Gravitronix (WiiWare)

Game Review

Gravitronix Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

One of the first titles announced for WiiWare finally sees the light of day.

Among the very first games announced for WiiWare, we might have expected to review Gravitronix around two years ago. But, as they say, life gets in the way. Plans change, things don't work out the way we expect them to, and release dates slip further and further away. It happens, and it's not infrequently to the benefit of the game. When additional development time is used to iron out bugs or to enhance gameplay, a delayed release is worth waiting for. Unfortunately, this particular game would not have been likely to impress even on day one.

Gravitronix plays on a gameboard not unlike Hungry Hungry Hippos; there is a large circle through which projectiles fly, and the characters remain at the rim. Unlike Hungry Hungry Hippos, the characters can slide around within their own segment of the circle. Also unlike Hungry Hungry Hippos, nobody will want to play with you.

Each occupied section of the game (you can leave certain sections unoccupied, if you so choose) will be protected by a row of shields. Every time a shield absorbs a hit, it shrinks slightly. If it absorbs an explosion, it diminishes much more quickly. Once a shield is missing, the character is open to defeat; if a projectile makes it through the gap, that section's character (or team) is defeated.

Reading that, you've probably come to the conclusion that this game is designed with a multiplayer element in mind. You're correct. There is a single-player campaign mode, but aside from a few welcome quirks (such as levels that remove an ability from your arsenal, forcing you to rely on another) there's not much to hold a player's interest. As such, we will be reviewing the game from mainly a multiplayer standpoint, unless otherwise indicated.

Gravitronix controls simply enough. Pressing (A) activates the Push Beam, which will deflect projectiles. Pressing (B) activates the Capture Beam, which allows you to snatch up projectiles and fire them off in another direction. If you capture a projectile you can also "charge it up" by holding down the A button, which will cause the projectile to detonate when it collides with something. In itself, this works well, and allows for nuance by more experienced players; activating the Push Beam will have a different degree of impact on the projectile the closer you allow it to get, and the gravity of the Capture Beam can be used to sling projectiles off in another direction without sacrificing momentum.

Sadly, that's where the good news ends. Movement of your character is handled by twisting the Wii Remote from side to side, but the tilt recognition is muddy and sluggish. The characters move too slowly to allow for much in the way of last-second excitement, and precision doesn't seem to have been a concern to the developers as it takes up to a full second for the character to react to a change in direction. (One second may not sound like much, but try to imagine how difficult a game of Super Mario Bros. would be if Mario kept walking right for a full second after you told him to stop running and move left.)

Games that handle motion control as poorly as Gravitronix should have a mandatory option for alternate control styles. It's a serious problem (being as the entire game is based around your ability to maneuver yourself and objects), and the "movement plus two action buttons" control scheme would seem like a no-brainer to map to a Wii Remote held NES-style. Why not at least give us the option?

Surprisingly, the movement is somewhat more reliable when the controller is held sideways, as in Bit.Trip: Beat, but this makes pressing the (A) and (B) buttons much more awkward, meaning you're basically just trading one problem for another. Again, the option for a proper alternate control scheme would have been an urgently welcome one.

The game doesn't even get menu navigation right, leaving the player adrift in a sea of conditional controls that rarely do the same thing on one screen as they do on another. On some screens, you can use the pointer to select your options. On other screens, you cannot use the pointer and must switch to a clumsy (dpad). Why give us pointer functionality only to take it away again in certain spots? Also, on the character-selection screen, (B) backs you out of your choice, but on every other screen, (B) does nothing and the - button backs you out. Except for when it doesn't, on an options screen, where - changes values and 1 backs you out. Huh?

The character-selection screen is one that you will visit far more often than is necessary. After every round (even in the single player campaign mode) you will be asked to choose your character. In other games - such as Super Smash Bros. or Super Mario Kart - this might make sense, as different characters have different strengths and weaknesses, which can be employed in different ways in different areas. In this game, every area is the same and the characters play and control identically. None of them are faster than the others, or more powerful, or distinct in any way. So why are we being constantly prompted to choose between them? Can't the game just let us stick with our irrelevant decisions and get on with our lives?

