There’s the seed of a good idea at the heart of Gravity Chase: an anti-gravity racing game, but one that plays more like a Tempest-style tube shooter. The race track is a cylindrical tube, and rather than turning corners, your main form of movement—other than accelerating, obviously—is spinning around its axis, dodging hazards and trying hit speed boosts along the way. It’s an interesting concept, and with the right design behind it, it could work.
Gravity Chase isn’t that game.
It’s a racing game where cornering is practically non-existent—the courses themselves bend and twist plenty, but you’re always hurtling forward, bound to the tube, following its curves automatically. That’s not inherently a problem (drag racing is an exciting sport, after all), but it means you need something in its place to add depth and complexity to each race. Gravity Chase’s answer is twofold: obstacles strewn about each course to either try to hit or try to avoid, and the impact of absolute gravity on your craft as you spin around the tube, making it hard to hold a straight line.
These are interesting ideas, in theory, but—you’ll notice a common theme here—they don’t really click in practice. The novelty of the setup is fun for a couple of races, but that wears out quickly. There’s little variety in the objects and obstacles: boost pads, anti-boost pads, charges for a separate, manually-activated boost, and, in one game mode, machine gun ammunition. The courses themselves don’t really add much, because the tubular design of the game means that even the corners that do exist, when looking from the bird’s eye, don’t impact your race line in any way. When your motion is tied to the axis of the cylinder, corners don’t affect your trajectory whatsoever, and require no action to compensate.
And yet, Gravity Chase still manages to get tedious. Between overly twitchy controls and the hindrance of gravity, actually keeping on target is a frustrating endeavour—challenging, certainly, but the kind of challenge where it feels like you’re fighting mostly against controls that are deliberately set up to be a hindrance. Essentially, the whole game boils down to “hit the blue pads, avoid the red ones, and boost whenever you’ve got gas in the tank” while travelling along what might as well be a straight line, which isn’t really a satisfying stand-in for the dynamics of more “normal” racing,
Depending on which mode you’re playing, there are a couple of other factors at play: arcade is a standard race, combat adds machine guns into the mix, and elimination periodically eliminates the person in last place until there’s only one left. On paper, these should create interesting new dynamics; in practice, they don’t. In combat, every vehicle is equipped with a machine gun that automatically locks on to the nearest enemy in front of you, and a woefully unreliable shield that might block a few shots. That’s the full extent of the “combat”, with no room for strategy and little impact on the fundamentals of the race, beyond another practically unavoidable way to get slowed down.
Elimination is just a normal race, but with some heightened pressure if you find yourself in last place. It can be a fun mode in a game where jockeying out of last place has some substance, but here, placing mostly comes down to vehicle stats and a bit of luck, which means avoiding elimination mostly comes down to vehicle stats and a bit of luck. There’s one “fun” little touch, though: when you’re the last racer alive, you don’t win the race just yet—you have to go for another 30 seconds until the final “elimination” knocks you out, even with no other racers left to compete against.
Beyond that, Gravity Chase really is just a barebones game. There’s no tournaments, time trials, career mode, online multiplayer, practice, or anything else to bring depth and longevity into the mix—just single races, with the slow grind of unlocking new courses that all feel functionally the same. There isn’t even so much as an options screen to adjust settings: the main menu literally just has “Race”, which forces you to sit through a “waiting for players” screen for 10 seconds even if you’re playing solo (at least there’s local multiplayer, I guess), before dropping you into race selection.
That’s it. That’s the whole game. I wish there was more to it—a tube-shooter-style racing game is an interesting concept, but it’s one that needs some solid design to bring depth and variety into the mix. Without that, the racing in Gravity Chase ends up being hollow: flying along a tube where normal race dynamics—cornering, braking, race lines, trying not to crash!—don’t exist and there’s nothing of note in their place. A well-made tube racer could be a lot of fun, but “go fast in what may as well be a straight line, and try to hit the blue pads while fighting deliberately unwieldy controls” is a long way off from that.
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.