For as infuriating as it is to play today, no one could label Atari’s 1982 intergalactic excursion Gravitar – also known as Lunar Battle – as unambitious. Utilising the same “rotate-and-thrust” control system as the iconic Asteroids, designer Mike Hally – making his debut – added real gameplay depth, allowing you to explore an entire solar system, completing a variety of missions depending on the parent planet. When it was later ported to the Atari 2600 in 1983, it was arguably one of the deepest releases available for the system.
Gravitar: Recharged recaptures the spirit of the 40-year-old classic in a slick package that’s modernised in the right areas. Sporting a minimalistic visual style that’s reminiscent of the kind of colours used on old sci-fi book covers and comic books, you’re still free to explore an entire solar system, with planets and space stations rotating around a sun. Land on one of these and you’ll need to complete fairly simplistic missions: destroy all the enemies, power-up the beacons, or detonate the generator. Some locations have unique gravitational properties, forcing you to carefully feather the thruster of your trusty ship.
This gameplay mechanic – a source of frustration for retro enthusiasts returning to the aforementioned arcade originals – feels absolutely fantastic on the DualSense, owing to some subtle but smart use of its features. The triggers fight you ever so slightly to convey the sense of power from your aircraft, while the haptic feedback pulsates through the pad. It’s a very small detail, but it’s a reminder that when used correctly, the PS5’s controller is capable of providing gameplay texture impossible on previous pads.
While the action is streamlined and modernised, it still requires precision and patience – especially if you’re aiming to top the online leaderboards. A separate, standalone list of missions provide hand-crafted objectives based on some of the encounters you’ll find in the core arcade mode, while there’s local multiplayer for those who want to play with family members or friends.
Atari, in its current incarnation, seems setup solely to profit from its past classics. Gravitar: Recharged, though, actually does justice to the original – and even if you weren’t around in the 80s, there’s fun to be found in this sprightly shmup at the right price.