Day 126: Gravitron360

Posted: 2011/03/15 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #126, and today’s game is “Gravitron360”.

I got my first game console in 1980, a Mattel Intellivision. Before that I went to arcades, and before that my family had a Pong-a-like attached to the family TV. In the time since I’ve gamed on more systems than I can count (but the highlights include a Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, NES, Genesis, Lynx, Jaguar, Xbox, and Xbox 360). I’ve played a lot of games over the years, including several obscure ones that no one but me seems to remember. Given all that you would think that somewhere along the way I had played Gravitar, but somehow it slipped through the cracks. Given that, I was intriqued to try Gravitron360, which many reviewers credit as being a superior in (almost) every way game in a similar vein to Gravitar.

First, from the developer (Ron Bunce):

“Gravitron is a retro styled arcade gravity shooter boasting stylized neon vector graphics in which you must pilot your way through some of the most devious terrains ever devised. Destroy subterranean bases and indigenous life forms while avoiding traps and depleting fuel. Rescue stranded scientists and get out of there before the planet explodes. Over 70 stages and 4 exclusive game modes.”

While the presentation is wildly different, the first thing the gameplay reminded me of was an early Commodore 64 game called Space Taxi. Like with Space Taxi, you have to pick up (in this case, rescue) people from platforms while watching your ever-dwindling fuel supply and avoiding obstacles. However, there’s an exploration element in Gravitron360 that steps up the game a significant notch, and there’s more to do (such rescue people, solve simple puzzles, shoot life forms that might otherwise do you wrong, and more). Each time you land to rescue a scientist, your fuel supply is topped up if you pull it off successfully, which gives you a nice incentive to play the game the way it is intended and helps draw you into the action.

Presentation-wise, the game borrows heavily from classic vector-based games (of which Gravitar is one), with a liberal dose of the pulsating neon that Geometry Wars popularised. The graphics and audio are simple, but I think most players will find them appealing.

I like that the developer has included four different control set-ups (though I still wonder where the ifinitely adjustable controller setups many games of my youth went to). The game is difficult, but not impossible, on the “Normal” setting (which is oddly the hardest setting). The “Easy” setting’s name is apt, and if you’re having trouble getting through a level it should definitely let you through. The game has a large number of levels, plus about 20 extra “Challenge” levels where you have to adhere to stricter time-limits and have less flexibility about what objectives you must successfully complete to pass the level.

The game gives you a main weapon, plus shields, and getting a feeling of when to use each is the key to getting good scores in each level. However, the game is fairly forgiving (at least until you hit the Challenge levels) on this point, with lives only affecting you restarting from your last checkpoint; when you run out of lives, the game simply starts you at the beginning of the level again, with you having lost only the progress through the level to your last checkpoint.

Before you know it you’ll be rescuing scientists, flying through twisty passageways, opening doors, evading threats coming from multiple directions, and shooting reactors before escaping the explosion. The game is a hell of a lot of fun once you find the control set that works best for you, and get experienced with it.

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