By Daniel Lipscombe
There are many reasons as to why Gravity Crash should be a great game. You fly a spaceship, everyone likes spaceships, it has bright neon graphics much like Geometry Wars, and it plays much like games of old, very reminiscent of the 16-bit days.
At first glance Gravity Crash is an intelligent shooter, it gives you the options of using twin sticks, or stick and buttons if you prefer. There’s a variety of special weapons from the off and after glancing over the menu, there’s an editor and multiplayer too. This good feeling keeps on giving as you start up the training missions; everything is wonderfully presented, vibrant and colourful, the soundtrack thumps through your brain and then the happiness abruptly ends as you pilot your little ship.
The reason that these twin stick style shooters work is the movement, the ability to flow in and out of dangerous situations and weave between enemies as you blow them to kingdom come. Gravity Crash lacks this essential quality. You remember that scene in Bambi where he steps on to the ice and all hell breaks loose? Controlling your ship is a little like that, no matter how hard you try steering that little spaceship is like trying to keep hold of a wet bar of soap. It squirms everywhere except where you want it to go, bumping into walls and inevitably draining your shield allowing you to explode on the pointy rocks.
After the graceful movement of games like Riff and Geometry Wars, Gravity Crash is awkward and clumsy. Obviously this uncertainty in movement is passed over to the shooting, concentrating so hard on where you’re meant to be flying, you invariably end up spraying bullets everywhere in the hope that they connect with something, anything.
The layout of the game itself harks back to old school shooters, flying over bases and destroying them, landing to pick up stranded astronauts – as long as you can prevent your ship from bouncing like a pinball – and collecting gems around space. There are of course many enemies to dispatch that vary in shape and size, working your way through each solar system will end in a boss fight, each of which are actually very well staged and fun to play through.
If you can master the controls the levels can be balletic in movement as the opening demo shows, but playing with this skill will take much time. Unfortunately playing this way is needed if you want to break the time records set on each level. I consider myself to be good at shooters like this and I struggled to get close to the times and after a few attempts became bored and moved onto the next level. But then even that didn’t always help, while the visuals are impressive upon first look, the levels become stagnant after time and offer little in variety compared to other shooters on the market.
With Gravity Crash does come with a level designer however, so if you have managed to plough through the campaign then you can dip your toe in the creative pool online. There are some cracking levels from the community so far and the game has barely taken its first breath, my only concern is that any game that features level design and shares a console with LittleBigPlanet is going to be in trouble and this is. With little in the way of tutorials, the editor is just a grid with shapes to layout and for anyone with little time it is something that will be passed over.
One of the main reasons that Gravity Crash will struggle is the wealth of other shooters that are undeniably better, on the PS3 alone. Riff: Everyday Shooter, Super Stardust HD, Shatter, even Burn Zombie Burn, these are all superior games with a lot more to offer. Gravity Crash is fun its own bonkers way, but with PixelJunk Shooter round the corner, it’s hard to see the appeal.