The only differences the choice of character make to the game are the victory graphic when the round is over and the handful of bored-sounding voice clips you'll hear during the game. During play, every character is represented by a face in a circle, making it all too easy to confuse yourself in the heat of battle ("heat" being used very generously in this sentence) with somebody else occupying your area of the board. The ability to choose between different shapes for your character would have been helpful; the ability to choose between different faces to stick in your circle is worthless.

After every round you'll hear a celebratory voice clip and the game will display a single-screen full-body graphic of the winner(s). There will also be a display of fireworks, the breathtaking glory of which will be like nothing you've ever seen before, unless you've at some point managed to complete a game of Windows Solitaire.

You can choose from a handful of different rules for the game, as well as tweak many settings that can alter the course of battle slightly. We appreciated the variety, but the game is so weak at its core that the variety isn't much of a diversion. It's a bit like being presented with an impressively lengthy menu at a restaurant, only to realize that every item is a slight variation on a dish you don't enjoy.

It's difficult to find much good in Gravitronix. The art style is inconsistent, ranging - as it does - from 3D Rendering 101 to the doodles you'd find in a bored teenager's chemistry notebook. The music (which is actually quite good, if not memorable) loops improperly, with several seconds of dead space between where the song cuts off and where it picks up again. The unfortunate color choices render certain projectiles very difficult to see against the unchanging background. The battles can consist of long stretches of sitting quietly and waiting for a projectile to drift impotently into range, and gameplay often degrades into a sort of limp, careless chaos. There’s no disguising the fact that this is a shambling mockery of a game unfortunately.


Sloppy construction, poor presentation and - above all - aimless, unimpressive gameplay stand out as Gravitronix's most distinguishing features. We have no doubt that a great deal of effort was invested into this game, but it's difficult to figure out where that effort went. In the words of the developer: Medaverse Studios started as three guys who knew nothing about game development wanting to develop games. This statement should act as a stark reminder to all would-be WiiWare developers – the "great" idea in your head may not translate into a game that others would enjoy.

The long and short of it is that anybody looking for a fun multiplayer experience already has dozens of stronger examples to choose from, and anybody who isn't would be wise not to make an exception for Gravitronix. We cannot recommend this shabby excuse of a game to you in good conscience.

From the web

Game Trailer

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

User Comments (70)



Odnetnin said:

I'll just go back to playing Hungry Hungry Hippos, then.
And wow, design missteps galore.




Chicken Brutus doesnt seem to enjoy many of his games no more. At least you still have the Cubes? Sorry Phillip, whoever assigns games must have had tortured you. You may never get those 7 friends back



SgtSawkz said:

wow, I was actually looking forward to this one... Probably not so much anymore



Knux said:

I think I will pass. It's sad, one of the first announced WiiWare games turns out to be shovelware.



Corbs said:

My friends and I just couldn't get into the game. We played for almost two hours and not one of them had a single kind word to say about it. It's a shame, as I had high hopes for this game.



J_Lowther said:

Not much I can say to that other than that it wasn't our goal to deceive anyone: we brought in quite a few playtesting groups and told them all that any faults they didn't pick up on here would be picked on in reviews. Overall, all but one group had a great time with the game. Clearly, there's more to this than just playtesting.

We'll try harder with our next game.



Trucker said:

At least the devs have a humble attitude about this damning review unlike some other crybabies I can recall, I really respect that. I know nothing about making games either, but I guess that's why I am a trucker



Pastry said:

I was going to buy this in like 10 seconds, but I was all like, meh I think I'll check Nintendo Life. I'm so glad I did.



Malouff said:

@J.Lowther Cheer up at least some reviewers found it ok like Ninteno Okie (Tony) did.

Take this as a learning experience if you plan to continue WiiWare development and learn from your mistakes.

I also have to commend you on your attitude towards the reviews and hope you have better luck next time.



warioswoods said:

In all candor, Mediaverse should get credit for visiting a scathing review and being quite congenial; it's easy for us to sit on the sidelines and act as if any game we'd make would be better, but there's a whole lot of work involved in software development; I'm sure this experience will help them improve for future projects even if it ends up failing financially.

