Platform: PS Vita (reviewed)
Developer: Wales Interactive
Gravity Badgers joins the illustrious line of rubbish games with fantastic names. Though nowhere near as bad as the genuinely offensive Hyper Fighters, this Angry Birds clone really does the bare minimum to live up to its sensational monicker.
Seriously: Gravity Badgers. Gravity. Badgers. What a waste.
I never, ever, use the term 'clone' lightly, but I'm afraid that Gravity Badgers earns it hands-down. We find ourselves flinging badgers into outer space by virtually pulling back and dragging them across the screen, only instead of castles, they're presented with an array of physics-based obstacles. Critically, celestial bodies can either attract or repel your furry cosmonaut, deflecting their path towards the exit. Judge it right and you can pull off crazy slingshot effects; mis-cue and you'll send your badger into deep space.
This sounds great in theory, but Gravity Badgers is badly flawed on a conceptual level. See, Angry Birds works so well for numerous reasons, one of the most important being that it's instantly accessible and easy to understand. After playing with blocks, dominoes and LEGO as kids, we intuitively know how structures fall down, and what's likely to happen if we take out a wall or key support.
Conversely, you'll have no idea how much a planet will deflect your badger's trajectory by until you've actually fired the shot. Every level, every single one, boils down to trial and error as you gradually tweak your angle again and again and again until finding the perfect sweet spot. Then just sit back, bored, as your badger does a balletic dance beyond your control. 'Tedious' is an understatement, especially since the hateful looping soundtrack and tiny recycled pool of art assets does little to keep you sane.
This wouldn't be so bad if Gravity Badgers wasn't based on a scoring system that PUNISHES trial and error. Even though the overwhelming majority of missions require to you bodge your way towards a perfect angle and speed over multiple shots, you're penalised for each miss and then forced to restart after three botched attempts. Even though trial and error is literally the only way to complete the game! With the exception of some of the more complex arrangements of pipes and tubes, which are often unintentionally facile, since you'll just look for an obvious opening to blast into and let the game take care of the rest.
Production values are hit and miss. As mentioned, the crisp and attractive visuals are wasted on a bare minimum of backdrops and sprites, which you'll see copy/pasted ad nauseam. A single musica track loops and never hits the awesome heights of the Saturday cartoon title screen. A wild camera sometimes doesn't give you enough room to fully take your shot, while the interface is horribly confusing and poorly laid-out.
At least there are a few vaguely amusing badger puns in here, though, that is if you class replacing a word in a well-known film with 'badger' as a bona fide pun.
There's certainly a lot of Gravity Badgers. 140 stages in all, not including a few bonus levels thrown into the mix. But it all blurs into a single boring homogeneous blob, with little variation between worlds and stages since the opening tutorial front-loads ever single mechanic in the entire game. Boss fights could have broken up the tedium, but it does the opposite, as they simply involve dodging firepower and waiting for the boss to... randomly explode?
They say you can have too much of a good thing. There's definitely too much of Gravity Badgers.
- Crisp artwork
- Great title screen
- A few interesting levels based on time challenges and 'ice cubes'
- Tedious and confusing trial & error gameplay...
- ...with an inappropriate scoring system
- Painfully recycled assets and music
The Short Version: I hope that Gravity Badgers isn't trademarked, because it deserves a better game.