A Puzzler That Pulls You In
HIGH The satisfaction of clearing a stage with minimal pauses.
LOW Input lag and speed of the comet make the pauses hard to time.
WTF Directing a comet towards paw prints in order to rescue a cat devoured by a black hole!?
I like big, grandiose experiences as much as the next guy. If done properly, a big-budget title with high production values can really suck me into another world. I find this level of immersion to be one of the main appeals of videogaming, but sometimes I’m simply not in the mood for something intense. I might find myself too tired after a day of studying or working, or maybe I just want to play something a bit smaller. Developed by Emil Markiewicz, Graviter is a small-sized physics-based puzzler that fits the bill for just such a mood.
In this title, players control a comet — though in reality they have little direct control over it. Each level consists of a single screen, with the player’s goal being to hit paw icons placed around each area. Once the player sets the comet in motion, it’ll shoot quickly in a straight line. In order to change direction, the player can shrink, enlarge, jump between or move planets in each level, manipulating the trajectory of the comet via gravitational pull. The player also has a set number of pauses to stop the comet to and make further adjustments.
This may sound complex, but in practice the mechanics of Graviter are straightforward. After an effective tutorial, manipulating planets and changing the direction of the comet becomes second nature.
At times it can be challenging, as should be expected from a puzzle game. When I did hit the odd roadblock, such as one level where I had a minimal space to curve over a large block and back again, it could be very frustrating. But for the majority of the experience the solutions felt logical, engendering a sense of achievement whenever a stage is passed.
However, if it does get too frustrating, Graviter provides ways around it. At the end of each level, the game rewards the player with points that can be spent on minor cosmetic elements (such as the color of the comet tail) but they can also be spent on extra pauses or skipping troublesome levels, ensuring that Graviter remains a pleasant, casual experience. The Switch is a fantastic platform for this type of project — it feels right at home where I was able to pick up and play whenever I wanted, although using the joycons to cycle through the selection of planets can feel awkward and cumbersome.
Also, I did have some problems with the pause mechanic. As stated, the comet moves quickly once it sets off, and timing a pause can be tricky — it almost seems that there’s some input lag, and in my most frustrating moments with Graviter I found myself constantly restarting a stage due to mistiming a pause that caused my comet to repeatedly crash into a planet. This aspect feels imprecise at exactly the time when it needs to be.
In terms of aesthetics and presentation, the developer matches the simple gameplay with a colorful art style that is both pretty and functional. (For those wanting a more striking style, there’s a black and white option.) Graviter also boasts a peaceful, relaxing soundtrack, and the paws in each level have to do with the narrative — it’s something to do with a cat getting devoured by a black hole, leaving behind prints for the comet to follow. It seems like utter nonsense and a wholly unnecessary addition, but this is a minor quibble.
Graviter offers satisfying, addictive mechanics that come in bite-sized sessions. Aside from some minor frustrations with the pause, it’s a joyful experience that proves videogames don’t always have to be audiovisual extravaganzas to be worthwhile.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Emil Markiewicz and published by No Gravity Games. It is currently available on Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E. Early on, there is a depiction of a cat being pulled into a black hole, but this is not shown in a way that means to be horrifying. Otherwise, there is nothing in Graviter that makes it an unsuitable game for children.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does not offer subtitles per se, but offers instructions with a minimal amount of in-game text. This cannot be resized, but text is large and presented in a clear way. The game does not require the use of audio cues, so is therefore fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.