Thursday, 11 September 2014

Gravity Crash Ultra Review (PS Vita)


Gravity Crash started life on the PS3 before later receiving a PSP port. It’s built up a reputation for being crushingly difficult and remains one of the toughest tests of a gamer’s metal on Sony’s various consoles. This new version see’s the game given a Vita native make over. It may look prettier but it still packs as much of a punch as always.

Heavily inspired by the games Thrust and Solar Jet Man, Gravity Crash has players trying to weave their way through maze-like levels, dealing with gravity and completing objectives such as finding gems and destroying specific targets. You can also land and pick up stranded crew much like in Lunar Lander. All of this is carried out in levels made out of neon -tinged vector styled graphics. 

The game has three control systems and which one you pick will greatly change how difficult your experience with it is going got be. The first option allows you to utilise the dual stick control system often found in games like this. It also takes away the threat of gravity by holding you in place when you aren’t pressing a direction. The second scheme is similar and keeps the ability to move in one direction while shooting in another. However, it does bring gravity back into play and you will fall towards the earth when you aren’t pressing a direction button. 

By far the most difficult scheme is the classic control setup. This is the same as in Thrust and requires players to face the way they are shooting and constantly boost to stop being pulled to earth. It creates a very tense experience as you have to judge getting through the level in a very different way. All the while you’re exploring your fuel also decreases just to make it that bit more challenging.

Needless to say touching anything at all or getting shot destroys you instantly. You do have a shield which you can activate or set to auto to help out. You also have the choice of a number of different special weapons. These have limited usage and recharge via in game pickups. Using them wisely is often the difference between life and death but as they don’t recharge between levels you’ll start out reluctant to use them often.

Level design is consistently excellent and often simple seemingly environments develop into intricate tunnels and caves. Some levels take you under water and alter the gravity mechanic while others throw random meteor storms at you. One level has a massive volcano in the middle that continually throws out rocks and yes, you do have to pick something up from right next to it.

It’s all very positive except for one quite major issue and that’s how you progress through the game. The campaign mode gives you three lives with which to go out and explore the galaxy. The problem is that when you lose those lives you have to either start again from the very beginning or simple press continue and carry on. 

Continuing resets your score but that’s it and you can continue as many times as you wish. This means that much of the tension of the game is removed. It also becomes a bit of a slog because if you want to access the levels in other modes you need to complete them in the campaign first and you know you can just keep continuing until everything is finished. A better approach would have perhaps been to give players a limited number of lives to complete each individual level which then resets upon entering the next.

This progression structure really killed the game for us which is a real shame. Everything about the game in terms of design is packed with quality. The sound, the look, the way the game plays are really something quite special but the progression through it misses the sweet spot quite considerably. 

It puts us in a difficult position because this should be a very high scoring game and we absolutely love the concept and ideas at play here. Anyone who’s a fan of Thrust is also clearly alright in our book. However, we can’t overlook the issue with progression and as it pretty much stopped us from playing after a while it means what should be a classic simply hasn’t quite got there. We can only hope that a patch is put in at a later date as then there will be nothing stopping this from reaching true greatness.

Overall 7/10

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