‘A Super Awesome Test Post’) in your feeder, try to Unfollow and Follow me again. I think it’s because you still follow the old address, and that’s probably why everything is delayed (if it shows up at all).

      Sorry for abusing your article (again). Seriously, you should start charging me for that.

      One more thing: If you have a look at the image above the review, it really looks like there’s someone standing right next to the ship.

    7. Who says I’m not charging you? Bill will be in the mail. It’s a fair number, I think. 😀

      As for Level Zero, yup, I thought the same. First time I saw the screenshot, I thought it was a clown, riding a spaceship ‘sleigh’ through space. And you know what? It would’ve been much more interesting than the actual game turned out to be.

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