Gravity has its uses, nobody can argue that. If it disappeared right now, the entire bungee jumping industry would collapse overnight, and there’d probably be some other, less important side effects as well. In some cases, gravity actively works against our goals, highlighted best by Gravity Crash Ultra, and by the many bumps, dings, and smashes that you’re bound to have while speeding through the planetary systems of distant galaxies.
No, it’s not some complicated metaphor for an ALDI car park – although you’re just as likely to find yourself dodging the mad death throes of strange, alien people with nothing left to live for. Gravity Crash is an updated version of Lunar Lander, sharing the same roots as titles like PixelJunk Shooter and Velocity Ultra. Your main goal is to explore large open maps, destroy a set number of specific objectives, and then make it to the wormhole without blowing yourself up. This’ll start off easy enough, but before long you’ll find yourself having to narrowly avoid meteorites, space men, and lasers.
Each level will have you wiping something off the face of an enemy planet; whether you’ll be targeting mining equipment or enemy weapons, the only thing that you need to do is complete that goal. It’s not that easy, though, because there are more than a few distractions. Each planet is heavily guarded, and there are points to be had for going above and beyond the call of duty. And as everybody knows, points mean prizes – or in this case, glory on the leaderboards. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t benefits to speeding through and just shooting down the bare essentials, however: complete a level in a time “below par” and you’ll be rewarded a bonus.
The challenge in Gravity Crash doesn’t come entirely from enemy aggression, although there’s enough of that to make Tumblr seem about as angry as a Women’s Institute charity drive. Outside of having good aim, your biggest worry will come from conserving or collecting fuel, which is needed if you plan on not becoming a bloody scorched mess millions of miles from home. Without enough inertia, you’ll find yourself catapulting to the ground, but overuse your thrusters and you’ll run out of gas, causing a quick death. There are refills readily available, spread out across each map, but once they’re gone you’ll have to quickly finish up or risk burning out.
There are dozens of levels to go through and many different objectives, although they all boil down to basically the same thing. Surprisingly, this doesn’t get boring as quickly as you’d think it would, as the ability to more or less set your own goals really makes each level different. As things get harder, the length of time that you’ll spend in each location extends, and then you’ll perhaps start to find your attention wavering, but by that point you’ll already have played for quite some time and still be steadily improving, meaning that each fresh playthrough will be better than the last.
While playing through the planets more or less in order is the standard way of approaching your space mission, you can also take on stages individually in Planet Mode, or you can create your own content and share it with the world. As with any user generated content, the quality of the creations fluctuates wildly, but, if nothing else, it gives you plenty to see beyond the main game, after you’ve climbed your way to the top of the leaderboards.
The editor is fairly deep but not overly complex. Building levels is intuitive and you’re given free rein over the layout of your dream stage. This isn’t LittleBigPlanet, though, and you’re limited to exactly the kind of missions available in the main game, but it’s going to be plenty for people that enjoy the title enough to even venture into its editing screen. It’s a nice addition, and one that’s bound to add value to those creative enough to try it out.
If you’re still not convinced that there’s a surprising amount on offer, there are multiple ships to experiment with, each with their own unique control scheme. In lieu of a specific difficulty setting, this serves as a way to challenge yourself with ever more complex modes of piloting your craft. The easiest has you twisting through the air regardless of gravity’s pull, allowing you to pull off awesomely tight turns, while the hardest has you engaging your boosters manually, only able to move in the direction that you’re facing. It’s a hell of a difference, if only because you’ll spend that much more time blowing up.
The Vita version of Gravity Crash looks really good, too, with thick neon outlines on a black, starry background and explosions of tiny light particles with every enemy defeated. It’s the small touches that really make the art design, though: the way debris moves out of the way as you sail through it, or the landing legs that deploy if you’re near the floor and are going slowly enough.
Gravity Crash Ultra is an entertaining trip to space that’ll easily fill even the most odorous, people-crammed bus journeys. Its lack of depth means that you’re not going to be dedicating months of your life to it, but sometimes you just want something fun, easy to pick up, and bursting with playable content. On that level, this is an absolute bargain.