Gravity Falls seems like the kind of show that would translate well into the realm of video games. From Zelda to Mario to Donkey Kong, the Disney cult hit has trotted out references to many of gaming's greatest franchises. In fact one of the best episodes of the series, "Fight Fighters", is about main character Dipper accidentally bringing a Street Fighter-esque character into the real world. It's phenomenal. It really makes one wonder how Ubisoft managed to get a video game version so wrong.
It should be noted that Gravity Falls: Legend of the Gnome Gemulets, while still sticking with the major themes of the show, unfortunately does not have a focus on any of the gaming-related content we've seen in the series. No Rumble McSkirmish. No Giffany. No NORT. It seems like an enormous waste, as Gravity Falls is a show that loves to make nods towards gaming culture. Why they wouldn't include these aspects in an actual video game is bewildering.
Lack of gaming references aside, Gnome Gemulets does have some of the most hilarious character dialogue in recent memory. Not to mention a goofy plot worth it's weight in cavorting beavers. The whole storyline is pure Gravity Falls gold, and stands out as the game's biggest selling point - especially from a fan perspective. In the game's first moments a strange creature flies by the Mystery Shack to which Mabel exclaimes, "A flying log! With a person face! I'll call him Loggo!" Classic Mabel. If you know the characters well you'll hear their words echo in your head, and it sounds right. The writers of the game did a fantastic job capturing the spirit and the silliness of each character and playing off their personalities. Sadly this is where most of the fun ends.
Players control Dipper and Mabel, Gravity Falls' mystery twins, throughout different environments as they collect items and solve puzzles. It's your classic 2D hop-and-bop approach with some power-ups thrown in for good measure. It's decent at best in this aspect. Players can switch between Dipper and Mabel to use their unique powers (grappling hook!) in specific situations, but it always seems like more of a hinderance than anything else.
This is mainly due to the game's insistence that players be in the exact right spot at the time of use. Gnome Gemulets also forces players to backtrack through the stage if they get to end without picking up some of Grunkle Stan's mystery items. The problem is that players may not even realize they've missed them before it's time to turn around and replay through the stage.
Gnome Gemulets is set up as a collectathon platformer in the spirit of Rayman Legends. In fact UbiArt, the same engine behind the recent Rayman reboots, is utilised for Gravity Falls' first 3DS outing. This is easy to see in many areas of the game where Rayman-esque elements appear, such as floating on air currents and swinging from ropes to reach new surfaces. There are even Lum-like orbs that Dipper and Mabel can collect along their journey.
It's certainly a problem when you're actually hoping a cut scene won't end, because you'd rather listen to the characters jabber on than trudge through another level. The levels themselves aren't terrible in design, they're just not very diverse. They seem to feature the same obstacle over and over, pushing players to use their special power-ups here and there, but never really challenging them.
The worst part is the enemies, if you can call them that. There aren't many to be found and the ones that players do come upon are so painfully slow and unaggressive that they'll find themselves simply skipping the fight all together. The creators of the game couldn't even be bothered to make five of the six big bosses anything more than colour-swapped models with some slight differences in attack pattern and obstacles.
The development team do know how to ink pretty 2D game, and the multi-layer backdrops and smooth character animations look fluid as players trek through the forest and underground. It's certainly not a bad look, but as anyone who played Rayman Origins on the 3DS knows, hand drawn graphics are all about detail, and they can become a bit muddled behind the top screens large pixels. The visuals are fine, but it would be nice to see the environments of Gravity Falls on a bigger screen where players could take in its grandeur.
Then there's the collecting. Everyone in Gravity Falls needs you to find something they have miraculously lost. And we mean everyone. Players will find books, dumbbells, pages, potions, cassettes, floppy discs, trophie, and more scattered throughout the game's few levels. It does give you something to quest for after the game has been conquered, but there is virtually no incentive. Not that it'll stop you from picking up the items on your quest, as they are usually sitting in plain sight on the level's main path. It's padding, plain and simple. Something the game does often, telling players they need to go back to a certain stage to talk to one character only to be told to go back to another stage for some similar reason. It can be a bit aggravating, to say the least.
Game length is another aspect that Gnome Gemulets struggles with. Standard players will be able to complete the game's main quest in roughly three hours, while a bit of longevity can be added by hunting down the few left over items Dipper and Mabel couldn't reach on their first go round. The game's short play time is mostly due to the fact that there are only a handful of stages to complete. The whole setup seems more fitting to a download-only eShop title than a full budget retail game.
Fans of the Gravity Falls television series will find plenty to smile about in the snappy character dialogue and running gags, but Gnome Gemulets is far too short and far too repetitive to make them smile for long. This is a game only young players will likely enjoy on the whole, while others will be left scratching their heads as to how a show with so much personality churned out such a dull game.