Also, everyone knows that Chicken Brutus is just a mean, mean guy. Look at that face.



XCWarrior said:

Should maybe the game be reviewed by a group of people at the same time? Not sure if that helps. Just looks like a simple game, but sometimes that makes for good party games.



pagster said:

I logged on to also commend @J.Lowther for his effort towards development - if it's what makes you satisfied in life, then you should go for it.

I also have to say that the end part of the review seemed unnecessarily harsh. I prefer the "why it could be better" rather than "this developer didn't have good ideas" approach to the conclusion (which, let's be honest, is the only part I read when I am previewing games ).



Bass_X0 said:

This is the only low scoring game I hope does well in the charts still. After following the development of the game since the start reading the various interviews, I feel that these guys should get some return at least for the number of difficulties they ran into. I found the review to be particularly brutal towards the game since I consider Lowther one of us Nintendo Lifers.



Corbs said:

Bass this is shocking coming from someone like you who generally shows no mercy on below average games and the developers that create them. Wow. O_o

On another note, I hope the guys at Medaverse stick to it and I hope we see more games from them in the future.



jbrodack said:

I don't think its fair to call any game that doesn't end up great "shovelware" especially when its from an indie studio trying their own thing. Anyway, art style looks similar quality to blpus games which is not a good thing. Haven't played it but looks like it would be as deep as a minigame. Now that they know what they are doing better they should try to come up with something else and do a better job with the art.



Kid_A said:

I think it's really cool that the developer commented here. I imagine it's pretty rough reading that negative review and hearing nasty comments about something you worked really hard on. But in the end, that's how you improve.



Elmernite said:

Sad to here that...

I am happy about the way the developer handled it great to see him post here and I hope they do make a new game and take everything mentioned here to heart.

As a game developer myself, I know what it's like when someone points out the flaws in your game that you just completely (or your beta testers) missed. It hurts.
Especially when, unlike me, you're trying to make money off of it. I image it only hurts worse. I hope the developer comes back here and reads this. My only advice is keep trying and look at the classics! Try playing old classics and think of ways to build off of the basic concepts that have latest so long.

(Also just play my games for the fun it )



Bass_X0 said:

Nah, this is different from the faceless developers who clearly spend very little effort in making the likes of Hockey Allstar Shootout and The Incredible Maze. Those two games deserved to be strongly criticised but for Gravitronix... knowing how difficult it was in getting the game finished, even if it does score a 2/10, I don't feel we should be as hard on this one as we are on others of a similar score. Nobody can say they didn't try. Maybe now they'll have a better understanding on where they went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistakes for their second game.



Corbs said:

Jesse's been great in giving us information and assets for the game, and I appreciate the way he's responded to the review. As I said above, I certainly hope we see more projects from Medaverse in the future. By the way, have you guys at Medaverse ever considered doing a bullet hell shooter?



SwerdMurd said:

@J.Lo (sorry couldn't resist) - sooo much respect for how you handled the negative review. Seriously, it takes balls the size of planets to man up, realize maybe what you made wasn't so great, and not make excuses. I'm half-tempted to get the game to support you being a kick-ass dude. Medaverse, please keep trying--that attitude makes me want to support you guys. Not like High Voltage--they just seem to ignore the constant criticism and maintain that everything they make poops gold and discovered the internet.



letsplay said:

@J.Lowther: Can you have beta testers on the Wii through the Shop channel?

Since it's Wiiware Medaverse Studios can update it to fix any problems.
Reading the review maybe add options to change colors, increase speed of projectiles and fix the dead space between the songs, etc



DarkEdi said:

I wasn´t interest in a "gravitational game" but i think a 2 points to a 3 years game is lamentable.



StarDust4Ever said:

Hungry Hungry Hippos? Do they still make that? I think I'll have to make a stop by Toys-R-Us and see, LOL!



WolfRamHeart said:

@J.Lowther: I'm sorry to see that Gravatronix turned out the way it did. I probably wouldn't have picked this game up even if it scored well because I hardly ever play any multiplayer games. I wish you guys at Medaverse the best of luck with your future efforts.



