iPhone Life magazine

Review: Graviton from Chillingo

 There’s something to be said for those games where you basically fly through tunnels trying not to hit the walls. That something is for the most part that if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. Then along comes Graviton to take that theory, shatter it to pieces, and leave it floating in a huge pool of lava. From the fact that you have an object besides your ship to protect to the realization that every level is filled to the brim with delicately timed situations and intricate puzzles, you’ll soon understand that Graviton is not your mother’s iCopter clone. Not only am I thankful for that, but I’m grateful that the developers have taken such a base concept and made such an incredible game out of it.

At its basic level, Graviton feels like it took some inspiration from games like Copter and other tunnel flying fare. However, that’s only the beginning of what Graviton really is. Sure you must fly through tunnels while trying to avoid hitting any surfaces. Unlike most games of this ilk, though, the tunnels in Graviton are not randomly generated. Every twist and turn serves a purpose, whether it’s to help you progress or keep you from attaining your ultimate goal. In Graviton you’re not only responsible for yourself, but at or near the beginning of each level you must pick up a ball and transport it to the end of the level. The ball has a health meter as well, and should either yours or its completely empty you must start the level over.
Don’t be worried that this will be a simple matter of avoiding the walls and flying to the end of each level. No sir. The developers have thrown in a number of obstacles to try and keep you from getting that ball to its final resting place on each level. It starts out simple, with things like magnets that attract the ball and bursts of flame that might singe it a bit. Then you get into the pits of bubbling acid, or the big spinning cogs that you have to pass through without getting hit. There’s even a level where you have to race against rising lava… but then I think I’ve said too much. The game even has some puzzles in it, but I’ll leave those for you to discover. After all, that’s half the fun of a game like this.
The controls are pretty easy. You use the accelerometer to move, and aside from a few tight spots where it would be nice to have finer control, this actually works pretty well. There’s a cord hanging from your ship that you use to grab the ball, and the ball will be automatically picked up when the cord touches it. To release the ball you simply click your ship. Some of the puzzles require you to interact with the environment, and this is done by running into whatever needs to be interacted with. Don’t be alarmed, though – if you’re meant to interact with something, you won’t lose health when you run into it. Finally, you have a “burst” meter that allows you to travel much faster for a couple of seconds. To activate this, press the edge of the screen for the direction you wish to travel. When the meter is empty you will resume traveling normal speed. The meter will fill up over time as well.
My biggest complaint with Graviton is the length of the game: its way too short. I know there are three difficulty levels, but I’m the type of guy that doesn’t really care to revisit a level just because it’s harder than it was the first time. What little time I spend on gaming I like to spend on fresh content. Now, there might be some exceptions to this rule (games where a level takes just a minute or two, for example), but in a game where the average play time of a level is around 8 minutes, I won’t be play them over and over again. Since it’s obvious that the levels don’t use some cookie-cutter level editor I wouldn’t expect 50 or 60 levels, but at least ten would have been nice (there are currently five).
Just Like Clockwork
There’s no real explanation as to why you’re transporting this ball around or what happened to the world you live in, but graphically the game does an excellent job of presenting a desolate, war torn atmosphere. This is especially evident in the levels that are more city focused than rocky / molten lava type surroundings. While everything is nicely detailed, I especially love the backgrounds in the city levels. I also like the little touches like seeing a ship that looks a lot like yours lying in a pit of lava (your predecessor, maybe?) I think 2D suited this game quite well, but based on the fly-by movie at the end of the game, a 3D implementation for something like a sequel would look really cool as well.
The sound effects work rather nicely in Graviton. From the pulsating energy as the magnet tries to suck the ball away to the grinding of your ship against steal walls, everything sounds gritty and realistic. The music is rather enjoyable and fits the mood perfectly. It almost sounds like something you’d hear playing in the background during an episode of Fringe or some other sci-fi “weird things among us” type show. I just wish there were more than one track, but I’ll take some music over nothing.
What Graviton does it does quite well. The game looks and sounds good, and the unique combination of puzzle solving and “avoid the walls” is much more intriguing than the usual iCopter style game. The addition of the ball as your ultimate goal, a damageable object and part of some puzzles was inspired as well. I just wish there was something more to the game. I’m not normally one to gripe too much about length, but I was really getting into this game when all of a sudden it just stopped. Please give us more, Chillingo!

Overall Score: 7/10
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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.