Overall Score 84%
Defy Gravity is a bit of a misnomer, since the object of this game is not to defy gravity per se, but instead to manipulate it to the will of the player. I first remember seeing the concept used in a remake of an old C-64 game that I never played. The original game was a shooter called “GridRunner” and the remake that I played was “GridRunner Revolution”. Despite being released to rave reviews, I thought it was all a bit over hyped, but one feature that I really liked was the ability for players to use the gravity fields around stars to make more interesting bending shots at the enemy and increase the score multiplier. Defy Gravity takes the same concept and applies it to a standard platformer, but the results here are a game that is a lot more interesting and playable that GridRunner was.
So, the player character is controlled using the WASD keys for movement and space to jump. They navigate lots of 2-D levels by jumping from platform to platform, avoiding enemies along the way and solving some simple logic puzzles as well, with the overall goal of getting to the door at the end of each level. But even equipped with a small jetpack that allows a kind of “double jump” and that recharges very quickly, there are some obstacles that are simply too much of a challenge to clear without the use of the most interesting tool in the game – the Gravity Well Gun.
The gun is aimed by mouse at any point on the screen and limited only by line of sight from the player character. Left click emits a blue charge from the gun that moves somewhat slowly in a straight line towards the point at which it was aimed. Wherever the bolt is, when the player releases the mouse button, a blue gravity well is created at that point. Similarly, a right click creates an anti-gravity well, which is a yellowish colour. On each level the player is affected by a normal Earth-like gravity force that cannot be manipulated at all, but by placing localised gravity and anti gravity wells on the level the player can accomplish feats of aerobatic skill to progress through the game. The amount of shots that the gun can fire is essentially unlimited, but the player must land on a platform in order for the gun to recharge. On one charge the gun can only fire 2 of each type of well.
Some elements of the game world (easily discerned by their golden colour) are also affected by the player's gravity wells, but most are not. Even the player can make themselves immune to the effect of the gravity wells by using their Gravity Shield. The shield never runs out of power and lasts as long as the player has it switched on. In many cases the use of the shield is helpful to progressing, and on some levels it is also stuck on, and this forces the player to approach these levels in slightly different mindset, which is great for the gameplay.
Overall, I found the variety and number of puzzles to be a bit lean. A player that is adept at platformers will have no trouble knocking the game over in a hour or so. Without giving too much away (there's a bit of a trick to it), the player can also engage a “hard” mode of the game after completing all of the levels in normal mode. But this hard mode is only hard because a certain couple of elements of the gameplay (that contribute to just how fun and addictive this game is to play) have been stripped back. And hard it is. Brutally so. I'm not ashamed to say that I didn't progress far past the first few levels. Power gamers might get a bit more out of it than I did, and if you're the kind of player that enjoys playing the same ridiculously hard level 50 times over in “Super Meat Boy” to attain that perfect run, then hard mode might just float your boat. I think that the game would benefit from a few more challenge levels at the end of normal mode that use all of the game concepts.
The level structure is linear, and there are no user created saved games allowed. The player is allowed to continue from wherever they ended their last play session from an autosave slot. There is no multiple user profile support. The game is rarely frustrating since the player has an infinite amount of lives to experiment with different tactics, and every level has a hidden save point after nearly every major challenge. In effect, this means that once you have cleared a challenge, you will not need to mindlessly repeat it over and over. There a just a few points in the game where I did get stuck for a while, but generally a 5 minute break and a breath of fresh air is all it took to overcome. The downside to this kind of setup is, of course, that particularly fun or challenging levels cannot be replayed whenever the player desires. If a new game is started, auto-saved progress is wiped clean.
Without achieving audio or visual excellence, the sound and graphics are well done. They are certainly good enough not to detract from the fun and addictive nature of the gameplay and the puzzles. The colour palettes are nicely subdued, and the soothing background tracks are rotated and rarely seem repetitive. Completely in contrast to the finesse and cerebral approach that the game encourages and rewards, the player character model bursts apart, ragdoll style upon death, body parts flying here, there and everywhere. It's oddly satisfying in any case.
Defy Gravity boats some great gameplay involving some rather unique concepts and fairly good level design. I really enjoyed it and found it difficult to put down until I somewhat unexpectedly and despondently found myself at the end of the game. The hard mode was not nearly as much fun as the original levels, and I just found myself wanting more. Still at a mere $5 you're missing out if you don't play this game. It comes highly recommended!
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