Do you like your games hard? Do you like them so mind-numbingly challenging so that you feel like you need to take a break after a hour long session that has seen your ship obliterated over 100 times; battling it out with swarms of relentless enemies, wave after wave of pain? Do you enjoy being reduced to a tears like a baby that has its lollipop taken off it by a mafia king-pin? You do? Great - because have we got a game for you. It’s called Gravity Core and it’s about to punch you in the solar plexus, and then kick you in the teeth while you’re down.
It’s a shoot ‘em up that has taken it’s influence from games like Asteroids and Lunar Lander. The player controls a craft in a 2-D side facing environment where gravity is constantly affecting the ship. The left and right arrow keys are used to rotate the ship around its axis and the up and down keys activate the thrusters. Control of the ship is not exactly child’s play, and simply navigating the claustrophobic cave-like environments is challenging enough in the earlier levels with the odd small enemies taking a pot shot at you now and then. I gave the game controller a go but found that I was actually more competent at the game using the keyboard. All of the keys/buttons are configurable, so I can’t blame the control setup for my lack of success. Apart from movement controls, one key needs to be delegated to the fire function, one to special weapons fire and one to shields, so really even the default setup should be workable. In later levels the player’s ship is pasted all over the walls of the caverns indiscriminately by ships and turrets launching missiles, or with Gatling guns, flak launchers and all other variety of projectiles known to man (and alien-kind).
Campaigns in Gravity Core are generated randomly from a seed that is user selected. In theory, this provides unlimited variety in the gameplay, but after a while all campaigns do start to feel very similar. The goal of each mission in a campaign is predetermined, and consists of destroying a manufacturing base, rescuing civilians, retrieving intel-spheres or neutralising a gravity core device. The campaigns scale in difficulty from reasonably challenging at tier 1 missions to an outrageous and hideous difficulty towards the end of proceedings. I personally have played up to the tier 5 missions but have not been able to complete a campaign as yet.
Assisting the player somewhat is a reward system after every successful mission in which the player can choose to upgrade parts of their ship using points earned during combat. Lots of upgrades are available from engine and hull improvements to weapons and shields enhancements. By mid-point in the campaign, however, most of the useful upgrades will have been purchased, and it’s a bit of an uphill battle from there, as the enemies tend to get more numerous and powerful. Weaponry can also be salvaged from destroyed enemy turrets to augment the comparatively wimpy default laser weapon on the player’s ship.
Player deaths are frequent and unavoidable, and there is no limit to the amount of ships at your disposal. Yes that‘s right; just keep sending them down to their doom, one after the other. A veritable procession of Kamikaze pilots flying down into the killing fields to take out three or maybe four enemies before meeting their destiny and being blasted into millions of tiny pieces. The unlimited lives feature is certainly an intended and needed gameplay feature, but really subtracts from the sense of accomplishment at the end of a level.
Explosions, fire and smoke trails bring the combat to life nicely though, and watching the particles fly after yet another of my ships is wasted is pretty cool, especially when an enemy is caught in the downpour of debris and taken out of play. The background graphics are a bit plain, and all levels feature the same drab brown terrain. Sound effects are appropriately meaty, and there are no complaints here. Being able to detect off screen enemies by sound is also a handy feature and this in conjunction with the mini-map display makes navigating the maps the least of the player's worries.
After “some player feedback”, a patch to v1.02 was released that adds a crash shield, automatically deployed if the ship crashes into the walls of the level to negate a lot of the damage sustained. Trust me, you cannot even begin to appreciate how hard the game was before this. Crash shields can still be disabled through the options menu for those that like sticking rusty needles in their eyes.
There are some features of Gravity Core that I really like. Firstly, the generated campaigns are a good way to be able to replay particularly interesting missions over again. The co-op multiplayer mode also looks like a bit of fun, but sadly I could not find anyone else around that would play for more than a few minutes with me before storming off in a huff muttering that the game was just too hard. Also the inertia-based engine and the way the ship handles is fun to play with, and had me fondly remembering my days of super soft landings in Lunar Lander. (Back in THOSE days we never had 7 enemies trying to kill us while we did it!)
I’m also willing to accept, after watching the gameplay video on the game’s website, that I am certainly nowhere near the world’s best player of Gravity Core. I do know a bit about games though, and I suspect that a lot of Suisoft’s prospective customers are going to be put off by a game that is just too brutal. Try it for yourself though. The demo will let you play through an entire campaign with all features enabled aside from the random game generator. That alone could take you the best part of a week!
Keywords: gravity core review, suisoft limited reviews, suisoft limited games, gravity core scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.