|Originally an Atari Fan
Known for its high degree of difficulty and beautiful vector graphics,
Gravitar was poorly received when it hit the arcades due to its difficult
gameplay. Gravitar can best be described as a cross between Lunar
Lander and Space Duel, combining the most difficult elements of each.
It was definitely more a game of skill and finesse than a vector
shooter, which probably didn't help it endear itself to gamers. Gravitar
was so poorly received in fact, that it was quickly converted into another
Atari vector game Black Widow. Unfortunately Black Widow didn't
fare much better.
Gravitar proves that just because a game is difficult doesn't necessarily
mean it's a bad game. With practice, a little patience, and alot
of luck, Gravitar can prove to be alot of fun. To help players out,
the 2600 version offers players several beginner options such as 255 lives,
no gravity, and non-firing enemies, so that players who couldn't handle
the high degree of difficulty of the arcade version can finally enjoy
Gravitar at their own level. These small features were a welcome
addition to an extremely difficult game. Gravitar came in two flavors;
originally released through the Atari Fan Club with a silver label and
box (as was the style at the time), it was later re-released in the late
80's red label style for unknown reasons (none of the other AFC exclusives
were ever re-released). While the red label version can be bought
new for only a few dollars, the original silver release is a highly sought
after collectors item since it was released in limited quantities.
The object of Gravitar is a refreshing mix of strategy and pure skill.
The player must carefully guide his ship around various planetary
formations, and attempt to wipe out all enemy encampments while avoiding
crashing into walls. Sound easy? Well there's a little snag
in the plan. As we all know planets have gravimetric fields of varying
degrees, so as you're carefully taking aim at the enemy you must constantly
fight the forces of gravity to keep your ship from slamming into the planet
surface. Just to make things a bit more difficult, the gravity on
each planet is different. So on one planet you may be have the thrusters
at full throttle trying with all your might to avoid becoming a crater
on the planet's surface, and on the next you may have to maintain a steady
speed toward the planet to avoid being bounced outward into the blackness
of space. Sound like fun yet? Well just wait there's more!
Just to push the difficulty level to a new extreme, your
ship is given only a limited amount of fuel to work with. So constantly
firing your engines like a madman isn't going to keep you going for long.
Thankfully there are fuel cells scattered around the planet that
you can capture using your tractor beam. Of course lining your ship
up with a fuel cell is easier said than done. In addition to wiping
out all the enemy bases on each planet in the solar system, you can choose
to take a short cut. In each solar system there is a reactor which
if destroyed will wipe out the entire galaxy (sort of like a giant Death
Star). Unfortunately destroying this reactor is one of the most
difficult things to do in the game (otherwise everybody would be doing
it). To detonate the reactor you must pilot your ship through a
swirling tunnel the wraps around and around until it finally leads to
the reactor center (that would be your target eh?). Of course once
you destroy the rector center you still have to get out within 60 seconds
or its bye bye Gravitar. Most people consider this shortcut to be
more trouble than it's worth, but the difficulty of some of the later
levels may make you change your mind.
Like all of Atari's other vector to 2600 ports, Gravitar
was given the raster treatment. Oddly this graphic conversion didn't
hurt the gameplay at all, and actually improved it in some areas.
Thankfully the gameplay remained true to its arcade counterpart, right
down to the correct gravity ratios. Amazingly Dan Hitchens managed
to cram twelve different solar systems (levels) into the 2600 version,
which is more than most people will ever get to see. Gravitar isn't
the game for everyone, but if you stick with it you may find that the
added challenge will keep you coming back for more.
to 2600 Software