Indie Game Gems: Mr. Gravity

The Indie Game Gems feature will focus on the hidden treasures that can be found on your XBox 360 for just one dollar.  For those that don’t look up from the latest Call of Duty long enough to notice, XBox Live Indie Games contains a massive amount of games created mostly by smaller studios and downloaded for very little money.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

This section will sort through the heavily stocked shelves of XBox Live Indie Games to find the hidden gems that will provide fun well worth the low prices.

We start this regular feature with Mr. Gravity, a game developed by students at the University of Utah and released last spring.  The object of the game is to help a happy little fellow named Mr. Gravity traverse through a maze and reach his bride Mrs. Gravity, who is patiently waiting somewhere else in the maze.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

Along the way, Mr. Gravity must use the power of gravity he holds to cling to walls and avoid spikes and obstacles.  He also must collect as many gems as possible along the way, though he can complete a level without doing so.  Once he reaches his smiley wife at the end of the maze the level ends.

Mr. Gravity nails the feel of some of the earliest days of video gaming.  The concept sounds simple enough and seems easy enough at first glance, yet is difficult to master.  It doesn’t take long for the game to become quite challenging yet still manages to find a perfect balance that allows it to frustrate you just enough to make you keep trying again rather than turn it off.  I felt reminded of what hooked me on the original Lode Runner on my oldCommodore 64 in the 1980s on some of the upper levels of Mr. Gravity, as the more frustrated I grew each time a narrow move saw me crash into a spike the more I wanted to beat the dang level because I felt I could.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

At the end of each level the player is awarded stars based on their performance in the areas of gem collection, speed of completion and how many lives were needed to get to the end.  You need certain amounts of stars to unlock later worlds, giving the player a reason to go back to earlier levels again and play them in different manners in order to obtain them.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

The graphics for a game like this don’t need to be complex yet don’t need to be too simple, and Mr. Gravity nails this aspect to.  The fairly simple graphics are given a color vector look and glow, reminiscent of classics such as Tempest and more modern hits such as Geometry Wars.  Both characters in the game change facial expressions based on what is going on in the level with a simple yet fun charm.  The background music is excellent, especially for an indie game, and adds a great extra element for the player while attempting difficult moves.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

Mr. Gravity is well worth the price of 80 Microsoft points (or $1.00 in human talk) and far more.  It manages to bring several original and uncommon puzzle game aspects together to make a challenging yet addicting puzzler with far more replay value than most puzzle games from far bigger game studios.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxKvdyzP8XI[/youtube]

Please share this article with your friends before trying the game for yourself or you might not be back on the internet for quite some time.  You can download the game from the XBox website by clicking here.

Patrick Scott Patterson has been a gamer since 1981, acting as a writer, technician and world record holder on several game titles. He has appeared numerous times in the yearly editions of Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition. In addition to writing here, Patterson has also written for Yahoo!, Twin Galaxies, VGEVO and Gameroom Magazine, and is always looking for unique and positive news to report from the video gaming world.

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

Geometry Wars in game screenshot
Geometry Wars in game screenshot

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“The return and revenge of classic arcade games.”

 

 

Overall Score:

10 out of 10

 

Overview:

Back in the 80s, people would usually flock to arcades to see what new hard arcade games would come out and they would try to see who could get the highest score in their neighborhood. Arcade games were really hard back then since they were designed for you to keep dropping in quarters in order to keep playing in order to try to beat your friends’ scores. Continues? Never heard of that! Those days are gone but now thanks to games like this one, the challenge from those games has returned.

This game needs no storyline.You’re a spaceship/triangle and you’re trying to survive for as long as you can. You move around and shoot with endless enemies coming for you at all times. If anything touches you, you die. It’s that simple. After 10000 points, your fire modes alternate from rapid fire to a more concentrated but slower attack. You have no control over this. The only special thing that can save you when you’re really screwed is the nukes you get, in limited numbers. The game awards you with extra lives, nukes when you reach a specific score point (and multiples of that score amount).

The longer you live and the more/faster you kill, the higher your score multiplier will be. When you die, you lose a life and ALL your score multiplier. Basically, try to never die because as you have a high multiplier if you are really good you will reach a point where if you manage to stay alive you will get a 1-up/nuke much faster, but most people will not get to see that point in the game.

There are different kinds of enemies each with their own attack style pattern. The most basic enemy, a star just comes at you in a linear path, so they’re usually easy to dispatch. There is a diamond shape one that does about the same only that they spawn in groups. There is a green square cowardly one that will stay away from whatever direction you’re shooting in, will try to go around you to tag (kill) you. There is a pink one that when you kill will spawn two smaller enemies that will go kamikaze for you in a circular pattern. You have a snake one (I call them sperm) that you can only kill by shooting the head off. There is a black hole enemy that eats other enemies and also draws you in via gravity, but the best attack is also has is spitting out really fast seeker enemies when it ate until it burst. There is also a red version of you enemy that tries to ram you and has a forward facing shield (forcing you to trick it and shoot it in the back). The deadliest enemy is the smallest, taking form in a pack of “snow” that you have to shoot endlessly to try to hold back.

