Developer Just Add Water, who is coming off an extremely strong reboot with Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, has been tasked with revamping 2009’s Gravity Crash and porting it to the PlayStation Vita under the moniker Gravity Crash Ultra. Now it’s time to see if JAW can work their magic again and give Sony’s handheld another solid title to download.
There are three control options available: anti-grav, dual stick and classic. The first two sound very similar, mapping movement to the left stick and firing to the right, but anti-grav negates the effects of gravity, making the game far easier. Classic, meanwhile, utilizes the left stick only to rotate the ship, while the right trigger is used to fire your thrusters. That leaves the face buttons to shoot standard and special weapons. With anti-grav diminishing the difficulty considerably, and classic making maneuvering a real chore, I’d recommend going with dual stick for the proper balance.
That being said, none of the setups offer crisp, responsive handling. In fact, much of the game’s challenge stems from you trying to move your craft through tight spots or dodge incoming projectiles. Momentum is a huge factor here, and moving the left stick is actually rotating your ship and then sending little boosts to propel you in a given direction. It takes a little while to get the hang of, and at no point does it become easy to pilot.
Visually, Gravity Crash Ultra features a lot of rudimentary objects and landscapes, but it blends that with a very appealing use of colors that stand out amid the simplicity. Easily the highlight of this is the particle effects that occur when boosting — a blue mist emanates from your ship — or blasting enemies into colorful explosions. While the sound effects and music are nothing special, at least they never get in the way or become grating to listen to.
Although each mission has a small textual briefing, there is no story to speak of, leaving the campaign mode a collection of 30 unrelated jaunts through enemy territory. They all play out the same, too, as you’ll simply need to complete the primary objective to open a worm hole that allows you to move on to the next planet. The final planet in each system features a boss fight. Defeat it and you’re on to the next system for more space shooting.
It definitely has its moments, and the levels have plenty of other goodies (gems, artifacts, etc.) to hunt around for. Where Gravity Crash Ultra runs into major problems, however, is when its arcade roots come face to face with the reality of it being a one-time purchase. Instead of having to insert another quarter, you simply continue from where you died. The lone cost: your level score resets. And the only way in which your score matters is in the online leaderboards.
With no consequence of substance for failure, the game loses any sense of urgency. You just sort of putter around, shooting enemies and trying to navigate increasingly elaborate mazes of tunnels. That’s fine in five- or even 10-minute bursts, but since there appears to be no way to open the tiny map in the corner of the screen (and thus no way to plan a route) you can find yourself flying around aimlessly trying to figure out where that last target is hiding.
Upon completing a level in campaign, you can replay it in Planet mode to try to clear the target time or track down any items you missed the first time around. The most important would be the artifacts, as collecting all five in a system unlocks a hidden level. Beyond that, however, there’s no incentive to come back with no options to upgrade your ship or different takes on the combat.
In many ways, Gravity Crash Ultra is a game stuck between two eras, offering an old-school setup but without the accompanying challenge to make playing compelling. Priced at $8.99, it’s cheap enough to justify a look, though it doesn’t match up against games like PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate or Super Stardust Delta.