A neon-green line, a gravity well, and thou.
Portrait of the E3 show floor as a not-so-young endeavor: Towering wall-sized displays flickering before speechless, slack-jawed audiences, like something from the Two Minutes Hate; visible atmospheric ripples as cyclopean sound-systems send brainpan-rattling vibrations thudding through the air; at least 57 booth-babe breasts visible in any given cardinal direction; every major motion picture currently in theaters (or bound for them, or banned from them) turned into a video game; and humbly, smugly in the middle of it all, a glorious, reincarnative faux-malgamation of some of the most nostalgia-inducing arcade-era games of all time. And when it comes, it’ll be exclusive to the Playstation Network (suck it, XBLA!).
[image1]At first sidelong glance, Gravity Crash bears a striking resemblance to the early-’80s arcade game Gravitar… and upon closer inspection, the similarities actually hold up. Gravity Crash emulates the simple, sexy, searing vector-graphics look of Gravitar (and many of its ’80s-era coevals), with thin, spare, bright, and angular lines to represent the plains, mesas, and jagged peaks of various planetary surfaces. Another key aspect of Gravitar—per the name—was the constant gravitational influence on the player’s ship, and the subsequent need to apply constant thrust to avoid crashing into the ground.
And that’s what Gravity Crash is all about—pointedly not crashing into the ground, as you tumble your nimble little spaceship above neon-bright, jagged alien peaks, cranking off shots at ground installations, eluding surface-to-air (well, surface-to-vacuum) fire, avoiding the odd meteorite-storm hazard, collecting surface resources, and even making the occasional soft-landing rescue of ground personnel.
[image2]That last objective calls to mind the even older, vector-graphics arcade classic Lunar Lander. As in the case of that venerable favorite, Gravity Crash obligates players to use judicious thruster-bursts to settle their spacecraft gently on the surface—long enough for little space-suited personnel to bustle out of their installations and get safely on board before it’s time to punch the thrusters and take off again. Of course, that’s easier said than done, when you’ve got hostile turrets taking potshots at you while large, unpleasant chunks of the local asteroid belt fall out of the sky all around you.
Obviously—pointedly, in fact—neither the clean, nostalgic look nor the overall mechanics of Gravity Crash are anything new. That’s okay—one of the most appealing points of the game lies in the fluid combination of high-reflex twitch and calm, deliberate finesse required to operate your ship effectively.
From what I’ve xperienced hands-on, there’s something supremely rewarding—even if nobody else is watching—about swooping over the vector-lined terrain below in a momentous, sweeping, gravity-defying arc, performing a smooth, balletic roll as you strafe targets on the ground below. And then hit a perfectly-timed braking-burst in midair and finally come to an effortless feather-bump of a soft-landing (as excitable little space-station dudes come running out, as if you were the last scheduled ice-cream truck in Hell).
[image3]Gravity Crash will offer 30+ levels, for both solo and multiplayer action. Additional nice little touches include the ability to scoop up floating power-isotopes, a limited-duration shield that can be thrown up with the touch of a control, and even the option—if you must—to splash down in isolated bodies of water (which buoys your ship against gravity in alien saltwater, but affects weapons fire).
And finally, perhaps the most latently-promising aspect of the game is that there’s a complete level editor included—not the first such instance for a PSN title, but at least the first for a shooter-style game. No word yet on whether the strength of the local gravity can be changed—but we can hope. No, scratch that—we do, emphatically, hope. Gravity Crash will come tumbling down the PSN pipeline later this year; join us here on the ground for the landing ceremonies. With Cake and Pie. And Beer.