Indie games are great – there’s such a massive selection out there for so little money. Developing games is really hard, and having services such as Desura, various indie bundles and Steam Greenlight gives developers that chance to showcase their hard work to the whole world far more easily than in the past. Due to this, developers are willing to try more innovative formulas and chuck any ideas they have into a game. With so much coverage for indie games, there is bound to be someone who likes it! Gravi, developed by Hashbang Games, is a good example of this – a game that takes platforming and chucks in a bit of gravity field manipulation and puzzle elements for good measure!
Gravi puts your little blue orb (presumably called Gravi) in an “alien test facility” and it’s your job to escape it. A pretty weak story, but Gravi is a puzzle game – the story doesn’t add much. You control your blue orb in an interesting and pretty original way. You shoot parts of yourself (called mitosis) towards walls, and if your blue orb is in range, it’ll fly towards it’s detached part and collect it. Normal gravity then takes effect and you fall to the ground as usual. This mechanic reminds me a bit of using the bungee cord from Worms.
Just like in any platform game you have to make your way to the end of the levels. Gravi doesn’t let you do this easily though. You’ll find yourself dying constantly on this game trying to get through some of the extremely nasty traps set for you by the level designers. Spike pits are carefully positioned so that you’ll have to plan your path very carefully to avoid falling into them. Other traps include flames which really test your timing skills, switches, gravity wells and red orbs. The red orbs are fairly intelligent enemies that will take a path just to make it harder for you to get through. They’ll fly around the path you need to take, so timing is key so they don’t hit you and send you to your demise. Defeating the red orb (they don’t like fire!) opens the path ahead allowing you to continue.
The graphical design in Gravi is fairly basic. The levels are made up of mainly metal pipework, grates and ducts. They don’t really give much of a sense of being in an alien test facility, but what an alien test facility looks like anyway is pretty arguable! The levels are often complex enough so that there’s always plenty on the screen. And I do love the look of the gravity changing tiles and flames. Unfortunately, there’s no change in scenery throughout the levels, but clearly, the focus has been on developing decent levels – far more important.
There are 40 levels in Gravi, and this should be enough to keep anyone going for a good while. They start off pretty simple and ease you into getting used to the controls and then get hard. Extremely hard. Even on the earlier levels, there is a taste of how difficult the game is going to become – collectables are scattered around the levels. For example, there will be a collectable that is surrounded by spikes on 3 sides. This means you have to use good timing and lightning reflexes to get the right angle to collect it and then jump back in a split second or you’ll get impaled. And yes, if you die before you get to a checkpoint after collecting one, you will have to go back to collect it again! The checkpoint system in Gravi is often the saviour of your sanity. Clearly, the level designers understand how hard the levels are, so there are loads of checkpoints scattered throughout the levels, positioned just before the really hard bits, so you don’t have to go through the whole level again to attempt a challenging part again.
One thing that could really do with refining is the control system. It’s really frustrating in levels, where you’ll get stuck trying to land your blue orb in a small gap, or getting it to stop on a platform without rolling into spikes on the next tile. Controlling the blue orb doesn’t feel like controlling something that small, more like a bowling ball. You’ll often find your blue orb flying off platforms at the tap of a button, yet it is almost impossible to get it to stop quickly. The ‘small mitosis shot’ feature also confused me. It allows you 5 small shots rather than one big one, and these can be shot in any direction. I’m still not sure of the purpose of this, as it looks like each one has its own small gravity field. This field doesn’t affect your blue orb at all though. One thing it does allow you to do is to make your blue orb smaller which lets you get through small gaps. The release I reviewed was clearly labelled beta, so I’m sure these issues will be fixed in the future, as well as the missing features (shop and re-definable controls)
I really enjoyed playing Gravi. It’s always nice to see a puzzle game that doesn’t want to stick to the basics and goes and does something different. I also love the attention to detail that’s been paid to levels. Sure, they are really hard, but I didn’t find myself wanting to give up – despite over 200 deaths on some levels! A big well done to Hashbang. I can’t wait to see the finished result of this game!
Written by Nick Bedford
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