Badgers as an animal come in for a lot of stick. If they don’t find themselves being gassed and shot, they get turned into shaving brushes, or at the very least the eventually irritating ‘Badger Badger Badger’ meme of many years ago. But now, it seems, that the furry animals are getting their revenge in this new game from Wales Interactive, available on Steam, the whole range of popular smartphones and the WiiU, which is the version I’ve been playing. And no mashed potato to be seen, eh Bodger?
Simply put, ‘Gravity Badgers’ is a touch-screen game that sees you control a badger with a jet pack, whose job it is, is to collect glowing suns whilst heading for the safety of the nearest wormhole. ‘Gravity Badgers’ is a familiar physics-based set-up, made up of 130 mini-games, that cherry picks its ideas from a whole host of games: imagine the physics and movement of Angry Birds, crossed with the super sheep from Worms, and the touchscreen mechanics of Yoshi’s Fruit Cart from the WiiU’s Nintendo Land collection.
You control the badger with the touchscreen of the WiiU controller, choosing the direction of flight and the strength of the catapult, like you would do on a touchscreen golfing game. Or, you know, angry birds. On the screen are three glowing suns to collect and a wormhole to escape through, and you have to use the objects on the screen to set your trajectory to collect as many suns as you can and make your escape, with up to three lives available to test your aim. In reality the lives system is pointless as there’s unlimited resets, and the only penalty is you lose a collected sun each time you die, so keen completionists will be looking for a first time solve. You can happily reset the level as many times as you want if you miss the sun’s first time around, and also skip ahead to any of the harder episodes at any point, though you unlock one extra level per episode as you complete one.
Objects on screen will help and hinder you. These include red and blue planets, whose gravity pulls you into them or push you away respectively. There are lasers that, when broken by a jet-packing badger, will open a shield to reveal the wormhole, and portals that take you from one place to another. There are pipes that allow you to change direction, and the very useful ice-cubes which stop you in your tracks and allow you to touch the screen to send you to a chosen location.
To aid you your last direction and strength are shown on screen and, after a quick but useful series of tutorials from your grandfather badger – yes really – you’re into the meat of the game, 125 levels spread over five episodes, each with three suns to collect, all escalating in difficulty, plus five unlockable levels at the end of the keen, and skilled, sun collectors.
As far as game play goes it’s pretty simple. The controls are solid and easy to pick up and there’s enough challenge as the game progresses to keep you interested, though with only 130 post-tutorial levels it’s hardly a massive game, and I’d rattled through the first fifth of the game in fifteen minutes, though these are the easiest levels. Difficulty is steady and the game is mostly fair and quite forgiving for slight mistakes, and there’s definitely a certain satisfaction in completing a level and collecting all the suns, the balletic movements of the badger raising a smile as it weaves and shifts around the gravity-churning planets. The game does, though, rely heavily on trial and error and with only the last move shown to you, it’s often tricky on the harder levels to get the right power and direction, and though the size of planets affects their gravitational pull, it’s not obvious from looking what you should make the settings. It all seems fair though, and the positions of the suns offer some prompting, but it’s still often a suck-it and see-it approach to gameplay.
Graphically, the game is pretty polished but there’s definitely a whiff of upscaling from the smartphone formats and though there are some nice little touches not essential to game play – comets fly across the screen, the dark forboding galaxial backgrounds twinkle, and space junk and asteroids move and the exits pulsate, and are all nice little details, but it hardly tests the WiiU in graphical scope, with the flat cut-out badgers and animation-less space snakes screaming low-processor phones than current generation home console. In fact, with its pick-up and play short-burst style game play, this does feel like a game that would be more at home on the WiiU’s sister console the 3DS but that vibe is present in the game anyway as you will find yourself playing entirely on the touchscreen as opposed to the television, so it’s built around a smaller screen anyway. Scaled up to the size of a 42’’ television, though, it works but you’ll hardly be looking up from the gamepad.
Elsewhere the presentation is sparse. Menus are text-less and initially confusing until you work out what the graphics mean. Captionless image cut-scenes allow you to use your imagination to work out the plotline but a bit of context would be nice, and some buttons don’t seem to do anything, such as the Miiverse button on the main screen which doesn’t seem to do anything no matter how many times I press it.
Musically, the background tunes are atmospheric in the levels but it’s all very simple. Some of the cut scene and intro music is twee and irritating after a while. It’s not bad, but hardly incredible.
There are a few features lacking that I would have liked to have seen. Introducing time limits would add more challenge to the levels, and points based on this like on Yoshi’s Fruit Cart would add some repeatability, and would work well with online scoreboards or Miiverse integration. Perhaps also some videos or other graphical additions to justify an appearance on the WiiU wouldn’t go a miss.
Overall, ‘Gravity Badgers’ is a fun distraction and worth the £4.99 it costs on Nintendo’s eStore. Yes, it’s just a scaled up smartphone game and one that would be more at home on the handheld 3DS, but the physics that make up the guts of the game work and the balance of trial and error and working out just about works. The difficult level increases steadily and very rarely becomes frustrating, and boss fights at the end of each chapter add a bit of variety. The overall product lacks a little bit of polish and the storyline, for what there is, lacks clarity. But there’s plenty of challenge in place for players that want to collect all the suns – though the unlockable characters come across as just cosmetic – and it’s a solid physics-based puzzle game that will fill up an otherwise boring ten minutes.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Wii U code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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