Cheezy said:

Why is Chicken reviewing most of the bad games? But this stinks, kind of seeing that this game has been anticipated for so long...



timp29 said:

@J.Lowther: If this is what you love doing, keep doing it and don't let anyone tell you different.



CanisWolfred said:

Gee, a game with massive amounts of development time ends up being a failure. That certainly hasn't happened a billion times before. After a while you'd think they'd stop giving developers more time and simply cut their losses(who knows, maybe they did?)



longtimegamer said:

I Agree with Jbrodack and Bass X0: These guys really cared about this game and put alot of effort into it. It therefore should not deserve the term shovelware. It may not be great and they made mistakes, but they were genuinely interested in making a good, fun, and entertaining game.
I feel bad for J (in particular), but as others pointed out he handled it well and in both a humble and dignified way, very commendable. (Very sorry for the harsh and insensitive comments toward you too.)



Ren said:

I don't think it's overly harsh at all. Any other game as bad gets the grinder the same way. Reviews are just one persons' opinion and the frustrated feeling you get from paying money for a dismal game just shows when something is really bad.
With that said I also commend the developer for his humility, and I hope they can learn from the experience. Besides, I actually think it won't do that bad anyway. Everything at 500 points has better chances at big sales than the others, especially if it includes so many players. I wouldn't write it off just yet bad reviews or not.
Personally I thought it looked like a snore from the first screens I saw some time ago, and I made sarcastic remarks with every update. How was it not obvious that a concept so limited and so simple really needed an outstanding interface or something more to actually be worthwhile? Anyway, too bad, guys. Better luck next time.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@J.Lowther: I agree with BassX0; your presence on this site and earnest desire to make a great game make it impossible to just yell "shovelware" and move on. At the same time, I'm confused how you could've had such good playtesting responses for a game with this many flaws. I don't mean to sound insulting (though it's kind of unavoidable), but who were you using for playtesters?

@Chicken Brutus: Why doesn't the review actually mention that you can play with up to 8 players, the other half using the Nunchuks? This I learned from the Nintendo Channel video on the game...and the review doesn't mention it. Dude, you're missing critical info the freaking NINTENDO CHANNEL told me! That's just kind of sad.

Oh, I also agree with theblackdragon's amusing post. The review for this game actually doesn't make it sound as bad as Incoming, so the extra point is deserved.



Stuffgamer1 said:

Okay, the info box says eight players, but it doesn't explain how that works. For all I could've known, you have to take turns!



y2josh said:

@J.Lowther: Sorry to hear this. I never wanted the game myself, but am interested in your future endeavors. Don't be a stranger around these parts.



J_Lowther said:

Thanks for your support, everyone. I appreciate it.

@Stuffgamer "At the same time, I'm confused how you could've had such good playtesting responses for a game with this many flaws. I don't mean to sound insulting (though it's kind of unavoidable), but who were you using for playtesters?"

I'm just as confused as you are.

We went on craigslist and found groups of friends who played games together and offered to include their names in the credits as playtesters in exchange for some of their time. The two groups that stand out in my mind the most were a group of four mid-20s cynical nerdy-types (DnD players and everything) and a group of four high school boys.

I actually missed the first half of the nerds' playtest (coming back from a hospital appointment), but when I arrived, they were having a blast with the game. They were swearing at each other (we told them to act like we weren't there, and they sure did), mocking the characters or mocking each other for losing to the characters. Don't get me wrong, when they DIDN'T like something, they sure as hell let us know, and they weren't polite about it, but overall, they had a blast. On the way out, one of them even said "This game is EPIC!" to his friends as he was leaving. One of them commented on how his Wii had been gathering dust but that Gravitronix would change that.

The high school boys were a group I hosted alone. They figured out the game quickly enough and were also having a lot of fun, but the one moment that REALLY stood out for me was when they were having trouble beating the CPUs in a 4v4. They decided to practice against each other for a bit, then decided to try their luck again. When they finally beat the 4 CPUs, they literally leapt from their chairs and cheered. It had been a close game and they were all literally on the edge of their seats until the point where they finally won.

