Coming from PQube Limited is a new entry in the couch co-op/multiplayer genre called Gravity Heroes. As you may have gathered from the name, this isn’t just any kind of run of the mill shooter; there is an extra twist in the gameplay. Billed as a “fast paced, chaotically beautiful 2D platform shooter”, can this be the game to get your friends round to play as lockdown eases, or is it preferable to stay in isolation?
The story set here is the usual kind of overblown nonsense that we have come to expect from many games over the years. Apparently, the robotic race known as the Synthetics have decided to break the peace of many years. Unusual activities keep occurring amongst the Synthetic community, and we, as the Gravity Heroes, have been sent to find out what is going on. Of course, if the Synthetics were willing to negotiate, the whole experience would be short and fairly dull, and so it’s lucky they don’t want to chat and so must be pacified. However, as there are a lot of them, and as some of them are very large boss-type robots, the path to a happy ending is not going to be an easy one.
The presentation of Gravity Heroes is pretty good, all things considered. The graphics are pixel arted in style, and everything moves at a very slick pace. It’s all pretty sharp and crisp too, with a good sense of humour running through the conversations that the various heroes have with the commander. My personal favourite is the little robot dude who is constantly trying to act more like a robot rather than have a personality. The soundtrack is very in keeping with the action as well, with music composed by Barry Leitch, who is more famous for composing the Top Gear theme tune. If a CV comes any better than that, I’ll be surprised! Overall though, the vibe of the game is like a 1990’s arcade game – all neon bullets and non-stop action.
There are two modes to be enjoyed too; a campaign mode which can be played cooperatively by up to four people, or the PvP mode, which comes in an arena battle or Survival flavour. Now, I’ve written before about my dislike for shoehorned in PvP modes, in games as varied as Dark Souls and even Destiny. However, in Gravity Heroes the PvP aspect actually works quite well, as it works as a quick blast that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
The story mode is pretty good fun as well, with lots of enemies and bosses to take out, and a real kind of bullet hell vibe present, with the traditional gun power ups to collect and unleash. The game actually gives you a decent array of power ups too, ranging from grenades to health packs; using them can make the difference between success and failure. You can hold two items in reserve, and as you can imagine, having two health packs in the middle of a boss fight is a nice ace in the hole.
The big gameplay mechanic though is teased in the Gravity Heroes name, and it’s not that you play as a hero. Yes, you can control gravity in this game, and a quick flick of the right stick at any time will see your character stick to either the walls, ceilings or even to the underside of platforms. Of course, while you are on the walls or whatever, you can shoot enemies to your heart’s content, and indeed you will have to in order to stay alive, as the foes you’ll come up against all seem to have the same powers as our heroes. What follows, at least in the single player campaign, is a game of cat and mouse as you try to shoot various enemies who are orientated in various ways.
However, a problem raises its head straight away; Gravity Heroes looks like it should be a twin stick shooter, and more often than not I found myself flying around the level as I tried to aim my gunfire. It takes a bit of brain recalibration, but thankfully you will learn and understand, allowing you to play properly. Another issue I have is a bit of a stranger one and I’m not sure if it’s a deliberate design choice or not. You see, if you move the right stick while your character is in transition, you can end up in a state where you are sliding along a surface, not actually stood up and attached to a wall. This is actually quite helpful in some boss fights, like the War Beetle, as you can slide under a lot of his attacks. It’s just really hard to control! However, the gravity effects do work very well in general, and certainly manage to add a new dimension to what would otherwise be a fairly generic arena shooter.
Gravity Heroes on Xbox manages to bring a few good ideas to the table, and does just enough to allow it to be something to recommend – no matter whether you are alone or if you have a few friends around. It’s the solo experience or cooperative aspect which is personally more appealing than the PvP aspects, as trying to defeat the Synthetic menace is just more fun, but you should find a decent amount of enjoyment from Gravity Heroes no matter how you play it.
You can purchase Gravity Heroes on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S from the Xbox Store