Developer: SilentLogic Studios
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

When a new guy moves in across the street, neighbors watch closely. Their property values are contingent on the new guy’s living habits. If the wrong person moves in, those home valuations will go right down the drain. Well, at some point not too long ago, in your neighborhood of the galaxy, a black hole moved in and every planet was swallowed whole. Being a fairly powerful entity, it’s not far-fetched to assume that you have an obligation to save your neighbors.

img_00025Through methods that will not be revealed, you have the power to release a single planet at a time from the hold of the Gravulous. The planets can be directed, but they have a certain amount of inertia that has to be released. So they shoot out of the black hole and rebound of anything they touch (including some scientifically improbable space walls that happen to be in your neighborhood… gated community?). Then they decompress. The planets seem to expand until they touch either an edge of space (space wall), another planet or the event horizon of the Gravulous. So, now that they’re out, you’d think everyone would be happy. They’re not. In order to save the planets (and many more that lay inside the gravity trap) they must be destroyed. We won’t question this. Maybe there are inhabitants that were frozen in time inside the black hole and who really didn’t care much for the decompression process. It’s hard to say. What is certain is that you need to start cracking planets. Three bounces against a previously freed planet by an escaping planet will crack them with a rousing explosion. However, one bounce back into the Gravulous means that gravity reasserts its authority in a big way. Game Over.

It’s frustrating. Yes, extremely frustrating. It doesn’t matter whether your little planetoid bounces back slowly as you are screaming for it to stop or shoots back in an instant leaving you with only a wretched feeling of failure and the comfort food that you know you really shouldn’t be eating in spite of this depression. So frustrating. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of really good games drive repeated play with frustration.

There’s an art to guiding the planetoids (which you do with a simple tap). It involves geometry and knowing which of your fingers has the most uniform tip. I found myself over and over saying, “Oh, come on. This isn’t fun, this is masochistic.” But it is fun, and the need to surpass your previous record is compulsive. The online leader boards magnify this compulsion.

img_00036There are a few things that I feel could greatly improve the game. First of all, the music. The game really needs to be an option to allow users to turn it off. My wife glances over my shoulder and says, “What are you doing? That music’s so sad.” It repeats the same short section over and over again. It just seems to say, “Good luck with that.” I mean, I know we’re saving planets just to crush them which would maybe call for some sad (ironic would be better) music, but I just want to be able to turn it off and still hear the explosions.

The other thing I’d mention is that the game mechanics can be described as follows: Shoot planet, planet expands, bounce and crack the planets, don’t mess up. This is a great start, but I’d love some power-ups. For example, if I perform a fabulous shot and destroy 3 or 4 planets at once, I’d love a power-up that doubles the destructive power of my next planetoid. Gravulous feels good as a game but sometimes it also feels very empty. All the way through the game I’d play it and play it again but couldn’t help feeling that something was missing. Some simple variation would multiply the fun factor. Things like power-ups would help clear the screen and also assure that the previously positive frustration wouldn’t increase to the point of the user deleting the app and leaving a bad rating. It might make the game a tiny bit easier, but top players would still dominate.

At this price, I feel like this is a great deal. If the developers end the sale, I feel like this game needs some work to be worth several more dollars with the competition that’s out there on the App Store.

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