App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I enjoy a good physics-based puzzle game or a gravity-defying platformer, but I've never encountered anything quite like Inertia: Escape Velocity. There's no fancy software engine determining how debris falls or special power-ups or buttons needed to change Newton's laws. It's simply basic platforming controls and one button that turns off gravity. And it's quite possibly the most elegant physics-defying platformer I've played in a long time.
The protagonist and sole playable character here is Hermes, an interstellar scavenger who's hit a patch of bad luck. Having crashed into a floating junkyard full of long forgotten wrecks, he'll have to scrounge up parts to fix his own heap in order to get back on the road. So to speak. This means running, jumping, drifting, floating and bouncing through a number of increasingly complex levels in order to gather scrap. If enough is collected, new planets (each with their own handful of levels) can be accessed. If even more is piled up, Hermes can move on to the next galaxy with a new set of planets and stages.
The best thing about Inertia: Escape Velocity, aside from the stellar (har, har) visuals is the way gravity is incorporated. The effects of the ever-present law can be shut off on a whim, but it's more than a simple "push button to walk on ceiling" affair. If Hermes is in motion, shutting the gravity off can do an impressive number of things depending on the context. If he's jumping, the momentum coupled with the lack of an opposing force will see him float straight up until he hits something. If he's running towards a gap, it'll allow him to drift right across. He can also rebound off of solid surfaces, which is useful in reaching some very out of the way areas. Later levels also introduce new elements such as devices that will push or pull Hermes around (especially with no gravity) and keep things from ever truly becoming "comfortable."
It takes a bit of practice to really come to grips with a lot of these elements, however. Speed and angle both have a major impact on Hermes' trajectory, and it takes time to learn when it's best to shut off gravity (or turn it back on). It can get a little frustrating to end up only slightly off course with no way to correct it in mid-flight. Especially when floating over an electrified floor.
Once players are comfortable with the mechanics, Inertia: Escape Velocity becomes an absolute joy. The levels get tougher (and longer), new elements are always popping-up and there are three reasons to beat each stage (completion, time and collected scrap). Not to mention the bonus Inferno Levels which are unlockable through in-app purchase. Either way, it's an absolutely wonderful physics/gravity/space platformer that's definitely worth playing.