Geometry Wars is available for PC, Xbox 360, and also for Nintendo Wii and DS.

Fun Factor:

This game is really unforgiving. Enemies constantly keep spawning, sometimes on top of you, so that you need to keep moving at all times and alert every single second. Usually, the faster you kill enemies the faster you will have to deal with the next wave of enemies. Later on, the game will spawn more than one batch at a time, usually of different kinds of enemies that complement each other.

Here is an example of how insane this game is and how ridiculous the gameplay and your nerves will get:

The game is a pure adrenaline injection into your heart. Fun Factor is a 10 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

This game is really hard for 99.9% of all people. The longer you play Geometry Wars, the harder it gets, no matter what. You are doomed from the start as the game has no end until you run out of lives. The difficulty is simple for about the first 2-3 minutes and then you will start to see it grow at a geometric rate.

This is not a game for a casual gamer, but then again hard arcade games aren’t either. If you’re like me and like hard game, this game is going to be a favorite. You can’t change the difficulty… the game does it for you! Difficulty Versatility gets a 10 out of 10.

Value:

For the Xbox 360, you can just get it from the Xbox Marketplace for a few dollars. For the PC, the game costs $4 via Steam. The link to get Geometry Wars via Steam is the following: http://store.steampowered.com/app/8400/

Considering how challenging and fun this game is, the game is of great Value. If you are a fan of classic arcade games and MAME, you need it. Value gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Replayability:

Literally, this is a game I play every day, myself.

This game is part of my daily routine of games, when I feel like training myself to build up more/better reflexes. I would usually turn on my computer and play this game until I would reach a minimum high score that I set for myself based on how recent I’ve been playing the game. As soon as I reach that score I let myself go play some other games. It’s part of my gaming “exercise.”

If you get mad at it or sick of it, you can always put it down and come back to it weeks or months later and the charm of the game always returns. Replayability gets a 10 out of 10 from me.

Sound:

All the sound effects are reminiscent of classic 80s arcade games such as Warlords or Sinistar. There are many zapping and electronic kind of sounds that will put a smile on an old gamer’s face. The rapid fire upgrade and the black hole enemy blowing up, as well as the nuke going off are particularly gratifying. Sound gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Music:

The game has a menu song which is pretty relaxing and an in game song that sounds like a mix of early Sega, Nintendo NES, and Amiga game music. Although you will hear this song over and over, it does not get boring or annoying. It fits the theme of the game really well and it will keep your adrenaline in synch with the action, especially if you set the volume of your speakers/headphones up really loud. The action sometimes drowns the music. Music gets a score of 8 out of 10, simply because of the limited selection of music.

Graphics:

Graphically, this game is like a remix of all those retro 80s arcade games you grew up playing. The game is such amazing eye candy that it makes one glad that small games like this are being released, bringing back the spirit of the original arcade, despite the fact that many original arcade games only had rudimentary graphics. “Retro Evolved” … the subtitle was chosen correctly as this is a rebirth/return of the classics.

You shoot enemies and they shatter into a thousand micro pixel vectors. There are so many things on the screen and they all look familiar in a good way (although they all kill y0u in one hit). The game gives one the feeling of holding down the fire buttons just to watch a stream of volleys shatter a cluster of enemies. Graphics get a 1o out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

I used to have an issue with this game and my old graphics card (an ATI 1950 Pro) where it would run out of video memory and freeze up the computer forcing me to reset the whole thing. On my newer gaming PC I’ve pretty much never had this problem, although I remember it might have done it once or twice. Other than that, the game is pretty solid. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 6 out of 10, mainly of how bad the crashes were on some older video cards/systems. The Xbox 360 version has no problems.

Controls:

The controls are really simple. Half your keyboard/game pad moves you around in the obvious direction, the other half makes you shoot in that direction. The only other button you need is the nuke, which is the spacebar for the PC version. ESC key pauses whenever you want.

Combos or special moves aren’t going to keep you alive in this game. Only tactics and pure skill really do make a difference. Controls get a 10 out of 10.

Performance:

This game runs fine on most computers. I’ve seen it lag on some machines that are not necessarily the fastest gaming machines but you’d imagine it would still run fine since it’s a 2D game. The game though does have a lot of action going on at all times. The Xbox version runs perfectly. Overall, Performance gets a score of 8 out of 10.

My history with this game:

I kept hearing about this game from Xbox 360 players, saying how good it is. I decided to pick up the PC version for a few bucks and it was a really good decision.

When I first got Geometry Wars I basically spent 3 days doing nothing but playing it non-stop until my hands hurt. As I said before, I usually play this game daily. It usually can wake me up even more than drinking 2-3 cups of cafe con leche.

There is a sequel for this game and it looks amazing but I don’t yet have an xbox 360. If I get to play it or get my hands on one of those consoles, I can assure you I will get it and review it for you.