IGN Review of Professor Heinz Wolff's Gravity
One of my most favorite times I've had with the Nintendo DS happened after I downloaded a demo that enabled you to draw blocks and balls and have them react to real-world physics. I find myself attracted to the idea of simply having fun in an environment that utilizes realistic physics as its core mechanic: Elebits, Half-Life 2, even World of Goo. Big fan of those games -- not just because of their awesome designs, but also because they heavily depend on physics for their gameplay.
That's the idea behind Deep Silver's Gravity – at its most basic description it's an "Incredible Machines" style puzzle game, but instead of machines you simply place 2D blocks and balls in the environment and have them react in order to push a button placed in a strategic location. Challenging as it can be, I'm not as big of a fan. Both the DS and Wii versions share the same theme and puzzle designs: the DS version is a little sketchy, and the Wii version feels too shallow to be a full retail product and seems like it would be much better suited as a budget WiiWare title.
In any given puzzle in Gravity you're given a strategic layout where you have to place blocks of various shapes, sizes, and weights. The idea is to arrange them in such a way that, when you hit "play," a ball or cart will drop out of a designated spot on the board and run into anything you spotted in its path, setting things in motion. If the level's button gets hit, you've solved the puzzle and you move onto the next.
The idea of Gravity works relatively well, and opens up the potential for some crazy puzzle designs from the game's creators. Since the game works on real-time physics and not predetermined behavior, levels can have multiple solutions, and maybe not in the way that the designers originally intended. Overall that's a good thing, but it's hard to shake the feeling that many times you'll solve a puzzle in a way that feels accidental – not having a rigid solution gives off this vibe that you won by exploiting the game, not by being smart.
Gravity isn't perfect; the problems are small but plentiful. The physics engine is always on, even before you hit "play," so you're constantly fighting the controls trying to keep tall thin pieces from falling over, or trying not to accidentally set balls rolling while you're placing them in strategic locations. You can rotate any piece at any angle, but the game doesn't make it easy to turn the object at hard 90 degree rotations, something that would have been incredibly handy to implement. Instead, it's incredibly trying to get a piece to sit flat after rotating since you can't easily reset it to a position that'll balance properly.
Gravity also never reaches its potential: you can tinker around with the gravity in sandbox locations but you can't create your own puzzles.
The Wii and DS games share the exact same level designs and bonus games, but the Wii version ends up the real version to play since it has far more processing power to handle the physics engine. On the DS, if there are more than eight sizable parts on the screen the framerate tends to dip noticeably, and it definitely affects some of the more complex puzzles and sandbox areas that are unlockables in the product. Even with better tech in the Wii version, the game seems a little too pricey for the 30 dollars the publisher's asking for; the 20 bucks for the DS edition seems like the more comfortable pricepoint.
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