Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S
May 26, 2022
Atari’s arcade classic Gravitar is back with a brand new remake by the name of Gravitar: Recharged. The game will please fans that remember this classic title while throwing down the gauntlet for new players to join in the planet-hopping fun.
Despite being somewhat of an Atari aficionado, I never played the original Gravitar. However, the title clearly resonated with some retro enthusiasts who love a challenge, because calls for a remake have finally come to fruition all these years later. The gameplay is multi-layered and will see you controlling a spaceship to complete missions, collecting powerups, repairing your ship, and boosting your score. It all combines to deliver an incredibly challenging but satisfying experience you will want to come back to time and time again.
Originally released on the Atari 2600 in 1983, the visual style of the game stays true to its pixelated roots with solid black landmasses that combine with pastel-coloured backdrops. The bright neon colours of the lasers and gunfire look spectacular against the shadowy dark backgrounds.
“The bright neon colours of the lasers and gunfire look spectacular against the shadowy dark backgrounds.”
Game progression takes players through a series of solar systems to complete objectives on various planets. One of the most common is to destroy all enemies while collecting boosters and power-ups that will help (or hinder!) control of your ship. You can also get items that will repair damage to your ship and help to boost your score. To gain entry into a level from the planet, you simply have to drift into the planet’s orbit before you are pulled into its gravitational pull. Part of the game is making sure you have enough fuel to keep going. Part of me was hopeful that going into a new planet would replenish my fuel, I was sorely mistaken, and found this to be a constant battle for fuel replenishment.
The game has stayed incredibly true to its original form and while the visual upgrade certainly helps it feel like part of the modern gaming world, the controls are another story. There is no easy way to control your ship and navigate around. The constant struggle to maintain control or the direction of your ship keeps things interesting but also quite frustrating at times if you are as impatient as I am. Timing each shot to ensure that you can defeat enemy ships and not disturb any fuel cells takes a lot of practice. The combination of this and trying not to slam into any walls is also a constant struggle. Whether using keyboard or controller, the struggle was still the same and I found myself spinning out of control and smashing into walls, avoiding asteroids and missing my targets. Adding in the precision shots while trying to control movement proved to be the biggest challenge of this seemingly simple retro classic.
The game is presented with its original modes, both Arcade and Mission mode, with nothing new added. Though once you see how insanely low the purchase price is, it felt entirely justified. There is also a cooperative mode which I did attempt a few times. The problem for me was the game requires such precision flying that having a friend with you is extremely distracting and hindered my progression rather than helped. Trying to avoid wall and rock crashes while my co-op friend was struggling to get the hang of the controls had the potential to make an already challenging game even harder, especially as there are no inherit advantages gained through co-op play. For those who find themselves more eveny matched or just looking to have a good and silly time, I can see this co-op mode as a great choice.
“Arcade mode is… a great place to get the feel of the controls.”
Arcade mode is where you will run through the main training and it’s a great place to get the feel of the controls. You can also select different options like playing with only a single life or with no shields. While this may seem like a great option, it is an extremely difficult challenge and you should definitely wait until you have mastery over the controls before even attempting this. The good news is, once you have completed Arcade mode, going into these options again provides great replayability.
The second mode is Missions, the solar systems in Arcade mode are gone and players must work through a list of missions. These are definitely a lot more difficult than Arcade mode, so please make sure you have a full understanding of the ship controls and weapons before launching into this. How hard is it? You only get one life and there are no checkpoints, so if you do die (and you will!) you head right back to the start of the level. I have never yelled and screamed at a game so much than I did in this mode.
Whilst some frustration certainly stems for the game’s challenge, it’s hard to look past its beauty. The design (or re-design) of this game is nothing short of spectacular. The watercolour backgrounds are the source of light for each scene in the game. The bright backgrounds feature planets and suns which take up a large part of the screen. In the foreground are your ship and other obstacles, and the way the colours and light bounce off each other really adds a distinct aesthetic to the game. Anything in red is a target and anything in blue is a collectible item. The music from Megan McDuffee is also a welcome addition to the craziness of the action. The relaxing score brings the intensity down to a manageable level and the synth-pop vibes provide the perfect balance to the difficulty the game presents.
- Visually stunning
- Incredible soundtrack that accompanies the visuals
- True to the original
- No additional modes for the remaster
- Controls can be frustrating
Gravitar: Recharged is an arcade staple made fresh for a new generation of fans, re-capturing the essence of what made the original game such a classic. The pixel graphics have been given a modern overhaul that make it look like it fits in the modern gamescape. It’s a pity the controls do not follow this trend, as they are frustrating and feel out of place when compared with their more contemporary counterparts. It will take patience and time to master this game, and while it may not pay off for some, the rewards can definitely be worth your efforts as the accruing score and bonuses make you soar through each planet flawlessly.