The promo email I received for this game touted that Gravity Runner was “Canabalt with Gravity Manipulation”. In all honesty, I think that description does a disservice to the game. The reality is that if this is to be considered just a “running game” like Canabalt, it’s one of the most complex running games I’ve played. In some respects it feels more like it wants to be a platform game, but if that’s the case it’s a little bit on the lite end of things. Whatever the case it’s an interesting, challenging and almost always fun game that will certainly give you a run for your money (see what I did there?)
Yes, your character spends a lot of time running. And yes, there are plenty of obstacles and pits for you to jump over. That’s pretty much where the similarities between Gravity Runner and most other running games end, however. First off, Gravity Runner has a set of levels, each with a definitive beginning and ending. This in and of itself is a drastic departure from the average running game. Granted you do eventually unlock an endless mode, but since that’s not provided from the moment you first play, it’s clearly not the focal point of the game. I find the level structure refreshing, though it does add a bit to the confusion of whether this is a “runner” or a “platformer”. One thing I’m especially fond of is the fact that longer levels have breakpoints, so you don’t have to start over unless your goal is to get a gold trophy (more on that later).
The next (and most obvious) difference with Gravity Runner is the manipulation of gravity. From the time you leave the ground to the time your feet return you have the option of tapping the screen again, at which point you’ll reverse the flow of gravity. Note you can only do this once during any given jump. Also keep in mind that running of the edge when you’re on the ceiling – or as we like to call it, falling – constitutes as a “jump”. That’s not a hint or anything. At any rate, the idea of gravity manipulation introduces another new concept to the running game genre: puzzles. It’s no longer sufficient simply jumping any time something is blocking your path. Where you jump to could be as deadly as where you jump from. It becomes even trickier when you’re jumping off the ceiling. This is another point that makes Gravity Runner more interesting than the average runner.
Yet another thing that sets this apart is that you’re not in constant motion. If you run into a wall, you will stop until you jump over that wall. In a normal runner this stalemate would spell your doom, because the world would scroll on past you and you wind up “out of sight, out of lives”. Then there’s the fact that you get things like springs to boost your jumping height and accelerators to temporarily boost your speed. You can even collect coins to shave some precious seconds off your total time. Are you beginning to see why I’d almost rather call this a platformer than a running game? The truth is, though, that whatever you want to call it, the game is lots of fun when you’re not pulling you hair out for missing that one particular jump for the umpteenth time. Granted for me that’s a good thing, because if pull out my hair that means I don’t have to color it.
For competitive score freaks Gravity Runner has two things going for it. The first is your base score, which simply the amount of time it takes you to complete the level. Then there are trophies you can earn which are based on the number of lives lost. If you breeze through a level on your first life you’ll get a gold trophy, 2-6 lives earns you a silver trophy, and 7-11 lives earns you a bronze (at least I believe that’s the breakdown). Anything more than that and you might as well just start the level over, unless you really don’t care about that sort of thing. The game is also OpenFeint enabled, with plenty of achievements and leader boards to go around.
Now I’m not going to try and lie here and say that Gravity Runner is as purty looking as Canabalt. Visuals were the one thing that game really had going for it in my opinion. However, there is a certain 8 bit charm to the graphics in Gravity Runner that I still really enjoy. The simple, blocky backgrounds; the dark gridlines over the foreground objects; and best of all – the over-inflated pixels that act as “particle effects” when you jump or explode after getting hit by an object. The more I play the game the more I appreciate the overall look of Gravity Runner’s world.
The sound effects have the same 8 bit vibe to them, but in this case it doesn’t work to quite the exhilarating effect. That’s okay though, because the music more than makes up for it. The tune has a great beat, and while I personally can’t dance, I’m sure you could probably get your groove on to the music if you really tried. I’ll just stick to random head bobs and the occasional closed eye sway as I listen in peace.
Now this is the point where I should have some sort of canned closer stating how it’s nice to see that some developers still know how to think outside the box. I don’t, but I’d say the last sentence pretty much sums up my feelings about the game. It’s not perfect, because quite frankly no game is, but it certainly does a good job of pretending like it is.
Overall Score: 9.5 / 10
App Store Link