Why Gravity Crash Might Be The Best Game On PSN

The longer you write for a website, the more it’s possible to outwardly display some kind of bias. This isn’t the sort of bias that occupies the minds of schoolkids (read: console fanboyism) but rather a bias for a genre, a style of aesthetics or in my case, a love of retro-inspired ideas.  Last week I met up with the guys at Just Add Water, the team hard at work on the upcoming 2D vector-based retro shooter Gravity Crash for PlayStation 3 and PSP – and came away thinking I’d just played probably the best game on the PSN so far, and those are just two of the games they’re working on with stacks of other titles hastily hidden behind a Blu-tac’d piece of laminate.

So, I can’t talk about their other projects, but I don’t need to – Gravity Crash speaks for itself.  The head honcho at their Otley-based offices is Stewart Gilray, a man who seemingly shares my passion for solid gameplay and eye popping wireframe graphics, and with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit out of the way, he passed me the controller.  For a frame of reference, Gravity Crash is a viewed-from-the-side old school shoot-em-up with a surprisingly deep mission structure and some devious mechanics.  Yes, it’s vector-based but don’t let that put you off for a second, the 1080p 60 frames per second visuals are stunning, packed with character and animate extremely well.

There are two main control schemes, the first – Stewarts preferred – is the ‘classic’ method of rotating your ship with the analog stick and ‘thrusting’ with the X button, with circle manning your guns and triangle mapped to the ship’s special weapon.  This felt immediately accessible to me, having spent considerable time with other games of this ilk on the Amiga, but Just Add Water have catered for newer gamers too with a twin-stick mechanic meaning the left stick ‘flies’ and the right stick ‘shoots’ – it feels more basic and is clearly aimed at the Geometry Wars crowd, but it’s there if you want it.  As much as I want to, I can’t go into Trophy details yet, but let’s just say you’ll certainly need to master both methods anyway.

Gravity Crash comes with five galaxies, with each galaxy containing a set number of planets within, which act as the game’s ‘levels’.  Each planet has its own set of rules for completion, be that destroying a certain number of objects or picking up a set amount of collectables, but all levels are ultimately completed by the player reaching the ‘wormhole’ once the conditions are fulfilled.  Score and time attack modes will greatly extend the already generous supply of missions, but the game truly came alive when Stewart showed by the astonishingly powerful in-game level editor, from which all the game’s existing areas are built.

Seriously, after spending just 10 minutes with this mode I questioned why Sony weren’t bundling Gravity Crash under the “Play, Create, Share” umbrella as it’s almost at the same level as the similar option in LittleBigPlanet – not only can you swiftly create great looking levels from the various pre-built sections but you can manipulate them, copy and paste and link all kinds of objects and attributes together to create impressively complex AI via a series of strings that act much like LBP”s wire system.  Want a door to open when a nearby switch is shot?  Simply drag a blue wire from one to the other.  Want the water or lava level to rise when you break through a rock?  Easy peasy.

And the best thing of all?  Your levels can be uploaded to the web, shared and rated just like those featuring Sackboy.  Of course, any game that allows user creation will be subject to ‘artist’s impressions’ of various parts of the human anatomy – a rather crude example of which is already up and running on the game’s test server – but rest assured Gravity Crash features a full grief reporting system and the ability to filter the lists so you only see your friends anyway.  I was blown away by the remarkable level editor, and although the developer’s keeping the price tag under wraps just now let’s just say I think it’ll represent excellent value for money if it stays the same as I was told.

I also got a brief demo of the game running on the PSP, and despite a slightly lower frame rate the game was just as impressive on the portable screen – everything that’s there in the PS3 version was present and correct on the PSP and although that version’s running a little behind its big brother I’ve certainly got high hopes for great success for Gravity Crash on both platforms – especially as the PSP version has its own levels to play through making both essential for completists.  Seriously, Gravity Crash is going to be great – I’m hoping to get my hands on preview code soon o I can take my time with the game and speak more about it, but even after my brief spell with the game I left Yorkshire feeling extremely bouyant about what could be the best thing on the PSN.