Review: 99 Levels to Hell

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Please, someone tell me there are not actually 99 levels in this game. I seriously need someone to take time out of their day and confirm there are not 99 levels of this thing to get through. Twenty minutes was about all I could take, and that got me to the first boss on level 10. I mean, if there really are just shy of a hundred levels here, I’d be more than happy to tell you why that’s a bad, bad, very bad thing.

99 Levels To Hell is a roguelike platformer about getting… to hell, I guess? There’s no story here, you just pick a character (only one unlocked from the start!) and go. Every level is a mess of breakable blocks, crates, chests, ladders, and enemies. All you have to do is find a key and reach the door, a simple task considering the levels are not much bigger than your monitor. Killing monsters earns you bonuses, of course, and you can find items and gold which can be spent on more items, so chasing those boons helps pad out your time on each level.

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The obvious comparison here is Spelunky, right down to the terrain-destroying bombs you carry. Instead of simple melee attacks you have a gun that can aim in any direction, and you can swap out for new guns along the way. The weapons and enemies have hit point ratings that makes them feel pretty weak against beefier monsters, especially rapid-fire weapons that take like 20 shots to kill a rat. That was the first thing that turned me off of 99 Levels, the combat feeling light and unengaging.

In truth that feeling extends to the rest of the game as well. Enemies have very simple patterns, either pacing on the floor or flying straight towards you. Some of them like rats can be hard to pick out against the backgrounds, leading to taking some frustrating hits. The backgrounds don’t look too bad and there’s some neat lighting and hilarious blood effects, but the art style can make it hard to pick out foreground elements from background. The player models are pretty inexcusable, though, unless you’ve been waiting your whole life to play as a costumed turnip flapping around in clown shoes.

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Ultimately what killed the game for me was getting to the first boss and shooting it a ton only to do like 10% of its life before getting bombed to death. It took me 20 minutes or so to get there only to get wiped out, and nothing about the voyage there made me interested in learning the boss’s patterns or what the various items I found do (because nothing in the game tells you). Everything about 99 Levels feels very low-effort, from the floaty controls to the impactless combat to the very basic graphics. There’s nothing offered here that isn’t done better in Spelunky or any of the many other roguelike platformers out there now, so I wouldn’t bother with even one of these levels, much less 99.

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