Gamers have been pushing and pulling various items in the name of ‘puzzles’ since day one, and GraviFire is no different in that sense. Although, add to this tried and tested trope the ability to alter the direction that gravity works, and you have a deceptively tricky puzzler indeed.
Living peacefully, the Green Fire has just been abducted by aliens and thrown into some weird exoskeleton that gives them the power to walk and push blocks about the place. Oh, and they can manipulate which of the four sides of the map that gravity is working from. All in all, this abduction doesn’t sound too bad when you are given this suit as an upgrade.
However, the Green Fire wants to just save their friends and get back home. And in order to do that, those pesky aliens have concocted 51 elaborate puzzles that need to be solved.
As with any puzzle game, things start off easily enough. You are shown the ropes of pushing the blocks to their intended goal and the basics of controlling the pull of gravity.
Gravity affects the blocks but does not protect you in the exoskeleton. In some of the earlier levels, gravity can only be manipulated a couple of ways which may sound like a hindrance, but later levels regularly have gravity on all four points which just means you have more opportunity to mess things up. Any time the direction of gravity is changed, any blocks not held down can, and will, move in that direction. You can stop blocks from moving if you hold onto them or use the lay of the land to your advantage. Initial levels in the game do a good job of explaining this and making sure you have the hang of things before introducing new mechanics.
When these new features are introduced, a short introductory video helps to explain what is to come. Later levels introduce deadly coloured lasers that have accompanying buttons to turn them on and off, and also traps that lock blocks into place when triggered. Mostly these traps will hinder your progress, but some can also be used to your advantage.
If things do go wrong though, you have a few items at your disposal. Firstly, pressing the A button will quickly restart the level. It isn’t as ideal as an undo button – particularly in later levels where a lot of specific moves are required – but the level is restarted quickly enough.
You also have five skips for when a level is getting the better of you. These do have a caveat though; if you use one, you cannot use another for ten minutes. And once those five have been used, you will need to struggle through any remaining levels on your own.
GraviFire is played from a top-down perspective, meaning you can see all the action at any point. This comes in extremely useful with later levels that have elaborate set-ups, where your actions and consequences may not have results in your immediate vicinity. For example, you may find the button to turn off a specific laser colour, but this could be on the other side of the map.
Also worth noting is the lasers don’t just hurt you – any block that passes through one is also vaporised, thus requiring a restart of the level.
There is a definite retro feel to GraviFire. It has a pixel art style from the early ‘90s with a soundtrack to match. A main menu theme and in-game music are the only two tracks you will hear, but the one playing during the levels is placid enough that you don’t notice it.
If I told you that GraviFire only takes a few hours to complete, I suspect many will be wondering if it contains easy Gamerscore. And the answer is a resounding yes. There are 15 in total to unlock, many of which are related to passing milestones eg. Every five levels reward you with an achievement. However, in order to get the full 1000G, don’t use a skip on any level that ends with a zero or, for some unknown reason, level 43 also. You need to complete these to unlock ‘Solved Level X’ achievements. If you forget this though, there is a level select menu you can use to return to any level already unlocked.
GraviFire on Xbox is very much your standard block pusher puzzle game, but the unique gravity aspect does literally subvert things for the better. It does a brilliant job gradually bringing you up to speed with how the mechanics work, before throwing curveballs at you in the very tricky later levels. It’s a shame then that there isn’t a bit more to it, but for the price it is tough to expect much more.