It takes a long time to establish a legacy. And it’s a big challenge to make it a good one, but an even bigger challenge is trying to live up to it. While it may not be advertised on the surface, Gravity Circuit by Domesticated Ant Games has succeeded where other titles have failed. This 2D pixel-platformer has the nostalgia of classic console games with the modern flair of more complex and fleshed-out mechanics. You play as a robot hero who has to run, jump, and fight their way through various levels with thematically-appropriate enemies and hazards just to have a talk with the big boss. It’s a clean cut from the fabric of traditional platforming.
What is Gravity Circuit?
When introduced to a futuristic world, the intro usually takes a few moments to fill you in on how things work before diving into the story. Gravity Circuit makes use of this before throwing the plot at you. In a world inhabited by sentient robots, everything was kept safe by a group of Guardians each possessing the powers of mechanical devices called Circuits.
One day, a mysterious structure called the Ark was discovered, unleashing a destructive force known as the Virus Army. The Guardians fought hard and won, but only one body was recovered: The one wielding the Gravity Circuit, Kai. With Kai restored, the Virus Army has returned under the leadership of the other Circuits. Now Kai has to get back into fighting action and kick some virus circuit robot butt.
Gravity Circuit Power
While not calling itself a spiritual successor to the Mega Man and Mega Man X games, Gravity Circuit could stand proud among them. Just from the presentation alone, it deserves some praise. Each level knows how to use the color palettes to its advantage, having a general tone with brightness where it counts. All of the characters from Kai, to the enemies and the background NPCs, all pop with enough animation and personality to make them feel alive, even though you know they’re robots. By contrast, there’s just enough fluidity going on that it fits into the modern gaming setting.
Following the opening act of the presentation, you’ve jump straight into the gameplay. It is pure in terms of classic platforming, but with a few things added. Kai runs and jumps with constant values and arcs, while you still maintain enough control to correct any mistakes. Every hit Kai lands on an enemy feels impactful, and every hit he takes feels painful. The Burst Techniques are flashy but balanced enough so that you don’t break the game. Levels are arranged so that you always have time to assess the situation before you’re at risk of taking damage. They’re also all fairly balanced, and I’d be hard-pressed to say that one level is harder than another.
Of course, with a setup like this, a lot of focus falls on the bosses. These are easily the most entertaining and colorful elements of the game. From the moment you see their faces on the level select screen, you wonder what they’re all about. Every encounter is a mystery with the level leading up to them acting as foreshadowing to what sort of attacks you can expect. Their design, tactics, and movements are distinct. The cherry on top is that although you only interact with each of them briefly, it’s more than enough to get a sense of their character.
There was a lot of work and effort put into Gravity Circuit, but there are a few bugs in the system so to speak. The most apparent is the gameplay of the Hookshot. It’s a pretty handy tool that it’s incorporated well, but it’s not easy to use. Even though it benefits from the directional control of an analog stick, it still requires you to be very precise in order to make it effective. On the other hand, it offers a ranged attack option that makes certain obstacles and enemies a breeze to get past if you just spam it.
Next, there are the chip and Burst Technique systems. Chips affect how Kai’s body behaves while Burst Techniques are special moves he can use. The game is quite generous with how many it provides, but the two options only offer three and four available slots respectively. You might think this creates balance, but there are certain choices that are clearly the obvious choices. If you have a double-jump chip, you’re going to take it. Also, why wouldn’t you take Burst Techniques that let you heal or freeze time? Once you spot these from the menus, the others fall by the wayside.
Lastly, there’s the difficulty progression. The game could be called “old-school hard”, which is expected, but this changes the further you get along. As you unlock more chips and Burst Techniques, and find health and energy power-ups, Kai gets more and more powerful. However, the rest of the game doesn’t keep up. For the last third of it, I was just plowing through enemies, hazards, and even bosses with all my extra health and powers. It’s still fun and somewhat challenging, just not as rewarding.
Getting on the Circuit
Gravity Circuit is an effective nostalgia trip at home in the modern era with 2D platforming action involving a robot fighting to save other robots from evil robots. The visuals and music blend well with tight gameplay and exciting boss fights to keep you pumped. This is what Mighty No.9 could have been if more care and effort was put into it. Thankfully this one was here to fill the gaping hole that the game made when it crashed and burned.
The only issues come with the Hookshot being awkward to use, imbalance among the gear you can equip, and a dropoff in difficulty towards the end. At the very least you can impose your own rules to make the game harder and the victory more deserving. Regardless if you do that, it’s a fun and exciting feeling to wield the Gravity Circuit.
Gravity Circuit was played on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher. It’s also available for download on Switch and PlayStation consoles.