Developer: We Are Colin
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad, iPhone 3G

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★½☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Have you ever played a game that you loved more in theory than in execution? Gravity Runner is exceptionally intriguing on paper, but in practice, it feels like a different direction would have been better for this game.

Gravity Runner is an endless platformer that has you constantly running forward. There is an endless mode available, but the bulk of the game is purely in a level-based mode where you have to navigate through hazards in set level designs. Your main weapon is the ability to switch gravity while in mid-air, allowing you to run on ceilings by tapping on screen while in mid-air. Mastering the physics of this ability is necessary, as you will often have to jump through obstacles by timing your gravity switches. Being in mid-air also speeds you up, so finding ways to slip the surly bonds of earth as much as possible will help you complete the levels faster, although considering you get medals for completing levels under a certain number of deaths may entice you to not go too fast.

Gravity Runner’s design aesthetic recalls the golden era of 16-bit gaming, especially the Sonic games. The graphics, sound effects, and gameplay elements such as springs and spikes (as well as the gravity switching mechanic being part of Sonic & Knuckles) make this game feel like an homage, intentional or not, to the Sonic games of old. The gravity switching is a fantastic platforming mechanic concept – it feels like it would be a great element of a larger game.

The problem is that this element does not work in a game where you are constantly running forward. The game is very picky about coming in contact with spikes, and it just feels like the moments of occasional platforming brilliance brought about by the concept would be better if you had some control over the pace of the game, such as buttons to run forwards or backwards. The game’s design doesn’t even demand that it forcibly propel you forward, considering how the goal is to just make it to the end of levels. As it is, the forced propulsion just feels frustrating, as you can’t set up jumps, it’s all about timing at the game’s pace, and considering the pinpoint precision timing (often fractions of microseconds can mean the difference between survival and death) necessary, some leeway in the control of your runner would have helped.

I like everything about Gravity Runner except for the game itself. I love the concept to death. I think that done properly, it could be an incredibly fun platformer, one that could really play with gravity bending the way that this does. But as an endless platformer, Gravity Runner just does not work. It’s hard to admit, but my time with this game was fraught with frustration at the game itself, and how I know it could be so much better. My advice for We Are Colin is to take this idea, and go back to the drawing board. There’s an absolutely brilliant game somewhere in here, it just isn’t this.

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