David is a proudly queer performing artist and software developer. He spends most of his downtime with a controller in his hands and a lazy beagle on his lap.
Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
February 19, 2021
Studica Solution, Electric Monkeys
In a futuristic world where robots have broken the tenuous peace treaty between humans and the synthetic, only the talented Gravity Heroes stand against total annihilation. A task force perfectly equipped to investigate the mystery of why the treaty has been disbanded, these Heroes harness the power of gravity itself to defeat legions of haywire machines. They’ve also got a bunch of kickass guns. Hold onto your lunch and prepare to hug the walls and ceilings when you jump into Gravity Heroes, a chaotic 2D platform shooter from UK publisher PQube (Nexomon Extinction, Cat Quest).
Gravity Heroes promises a fast-paced arcade experience, allowing you to dive into any of its three main modes right from the get-go: Campaign, Versus, and Survivor. The latter two are geared more towards a multiplayer experience, but you can also play the entire (short) campaign with up to four players locally. There’s a quick tutorial to introduce the controls, which does a decent job of explaining the game’s unique mechanics in a tactical and practical way.
The gimmick in Gravity Heroes that sets it apart from other 2D platform shooters is the ability to manipulate gravity with the flick of the right joystick. At any moment you can change the direction of the player character’s gravitational pull, allowing you to walk on walls and the ceiling, or “fly” through the air with some quick joystick movements. This mechanic is integral to the game’s design, with enemies bouncing about the various arenas and launching deadly projectiles everywhere. It’s also heaps of fun. While you have a dedicated jump button, it’s much more satisfying to send your character soaring through the air, dodging lasers and bullets with instant gravity shifts to change your direction mid-flight. With tight and responsive controls, you can pull off some amazing feats of dexterity – much like Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story fame, you’ll spend most of your time falling with style.
Outside of its unique mechanic, Gravity Heroes delivers some chaotic bullet-hell shooting. Each stage in the campaign pits you against waves of robotic enemies that must be dispatched. They have different attacks and movement patterns to test your positioning, aim, and resourcefulness. There’s a decent variety to the foes, with the tankier health-sponges slowly launching powerful missile attacks and fragile drones exploding when you get too close. The bosses at the end of each “mission” are spectacular arcade setpieces that change up the gameplay refreshingly and are mostly excellent. The first boss, “King Beetle”, has a massive shield on its back that reflects your bullets, but it also fires brutally strong lasers if you linger in its path. I played through the campaign with a co-op buddy, and our strategy was to manipulate gravity to float above the King and reign fury from the air. This became much more challenging as the boss shifted its attack patterns throughout the battle, switching the game-feel from space-shooter to bullet hell in the blink of an eye. The fight is grand, frenetic, and immensely satisfying to beat, in the tradition of a decent Mega Man boss. I loved how second-nature the gravity mechanic eventually became, even if it took a lot of deaths to get there.
There’s also a heap of powerups to collect in each stage. Helpful drones occasionally deliver grenades, body armour, and temporary weapon enhancements. The default weapon fires rapidly but lacks heavy firepower, with the enhancements providing a variety of unique effects while they last. There’s a gun that shoots slow, powerful lasers. Another gun scatters your bullets in many directions, while one of my favourites launches balls that bounce around the stage and add to the visual carnage. They’re fun to play with, but the randomness of their delivery and the lack of permanent upgrades makes them more of a bonus than an integral part of strategic play.
While we only dabbled with the Versus and Survivor modes, they were simple fun. Versus pits up to four players against each other in arena battles with a surprising amount of customisation – you can toggle enemies spawning, set time limits and powerup frequency, and select from different maps with unique hazards. I can see this being hilarious with a few competitive mates, perfect for a quick couple of rounds. Survivor is an endless mode, bringing in hordes of enemies and tasking players with lasting as long as possible. It gets brutal pretty quickly, so some practice in the campaign is essential.
While there’s a bit of story happening in Gravity Heroes’ campaign, it’s told entirely through dialogue boxes before and after each stage and seems to be more of a framing device for all the shooting. My co-op buddy and I tried to follow along for the first few stages and noticed that there’s unique dialogue depending on which player characters you’ve chosen, which is a nice touch. However, the text started dragging on a little longer than our patience held, and we were quickly skipping scenes to get back to the robot-smashing.
Visually, the game is gorgeous. It pays homage to the Sega glory days in its designs, with colourful pixel art and vibrant backdrops. Animations are fluid and expressive, making it easy to spot telegraphed attacks and dodge damaging projectiles. The various modern affordances (such as particle effects and dynamic lighting) add a smooth polish to the retro experience, and the 90s-inspired soundtrack absolutely slaps.
Unfortunately I experienced some performance issues while playing on PC. The game would lag and freeze at irregular intervals, which is problematic when gameplay frequently requires twitch reactions and precision. While not entirely deal-breaking, this happened often enough during our co-op play to be a frustration. An issue with text appearing in a different language was patched while I was playing Gravity Heroes for review, which makes me hopeful that this freezing problem will be sorted in a future update too.
Gravity Heroes provides a unique twist on the 2D platform shooter that makes it stand out in its genre. Its gravity-shifting gameplay adds a surprising amount of depth and strategy to combat, while its stage design and incredibly scenic boss battles allow for a tonne of satisfying, high-octane stunts. While there are some frustrating performance issues, the multiplayer experience of Gravity Heroes is a lot of fun and ideal for players looking for a new party game for their next game night – or folks nostalgic for some Mega Man-style action.