I gave all playtesters the "American Idol" speech. I pointed out all of the poor chumps who go on American Idol to sing, believing that they're great singers when they aren't. I pointed out how odd it is that these people never had a friend or family member who took them aside and explained that they're not as good as they think they are and that they were going to be humiliated on national TV if they tried out for the show. I emphasized to our playtesters that they are the equivalent of that friend for us, and that any problems the game had that they didn't report to us would most certainly be picked up on by reviewers.

I don't blame the playtesters. They offered a huge amount of feedback and criticism, and the game was definitely better for it. My only theory is that Gravitronix is a game that either clicks with people or it doesn't and maybe we happened to primarily get playtesters who it clicked with.

As I said earlier, due to the reactions of the playtesters, I had no idea this was coming. Gravitronix is far from perfect, but it had never failed to produce the results we were looking for in our target demographic (groups of friends who play games together) and seemed to be fun for non-gamers as well.

So yeah, not only am I confused but I don't know how we can avoid this with our next game. I thought that playtesting was the answer but now I'm just not sure...



Dazza said:

@J.Lowther I just woke up expecting to find a mess of comments and lots of outrage. I am pleasantly surprised to see that you took the criticisms in Phil's review so well. We were careful to make sure that our senior reviewer Corbie was in agreement before firing out such a low score so please don't think that this was done lightly.

I haven't played your game yet, but I know that you guys put a lot of effort into this. It's a shame we didn't "get" it. I hope you won't be too discouraged and give it another shot.

Perhaps next time you could flesh out a basic concept game in Flash and let users in our forum comment on it before investing more and developing it into a WiiWare game?



SKTTR said:

You cannot avoid these things with a multiplayer game!

The review has never touched the multiplayer mode which is obviously the core of the game. In a game that is best played with 4 or 8 players there are some things a reviewer unfortunately can't reproduce that easily, especially when the review needs to get online - there's no time getting 4-8 people and 4-8 controllers together. That's why many multiplayer game reviews fail.

In multiplayer games, fun is exponentially rising the more players are into it.

Come on, the 2/10 is the rating for the solo player mode!
The more people you can get into this the better it gets.

@ J.Lowther: You should invest more time in the solo player mode next time. That's what many people do first. Playing it alone. Regardless of knowing that this game is specifically made for multiplayer sessions. The point is, if they like it alone, they'll look for a multiplayer option. Better visuals also help blending the mass.



theblackdragon said:

@SKTTR: Read the fourth paragraph, dude. I'm pretty sure I saw him say in chat or something that he had friends over playing it with him for the review. :3



Luigi-la-bouncy said:

Wow! J.Lowther is a real stand-up guy, what a fascinating insight into how the game was tested. To be honest I thought Nintendo would have blocked the release of the game if it was so bad.



SKTTR said:

@theblackdragon: §4 mentions it, but there's not much insight after.

I just felt some 8-player kinda-Pong action game for 500pts with lots of customization options deserves a better rating than a 2/10 but maybe it's really executed in a veeeeery veeeeeery baaaad way. Honestly, a 2/10 screams "This game is pure crap but it is a little better than Happy Holidays Halloween!"
Well, the game isn't released here and I'm not one of them playtesters either, so what do I know? I cannot play it.



Dazza said:

@SKTTR I know that both Corbie and Phil played the game with several players. The review certainly takes that into account. You have to draw your own conclusions on the final score



Philip_J_Reed said:

Yeah, echoing Dazza, I might as well point out that I ALWAYS consider the multiplayer aspect to a game and give it its fair due. I've got several friends that I rotate through to get their opinions on how a game plays, and to gauge how people with a completely different gaming background than myself react to it. Even on games like Cubes where it's (with all due fairness to Cubes...) obviously an afterthought.

Between Corbie and I we played this game with 12 people, but I also invested several hours in the single-player campaign (primarily because it served as an effective tutorial). Both modes definitely got some extensive testing, and I don't think I'm speaking out of turn when I say that any other NL reviewer would have done the same.

