Gravity Guy is what you’d get nine months after putting Canabalt and VVVVVV together in a candle-lit hotel room and selecting The Barry White Experience on the jukebox on your way out.
It takes place in Canabalt’s future dystopia – albeit with an injection of colour – and borrows the game’s blisteringly paced mechanics (running really, really fast and occasionally jumping to those out of the loop, and while that sounds like every other game ever coughed out into the world, it’s really not). And from the dashing VVVVVV it embezzles gravity manipulation. As far as inspiration goes, you could do a whole lot worse.
So Gravity Guy – the guy – sprints automatically from left to right and with a tap of the screen transitions from darting along the floor to hurtling upside down along the ceiling. Failure to avoid the bountiful openings in the floor or ceiling sends Gravity Guy soaring into the ether, demoting you back to the last checkpoint.
As per the Canabalt formula, the longer Gravity Guy survives, the faster he runs and while he slows at each checkpoint to grant your brain the opportunity to catch up, speed pads littering the levels ensure the lightning-paced sections far outweigh the measured parts.
You’re also constantly being shadowed by what appears to be a crossbreed between a Clone Trooper and Halo’s farcical Grunts – and judging by the flagrant Xeroxing evidenced elsewhere, probably is. He mirrors your vertical movements almost to a fault and, at the first indication of a mistake on your behalf, zips in to hack Gravity Guy in two. Judge, jury and executioner, not that the game bothers to explain why the angry, katana wielding psycho is relentlessly stalking Mr. Guy. Mercifully brief restarts prevent this from becoming tedious though.
With an infinite number of lives the story mode stretches as far as the will to keep attempting it does. It manages to evoke that wonderful sense of treading-on-thin-ice that Canabalt so effortlessly does, but with frequent checkpoints and limitless lives it’s about learning where not to screw up rather than playing in peril of simply doing so. By the mid-point of each of the two lengthy levels you’ll be retrying sections repeatedly until it almost becomes muscle memory.
Where Gravity Guy does flaunt some inventiveness is in its multiplayer, which sees up to four players race through the world together with the first to go wheeling out the level declared the washout and the last the Usain Bolt of the dystopian future. It’s a nifty little mode and elicits a far greater sense of threat than the story ever does on account of the fact that there are no second chances (although players can choose to host a rematch at the end of each round, with scores mounting in quasi-league form).
While there’s nothing markedly unique about Gravity Guy it effectively captures the salient features of its two inspirations and, with a cavalier disregard for originality, merges those features into a game not quite the sum of its parts, but more than able to hold its own nonetheless.