Gravity Crash Ultra comes to PlayStation Vita four years after its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable outings. The old skool/new skool shooter gets some significant changes since we first saw it, and comes from the studio that’s just released New ‘n’ Tasty, so it’s a safe bet for a good game, right?
I’d overlooked the original Gravity Crash by Just Add Water, and I can’t give you a reason why, I think it was just down to an over subscription of games at that point in time, so I’m quite glad I’ve come in with fresh eyes to the Vita version. Well, I say that, but maybe my lack of understanding on the original left me disadvantaged to begin with because I absolutely suck at this game. I get the basic principle, it initially made me think of Lander – traverse the screen managing a fuel load because once it’s gone gravity owns you. Throw in directional shooting using the right stick of static things, moving things, and things that shoot back, as well as special weapons with limited ammo, and there’s a familiar feel to Gravity Crash Ultra. Or so I thought.
Progressing through the early levels got me used to the handling, meaning I exploded against the world surfaces a lot as I completely misjudged the deceleration aspect of my craft. Once you thrust in a direction you’ll continue to drift that way for a while until you boost again and change course, or until gravity takes over and pulls you to the ground. If you’d seen me play you’d understand why it’s called Gravity Crash… There is a shield ability that mitigates the damage you take, with limited uses of course, and this is triggered with a tap of the right shoulder button. Again, my reflexes didn’t seem to be up to the task and the considerable loss of ship lives continued. I started to get a bit frustrated with the whole thing.
Where did I make my mistake with this? Was it because I played a big chunk whilst on a train and in a car which aren’t entirely stable gaming places? No. Was it because I was trying to aim for fast times through the levels rather than accuracy? Possibly. Could it be because I’d skipped through the setup options at the beginning and hadn’t realised you could switch to automatic shields and turn off the gravity effect? Bingo! Once I’d got my ship setup right for me the game transformed and I started to get on with it more, and enjoyed developing the skills needed to navigate narrow passages whilst taking out all enemies and working on completing the games 42 levels.
The game structure is definitely old skool, in that there’s a campaign mode that challenges you to start from the beginning with 3 lives and attempt to put in a high score. Lose your lives and it’s not game over, thankfully! Generous checkpointing means you never have to repeat too much of a section, and enemies remain neutralised so progression is constant. Dying only serves to reset your score, so non-competitive-point-tally-types like me can play through without that added pressure. Pro-tip though, do not exit a campaign if you die, keep continuing! Leaving means you have to start all over again, and as this is the route for opening up single levels for free play, it can mean a lot of repeated work. Doh!
Planet mode is where you go to pick a galaxy and replay the planets you’ve opened up, and this gives you more opportunity to explore, try out new routes, and fine tune your approach if you want to be putting in the very low par times recommended each time you select a level. It’s very challenging to rush through, complete all the objectives, pick up the collectibles, and make it to the exit in time to earn a bonus. Where the new skool shows up is in the editor section, which enables you to craft and create your own levels to share with the rest of the Gravity Crash Ultra universe. The editing system is simple and intuitive, and the touchscreen is employed to rotate and paint shapes making it simple to build a level in minutes. It didn’t take long at all for me to come up with something workable, though it’s clear when you start exploring the user generated content that spending a bit of time on it will yield some great results. And if you go through the tutorial.
Interestingly there’s the Network Features Disabled message that comes up at the beginning which makes me think it’s using up a lot of processing to render the visual style and maintain the 60 fps that make it a slick experience. I’ve not measured battery life specifically though I have noticed there doesn’t seem to be as much juice in the Vita as usual, and it may not be the game specifically. One thing I’ve missed mentioning so far is the music by CoLDSToRAGE which fits perfectly with the whole vibe, and it’s good to hear those tones in a game again, now that we’re unlikely to get another WipEout title.
Gravity Crash Ultra is a good looking game that provides a decent challenge, and having a level editor that’s easy to use, coupled with a system that encourages trying out other players levels (which don’t take long to find or load), means there’s a lot of life beyond the initial campaign offering. If any DLC becomes available then it’ll be a bonus to what is already a fully featured portable game. At the price it’s going to be sold at you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck, and is definitely worth it if you’re a fan of the twin-stick shooting genre.
A review copy of Gravity Crash Ultra for PlayStation Vita was provided by the Just Add Water PR team. Gravity Crash Ultra is released on the PSN on 12th August for US ($8.99), and 13th August for the EU (£5.49/€6.99).