|System: PS3 (PSN)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Just Add Water||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 24, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
Almost every generation of video games has a particular genre that seems to get focused upon by a majority of developers. In the 8 and 16 bit days it was the 2D side-scrolling platformers, nowadays its first- and third-person shooters, but back in the old arcade days it was space shooters. With the success of games like Asteroids and Space Invaders, tons of companies rushed to create their own space shooters, or at least knock offs of other's titles in order to cash in on their increasing popularity. However, once another super popular genre came along and most companies shifted development towards the new craze, fans of the space shooter have found it increasingly more difficult to find new entries in the genre.
Luckily, thanks to the downloadable game space provided by the current generation of consoles there's been a small revival for this somewhat forgotten game type. With flashy new re-imaginings like Space Invaders Extreme and Galaga Legions as well as newcomers like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 1 and 2, longtime fans are once again able to find new experiences in the genre. The most recent addition is Gravity Crash on the PSN, although simply labeling it a space shooter may be a bit of a misnomer. Sure, Gravity Crash has everything necessary to be a typical space shooter including space, flight, a ship, shooting, and enemies. However, it quickly becomes apparent that shooting isn't necessarily the focus of the title.
One of the first things you'll notice when playing this title is just how slow your shots move. Rounds fired from your ship seemingly creep across the screen in the direction they were launched, often taking several seconds to hit their intended target, or harmlessly dissipate if you miss. While these slow motion shots can still be rather effective against stationary targets such as buildings or turrets, they can make hitting moving enemies much more difficult. In these cases, you can try to anticipate their movements and lead your shots, but it will often become necessary to simply move in for a closer shot if you'd like to take them out. If Gravity Crash had simply been an action-style space shooter, these sluggish projectiles could have honestly been a deal breaker.
Fortunately, there has been a clear focus put on movement and exploration in this title, as opposed to just simply running and gunning. While most of your objectives for completing missions will revolve around destroying certain enemies or buildings, enjoyment isn't derived from their destruction so much as from their discovery. In the early levels, your intended targets are usually out in the open, simply waiting to be annihilated. However, as you progress the levels become much more maze-like in their design, which forces players through elaborate series of tunnels, traps, and warping wormholes in order to progress. While maneuvering about, you also need to be constantly on the lookout for hidden passages, door opening buttons, and triggers that can affect the world itself (such as raising or lowering the height of water or lava), all of which will help you to complete your ultimate objective and make it to the end of level wormhole.
Besides the level design and objectives, there are a couple other aspects of this title that make deliberately planning out your movement the focal point of gameplay. With a title like Gravity Crash, it should come as no surprise that gravity will constantly be working against your space ship, trying to pull it into walls and other hazardous objects. Controlling your ship basically boils down to controlled bursts of thrust that will help you to correct your course without adding too much momentum. If you get going too fast in any direction, it can be difficult to counteract it in time to avoid colliding with the environment or objects. This is especially true when trying to navigate through claustrophobic tunnels full of enemies and traps.
The other facet of the gameplay that forces you to focus on your flight technique is your limited supplies. Your ship can only carry so much fuel at any one time (indicated by a yellow bar) and also has a finite amount of shield energy (indicated by a blue bar). Slamming into enemies, objects, and the environment will cause your shields to quickly deplete while using the thrusters will do the same for your fuel reserve. Whenever either is fully drained your ship will cease to exist, erupting in an explosion. However, there are clusters of yellow crystals scattered throughout all of the game's levels that can be shot into pieces and collected to regain some fuel and shield energy. These clusters are limited and can sometimes be difficult to find and get to, so you'll need to pay close attention to where they are located and how full your yellow and blue bars are at all times.