Like Pacman on E’s, today’s game, Grav (date of publishing unknown but I’d guess somewhere between 1987 and 1992) is a variation on a very well-worn theme; this time that of controlling a small triangle-shaped spacecraft and piloting it through caverns whilst shooting at bad guys. Oh, and here’s the important thing, your craft is affected by gravity with the player turning the ship and “thrusting” to make it move. Yes, this game is based on the perennial favourite Thrust.
Now, this would be a good time to mention that I never really played Superior/Firebird’s original Thrust back in the day nor did I really play any of its many clones very much. The one that sticks in my mind most is the Amiga indie title Gravity Force 2 which does-away with the single-player missions of the original game and is instead a two-player dogfight-style game so the whole fly through caverns and shoot gun-turrets whilst occasionally picking something up and taking it to a mothership/base on a sort of elastic string, that sort of thing doesn’t cause my brain to go into nostalgic wibbles the same way it might with other men of my age.
So I can’t really tell you how Grav measures up to the original game, all I can tell you is what it felt like to play in the here and now, over twenty years after its inspiration was published. And the answer is that it’s not too bad. The plot is some guff about an evil alien that needs to be stopped before it does terrible things to planet Earth. The game offers a couple of training missions (non-compulsory, thank f*ck, unlike a lot of modern games which force you to play through an hour’s training before you’re actually given permission to do anything) which allow you to get a feel for the game before taking on the main missions themselves. These missions are based around two planets (you can play them in any order, chosen before the game commences) of four levels each. Before commencing on a mission the player can review “intelligence” about the enemies they will face and even adjust the engine power and spin speed of their ship. From what I could gather, the missions consist of guiding the triangular spaceship through various caverns laying waste to gun turrets, generators (which refuel you if you land next to them although you’re often asked to trash them anyway) and the irritating attracting/repelling enemy thingybobs which do exactly what they say on the tin and push or pull the player’s ship to a background of torrents of foul language. There are also some simply “switch” puzzles whereby shooting a certain block will cause doors to open allowing access to more of the level.
As with any game of this type, the main enjoyment is derived from the difficulty of guiding the ship through the caverns without slamming it into the walls or wandering into an enemy bullet. In many ways, the Thrust varients were the videogame equivalent of those carnival games where you have to maouvere a loop along a wire without touching it – they are all about careful skill and manouvering through tight corners only with added shooting and being shot at (well, I say added, there are some very rough carnivals out there, you never know…). Grav is a very simple game – it doesn’t rank up there with superb takes on this genre such as Oids or the aforementioned Gravity Force 2 but it’s pleasant enough if you want to try your hand at a very old-fashioned form of physics-based gaming. Just try not to swear too much when you get “repelled” into a wall.