Day 171: Antipole

Posted: 2011/04/29 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) 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 #171, and today’s game is “Antipole”.

Antipole is a strange beast. In some ways it’s a flawed masterpiece, a game annoyingly close to perfect. And yet, an unmissable experience all the same. The game is a gravity-based platformer where you control gravity to puzzle through levels as you fight off robot invaders. Antipole is all this and more, one title update away from perfection, but something so good that it’s worth experiencing warts and all now in case that update never comes.

First, from the developer (Saturnine Games LLC):

“Wield your powers of gravity manipulation to fend off a robot invasion. Perform impossible jumps, destroy enemies, and solve puzzles by bending gravity. Explore 20 challenging levels, 2 difficulty settings, and bonus unlockable content.”

Antipole has a great deal of variety spread throughout its levels, never leaving you feeling like you’d played that level before. A wide array of robots, and other challenges, stand in the way of you completing each level, and four boss levels break up the 20 missions you’re sent on. The gravity mechanic is not the player’s alone, some sections of the game have reduced gravity to start with, and some of your enemies can also manipulate gravity to their nefarious ends (often catching you unawares, messing with your attempts to influence gravity yourself). The level design perfectly complements the gravity powers leading to “Aha!” moments as you suddenly figure out something cool you can do with your gravity gun to progress forward.

The game smartly keeps a limit on how much you can invert gravity by having a power meter on your gravity gun, meaning you’ll only be able to use it for relatively short periods of time, but it recharges quickly. This allows frequent use while denying constant use, and forces the player to really think about when (and how) to activate it. The gravity mechanic itself is not completely new, it dates as least as far back as “Metal Storm” on the NES, however the level design and the enemies of Antipole are far more inspired. For those interested, here is Metal Storm for reference:

So what’s the downside on Antipole? Well, oddly, slowdown. When things get too active on screen, slowdown rears its ugly head and a game that was all about crisp, tight platforming suddenly becomes less responsive. It seems to be at its worst when there are lots of explosions on screen, so the later levels where enemies are more numerous are the most prone to it. It does not ruin the game, Antipole is still excellent but it is a shame that the later levels do suffer from it and the player must endure some frustration to complete what had been a near perfect experience up to that point. The criticism is magnified by how near perfect the controls are when slowdown is not occurring, and had they been a little less tight all along it might not have been quite so bad. It’s hard to hate a 240 Microsoft Point title that has so much going for it, and it’s interesting to note that it’s also coming soon for DSiWare and Windows, so perhaps there’s hope for that XBLIG update down the road. Either way, this is a game deserving of your 240 MSP, as you could spend a lot more than that and get a lot less.

Click here to download “Antipole”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.

Know someone else who would want to read the review, or rate the game? “Share This” and invite them to.

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