Android Game Review: Spotlight – GravitreX

GravitreX Martin Hjerne

Free (w/ ads) for first 25 levels | full version (50 levels, ad-free) $1.50 bought in-app

There are good games, there are great games, and then there are great games you sadistically inflict upon your friends (and readers).  GravitreX falls into the latter category.  In its extremely retro-looking shell, the level-design genius of an insidiously evil mind lays in wait, ready to ensnare you in its grip of blissful frustration.

I'm sorry! Don't be scared little kitten!

Okay, perhaps that’s over the top, but the truth of the matter is this game is brilliantly designed.  As easy (and bland) as it looks in screenshots, it isn’t easy (nor bland) – and it isn’t TOO hard, either, once you master the controls.  That isn’t me saying the controls are bad; the controls are perfect.  The controls make you realize that YOU are bad, and that you need to get better at using touch with your thrusters!

You can have these controls display on the screen as you play, but it is better without them. Knowing where they are and what they do is way simpler than using them right.

From the Market description: “The basic concept behind the game is: What if the game developers back in the days of consoles such as the Vectrex had had access to modern physics engines?”

I gotta say, Mr. Hjerne nailed it.  The goal of GravitreX is to get both of your ships safely on their respective pads.  This starts out as a challenge simply because you aren’t used to the realistic physics of the game; it ends up being vital to master them, because you need to really focus to accomplish your goals later.  Each board contains devilish twists to keep your mind and fingertips hard at work.  Teamwork between your ships becomes a must, as does precision movement and timing.  Your ships can latch on to objects/walls with a button press; get ready to use that a lot while solving these puzzles.

The game gets hard and stays hard. On an unrelated note, Happy Valentine's Day.

Just to make it even more realistic, your ships are fragile – you can’t just bounce and bruise your way to victory.  The slightest mishap encountered by your ship can result in a damaged thruster (impacting your ability to fly), a fuel leak (your fuel is finite!), or a core breach (an explosion which often takes out your second ship as well).  Damage and explosions will impact your score, sometimes resulting in a NEGATIVE score for a level!

Oops... I 'sploded all over the place before I got anywhere. Again, Happy Valentine's Day.

This game pushes you over its steep learning curve and into a massive downhill plunge to addiction.  I’ve played through 16 levels, and already know I will be picking up the full game.  I’ve heard that there are only 17 people on the OpenFeint scoreboard for level 50.  I don’t know if that’s changed since I heard that, but so few a number says to me that it is a real challenge, indeed.  I’m going to attempt to get there; will you?  You should.

Come on, box; you don't belong in the middle of my flight plan, you are a box. HEAVE!

THE TL;DR:

  • Do not let Virtual Boy graphics scare you away from a gem.
  • Such tight controls that mastering them makes the game.
  • Thoroughly addictive and extremely clever level design.
  • You lose nothing by playing the game muted, which is suggested.  The sound/music is of the same quality as the graphics are.
  • Ads aren’t bad/invasive at all, but by the time you’re done with 25 levels, you’ll happily drop a buck fifty for 25 more.
  • Hold the “grab” button for 5 seconds to self-destruct!

This is the death of the yellow-text closing statements!  I’ve noticed how impossible they were to read in the mobile version of the site, so… gone!

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