November 20th, 2008

I may have a problem. I’m noticing a trend in my gaming habits where I am being drawn to games that present seemingly impossible objectives and where guaranteed frustration is considered a feature. And I like it. I like it so much that I feel compelled to recommend these games here at DoSu. From Trials 2 and Trackmania to Love and Geometry Wars; I’m just glad that these games don’t come on discs or I may have destroyed them by now. This week’s cheap game is no different.

Created, developed and published by X-Out of Dark Castle Software, Gravitron 2 is a classically styled arcade shoot’em up where gravity and inertia are both your best friend and greatest foe.

For reasons which the developer could not explain, adware was detected within the original Gravitron. The source code was reportedly lost in a hard drive crash, so it was not available for the problem to be pinpointed and possibly fixed. As a result, X-Out ceased distribution of the game but later made it available again due to demand with the caveat that adware had been detected. These adware detections were, in all likelihood, false-positives. My own scans showed no infected files (using SpyBot S&D and ClamWin) and I have played it on a number of my own computers with no issues. I don’t hold anything against the developer or his games; as far as I’m concerned, the original Gravitron is safe.

Gravitron 2 gameplay is said to be inspired by retro games of yore such as Thrust and Oids, and rightly so. Manning a small lander equipped with thrusters, activated energy shields and a laser cannon, each stage starts just after your ship breaks atmo’, at which point you’ll immediately begin plummeting to the ground below. By engaging your thrusters and spinning your ship around you’ll be tasked with taking out turrets, dodging laser beams, descending into pits, navigating caverns and even rescuing the occasional scientist, all while on your mission to destroy the reactor(s) in each stage. If you’re going for a high score, you’ll want to do this as quickly as possible; a bonus score begins ticking down from the moment the level starts. Once all reactors are destroyed, you’ll only have so much time to haul ass back into space and on to your next objective. You’ll also have to keep an eye on your health and fuel gauges; you can refill each of these by rescuing scientists and hovering or landing next to fuel depots sprinkled throughout each level.

Achievement Unlocked!

Achievement Unlocked!

As I mentioned above, due to its difficulty, Gravitron 2 isn’t for everybody. Though I haven’t finished all fourty levels myself, I find that the difficulty ramps up at an acceptable pace. Finally finishing each level is rewarding as well, and the Steam Achievements, while challenging, are attainable. Despite dying often and in pathetic ways, the game isn’t entirely unforgiving and without its pleasures. Throughout each stage you will come across checkpoint platforms which are activated when your ship lands on them; explode, and you’ll respawn at one of these. It will still cost you a life, though. Once out of lives you can submit your score to both the local and online leaderboards, and you’ll be given the option to continue the game from the stage you left off on, but your score will be wiped.

Since I think that I’ve given adequate warning of the possibility (and improbability) of adware existing in the original Gravitron, I’ll point you to it. As I said, I’ve scanned it myself and no flags were raised. It’s free from the developer’s web page. Gravitron 2 is a clear evolution from this game, though, and should definitely be looked at despite its predecessor being free.

A free demo for Gravitron 2 is available from the developer’s website. Though the full game may be available elsewhere, I’m going to suggest you purchase it through Steam for the benefit of achievements as well as automatic updates for whatever free expansions X-Out may release in the future. It will cost you only $4.99.

[Update 11/21/08]: I just read a post on the Steam forums from X-Out. He says that there will be a map pack released just before Christmas, and the level editor will be released shortly after.

  1. I remember playing Oids, or something very near it. This is classic.

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