Badgers and space are certainly two things we would have never expected to see together, but then here's Gravity Badgers, a game all about badgers in space. Originally released for PC, this relatively unknown game has now received a Wii U port, but is it worth your time?
The plot in Gravity Badgers is almost non-existent, but there is a little — you play as a group of space badgers led by Captain Bayback, and they're apparently at war with evil honey badgers. You'll see a piece of textless artwork that seemingly explains the story, but none of it really transfers over to the gameplay because, ultimately, it's a relatively simple physics-based puzzle game.
When you start the game you'll be given five chapters and a tutorial from which to select your level. Naturally, it's recommended to do the tutorial first as it explains how everything works, but there are actually no limitations at all and you can theoretically choose to start from the last stage — just be prepared to be thoroughly confused if you do! Each non-tutorial chapter has 25 stages, which coupled with the tutorial and a few unlockable extra stages makes for about 140 stages in total; that's quite a hefty amount of content.
When you actually start playing, you might find that this game is somewhat like a more complicated Reflect Missile/Trajectile. In each stage your goal is to get your badger to a warp portal while trying to collect all the pickups; you cannot freely move the badger — instead, you yank him in any given direction and let go to fling him forward, hopefully getting everything and finishing. Each stage gives you 3 tries, but as you might expect this is fairly pointless — you can just retry when you lose all of your permitted attempts.
Of course, you can't simply reach the end with a straight shot every single time. You'll quickly be introduced to several additional stage elements, like planetoids that pull you closer or push you away, laser beams that must be passed through to actually open up the exit, and giant floating ice cubes that you can grab on to and launch yourself from a second time. As each stage often has several of these, the difficulty ramps up quite quickly and, before you know it, you'll be spending plenty of time just looking at the level layout before even attempting a shot.
A very handy feature when you're having trouble with a stage is the fact that it'll show you your previous shot, and how it moved around the stage before failing to reach the exit. This gives you a good idea of what direction you should adjust and can feel very welcome. The only problem is that it will only appear after the first shot, so if you fail all your shots and start the stage over it won't be there until you take another.
Once you make it to the end of a chapter, the game throws a curveball your way with boss fights. While the controls during these are much the same as those in normal stages they are, naturally, a bit more action-packed, so they will require some sharp reflexes and quick thinking.
While it's relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, it should be noted that Gravity Badgers has some neat options when it comes to the GamePad. It can be played either with the touch screen or with the buttons, which is always nice, but there's one option that took us by surprise, namely, the ability to decide what devices the music and sound effects will come out of — you can either have both come out of the GamePad and/or TV, or split them up accordingly, like the Wii Remote speaker when used for sound effects in some Wii games. It seems like such an option would make sense to have in many games and is certainly welcome; again, not really an earth-shattering new development, but an interesting option nonetheless.
While the Wii U port of Gravity Badgers is pretty much all we could've asked for, namely a sizeable game with fairly fun gameplay, it does unfortunately start to get slightly repetitive after a while; this isn't just because new gameplay elements are rather limited after the tutorial, but also because the title looks rather basic, with simplistic-looking characters, objects and animations, and backgrounds that look decent in screenshots but in reality are still images you'll be seeing for 24 stages each. The music is nice and atmospheric, but in general the presentation is fairly underwhelming.
While the gameplay itself isn't really ground-breaking, Gravity Badgers is an entertaining physics-based puzzler with a rather unique theme. It has rather simplistic, unremarkable visuals, but with plenty of content and a fairly low asking price those are modest complaints. If you'd like to give your brain some exercise, you can definitely do a lot worse than this.