Before I continue, I have a confession to make… I’m not usually one for gaming on mobile phones. I’d rather spend my gaming hours on retro computers and consoles or my PS Vita. That being said, the pedigree behind Gravity Rider had me at least curious. The developer, Vivid Games, had already impressed me with their technically stunning Real Boxing on the PS Vita so I was more than happy to give this new 3D racer a go…
Rather than being a straightforward racing game, Gravity Rider is a futuristic challenge-based racer set over a series of short courses. Each course has a series of obstacles and hazards to avoid, jumps and ramps to traverse so as well as getting from start to finish on each track, it’s also about getting there safely ensuring that you stay on your bike (or whatever vehicle you’ve chosen).
Controls are simple enough (and being honest, as it is a mobile game they need to be). You can accelerate, brake/reverse and lean forwards / backwards (which also allow you to perform mid-air flips. Using a combination of these you have to make your way to the end of each track and hopefully complete as many of the challenges set along the way. Get to the end of the track and the next is unlocked but if you complete any of the challenges you earn stars which build up towards unlocking each of the game’s varied chapters in its single player mode.
Yes, single player mode. This is where you can develop your character and upgrade your vehicle, buy additional vehicles and progress through different themed game worlds but there’s also an extensive online mode where you can race against up to three other players in a weekly league. The controls are just the same as the single player mode and the game itself plays identically just without the additional challenges. Points are awarded depending on your race position, and these are totalled up towards your weekly score. Score enough points and you can progress through the different leagues at the end of each competition.
Completing tracks and races earns you experience points, coins, gems and – on certain races – chests that contain a selection of mystery items including vehicle upgrades, components towards upgrades, custom paint schemes and decals for your vehicles, coins, and gems. The coins and gems are the in-game currency used to purchase any acquired upgrades or new vehicles aiding your progression through the game and believe me if you don’t upgrade you’ll struggle later on.
Visually the game looks superb. It’s smooth, detailed and has an impressive sense of speed although to be honest I expected nothing less from Vivid. Despite being a Free To Play title, I found it highly addictive as well, reminding me of the old 8-bit classic Kikstart from Mastertronic and the stunning Jaggy Race! that was released for the PS Vita by way of PlayStation Mobile. That’s certainly no bad thing as I’ve got extremely fond memories of both and would certainly say that this follows in their footsteps (or should that be tiretracks?).
As you’d expect from a mobile game, it’s released as Free To Play and to be truthful it can be played and enjoyed quite extensively without having to pay anything. New tracks are unlocked automatically as you complete each one in sequence, new chapters are unlocked once certain conditions are met and again are achievable through play alone. The all important vehicle upgrades and purchases are made using the two different forms of in-game currency as I already mentioned and this is where the in-app purchases come in to play (as they do in most F2P games). The currency can be earned through play and bonuses can be collected at regular intervals during the day with extras available if you view an optional 20-30 second video advert and this is the crux of the game.
There will be times when you’ll want to add upgrades to your vehicle and you’ll be faced with a few serious choices to make… use valuable coins or watch a video to get it completely free. The videos do help to make the game workable as a genuinely free experience but they can be irritating as well having to sit through the same adverts over and over but given a choice of that or paying between £5 and £100 for some of the larger add-on packs I know which I prefer. However, there are occasions when videos do pop up between menu screens randomly without warning which can prove not only frustrating but feel quite intrusive.
That minor quibble aside, it’s a fantastic title and certainly doesn’t feel like a mobile game. It’s one that will appeal to retro gaming fans hankering for the 8-bit days but with a contemporary look and feel. It’s also for those of you looking for something challenging and different from all the typical games we seem to see on mobile platforms these days. At under 50Mb it’s well worth checking out.
Gravity Rider is being released both for iOS and Android on 6th and 7th September 2018 respectively. The Android version has already been “soft” launched through the Google Play Store and is available now.
Version played: Android (using Google Pixel)