Gravity Crash Ultra is a fast and frantic arcade space shooter that is as challenging to play as it is beautiful to look at. It is also a casual twin-stick shooter that encourages you to slow down and explore. It’s the best of both worlds, and I for one love it.

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In Gravity Crash Ultra you take control of a small space ship that spins and shoots it way through various levels as you destroy your enemy to increase your score. If you have ever played PixelJunk Shooter, Super Stardust, or even Asteroids, then you know what to expect. You fly through a planet’s cavernous maze until you complete your mission objectives and move on to the next planet. The objectives range from collecting a number of gems to destroying a certain building. The more stuff you blow up, the more points you earn. Once you clear all the planets in the system, you engage in a satisfying boss fight before you can move on to the next system.

The game’s interesting gravity mechanic comes into play to make controlling your ship just a tad more difficult. The ship always has a sense of inertia, and gravity is always trying to make you crash into the walls and make your ship explode in a glittering shower of particle effects. Hence the name of the game… gravity… crash. This adds an extra layer of challenge on top of everything else. Not only are you worried about enemy turrets shooting missiles at you, or the fact that your fuel gauge is quickly depleting, but you’re also trying to maneuver your ship so your thrusters can keep you on track.

And there’s a timer running the whole time. If you’re looking for a challenge, here it is.

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The beauty of this game is that you can scrape away most of those challenges and just enjoy it as a beautiful looking space shooter if you want. The reason you want to race through levels is because there is a time bonus if you finish it quickly, but if you don’t care about you score, then take as much time as you want. Explore all the nooks and crannies. Find every last jewel and destroy every enemy building you see. Sure you may die, but the only penalty for dying too much is that your score gets reset to zero. You still get to maintain your progression and keep going forward.

And to make it even more casual, Gravity Crash Ultra offers the option to fly with an anti-gravity ship that takes out the challenging gravity mechanic. It’s brilliant, and for me it makes the game so much better. I loved flying everywhere I could, hunting down every jewel and rescuing every downed crewman I could find. I don’t care what my score is or where I rank on the leaderboards, so just being able to enjoy each level for what it had to offer was refreshing.

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The game offers several different modes to play, but you start by working your way through the campaign. This is where you unlock planets as you progress from one star system to the next. Then you can always choose to go back and play any of your unlocked planets again to try for a better score.

There is also a level editor that allows you to create and share whole new worlds. I’m not really the creative type when it comes to this sort of thing, but thankfully there are a lot of people who are. You can browse through and play any of these shared levels, and there are quite a few really good ones. This gives the game an endless stream of content for players.

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Visually the game is absolutely stunning. Everything runs at a crisp 60 frames per second, and the lighting and particle effects are as gorgeous as they get. I don’t even mind dying in the game because seeing my ship explode is stunning to view. The graphic design of the game is rather simple but the beauty comes through in the extreme contrasts in color and lighting. The great vector art is reminiscent of the old arcade games that I always loved. The glowing green spaceship against the drab black background makes it pop on the screen so nicely. And there’s always this beautiful, blue trail of particles coming out of your ship that is just so well done.

The audio is also really well done with a great electronic soundtrack from CoLDSToRAGE. It’s one of those games that you’re better off playing with a set of good headphones to enjoy the music. Though you might want to go into the audio settings first and turn down the levels for the sound effects. It’s not that they are bad, it’s just that they become so repetitive. In a game where you’re shooting constantly, hearing the pew-pew of your guns gets old quick.

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It’s hard to talk about how well the game controls when one of the main features is to have difficult controls. You also have a choice as to what kind of controls you have. If you love the challenge, you can select to have the traditional arcade controls where you need to be facing in the direction you want to fire. You can also choose to have a twin-stick shooter control scheme where you use the right stick to aim and fire. Personally, I prefer the twin-stick approach, but even then I would find it difficult to aim accurately. Maybe that’s a flaw in the game or maybe I’m just horrible at aiming, but it always felt like I couldn’t get my shots exactly where I wanted them to go.

The only other complaint I have is that I wish you could have more than one campaign going at the same time. If you start a new game, all the progress you may have had gets lost and you start again from the beginning. This is frustrating if you have more than one person playing on the Vita, or even if you hit the button without thinking (I’m guilty of that one). Suddenly you’re back to square one again and have to unlock all the planets again.

I was really pleasantly surprised with Gravity Crash Ultra. It provides the right level of challenge, but also allows you to progress without frustration. It’s a beautiful arcade space shooter that throws in the gravity mechanic to make things interesting.  Plus with all the user created levels, there is a ton of stuff to play.

If you’re into shooters, then don’t hesitate on picking this one up.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
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Brad is a video game enthusiast and family man. He's been gaming since the days of the Intellivision, and while that indicates he's been doing this for quite some time, he doesn't intend to quit anytime soon. Currently he's trying desperately to convince his daughter that there are more games than just Minecraft (unsuccessfully so far).