After the unbridled surrealism of psychological thriller Master Reboot, nobody could have predicted Wales Interactive’s next title, Gravity Badgers.
In a world where badgers have become as intelligent (or possibly more intelligent) than humans, and have also mastered space exploration and the ability to talk, Captain T Bayback must journey through space to save his friends and the entirety of the universe from the ominous threat of the Honey Badgers.
A game like Gravity Badgers lives or dies on its gameplay. It’s basically a quirky little puzzle game in the same vein as the anomalously popular Angry Birds series. Each level consists of a worm-hole that Bayback has to reach to proceed to the next level. Using the touch-screen, the player has to fire Bayback into space, estimating his trajectory and adjusting the power and angle accordingly.
As well as simply considering how much power to use, there are certain other elements to factor in. Some levels contain blue planets which push Bayback away, and some contain red planets which pull Bayback towards them. The addition of the planets offers the opportunity for interesting, physics-based puzzles involving using gravitational pulls to your advantage.
Also, taking the three star rating system from the aforementioned Angry Birds but simplifying it, there are three orbs to collect on each level – at least I think they’re orbs – and if you collect all three without losing a life, you’ll achieve that oh so satisfying three star rating.
The rating system is deceptively clever. As the game progresses, it becomes increasingly more difficult to collect all the orbs and reach the worm hole on the first attempt. If you collect all three orbs but die twice in the process, you’ll only proceed with one star, leaving two grey silhouettes on your screen, mocking you and coaxing you into a replay. It has an addictive quality. Although the game’s one hundred or so levels could probably be blasted through in a couple of hours, the allure of three stars on every level is hard to resist.
Each chapter ends in a boss-fight with a series of colourful villains. Whilst these sections are fun and offer a welcome break from the unvaried puzzle solving, they are often so easy and over so quickly that they come and go before you have time to enjoy them.
It isn’t a fantastic game visually. It lacks the idiosyncratic design that made similar games so iconic and successful. Most of the levels look exactly the same, with a few extra planets here and there. At the end of each chapter, you unlock a new character to play with, but as they all look the same and play the same, I can’t see why anybody would ever switch from the default badger.
The background is fairly imaginative, but it isn’t communicated well. The characters interact mostly in pop-culture references that I found too annoying to sit through (SPOILER ALERT: It contains frequent Star Wars references) and the sparse and minimalist cut-scenes are usually short and uninformative and consist entirely of concept art.
Although available on Windows Phone, iOS and Steam, I played Gravity Badgers on the Wii U. As a mobile game, i.e. something you play for ten minutes whilst you’re waiting for the bus (I know this isn’t true of all mobile games, but it’s certainly true of this one), it’s a little bold of Wales Interactive to assume that the player would be prepared to get their fancy, and probably dusty, Wii U all plugged in and ready to go just to play a bare-bones puzzle game. It seems rather out of place on the Nintendo e-Shop.
However, as a title to be enjoyed at leisure on iOS, it’s just as enjoyable as Angry Birds or Cut the Rope. It’s a casual, forgettable experience, but if you’re looking to kill time or if you have some kind of unhealthy interest in badgers, you could do a lot worse than this.
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A jaded horror enthusiast, I get my kicks hiding in cupboards from whatever hideous creatures happen to be around. However, I'm more than happy playing a wide range of genres on both consoles and PC. Apart from writing for Z1G, I'm also a History student.