Antipole is Vvvvvvery Good

Review of Antipole on XBLIG: Buy
A well executed platformer, Antipole brings gravity flipping goodness to the Xbox 360.

I’m going to get this out of the way up front: Antipole borrows its gravity flipping concept from the PC indie game VVVVVV.   This is not to say VVVVVV invented the idea of a gravity flipping; all games are based off of elements in other games.  The exchange of ideas between games is healthy and good.  Antipole borrows from VVVVVV, but it is a different game and has its own identity.

The game starts with my character (who looks like a cross between Michael Jackson in Moonwalker and Alucard from Hellsing) entering a base populated by robots.  There isn’t much on story, just the understanding that I am there to stop the robot invasion.  Early into the base I discover a plasma gun and gravity control device.  Just a tip for any would be robotic invasion forces – don’t leave items that can destroy you near the entrance of your base.  Anything that will make someone trying to stop more powerful should be locked away, and maybe destroyed.

The gravity control operates only in short bursts and then must recharge.  This means timing is critical and moving between platforms may require some planning.  Gravity affects most enemy robots, though some robots are attached to the floor.  Spider robots appear in the later stages and have their own gravity reversing field – activating the gravity control nullifies the spider robot’s field.

In the early stages the levels are designed to get one familiar with gravity control.  As the game progresses the levels add new and more complex variations requiring gravity control.   The physics of stages vary, with some stages set to low gravity and others to high gravity.   Late stages may require a key or block be moved successfully through the level.  Perhaps my favorite late stage addition is the acid pits.  Using the gravity control near an acid pit causes the acid to float up to the ceiling.  Great for killing robots, but dangerous if you find yourself above the pit.

I found the level design to be excellent at keeping things new while increasing the difficulty.  I played the game at the normal difficulty setting and only a few times did I get stuck at a particular jump.  The game uses a health system, so one bad jump doesn’t force you to start over, but even when you run out of health you are only sent back to the last checkpoint passed within a level.  Those looking for more of a challenge can increase the difficulty and attempt to beat the time goal.  I am pleased to see a game offer something for the casual gamer and the hardcore gamer alike; too often games choose one or the other.

In addition to the platform levels, there are several boss fights.  These fights require a moment to observe the pattern of the boss, and then create a plan of attack.  None of the boss fights were excessively difficult, and I enjoyed the strategy element.  My one complaint with Antipole is that a boss doesn’t have a health bar.  Some of the bosses only took damage by using the gravity control to use their own weapons against them, or require to be hit in a single area.  Not having a health bar, it wasn’t always clear if I was using the right attack for a boss.

Antipole is a Buy.  The game is approachable to those without the patience or skill to complete a hardcore platformer while still offering a hardcore option.  An achievement system along with some collectables give you reason to play the game more than once, and a set of bonus puzzle levels provide entertainment after the campaign is complete.  This is Saturnine Games first XBLIG title and I’m looking forward to many more!

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