Think back: When did you encounter your first gravity puzzle in a video game? Perhaps being flipped onto Gravity Man’s ceiling in Mega Man 5 for the NES blew your tiny little brain. Or maybe you were awed by the treacherous gravity that ruled Bowser Koopa’s flying fortresses in Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii.
If you haven’t yet experienced the joys of muddling with gravity in a video game, however, avoid making Gravinaytor your first experience. Its sloppy controls might make you swear against toying with the laws that keep Earth spinning, and that would be a shame.
Gravinaytor’s story takes a page from Portal’s Book of Science Gone Wrong: You are a test subject who must make his (her? The tiny pixels that make up the game’s graphics make it hard to tell) way through several gravity-based puzzles in order to escape your mad tester. There’s even a sweet, baby-like voice that taunts you as you make your way through the lab, though it has none of the charm of GLaDOS, gaming’s current Queen of Passive-Aggressiveness.
Gravity gone haywire.
Each level in Gravinator has colored arrows floating gently from its walls. The direction of these arrows indicates what direction your character will fly in, should he step in that field. For instance, if you step in a field of “Up”-pointing arrows, you are, as the man in the elevator says, goin’ up. Once your feet hit the ceiling, you have to decide how the gravity shift will help you reach the level’s exit.
Escaping levels gradually becomes more and more complicated. Gravity flows from every conceivable direction and throws you against maze-like masses of walls. Some exit doors must be unlocked with a button before they can be used. Also, bottomless pits, rats, and spikes are just waiting to snag you and literally smash you to pieces.
The basic concept of Gravinaytor is fun enough. Humankind was not meant to tackle more than a handful of gravity puzzles at a time, though, so you’ll probably have your fill of the game in a few hours. But there are three big issues with Gravinaytor that may make you steer a wide path around the game entirely.
Down is up and up is right.
First, the controls are just wretched. You can use the touch screen, which yields spotty response time at best, and vaguely instructs you to tap your thumbs on the sides of your iPhone instead of giving you any kind of virtual control pad. Alternatively, you can switch to tilt controls, which work a little better. Emphasis on “little.” There’s no calibration option, so don’t expect any miracles. Obviously, Gravinaytor is a puzzle game that commands good reflexes, which, in turn, demand sharp controls.
Second, the load times in Gravinaytor are long. Each level takes time to load. Accessing the menu ticks away the seconds. But hey, aren’t you nostalgic for the days when the Sega CD and PlayStation made us wait for ages before we could play our games? Didn’t think so. Third– and this is Gravinaytor’s biggest problem– you can find the game online right here, for free. No load times, no control issues.
In fact, Gravinaytor’s profile on the App Store encourages you to check out the free version of the game before buying the iOS version. Whatever you say, SeÃ±or Topsy-Turvy! After all, there isn’t much reason to drop any cash on the pocket-sized version of the game. Maybe the laws of gravity are too dense to be held in a teeny-tiny iPhone.