Retro gaming has had an upturn in popularity as of late with a number of games being released that try and offer the feeling of playing a game from yesteryear. Gravity Crash is a PSN game that lets you control a spaceship by rotating it and applying thrust with a limited amount of fuel, just as with the computer game Thrust, but can Gravity Crash live up to the nostalgia of the games it emulates?
Surprisingly Gravity Crash has a story, to a certain extent at least. You are a janitor robot tasked with saving the company you work for because you are the only one left who can pilot a ship. You go to different solar systems destroying whatever the company asks you to, with very little background as to why, and on the way you also steal any crystals you come across. After you fight your way through a few planets you are tasked with killing the boss for that solar system. The story is pretty sparse and is used solely as a background for why you are piloting a ship, although there's also a little joke before each new solar system, usually about stealing things. Some of these jokes were worth a small chuckle, but none of them were great.
Gravity Crash plays a lot like the retro games it takes inspiration from. You are constantly fighting against gravity (or buoyancy if you’re underwater) in a ship with a limited amount of fuel as you fly around and destroy whatever is asked of you. Touch anything with your ship and it is destroyed and you lose one life. Sadly the crystals you use to refill your fuel are everywhere and you can easily continue if you lose all your lives, so the idea of having limited fuel is never a worry unless you care about getting a high score.
There are a couple of options when you start the campaign. The flight and fire controls can use a duel analog control that lets you steer the ship with the left analog and shoot with the right, or you can go the classic route where the ship can only fire forwards and you control the direction with the left analog and thrust with the X button. Shield controls are also optional - you can either have manual shield controls which will save you from dying as long as you press L1 in time, or the shield can automatically save you. The benefit to having manual controls for the shield is that the shield meter that is used up when the shield is active will regenerate with time, whereas if you have automatic shields you can only replenish the shield meter by collecting the crystals that give you fuel, and a full shield meter only allows you six hits. Lastly you have a choice of four different super weapons, such as homing missiles or an EMP pulse that you can use sparingly. While I like having all these choices I couldn't find a way to change any of these options in the middle of the campaign, which was annoying since I was stuck with a single super weapon throughout the entire thing when I would have liked to have picked a super weapon depending on the next mission.
Each planet is a maze like level in which you are trying to find and usually destroy your objective. You have a small minimap on the bottom right corner of the screen, but a small part of the game involves trying to find your way around, so you aren't given a larger map of each area. There is a small amount of variety to the enemies you will face, but this is mostly a variation on how they look and not so much on how you deal with them. The level variety suffers a similar fate. The first 3/4 of the game feels like playing the same level again and again with minimal differences in structure and objective, although the final 1/4 of the game really amps up everything and each level starts to feel unique. I really wish they had made each level in the campaign a unique experience like the final 1/4 of the game.
Once you are done playing through the campaign you have a few options. You can play through any level you want in Planet Mode, play with a friend in local multiplayer, or create and play user created levels. Multiplayer comes in three varieties: deathmatch in which you try to kill each other, scavenger where you try and collect the most crystals, and race (which is self explanatory). Each of these multiplayer modes is kind of a one trick pony and will not last people very long, but it was nice to have the option of playing around with friends. The editor is a nice idea, but I wish there were more options. Just Add Water have mentioned before that each of the game’s campaign levels were created using the editor, but it feels as though there are not enough options to truly make whatever you want. I guess I was hoping for something a little more adventurous. It is nice, however, that you can play levels that others created, and this certainly adds longevity to the title.
Visually Gravity Crash looks a lot like a neon-colored Atari game. Every object has a bright outline and usually nothing on the inside. It makes for an interesting visual, and you will probably like it if you yearn for the days of the Atari, but technically speaking it's nothing impressive. The music is all techno and fits the game well, but it noticeably repeats, and although you might get it stuck in your head for a while, it is not of a high enough quality that many will be clamoring for a soundtrack.
Gravity Crash has a surprising amount of value for a PSN title. For a measly $10 you get a 5 1/2 hour campaign with 30 normal levels and 5 secret levels, some local multiplayer modes, the ability to create a level to your liking, and play levels others have made. The multiplayer modes are lackluster and seem to be an afterthought, and the editor is disappointingly stifling, otherwise this would get a value score fairly close to the maximum we can give out.
Atari style games were fun back in the day, but perhaps video gaming has moved on to the point that such repetition of gameplay seems dull. Gravity Crash has a unique visual and some really cool levels during the final part of the campaign, but most of the campaign is decidedly repetitive and the added value from multiplayer and the level editor is lessened by both being disappointing to a degree. If you direly want to relive your days playing games like Thrust then by all means pick this game up, otherwise it is really only a slightly above average PSN title that you should try out before committing your money to.