Gravity Heroes – from developers Studica Solution and Electric Monkeys and published by PQube – is a fast-paced, co-op focused, tough-as-nails pixel-art shooter. Its novel concept lies in granting you the ability to shift the heroes centre of gravity at will.
The story – unlike many games in this genre – is surprisingly fleshed out and offers unique dialogue for each of the four characters over the short campaign mode (an otherwise cosmetic choice). An investigation by the titular Gravity Heroes suggests the synthetics are planning an uprising against humanity – apparently not the first – and you’re soon off on a solar-system spanning adventure as you battle in numerous arenas and tackle huge bosses.
The unique conversations for each character, including distrustful barbs between members of the team and their single synthetic companions, adds unexpected depth and a bit of world-building. It’s entirely inconsequential to the gameplay experience but adds some context to the action and shifting locations.
In Gravity Heroes, the basic movement and gunplay – think running, jumping, and shooting in a 2D plane – is unremarkable on its own. However, the ability to flick the right analog stick to shift gravity introduces the ability to fall in any direction and fight on any surface. Mastering this ability is essential as your foes also lack any regard for gravity. Robotic enemies will spawn on all surfaces and frequently shift their orientation as they traverse the arena and take shots at your character.
In theory, you can fly by continuously falling in multiple directions, avoiding floors, walls, ceilings, and platforms as you weave between projectiles and find the right surface to engage from. When it works – primarily during the more elaborate multi-stage boss fights – it’s great fun to avoid attacks and position yourself perfectly to hit a weak spot when you find an opening. It’s not reliable, however, as you still need to account for your momentum and the sudden shift results in a parabolic trajectory that can land you in more trouble!
Gravity Heroes is one of the few games to offer local co-op for up to 4 players and this is clearly the focus of the game. It’s challenging enough to navigate an arena full of enemies and projectiles solo but becomes multi-coloured chaos with 2 or more players falling in different directions, scrambling to grab power-ups, and sending streams of bullets in all directions.
Aside from the campaign – in which each chapter follows the basic structure of 2 arena-style levels followed by a boss fight – there is also a PvE survival mode, in which, kills add time to the clock, and a PvP mode that’ll truly test your aim when dealing with less predictable foes. Every game mode offers a scoring and ranking system for some light competition and bragging rights among friends. It’s a good mix of content, but also clearly designed for shorter sessions.
The boss encounters are often elaborate multi-stage affairs, with screen-filling robots, enough projectiles to qualify as a bullet-hell shooter, and even some light puzzling to breach shields and disable weapons. Unfortunately, arena-based combat quickly becomes repetitive as changing aesthetics and a few stage hazards – think crumbling platforms and laser barriers – can’t mask the overly similar layouts and simplistic enemy behaviours.
Sure, each location has one or two unique enemies, however too many enemies occupy the same basic role. As an example, a drifting explosive robot may set you on fire for damage-over-time in one chapter, or freeze you to slow your movement in another. The attacks are different but their basic movement, attack patterns, and your counter strategies are identical.
This is particularly noticeable when playing solo, as spawning waves of enemies that take increasingly long to kill do not make for a compelling experience over time. When played in co-op, it’s far easier to pick off targets using the optimal weapon you’ve collected, or combine your firepower to swiftly drop a tough opponent.
What does go a long way to offsetting the repetitive arena layout is the visual design and accompanying soundtrack. Pixel-art has been done to death in the indie-space, but Gravity Heroes still manages to provide distinctive, well-animated character sprites and lively backdrops full of moving elements. It can become near impossible to follow the action at times – even with just a single companion along for the ride – but distinctive enemy forms make it easy to identify your targets. It’s the indistinct shape of weapon pick-ups that can lead to a confused scramble.
Despite all the vibrant particle effects, the actual sounds of battle – think gunfire, explosions, and power-ups – don’t sound particularly loud, diminishing the impact of combat. Thankfully, Gravity Heroes has a great soundtrack that’ll keep you psyched. It’s 90s-style techno and serves as a perfect accompaniment to the onscreen action.
Overall, at a $15-equivalent price point, Gravity Heroes is still a great party game that plays best with friends on the same couch. The gravity-shifting movement, enemy-packed arenas, and multi-stage boss fights are all more entertaining – and visually chaotic – with one or more friends, no matter which game mode you’re playing. When played solo, however, the succession of arena-based battles begin to feel like padding between the more exciting boss encounters.
*Gravity Heroes was reviewed on Xbox Series S. Review code was provided by the publisher
Gravity Heroes (Xbox Series S) ReviewGravity Heroes (Xbox Series S) Review
Story7/10 GoodSurprisingly deep for an action-packed arena-shooter, with plenty of unique dialogue for each hero.
Gameplay6/10 NormalChaotic fun when played co-op but repetitive when played solo. The multi-phase boss fights are the highlight, with the wave-based arena combat often feeling like padding.
Visuals7/10 GoodAs yet another pixel-art indie game, Gravity Heroes differentiates itself with detailed sprites, vibrant use of colour, and busy backdrops. It can become difficult to follow the action at times though.
Audio8/10 Very Good90s-style techno is a great accompaniment to the visuals and action.
- Chaotic cooperative firefights
- Challenging boss encounters
- Vibrant visuals and the techno soundtrack
- Local co-op support makes it a great party game
- Arena-based combat gets boring when played solo
- Limited variation in stage layout and enemy behaviours