Friday, September 2, 2011

QUICK REVIEW- Defy Gravity Extended

This whole 'class' and 'homework' business really gets in the way of keeping up a regular posting schedule, clearly a sign that I need to learn to write faster. The game for today is a small indie game called Defy Gravity (the extended version recently released on Steam).

Defy Gravity is somewhat lacking in the story department, scraping together a simple premise to get the player started. As a small indie game, the graphics are also somewhat lackluster, but chances are that if you're playing this game, you aren't doing it for the eye candy. I would like to note one minor gripe in that there was no option for me to switch from fullscreen to windowed mode, which I prefer. I don't remember what the music sounds like. However, I believe that although some games can be carried by their story alone, generally gameplay is king when it comes to judging quality, and Defy Gravity makes it clear why that is true.

Despite the poor story and presentation, Defy Gravity takes a simple premise and makes it shine. Your character possesses a gun that can shoot gravity and anti-gravity wells (that happen to be colored blue and orange), and must use these abilities to navigate through a series of treacherous chambers. Click and hold the mouse button to fire a beam towards your mouse cursor, and release the mouse button to make the well manifest at the beam's location. You can shoot unlimited wells while on the ground, but can only shoot off around 3 wells of each type while in mid-air before you have to land again, which provides a reasonable limit on the power of the gravity gun. At the press of a button, you can also make yourself immune to the effects of a gravity field, useful for when you accidentally fall into the middle of a gravity well and need to get out.
The game autosaves a checkpoint whenever you are standing upon solid ground, which is good because you will die extremely frequently. Environmental hazards and enemies kill you at the slightest brush and some of them can be affected by your gravity wells, which often results in numerous objects bouncing around on hard to predict trajectories. Some levels auto-scroll and force the player to scramble around well placed environmental hazards, while others remove solid ground and have the player guide a floating platform with the gravity wells, providing a good variety of level types for the player to conquer. All in all, the gameplay is very strong, and definitely makes up for the game's other shortcomings, for the most part.

I say 'for the most part' in that previous sentence because the biggest problem I have with Defy Gravity is the difficulty, which in games like this is directly tied to the level design. Things ramps up significantly after the halfway point, and unfortunately some of the later levels become an exercise in frustration rather than actual skill. I'm typically quite stubborn when it comes to playing things to completion, and if I stop playing a game I like, it's usually because I've started another one or half dozen or so, not because I gave up on it. Also, as I've said before, I don't have anything against hard games, and the Witcher 2 and Super Meat Boy are just a few of the more difficult games that I've greatly enjoyed. However, in Defy Gravity, I reached a point where respawning on the same patch of ground hundreds of times just became unbearable and I stopped playing.
Defy Gravity has extremely solid gravity based gameplay, but the level design in later levels causes the game to become infuriatingly difficult, which ultimately extinguished my enjoyment of the game. In the end, I still recommend Defy Gravity as a cheap and fun puzzle platformer to spend a few hours on, just know what you're getting into.

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