There are many different approaches to adapting traditional genres to mobile platforms. Take platformers, for example. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 brings an Xbox 360 title to Windows Phone with touch-screen controls. I love the game, but some people either can’t or don’t want to adapt to touch-screen controls. Doodle Jump, designed purely for mobile phones, simply relies on tilt-control to steer its ever-jumping hero from platform to platform. Gravity Guy from Miniclip falls somewhere between the two extremes.
Flip past the break for our full review.
Logan’s Run 20XX
Sometime in the future, the world has come under George W. Bush's, I mean dystopian rule. People are required to keep their two feet on the ground; bending the rules of gravity is a no-no. One guy dares to break the rules, only to be imprisoned for it. The game’s brief introduction depicts Gravity Guy using a laser (which he never uses again, oddly) to break out of prison and begin his quest for freedom. But his escape does not go unnoticed – a hyper vigilant Gravity Trooper is on our guy’s trail.
Gravity Guy may be a platformer, but the titular hero doesn’t exactly jump like other characters do. Tapping anywhere on the screen reverses the guy’s gravity, flipping him to the ceiling and vice versa. He always runs to the right, so players don’t have to worry about movement. The gravity mechanic takes a little getting used to, but after a few minutes most of us should be able to flip the hero up and down with relative ease.
Gravity Guy contains quite a lot of content for a low-priced Xbox Live game:
- Story: Also known as the Run Chapter, Gravity Guy’s Story mode consists of 30 levels. Or perhaps it’s one gigantic level with 30 checkpoints, however you want to look at it. In addition to the non-stop running and flipping, the Gravity Trooper chases our hero in this mode. Make too many mistakes or take too long and the oppressive jerk will catch Gravity Guy, forcing him back to the last checkpoint. I created a map of the last level that might help players out. Reach the end of that level and… Man, that was a lot of work for such a short ending.
- Practice: Levels reached in Story can be replayed in Practice without the pressure of the relentless Trooper chasing after you.
- Endless: The objective here is to get as far as you possibly can on a single life with no continues. The Endless level layout consists of predetermined set pieces that come up in a random order, so players can’t rely on memorization like they would in Story mode. The farther the player gets, the faster Gravity Guy runs, making high scores quite challenging to earn.
- Multiplayer: Here’s something we don’t see every day – local multiplayer in a mobile Xbox Live title. Up to four people can play simultaneously, each controlling his or her differently-colored Gravity Guy by tapping the appropriate corner of the screen. Multiplayer includes two unique levels for the group to race through. This mode may not be very practical, but I could see kids having fun with it.
- Credits: Yes, even the credits are playable! Gravity Guy runs through a special level as drawings of the game’s staff appear in the background. That’s one way to get players to read ‘em.
- Rescue Chapter: This 29-level expansion was added to the game free via title update post-release. It’s like getting a sequel for free... A stupidly hard one though.
Simple and tough
Both Doodle Jump and Gravity Guy are uncomplicated games with simple controls. They’re also really hard, which I find odd in a casual game. Gravity Guy is a bit easier for several reasons. First off, players get unlimited retries in Story/Practice/Rescue modes, so they needn’t start from square one like in Doodle Jump. Plus the levels in these modes are always the same, so players can memorize them, thus greatly reducing the challenge.
Endless Mode here is the equivalent of the whole game of Doodle Jump since it doesn’t allow for retries and is made of random arrangements of level pieces. Doodle Jump’s Achievements are arguably harder and definitely more time-consuming due to their extremely random nature (whereas these are more memorization-based). We’ll get to those in a bit.
Separated at birth?
Gravity Guy’s visuals closely resemble the 16-bit platformers of yore. Call me crazy, but the design of the character himself reminds me of Game Freak’s obscure Japanese Mega Drive platformer, Pulseman.
As for the backgrounds, they feature gorgeous layers of parallax scrolling and lots of detail. Early in the game, huge jets sometimes zoom by behind the action. More standout set pieces like that would have been appreciated, but I suppose they’d distract from the platforming. Gravity Guy also boasts a very slick main menu, creative credits sequence (as I described earlier), and a couple of quality techno tunes.
Now we come to the only thing I don’t really like about Gravity Guy: its Xbox Live Achievements. The cumulative ones like dying 20 times between checkpoints, getting caught by the Gravity Trooper 100 times, and playing for 10 hours aren’t bad – especially since you can just leave the game running in Story Mode and the hero will run to his death continuously.
On the mild downside, the “50,000 points and counting!” Achievement – awarded for reaching 50,000 points in Endless Mode – is both challenging and buggy. It doesn’t unlock at 50,000 points like it should – instead it comes up a varying number of seconds later. That means players might die after meeting the listed requirements but before it unlocks; happened to me once. The developer tells us that API limitations cause the issue, but that they might fix the Achievement up in the future.
Endless Mode is one thing, but some of the Story Mode Achievements really cross the line difficulty-wise. I speak of the Achievements for beating 10, 20, and all 30 levels in one session and without dying. The first isn’t so bad, but the latter ones require an annoying combination of memorization, fast reflexes, and perfect playing. Yes, a handful of players have managed to perfectly complete the game. But that’s really asking way too much from most players.
A final note: two of Gravity Guy’s Achievements are impossible to earn at the time of this writing. No, they’re not glitched. As WPCentral discovered shortly after the game’s release, the developer decided to reserve those two Achievements for the upcoming Rescue Chapter update. One of the two will require players to complete the 29-level expansion without dying, ugh.
Update: The Rescue Chapter is now available. Beating it without dying is even more impossible than the original chapter though.
Gravity Guy is the first ‘endless runner’ in Windows Phone’s Xbox Live portfolio. It encourages lots of practice as players try to alternately learn the levels in Story or get just a bit farther in Endless. The challenging level design, simple controls, wealth of content, and sharp artistic design make Gravity Guy a worthwhile purchase for serious gamers and casual players alike. No, you probably won’t get all of the Achievements, but the game is a blast anyway.
Gravity Guy costs just $2.99 and there is a free trial. Rescue it from the Marketplace here.