As a game that describes itself as an action platformer about an octopus lost in a strange and dangerous world, Airscape: The Fall Of Gravity is sure to grab more than its fair share of attention. The quirky setup sounds perfectly suited for an indie title developed by students from around the world, and its simple premise allows for the focus to be on the gameplay, rather than any attempts at shoe-horning a story into a puzzle game that doesn’t need one. That being said, if the gameplay for such a title isn’t strong enough to keep the player’s attention, then its initial hook becomes essentially worthless.
So, how does Airscape stand up to that challenge? Well, the early signs are certainly encouraging for the game.
Airscape: The Fall of Gravity immediately sets its players into a tranquil underwater habitat filled with small, peaceful critters, and players are given the freedom to try out the game’s free-flowing control system as they take over a carefree orange octopus. The basics of the title’s control system are demonstrated here, with button taps and holds all corresponding neatly with small and large movements respectively. What’s also nice at this point is the way all 360 degrees of movement are put to use, as players will find themselves able to manoeuvre in almost any direction within the water.
The joy of free motion is short-lived, however, and mechanical invaders soon force their way into the peaceful scene. After some quick recon, things take a turn for the worst and their actions send all of the loveable critters spiralling off into space, their home in ruins. Here the quest begins, and players will set their minds to the task of traversing a newly separated collection of landscapes to rescue their fellow creatures and restore peace to their homes.
When players first find themselves on land, the experience feels surprisingly limited. Even after enjoying the freedom of full-circle movement for mere moments, being stuck to a linear plain seems akin to falling back to earth. Fortunately, the game doesn’t force you to stay there for too long, and floating or intersecting landscapes start to appear in frame. Airscape‘s cute, space helmet-wearing octopi, are able to crawl, run and jump their way around each level, featuring the tropes players expect from classic platform games.
The first danger to the players is that of falling into abyss through a wrong turn or misjudged jump. This threat is actually nicely accentuated in Airscape, with the floating, angular platforms offering some tricky transitions. I often found that these sections required a lot more thought than some classic side-scrollers like the Sonic The Hedgehog series, and that I was able to rely a lot less on reckless luck than I was in recent titles like Badland. Slowing things down to take a more tactical approach can be vital in Airscape, so it’s definitely a positive that level times don’t have an impact on any scoring in the game.
Where the game’s scoring system does appear familiar, however, is how gathered collectibles unlock future stages. Here, these take the form of a variety of sea-bound critters held captive by the mysterious machines. Guiding your octopus to the end of each stage is barely even half of the battle, and it’s in freeing these friends that the real challenge lies. The machines themselves are none too happy about this jailbreak, of course, and the typical floating or ground-based sentries patrol each stage like those of a classic Super Mario adventure.
The game’s biggest strength, however, falls into its largest distinguishing factor.
The gravity-based puzzles are interesting, and the mix of water and land plains makes for some tricky transition work at times. The game really does require a careful eye for the most part, too, as I often found myself unable to simply barrel through its levels. It also says a lot that one of the first achievements I unlocked was obtained through being killed many times.
Unfortunately. Airscape’s innovations don’t extend far enough to make it a really great game, and the floaty style can occasionally make it as frustrating as it is interesting. It’s taken clear influence from titles like Sonic, and perhaps even Angry Birds: Space, but it doesn’t really do an awful lot more than we’ve already seen from those. Sure, the settings are nice and the protagonist is certainly an interesting choice, but once players realize it’s just a familiar challenge with a fresh coat of paint, the novelty will begin to wear off.
The relative impotence of the protagonist can also be a frustration, given players will be used to having at least some method of fighting back against enemies in similar games. The cutesy critters are simply useless in pretty much every contact situation, and merely brushing against any threat is enough for certain death. We’re not saying we’d have preferred some Rambo-esque creature armed to the teeth, but a method of defence other than just dodging would have been a nice extension of the game’s mechanics.
Airscape: The Fall Of Gravity is a fairly solid gravity puzzler with a quirky premise and some interesting settings. Its 360-degree view makes for some challenging stages during its early segments, but the innovations soon start to dry up and players could find themselves losing interest before finishing the campaign. Those who stick with it until the end will definitely be in for a pleasant experience, but the game may struggle to leave a more lasting impression that that.
This review was based on the PC version of the game, which was provided to us for review purposes
Airscape: The Fall off Gravity does some quirky things with a reliable formula, but a lack of real innovation keeps this from being a truly great experience.