It has been a fair long wait until any thrust-like titles have shown up on consoles, but that is all going to change thanks to two such titles releasing within a week of each other! Gravity Crash made it out of the starting blocks first with their Geometry Wars looking thrust-em-up; so let’s jump onboard and see what it has to offer.
Firing up the Single Player mode lets you either warm up in Pilot Training, which covers all the necessary gameplay and controls before starting a new Campaign Mode or you can choose to tackle previously unlocked terrains in Planet Mode. If you’ve ‘been there and done that’ you can try out some user-generated content by selecting User Levels, but more on that later.
In the Campaign Mode you follow through a fairly shallow storyline of a lone janitor droid, located in a quiet and lonely mining station. That silence soon ends when a red light starts flashing and the droid is dumped into the controls of a small space ship. There has been a mess of galactic proportions and it is the droid’s mission to clean it up. Rigged with a remote detonator, the droid has no choice but to obey it orders, and with that our quirky droid is taken to the first solar system of planets to follow its series of missions. After this point the story fizzles away, as you are simply ordered to collect gems and destroy enemy stockpiles, but for what reason you are not told. So, shallow plots aside, lets push on.
Controlling your craft can be done in two ways. Classic controls have you rotating your craft with the D-Pad (or left stick) and your thrust and fire is triggered with the press of a face or trigger button (think of Asteroids and you will get the idea). Alternatively we have the more modern Dual-Stick controls, which does just that; left stick to thrust in any direction you like and the right stick to point and fire your ship’s turret. I found the Dual-Stick option much easier to get to grips with, navigating deep caverns with ease in no time.
Your ship also has a shield in which it can take a number of hits from the enemy or should you bash into the walls of the level. Again you have two choices here – Manual or Automatic. Manual slowly recharges its state but has to be manually triggered on and off, whilst the Automatic shields activate automatically but needs energy crystals that are dotted around the level to recharge. I always chose Automatic here, as there is nothing worse than forgetting to trigger your shields at the right time, and the crystals available in each of the levels are pretty frequent (at least early on in the levels).
Lastly there are a selection of special weapons to choose from in your campaign. These range from plasma balls, homing drones, EMP blasts (to temporarily disable your enemies) or a lighting strike. Each special weapon has its merits and prime uses throughout each level, so it is best to play around and stick with the one that best suits your style of play.
Each level consists of a number of set tasks that range from collecting certain coloured gems to destroying particular enemy installations. Once your task has been achieved a wormhole will open which is your cue to exit out of the level. If you are a high-score whore then there are additional things you can do, such as completing the level in the quickest time possible, to rescuing crewmen and activating nodes for those extra bonus points. These extras are not crucial to your campaign progression; they are just purely for bragging rights, leaderboard ranking and a path to the odd trophy.
Each level resembles a planet located in the five different solar systems on the Galactic Map. With six planets to each solar system there’s enough gameplay here to last you a few hours, however this is mostly dependant on whether you follow your tasks only, or go that step further for high-score domination. The game starts off well, but after the first few solar systems everything starts to become a little too similar to each other. The Geometry Wars-like art direction doesn’t help with this either, as each planet looks the same, albeit with a different background. So in short, things start to become a little repetitive on the eyes very quickly. Sadly the same can be said for the ears also, given the music tends to grind a bit too; I was disappointed to see that you couldn’t play your own tracks whilst in-game.
Once the main campaign has been exhausted you can turn to the game’s multiplayer modes. From here you can select from Deathmatch, Salvage and Race between three other local buddies. Each mode can be tweaked to suite your multiplayer session; from the number of kills in Deathmatch, the amount of points to collect in Salvage, to the number of Laps in a Race. The three modes maybe a little limited for some people, but there is enough to wet the appetite should you whisk up a few stray buddies who are up for the challenge.
The most rewarding feature in Gravity Crash is its Editor section. Using a fairly simple tool interface you can cut and mould your very own level. A set of land shapes are selectable to cut into the canvas, moulding the land before your very eyes. Then with a tap of L1 you can switch to objects, whether it be a enemy or friendly, power-up or mechanic, everything is available here from the single player campaign. Once created you can test and share your masterpiece with the rest of the community. This all sounds great, but in practice I came across a few bugs and crashes whilst making my level, and when published I had no clear indication whether it was successful or not.
Gravity Crash stands fairly well on its own, however it was a wise move to have gotten off the blocks first before the more refined and far more enjoyable PixelJunk Shooter arrived. Granted it does have the editor to lengthen its lifespan over its competitor, but unless you are up for putting the hours into using a slightly buggy editor, or playing some less desirable community levels, then your money is best put towards PixelJunk’s finest.