Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: 'Inertia: Escape Velocity' by Red Fly Studio

I think we can all agree that space is pretty cool.  Planets, stars, dark matter, all good stuff.  One of the coolest things is gravity, or lack thereof.  Everyone has dreamed of floating around and bouncing off of things, of being untethered and free of Newton’s stupid laws.  This desire has made its way into video games in recent years, with Super Mario Galaxy throwing some gravity-defying mechanics into its platformer gameplay, and the most recent version of the Angry Birds series, aptly titled Angry Birds Space, employing similar gravity field exploits.  Mobile game Inertia: Escape Velocity by Red Fly Studio takes this to the next level by making these gravity-based components the crux of the gameplay.  What results is a unique, challenging game that will give you a break from your regular platforming action.

In Inertia, you play as the armor-donning Hermes and make your way through space, collecting parts to repair your ship.  You have the ability to negate gravity, allowing your character to float and bounce around levels.  Certain objects will attract, repel, or launch you, giving more ways to navigate.  The goal of the game is pretty basic – get to the end of the level and collect as much as you can along the way – but the physics-based gameplay makes it a unique experience.

As expected, the physics in Inertia are fantastic, and sometimes it feels like they might be too good.  Certain parts of levels can be unforgiving as poor Hermes ricochets every which way, and collecting some items can be difficult to the point of frustrating.  Then again, I’d rather the challenge over simply floating through a level unobstructed.  And the game does admittedly get easier once you get used to how things work.  Controls are simple – left/right directionals, a jump button, and a gravity control button – so you can jump right into figuring out how to get through levels in this decidedly unconventional manner.

You’ll be very focused in every level, so it’s nice that the people at Red Fly have made the game so engaging.  The graphics are well done: the animation is smooth, backgrounds and items are detailed without being busy, and you’ll find a surprising array of level design and atmosphere.  (Also, don’t be cheap.  Spring for the HD version.  It goes a long way.)  The music and sound effects might seem like small things, but their suitably space age-y and definitely do their part in immersing the player in this futuristic setting.

It’s nice to see mobile gamers stretching the limits and trying to be innovative with their offerings.  It’s easy to play to the simplistic expectations of mobile gaming, so seeing a company do something that would be impressive even on a console or established handheld is refreshing, encouraging, and entertaining.  If you want to see the next big thing in mobile gaming, Inertia: Escape Velocity might just be it.

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