Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Gravity Circuit Review

Developer: Domesticated Ant Games
Publisher: PID Games
Platforms: NS, PS4/PS5, PC, Mac, Linux
Price: PS4/PS5, NS - $21.99, PC - $16.99
Version Played: PC

Gravity Circuit is a 2D action platformer that wears its inspiration on its sleeve. You're probably getting big Mega Man X vibes from the screenshots, and there's definitely a lot of that, but there's also a lot of beat 'em up influence here. I mean like the Viewtiful Joe platformer/beat 'em up hybrid kind. But even though I’m constantly reminded of classic games while playing it, Gravity Circuit feels fresh. We just don't see this combination of platformer and beat 'em up very often. The game's art style and graphics are also unlike what we usually see in modern retro-inspired games. Gravity Circuit feels both familiar and different and it’s definitely worth taking notice of.

Mega Man fans will feel right at home with Gravity Circuit because it's structured just like a Mega Man Zero game. There's a short intro level, a hub base full of friendly NPCs, and you choose from 8 levels to play through before the final one. The big difference here is that beating bosses doesn't give you their powers. Instead, you buy enhancements and special moves from NPCs at the base.
The level design is also very Mega Man-like. Levels are all straightforward platforming action with lots of secret stuff to find off to the sides, just like in MMX. They all have unique themes, and the robot bosses all have some kind of related job to match. Some of the levels include a snowy mountain, a power plant, a rocky mine, and a junkyard.
I think we've seen all of those themes in Mega Man games before, but I still loved seeing what Gravity Circuit did with them. Enemies electrify the floors in the Power Plant, you're constantly breaking blocks and crumbling platforms in the Ore Mines, and you warp around through the Internet in the Cyberspace level. Or something like that. The game is full of fun gimmicks. They're not all winners, though. I'm not a fan of the highway level, which has you jumping from car to car and dodging oncoming obstacles from off screen. It reminded me of a certain infamous section in MM8. But overall, the platforming is both challenging and fun.
The thing that really sets Gravity Circuit apart from Mega Man is its combat. Kai's attacks are more reminiscent of Shinobi III and Viewtiful Joe. You have punches, Street Fighter style flash kicks, and dive kicks that bounce off enemies, just like in Shinobi III. You also get a hookshot, which is good for more than just swinging around. You can use it to attack and pick items up, but its main use is for grabbing defeated enemies, which you can then throw at other enemies for massive damage. You can run, slide, and even wall jump while carrying enemies around, so it really feels like the game was designed for you to constantly use this ability. You can get by without it, though. The game gives you a lot of different moves, so you don’t have to do things in just one specific way.
There's also 2 upgrade systems that really let you customize your abilities to fit your play style. There's Enhancement Chips and Burst Techniques. You can use Enhancement Chips to get a double jump, become invulnerable while sliding, zip to enemies with the hookshot, and a bunch of different things that change how much damage you take and how you fill the special meter. Burst Techniques are the special moves which use that meter. There's a dragon punch, spin kick, heal, and even a spinning piledriver. And yes, you can piledrive bosses! There's 20 Enhancement Chips and 20 Burst Techniques, and you can equip 3 of each at a time, so there's lots of different combinations to play around with.
One of the most striking things about Gravity Circuit is its graphics. This game isn't going for the usual 8-bit NES style a lot of retro-inspired games use. Most of the sprites are only using 4 shades of the same color, so it looks more like a Game Boy Color or Neo Geo Pocket game. The characters also have really big heads and hands, so they look even more comical than Mega Man characters usually do. This SD anime style reminds me a lot of Viewtiful Joe. I think it fits the lighthearted tone of the game very well
You might have noticed that the screenshots have some empty black space on the left and right sides. That’s because the game runs in a 15:9 aspect ratio instead of 16:9, just like the first Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon game. Bloodstained CotM looked like that because it was designed as a 3DS game first, and that’s the aspect ratio of the top screen. I have no idea if Gravity Circuit was originally a 3DS game, but that would make sense. There are options to stretch the image to fill the screen if it bothers you. I only played the game on PC, but as far as performance goes, it ran at a solid 60 FPS.
Gravity Circuit has a pretty great soundtrack. There's definitely a lot of Mega Man influence in it, and it covers a lot of genres. It has a lot of that sort of 90s Capcom Jazzy rock sound to it, and also some calmer stuff that kind of reminds me of Metroid Prime. The graphics might look like a GBC game, but I think the music sounds more like SNES or early PS1 games. It just has that synthesized keyboard and drums kind of sound to it. I think it fits the game perfectly.

I think Gravity Circuit is a must play for both action platformer and beat ’em up fans. Doubly so for fans of Mega Man and games like Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure and Viewtiful Joe. The platforming is fun and challenging, the combat has a good beat ‘em up kind of feel to it, it has cool character designs, a beautiful GBC-like graphical style, and a great soundtrack. You really can’t go wrong with this one.