Gravilon is a minimalistic, jumpless 2D platformer that has you tumbling a square end over end instead of smooth running and jumping. Its a game that requires patience from the player and it does everything it can in its minimalist art style to keep you calm and relaxed. You won’t hear music so much as what sounds like rolling dice as your square tumbles end over end. Every level consists of black lines as platforms with a grey background. You’ll see the previous level in the foreground and the next level in the background. Getting to the exit will fly you into the background and it makes for a beautiful touch.
The object of each level is simply to make it to the end door a large blue square. The controls are simple,A and D keys will to shift your weight to tumble and the space bar will make slow motion that will give you greater control when you’re in the air. Otherwise your momentum can make you easily miss something. Using slow motion drains the meter and it will build back up over time.
Since there’s no jump, its all about your momentum, the tumble will make you jump depending on the angle your square hits a surface. To make things interesting there are white anti-gravity cubes that will shift your square’s gravity from the bottom to the top of the screen and vise versa. These cubes regenerate in a few seconds.
The game benefits the tumbling with platforms that are on angles to tumble or slide down. Trying to move up any incline is a difficult feat that you’ll need to shift your square’s weight backward before you can shift it forward to have enough momentum to climb. Any over calculation can send you tumbling back down again.
If you ever get stuck, just hit R to respawn. There are no lives. It doesn’t reset the level, but it does put you back at the start. Any time you die from a death pit a hazard or a respawn, it leaves a dead black square. This makes the level feel alive seeing all your dead squares there. You can move them and bump into them. If you hit them hard enough they’ll disintegrate.
With the level design, you can make your own way. There’s not one clear path to take. Its all about how you take the path you’re on. Take one path too slow and you might be stuck. Take another path too fast you might not have the precision it takes to get through it. Levels get more difficult with the inclusion of yellow lines as hazards. One touch and you’re dead just like a death pit.
From the moment you start, you’re in the game, with a quick hub world that lets you tumble to a doorway with continue, act 1, act 2, act 3, bonus and even quit. There’s no main menu and it goes a long way to making you feel in game and keeping you there.
If you’re looking for a hand holding experience you won’t find it here. Gravilon is a frustrating game almost from the start. The tumbling mechanic ensures that no attempt is exactly the same and a lot of the time it feels like luck rather than skill. Even when you spawn, its at a different angle, causing you to bounce from there. Your tumble could be off and it might send you somewhere completely different. That’s why you need to use the slow motion a lot and even then I felt like I would die again and again. There are no checkpoints, every death restarts the level over again. It wouldn’t be an issue if you weren’t a tumbling square.
To make matters worse your view can get obscured by the previous level. As much as I love the artistic effect it does get annoying. There might not be hand holding, but I don’t expect them to cover my eyes either. The game will even turn my level transparent to focus in on the background.
Since you can take your own path, you are allowed to keep trying to make the wrong path work. If you can only get the momentum to tumble up high enough you can make this path work! 15 minutes later, its time for a new path. Yet going back to the game, then you can get the momentum to make it work. Again, it feels like luck and not skill. Doing the same thing 100 times might yield the result you want.
The beginning of the seventh level has a dead square and with that dead square you can make a path to an anti-gravity cube. Hitting that dead square knocks it out of place, preventing you from using it again on your next attempt, unless you set up your living square then kill it with a retry to have it in place as a dead square. That was my path for a while.
The other path I could take is gaining enough momentum, but not too much because you’ll knock yourself on a platform or overshoot the needle thin platforms you’ll need to slow motion jump to. Then hope you have enough momentum to carry you into the anti-gravity cube or else you’ll just have to try again and again. That’s just how Gravilon is. You need patience. Your skill will not get you there.
Each level can take under two minutes from start to finish and I’m telling you that to inform you that I’m three hours into the game and I have yet to complete the seventh level. I’ve never made it through the first act. Perhaps that truth is a testament to how bad I am at this game, or its a testament of a game that’s a lot like a roll of the dice.
Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. Its all in the unique tumble mechanic. While it is an unique game with a great art style, its just not fun. Its painful and frustrating, but there are people out there that will love the steep difficulty and soothing atmosphere.
The game wouldn’t as frustrating if it weren’t for the tumbling or even if it gave you a reward; some incentive to continue playing and push through the frustration. Your reward is another level. A game should be fun enough to be its own reward. Maybe there are fun, rewarding bonuses, but three hours and seven levels in, I wasn’t able to unlock anything from the bonus content.
While I can recommend it for its art style and low price tag, I just can’t recommend it as a fun game. Perhaps I found it more frustrating than relaxing. Even if I didn’t care for the game, I’d like to thank Fan Wu for giving me the game.