Gravity Crash Hands-On

This promising PlayStation Network shooter combines funky retro visuals with arcade gameplay.

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Gravity Crash is a gorgeous-looking retro shooter, and if you're interested in shoot-'em-ups, old-school arcade pleasures, or addictive PlayStation Network games, then it's well worth taking a look at this one. Published by Sony Computer Entertainment and developed by Just Add Water, Gravity Crash has you guide a spaceship through a variety of colourful isometric environments while blasting enemies, collecting items, and eventually making your way to a wormhole that serves as each level's exit point. The course you take is always fraught with danger and will require deft piloting if you hope to advance to the next level.

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The single-player campaign offers a range of missions spread across various planets. Our preview build contained five solar systems with the first one being the aptly-named Basix. There are six planets to explore in Basix, and each one has a different mission from the last. There's plenty of variety to the objectives, and you might need to destroy several enemy fuel pods or collect gems and rescue stranded crewman, for example. At the end of each mission, you're given a score and awarded points for completing the level under par time, rescuing crewmen, collecting items, and activating nodes.

There are two control options available, with either single- or dual-analogue stick schemes to pilot your craft through the treacherous alien landscapes. The single-stick option is recommended for novices and uses the left stick to steer with thrust assigned to a face button. The dual-stick method is much the same as Geometry Wars on the Xbox 360; one stick is used for steering and thrust, while the other for shooting in your current direction. Your craft comes equipped with a shield, and there are two configurations for this too. The manual shield is activated by pressing a button and slowly recharges after a few seconds, whereas the automatic shield will automatically protect you against bumps but requires you to collect gems to recharge it. Your ship is equipped with a basic laser, as well as one of four special weapons. You can only take one into battle, but there are four to choose from, including a plasma ball, drones, an electromagnetic pulse, and a lightning storm.

While the time you're given to complete each mission might be unlimited, your fuel certainly isn't, and you need to blast energy crystals apart to collect more fuel. These are scattered across each level, but there are limited deposits and you need to make sure you collect these regularly so you don't run out of fuel. As the game's title suggests, you also have to worry about gravity's constant pull because the slightest bump against the terrain will destroy your ship. Thankfully, your shield protects you against this--as long as it still has energy. Some sections are underwater, and instead of fighting gravity, your craft's buoyancy will mean you need to watch out for rocks above you.

While exploring the far-flung reaches of space, you encounter a wide range of enemies, including enemy ships, soldiers, and installation, as well as hostile aliens. Not everything you encounter is hostile, however, and there are helpful items, such as energy crystals, switches, activation nodes, and weapon upgrades along the way. There are also artefacts and various gems to be found throughout the levels that will earn you bonus points at the end of the round. Gravity Crash includes a level editor where you can terraform terrain from scratch and insert dozens upon dozens of items, including enemy or friendly units, alien life forms, crystals, and objectives. It looks like you'll be able to share these with the PlayStation Network community in the final release, although there weren't any available at this stage.

Gravity Crash's visuals are eye-catching, and it boasts a funky isometric look, which will appeal to fans of Tron, Geometry Wars, or Darwinia. Objects glow with bright fluorescence set against the abstract backdrop of space, and this is complemented by an electronic soundtrack. There are also some cool sound effects in the game, particularly the endearing beeps and buzzes.

Gravity Crash combines a great visual style with some addictive gameplay, and we're looking forward to trying out the final game. Gravity Crash has yet to be given a firm release date, but stay tuned to GameSpot for more information as we get it.

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