You’re in luck: Gravity Runner is currently available as a playable demo during the Steam Next Fest, and ‘your boy here’ (the first and last time I’ll ever use that) has given it a run and records his critique here.
Having the word ‘gravity’ in the title would insinuate that it might be a physics game, and it’s this uncanny perceptive skill that makes you your parents’ favourite child. Gravity doesn’t like you any more than you like it and will do its utmost to pull you into a neon vector pool of 80s nostalgia if you aren’t careful in this 3D platformer/runner.
The objective is simple: outrun a black hole that keeps on doublin’, intent on swallowing you up whole. There’s no pressure to save humanity – they can get stuffed. Instead, you have to get through a floaty assault cause, dropping down into a vortex, a.k.a. your safety net.
Gravity Runner Review
That’s as complicated as it gets as we pour our total concentration into the gameplay, and rightly so. Playing as an astronaut that looks like a lean Big Daddy from BioShock and having the aerial grace of Tony Hawk without a skateboard – in space, you have to jump from platform to platform without being devoured by nothing or falling to your death into the pile of VHS tapes.
Gravity Runner looks like a bit of a stereotype view of the 80s – one that’s been created by folk who didn’t live in the 80s. Still, after your eyes adjust to the bright neon shapes and endless horizon, it remains in cruise control for its duration, not going all out or gimmicky. What I mean is: it’s consistently good – even if the rotational flips made me a little giddy.
The animation of your runner/jumper is good, but I have mixed feelings about the jumping element. It’s not floaty in the sense of bad design, but it is floaty as it’s physics-related. Don’t worry; you don’t need to be good at science to understand, but you need to know that you can’t add much aftertouch after committing to a jump. This was one of the reasons I compared it to Tony Hawk without a skateboard, as you hang a bit in the air but can’t do tricks.
Jump, Magic Jump
This isn’t a bad thing per se, but it might take some getting used to. As stated, the black hole will gobble you up, and if you keep falling, you’ll have to restart the segment again. Death is not the end, though, as Gravity Runner isn’t that sort of game, but point scoring is a factor as the longer you run without dying, and also collecting the numerous VHS tapes on offer, you’ll be able to show off with a hi-score.
VHS tapes aren’t just for hoarders wanting to relive the glory days as they temporarily grant the notorious double jump. I can’t stress just how useful this is to obtain. Besides the incentive for achievement hunters by collecting them all, they’re great for tweaking a jump as it’s easy to make a mistake or jump on a platform that either tips or gives way. The double jump will carry you to safety, as long as you keep the momentum up in collecting them.
With that in perspective, I felt compelled to steam through the levels and then come back to collect the tapes. If you fall off a platform, the tapes reset, and you have to collect them again. Perfection is key. No, what I’d rather do is get to the end, then jump straight into the chapter selection to pick off each stage. That’s my Gravity Runner tips section – as brief as it is.
Without any narrative to speak of or extra features to delve into, you get what you see in the trailers. In the context of this being a physics-based platform game with eye-popping visuals, an excellent soundtrack that I’d happily listen to while I write these reviews, Gravity Runner from Two Dog Games is a fantastic indie game worth checking out. Just be forewarned about the jumping and associated aftertouch – once you jump that hurdle, it’s much more enjoyable.
Get it while it’s hot: a Gravity Runner playable demo is available now until the 7th of October, but note that the devs said it’d be removed after that.