When it comes to platformers it takes something really outlandish, or completely fresh, to kick up excitement… and for good reason. If you look back over the last decade or so there aren’t many things that haven’t been covered by the platform genre before. If therefore you can’t bring something entirely original to the table then chances are you’re going to have to try and at least match the very best titles out there. Should you be looking for a hardcore experience, there aren’t many more with a better reputation than that of Super Meat Boy. If you’ve finished with Meat Boy’s adventures and are patiently awaiting the next title in the series, then you may well wish to look into the option of a new adventure with Gravity Duck, one of the latest titles to arrive on Xbox One. But is it worth your time and effort?
It may not be the most original concept yet the idea of manoeuvring your character – in this case Gravity Duck – through each of the 30 unique levels by way of manipulating gravity is certainly one that is sure to engage players who like a challenge. Despite sounding rather simple on paper, there is something fascinating, yet irritating, about finding yourself being bested over and over by a level because you’ve pressed the A button either a bit early, or too late, to safely make your way past each and every deadly obstacle standing in your way before reaching the end and collecting the Golden Egg that awaits you. That’s not to say it doesn’t feel a little bare bones and basic by the time you’ve got through just a handful of the available levels within the game though, and from there, it only becomes even more tiresome.
Within each level players are faced with multiple hazards that can range from lasers, to sharpened obstacles, each of which can and will inflict death upon our seemingly dull protagonist. To avoid this happening, you’ll need to press A to ensure your duck is sent off into the opposite direction of which you are currently facing – be that up, down, left or right. If it’s a surface above your duck’s head, it’s the surface you’ll be travelling to.
Each of the levels within the game are short and snappy affairs which do a good job of stopping things feeling overly stale all too quickly. The issue here however lies within the fact that first of all there are only 30 short levels to complete, and then you have to face the fact that death just feels a little cheap. None of the levels really pose too much of a challenge like you’d expect from the aforementioned Super Meat Boy for example, and instead, chances are you’ll find yourself dying through a rushed mistake to get to the end of the level.
That’s not to say the overall experience is terrible as whilst simplistic, it does at least function as a passable platform experience, but if you’re after anything with either a little depth or focus, then I’m here to tell you that Gravity Duck probably isn’t going to it. Sure, it may come with a super cheap price tag, but unfortunately, it also comes with a super cheap feel.
In its defence, it has to be said that whilst there is very little besides the A button to control our silent protagonist, the controls do at least feel responsive and never do the gameplay mechanics come to blame should you slip into an untimely demise. Sure when hazards begin to move it becomes more frequent to see our yellow billed, yellow bellied, hero pop his clogs, but that isn’t ever in part due to faulty controls. It takes more than snappy and responsive controls to keep things from feeling stale however, and sadly that is mostly where the positives end for this one; repetitive and boring quickly take hold across all four game worlds.
As for world and level design, Gravity Duck is rather basic in that respect too with visuals taking on a pixelated art style, whilst details are minimal. There is a musical soundtrack to listen to during your time with the game, but with just one song available, it really sums up the level of depth you’ll find in this rather short adventure.
Of course, if there is going to be one positive for a game that proves so short and so cheap it’s likely to come from the Gravity Duck Xbox One achievement list. With the full 1000G able to be gained from the 11 achievements in next to no time at all, even if it’s not going to be the most enjoyable adventure you’re going to play this year, Gravity Duck is certainly a game that achievement hunters will wish to add to their lists.
Overall and if you’re after a game that you can whizz through in one sitting to boost your Gamerscore that little further then this one may be for you. If, however you’d prefer a game to have a little story, a little depth, or a little ambition, then Gravity Duck isn’t it. It’s simple by name, simple by nature, and sadly you get what you pay for.