Professor Heinz Wolff’s Gravity Review for Nintendo Wii

Professor Heinz Wolff’s Gravity Review for Nintendo Wii

It’s become a very common setup for a puzzle game: In a 2-D world, an item spawns in one place, and your job is to use the environment to guide it to another. Most recently, this was the idea behind the PC game Crayon Physics Deluxe and the Xbox LIVE Community title, Blow. Now this style of gameplay comes to the Wii via Professor Heinz Wolff’s Gravity.

Professor Heinz Wolff's Gravity screenshot

In Gravity, the item that spawns is a ball (sometimes a motorized car), and your destination is a red button. The goal is to set up your various platforms, rolling eyeballs, and other items so that when the item spawns, it presses (or knocks something else into) the button. Solving the puzzles unlocks more puzzles; it also opens “sandbox” levels, in which there’s no button, just items to play with. There are 100 puzzles and 20 sandbox levels total.

Puzzle fans will find a lot to like here, mainly the levels themselves, and for this reason it’s worth a rental. Some of the solutions are downright mind-bending, demanding that you think hard about new ways to use pieces. These challenges are usually interspersed between easier levels, a difficulty pattern that keeps you from getting too frustrated. Some of the puzzles have multiple solutions, and every now and then you’ll stumble onto a way to press the button that the developers almost certainly did not intend; this could be seen as a flaw, but it usually comes off as endearing.

Once you’ve solved the 100 puzzles and horsed around a little in the sandboxes, you can turn to Gravity’s four pass-the-controller, party multiplayer modes. In Tallest Tower, you build as high as you can in a limited amount of time, the catch being that your structure must survive an “earthquake” at the end before the height is tallied. In Up and Down, you set a cannon’s trajectory to shoot a ball into buckets of varying sizes (smaller buckets net you more points). In Clear the Decks, you shoot similar cannonballs into a bucket of blocks; each cannonball has a different color, and the goal is to hit the like-colored blocks in the bucket (which disappear and give you points). Finally, Tower Topple is the opposite of Up and Down; the tower is already there, and you try to knock it down using as few cannonballs as possible.

Professor Heinz Wolff's Gravity screenshot

It’s worth checking these mini-games out briefly, but they’re unlikely to become the life of your next party. Building towers gets tedious in a hurry, and the cannonball levels are only interesting until you’ve gotten the feel for setting the trajectories. Clear the Decks can even get frustrating; sometimes it will be impossible to shoot a block of the same color as the ball, meaning you’ll have to waste the ball.

The single-player mode only takes a few hours to get through, so the lame multiplayer means that Gravity isn’t worth the $30 purchase price. What’s more, aside from the level design, even the single-player mode wasn’t executed well.

The biggest issue is that it’s often a royal pain to set up your solution. It’s easy enough to grab items from the box on the upper-left-hand side of the screen (use the pointer and A button like a computer mouse), but rotating them with the Nunchuk joystick feels awkward, and you can’t always get the angle you need. The pieces jerk around, and they sometimes seem to fight your controls.

Professor Heinz Wolff's Gravity screenshot

Further, the physics engine, while in many ways excellent, never stops working. This means you have to be very, very gentle about setting down anything that’s precariously balanced or it could roll away. There’s an undo function that helps with this, and the game usually detects cheating (for example, you can’t roll an item toward the button and then spawn the ball, thus solving the puzzle without even using the ball’s momentum), but it’s a lot more frustrating than it needs to be. This makes some of the levels nearly unplayable.

Professor Heinz Wolff's Gravity screenshot

Also, the game has a broken “hint” system. You can pay the computer in points to set up pieces for you, but it always sets up the easiest or least helpful pieces first, making you pay several times before you have any idea how to solve a troublesome puzzle. Also, you don’t earn points continually as you work through the game, meaning you can spend all your points at the beginning and have no way of getting help on the later puzzles.

The graphics here are mediocre. The backgrounds are well-done and hand-drawn, which is a plus, but the items don’t look all that unique or impressive. For some reason the game doesn’t support progressive-scan mode or widescreen, which is a travesty on a console with so little graphical horsepower to begin with. Gravity takes awhile to load at the beginning, as well.

The sound in the single-player game is unremarkable, which we suppose is a compliment for a puzzle game. We’d much rather not notice the music than have to turn the sound all the way down, and the ambient sonic textures in Gravity make that possible. In the multiplayer, the noble-sounding orchestral score is a bit much, though; we’re arranging blocks, not saving the world.

Again, puzzle fans can get a few hours’ worth of fun from Gravity, and they would be well-advised to give it a rental. As for a full purchase, it would be better to wait till the game hits the bargain bins.

The backgrounds are hand-drawn and very stylish, but the game doesn’t support progressive-scan or widescreen. 2.3 Control
Grabbing a piece and moving it around is easy enough, but manipulating it to just the right angle is a pain. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The single-player game has an excellent soundtrack, but the party mode music is a bit overbearing. 3.5

Play Value
There are a few hours of solid fun here, but not enough replayability to warrant a purchase rather than a rental.

3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • A quirky puzzle game, based on accurate physics, that demands critical and creative thinking.
  • One hundred levels provide a variety of challenges for players with differing abilities.
  • Twenty unique sandboxes allow for experimental play and let you hone your skills.
  • Four mini-games let you stage matches against friends and take on new challenges.
  • Colorful, hand-painted background art and atmospheric music for a rich all-around experience.
  • Screen Resolution: Up to 480i (Standard TV Res.)

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