The Atari: Recharged series has already brought us several classic titles, revitalised for Xbox and modern consoles. The likes of Centipede: Recharged, Breakout: Recharged and Asteroids: Recharged are household names and deserving of being grouped in the first batch of releases. Now, the second batch are releasing, kicking off with a bit of a leftfield choice. But a culmination of gameplay, and a change of art style make Gravitar: Recharged the best Recharged game yet.
Taking the basic premise of Asteroids spaceship controls but increasing the play area substantially, Gravitar instantly feels more fleshed out than others before it. Rather than simply smashing space rocks to pieces, Gravitar is much more mission based. You start in an unknown solar system with planets orbiting a star that has its own gravitational pull affecting your ship. The planets will host various objectives to be completed and once a solar system is complete, you can enter the black hole in the centre to be transported to the next one. As you progress, the missions stay the same but increase in difficulty.
These objectives can range from activating beacons and destroying X number of enemies, to finding the intel or reactor hidden away. There aren’t massive amounts of variation, but once you get yourself into a rhythm with Gravitar: Recharged, you won’t mind too much.
That rhythm will take a few attempts to find, however. Gravitar – for those that played the original – is remembered as being a bit of a tricky beast, and it is no exception here either. Controlling the ship takes a moment to really get used to, particularly when you factor in the gravity acting on your ship of many of these planets you will be exploring.
Some levels have no gravity, but instead they have tight corridors to navigate through. These will really test your skill whilst being a lot of fun.
Your ship has a shield, but this will need to recharge if you are hit by enemy fire or fly into something you shouldn’t. And the time to recharge isn’t as quick as you would like, either. Your ship can also fire back at enemies, but unlike Asteroids it isn’t continuous; it can only fire three shots at a time.
Along with Black Widow: Recharged and the aforementioned other Recharged games from the first batch, Atari and developers Adamvision and SneakyBox Studios have kept the same art style throughout. This retro neon look helped the games retain their original style whilst improving the visuals. For Gravitar: Recharged, the aesthetic has been substantially improved.
Perhaps in an attempt to contrast the high difficulty of gameplay, but Gravitar: Recharged has this almost pastel tone to it. The planets you are exploring are predominantly black, but the calming shades used in the backgrounds are very effective. Enemies are also black, but all have a red glow to them to help you distinguish.
All this is topped off by a soothing soundtrack. Once again composed by Megan McDuffee it compliments the look of the game excellently. All-in-all, this is by far the best looking and sounding Recharged game yet.
Arcade mode comes with modifiers that makes it even more difficult. These modifiers include only one life instead of the standard three, no power-ups to pick up or no shield. The reward is an extra 2.5% added to your final score, which could make all the difference on the online leaderboards.
Once again for the Recharged series, there is Mission mode. However, this time around, it doesn’t feel as well implemented. Instead, it features the same planets from Arcade mode repeated over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, this is still fun to play, but it is a missed opportunity. I would have loved to see a bit more variation in these such as increased gravity or levels with nothing but UFOs to destroy; something a bit different from the main mode.
One improvement to Mission mode though is the overall leaderboard. Gone are the individual leaderboards for each mission, replaced by one big leaderboard where your overall score across all the missions is used for your ranking.
Multiplayer returns and is well implemented. Between players, you have a pool of three lives in Arcade mode, but you must really work together. It isn’t simply a case of the two of you going off and doing your own thing; stray too far from one another and a tether appears between you. In certain circumstances, this will help but it will also cause a few unnecessary deaths if you aren’t careful.
Thankfully though, you cannot destroy each other by flying into one another. At least that is one obstacle you don’t need to worry about.
The second season of the Atari Recharged series is off to a flyer with Gravitar: Recharged. Whilst it wouldn’t have been top of the reboot list for many, due to it not being as popular as others, it certainly has the ability to win over new fans. And, if any subsequent releases go down the same aesthetic, the future looks great for what is to come next.
Chart a course for the unknown in Gravitar: Recharged on the Xbox Store