Ahn Dan Te is the ace director of Yoo Seong CRC, a company specializing in restructuring. He is a true “cold city man” of this era with a poker face that doesn’t express emotions, perfect workmanship, and cold-blooded harshness. Shin Yeon Hwa is the chief development officer of the dying game company Joy Buster, who teams up with Ahn Dan Te. She will start to develop a new game to satisfy him, but they will end up quarreling, creating a lovable comedy for the viewers. The drama between cold Ahn Dan Te and passionate Shin Yeon Hwa will double the excitement by stirring up an odd chemistry. (Source: Soompi) Edit Translation
Cast & Credits
Wait what? This show is already over, but nothing really happened.Level Up is unfortunately an entirely forgettable kdrama, at best a show to leave on the background. There is nothing offensive to turn you away from the drama, and there is also an equal amount of positives to draw you in. At first glance, it seems to have a trendy setting in the modern world of mobile game development, but the story actually falls back to bland kdrama cliches and tropes.
A quick glance at my watchlist shows that I’m stingy on ranking dramas highly but also lowly. Ultimately, a large group of people came together to produce this show, and I, ultimately, watched all 12 episodes. So, it is difficult to give any rating lower than a 5. I would only recommend watching this drama for seasoned Korean drama viewers who have already seen the vast majority of romcoms in the kdrama sphere and need something to kill the time.
The plot of Level Up is a very basic office romcom, secondary leads interfering with the mains and plot-convenient office SNAFUs. In my opinion, there are two ways Level Up could have tried to be different. One, overload on the comedy. The few outrageous scenes were quite funny, though it may not be to everyone’s taste. Two, deliver meaningful commentary on actual modern gaming issues, like mobile gaming/gambling addictions. Instead, we get a very middle-of-the-road kdrama, where an experienced viewer will be able to predict the majority of the plot just based on the premise.
The romance also comes off quite bland. The two main leads seem more like 2 close friends or 2 close colleagues, but somehow the viewers are supposed to see them as a romantic couple. This show is a classic example of forcing mains together.
I’ll only cover the 2 leads to minimize the length of this review. I first saw Sung Hoon in Oh My Venus and enjoyed his character in that drama. Based on the online community, I see that he has since been typecast into the character we find in Level Up. I find that unfortunate as I contemplated watching “I Picked Up a Star on the Road”. I can see why viewers are disappointed by his performance in Level Up, but I want to attribute it to the plain writing. For example, he is quite popular as a cast member of I Live Alone, if you watch (or want to watch) Korean variety shows, so he has more to offer than the cool, cold persona.
Similarly, I found Han Bo Reum to be quite funny in Go Back Couple. Her character in Level Up also shines during its comedic moments, but the emotional/romance scenes do demonstrate her weakness as a main lead. Sung Hoon will get more acting roles based on his popularity, but I also hope Han Bo Reum gets a chance to demonstrate her growth as an actress in the future.
There is very limited English information on the OST for this drama. Based on MNET, there are 3 songs on the OST, 3 ballads. They are all fairly vanilla and do not stand out from the over-saturated kballad genre. I found them enjoyable nonetheless. As a side note, I am not sure if you will be able to easily find English translation for the lyrics.
Given there are easily 50 other dramas to watch before watching this one even once, it would be impossible to rate the rewatch value any higher. I hope I didn’t sound overly harsh throughout this review as, again, I did watch each episode as it aired.
Is this a quick drama to watch between shows? Maybe. It's okay.
I still wonder if adding a few more episodes (especially with how much they squeezed into the last episode) would have helped with the plot development, and pacing. I'm not saying this was a total waste of time, but I honestly don't know if I'd ever watch it again. I do enjoy Sung Hoon, but it seems he has some bad luck when it comes to the roles he's getting. There were a bunch of fun characters, but Ahn Dan Te and his brother's interactions probably the best parts of this drama, there were times I just burst out in laughter because of the two. The pacing between the leads made sense to me, but I think there needed to be a little more development between the two before they added that ending scene.
What I really disliked, and I mean disliked was Bae Ya Chae. I'm tired of watching these types of characters, aren't drama writers tired of writing them? I mean she has all the making of being a strongly written female character, but nope, she needs to be THAT type of female character.