Last year I took a look at the mobile stunt-based racing game Gravity Rider. Despite being released as a Free To Play game and having both in-app purchases AND advertising, I was pleasantly surprised by the game. So much so that I still play it daily and it was one of the first I installed when I got my new phone recently. That in mind you can imagine how excited I was when developers Vivid Games got in touch let let me know that the prequel, Gravity Rider Zero, had just been released…
New To The Series?
If you’re new to the Gravity Rider series, I’ll briefly cover the concept of the futuristic racer. Set over a series of tracks, you take your hi-tech futuristic racer over a series of race tracks, littered with obstacles and hazards. On some you’re up against the clock, others it’s a race against AI opponents… In all cases the object is the same – get to the end in one piece.
What Is Gravity Rider Zero?
Usually when a game is added to an existing franchise it builds on what came before it. New features are added, new game modes, improvements on a technical level… I could go on. The same philosophy applies no matter what genre, platform, or the scale of the series and all of the popular Android games are no exception.
Then we get Gravity Rider Zero. Instead of taking everything good about the original and expanding upon it, Vivid Games have stripped it back to basics. This new release has turned from an engaging title with a diverse range of game modes to a more simplistic affair.
Gravity Rider Zero now only has a single game mode. It now takes the form of a series of levels, each being split over three stages. Players have three lives and once these are lost the level has to be started again. Stages vary as they did with the original game, and as well as completing the stages, bonuses are awarded at the end of the level depending on your performance – time taken, lives remaining, etc.
Primarily the bonuses include gems and chests, both carried over from the previous game. But how they are used is what differs significantly…
What Has Changed
There were three game modes before, all of which have been replaced. The tournament mode which offered a faux-multiplayer game spread over a series of races has gone. Same with the challenge-based solo races. These have been integrated into the new single player game. The final challenge modes have also gone leaving the game itself quite limited.
The biggest change comes with the vehicles. In both games you start with just one. Before you could upgrade a range of components using parts that you could collect from chests earned from races. Earn enough cash and you could buy new vehicles and upgrade them.
Now vehicles are unlocked as you play and have fixed attributes. Some can be unlocked through finding “cards” in chests. Collect enough cards and you unlock vehicles to add to your collection. If you want them quicker, or want special paint schemes, you can choose to buy them.
While optional in-app purchases can be unlocked during play through sheer perseverance, watching video advertisements it takes a LONG time so many would opt to spend cash. More so as these vehicles especially offer improved performance over the ones unlocked during regular play. None are needed to progress but it’s a model that obviously worked to fund the first and now this game.
A Change For The Worse?
The accelerated way of getting vehicles through levelling-up really dimishes the sense of accomplishment. Getting a new bike or buggy was a real achievement before and even upgrading it felt special but now it just feels mundane. It should be something to aspire to but instead it feels as if it’s no different to just starting a new race. Something special has been lost.
I remember when I played Thunderbirds Are Go: Team Rush and the excitement I felt as I progressed with each character, getting new vehicles and equipment. Sadly I felt none of that here.
I can’t deny the fact that the races themselves are still fun. The lives system does add an extra challenge but when tracks are particularly tough or have moving obstacles this can be unnecessarily unfair on the player still. I did enjoy playing the game but found the lack of variety and solitary game mode meant that I only played the game in short bursts. It just didn’t keep my attention for long. At least with the original I was able to swap between modes and usually enjoyed playing daily. The same can’t be said about Gravity Rider Zero.
Honestly I was disappointed with this game. While I can appreciate the concept behind the “back to basics” approach, it doesn’t work for me. Had this been released first it would have been a totally different matter altogether. But as it stands this is something of a disappointment. Having spent so long playing the first game, Gravity Rider Zero just feels empty and lacking any real substance.
It’s mildly entertaining in short bursts, but you’re better off seeking out the original.
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I’m an animal lover and vegetarian.
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