I don't know how to make it more clear than the sentence Black Dragon pointed out ("we will be reviewing the game from mainly a multiplayer standpoint, unless otherwise indicated") but if it needed clearing up, hopefully this comment did it.



letsplay said:

They should have playtesting groups go through the motion of paying (out of their pocket) for the game and see how they react. May see a big difference then just beta testing.



xvs07 said:

Longtime reader, first time posting.
CB: I think we can all recognize that telling the truth about a fan-favored underdog that doesn't end up winning was a difficult and unpleasant job, but I think what's setting folks off is the tone of the review, not the facts and opinions. Then again, critique divorced from emotion is a boring read.

Medaverse: I've got the answer to all such future problems: get game reviewers to playtest for you.



Chunky_Droid said:

Well this was certainly a surprise.

But J.Lowther, thank you for being understanding! You obviously put a lot of effort into this game, we all hope you can learn from this and bring out something truly special next time around!

I actually watched a vid of Gabe Newell visiting a modder in Australia and telling him not to be discouraged from the bad feedback Gabe was giving him. You guys show a lot of promise like the Aussie kid and will certainly have a bright future ahead of you!



NotEnoughGolds said:

There are a few things I could live without:
1. More Breakout/Arkanoid clones
2. More Tetris clones
3. More Warlords clones
These games have been popular since the Atari 2600 and I think it's time they're put to rest. They're too simple and relatively unexpandable to be anything other than a mini-game.

From this review, there seem to be some very superficial changes that could have improved this game, that need to be in the next game regardless of concept:
1. The user interface should be consistent. If in one menu, 'A' is used for select/progress and 'B' is used for back, then that control scheme should be used in every single menu.
2. Make sure the controls are fluid. It sounds like twisting the wiimote was supposed to emulate the 'spinner' controls from Warlords. This is pretty neat, but don't feel like you "must" use motion control if it's not working perfectly. We Wii gamers are perfectly content with motionless controls.

Make sure you at least touch up on these for your next game, and please don't give us anymore breakout or warlords clones.



Metal_Slime said:

This thread is vicious.

You went from fans to developers on your own and you released a finished game. Thats more than anyone else can say on this thread! This game will have it's fans!



D_Johnson said:

Question: Someone here suggested to use reviewers as play testers. Is there a way for developers to send WiiWare games for preview? The only thing I can come up with is sending a preview disc, but that would require more additional costs.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@J.Lowther: Well, now I'm even MORE confused. I half expected the playtesters to be a bunch of stereotypicial gaming newbs. With your playtesters including 20-year-old nerds and typical high-schoolers, you'd think the results would've matched better... My sincere sympathies for your situation. I know if I was in your current situation, I'd be crying my eyes out screaming "WHAT WENT WRONG?!?"

If I had the money to download this (yes, even $5 is too much for me right now, especially since I'd actually have to spend a minimum of $10 buying points), I would, and give my hands-on feedback here. I'm sorry I can't do that, but I do wish you the best of luck with the sales of this game (and I hope that those who buy it mostly DO enjoy it), and I hope you can get enough money from it to take another crack at making a game.



primeris said:

It would be silly if what happened was that testers played the final, but the release was a beta.
More likely, reviewers and casual gamers will approach a game from a different perspective.
I won't really know what's up until I play it myself, but where I am, no one wants to play multiplayer games unless it's Mario Kart



Odnetnin said:

I might this to see if it "clicks" with me. I do have $5 to spare, and I really am surprised at the way everything has gone.



J_Lowther said:

@NotEnoughGolds "1. The user interface should be consistent. If in one menu, 'A' is used for select/progress and 'B' is used for back, then that control scheme should be used in every single menu."

This is actually a mistake in the review. The minus button is always used to go back (except in the options screen where you cannot go back). The B button only deconfirms character selection on the character select screen.

There are actually a few mistakes in the review, but at this point, arguing them would be like demanding a recount in a landslide.



Kevin said:

Shame really. It was one of the first announced games for WiiWare. You figure they could of done a better job on it with the time given to work on the game.



brooks83 said:

For 500 points I may just pick this up anyways. Bruiser and Scratch got bad reviews too, but I enjoyed it.



nice_shirt said:

I picked this up anyway. What do you want for five bucks? Maybe my wife will play this with me at least once instead of SMB3 for a change.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...