Published on February 9th, 2011 | by Ken Yarbrough, Editor
Defy Gravity: Xbox Indie Review
It isn’t very often that a game comes across my desk that exceeds my expectations. Hell, it isn’t very often that a game even meets my expectations. That’s why it is with great pleasure that I present to you, my review, of Defy Gravity.
At the risk of offending young independent developers, most of the titles available through Xbox Live’s Indie games program have a tendency to be–gimmicky. Cheap thrills and “turn-your-controller-into-a-massager” games generally don’t hold my interest. When I was asked to review Defy Gravity, a game from Fish Factory Games, I just assumed I was in for another boring night. Boy, was I wrong.
Defy Gravity follows the story of a female protagonist by the name of Kara. Kara has stumbled upon an ancient alien monument that could be the only way to save her race. That’s about all the story you’ll need for this gem, however, as it’s the gameplay that truly shines.
Following in the footsteps of 2D puzzle platformers like N+, your primary goal is to guide Kara through short but clever stages. The difference, however, is in how you reach each stages exit. Kara is equipped with a gun that can fire pockets of either Gravity, or Anti Gravity.
On the surface, the gameplay is fairly simple, but the inclusion of this mechanic adds a unique complexity to the puzzle solving. Firing a gravity well will pull Kara, and certain enemies and objects towards it. Firing an anti-well does the opposite, pushing Kara away. Kara also has access to the now-standard double jump, in the form of a jetpack which recharges, allowing her to “re-double jump” without hitting the ground in some instances.
The goal of any given stage is to guide Kara to an elevator at the end. The first few stages are easy enough, simply offering a few jumps that are too high, and no real danger of failure. These stages allow you to learn the controls quickly while preparing you for the much more difficult stages later to come. Placing an anti-well and then jumping over it will effectively give you a double jump, without having to activate your jetpack. This will end up being your primary form of movement through most of the game. Soon you will find yourself having to traverse a ground that is protected by deadly lasers. Use of the anti-well will allow you to make much longer, and much higher jumps than your standard jetpack will. Add in the need to place gravity wells to suspend yourself, and you quickly have a complex means of moving throughout the games many stages.
While most of the games levels are reasonably short, the complexity is heightened with the inclusion of “enemies”. I use the term “enemies” loosely, as they don’t actively pursue the player so much as they serve to get in the way. That being said, they do add an element to the gameplay. Some of these “enemies” can be manipulated by the wells, pushing them or pulling them to more advantageous areas for the player. There are also platforms and other obstacles that can be manipulated in the same way. The real core of the game, however, lies in ones ability to place the wells in the appropriate places to traverse the stage. Much like in Valve’s Portal, angles greatly come into play when placing the wells, and a bit of trial and error yields results without ever feeling too frustrating.
Graphically, Defy Gravity fits in quite nicely with other games of it’s ilk. Beautiful spatial backdrops never do anything to distract the player, and though the game is simplistic, it’s not necessary for high-level detail in a game such as this. My only real complaint comes from the character herself. Her design is fine, but her animations are a little stiff, though again, it never detracted from the gameplay.
The music is a peaceful melody being played on piano, that really does resonate with the idea that you are in space. The sound effects are also very minimal, with each type of well sharing the same sound, and only the sounds of “dying” and jumping differing. That being said, sometimes less is definitely more, and I had no complaints with the sound in my time playing.
The greatest measure of a game shouldn’t come from it’s sound quality, or it’s graphical fidelity, but rather it’s gameplay. Defy Gravity, while similar to other puzzle platformers, brings enough uniqueness to the table with it’s gravity/anti-gravity system to make it worth playing. While the game is fairly barebones in it’s presentation (there are no leaderboards or level selector present), it is an enjoyable experience from start to finish. Available for a mere 80 Microsoft Points doesn’t hurt either. The game is simple enough that just about anyone can pick it up and enjoy it, but the later levels do become quite a bit challenging, forcing lateral thought that isn’t as present in other games of the genre.
Defy Gravity is also available for the PC at www.defygravitygame.com, though it is a little more expensive going this route.
+ Unique gameplay using gravity
+ Simplistic, yet challenging stages
– Stiff character animations
– Little enemy variation