Atari’s lineup of Recharged titles keeps growing, and this time we get to look at a revamped version of Gravitar, another arcade classic from the iconic brand. It’s out for nearly every current system you can think of, from PC to PlayStation and Xbox, but also the Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS and Atari’s own VCS system. We took at a closer look on a PlayStation 5.
While the Atari VCS may be a bit of a niche product for enthusiasts and fans, we really like what Atari’s done with the Recharged line of games, which has a wide range and appeal towards retro-minded gamers who enjoy updated versions of some of Atari’s classics. While we’re covered Asteroids and Breakout in the past, Gravitar Recharged is perhaps a less well known title, but many gamers who were around in the 1980s will recognize its gameplay formula.
For me, Gravitar is a gameplay experience I long thought was pioneered by a 1986 home computer classic called Thrust – and I didn’t discover that Gravitar preceded it by almost four years. Their gameplay is similar though – you pilot a spacecraft using nothing but your ability to apply thrusters and rotate your ship – easing yourself toward a soft landing or moving past obstacles without hitting them.
You can also fire at and destroy enemies, and additional objectives include hovering near beacons in order to activate them. They’re crude 1982 versions of in-game missions of course, but there’s a nice addictive structure to it all, especially because you can apply repairs and upgrades as well – both of which can become crucial elements of how far you get in any given run. Gravitar’s a challenging arcade game that’s strangle reminiscent of present-day hardcore platformers in a way, as you’re constantly balancing between the frustrations of failing and the sense that you’ll master the controls just enough on your next run.
As we’ve come to expect, this Recharged version features updated visuals, although the developer (Adamvision Studios) didn’t opt for a neon-infused look this time around. A smart choice, as Gravitar isn’t necessarily about trigger happy action and quick responses but requires patience and focus. The use of black scenery against colorful backdrops, which all use soft colors, is an effective one. It doesn’t scream ‘next gen’, but it’s a solid upgrade that stays true to its roots while feeling fresh at the same time.
New for this version are a mission-based mode, which features similar gameplay but in bite-sized chunks that are perfect for a quick go rather than a high score attempt in the standard (arcade) mode. The game also features online leaderboards, so that old “top spot” mentality from the arcades can come out a bit as well.
If you have the option to play with another player locally, then the multiplayer option is a fun challenge to try. Here, you each control a spacecraft, but they’re tethered together for an extra layer of difficulty that forces you to more or less move in unison. As Gravitar is already challenging enough solo, this is a great test for how well you play together with a friend. Gravitar may not have evolved too much in the past forty years, but it’s stood the test of time well and the Recharged version is a good way to reintroduce yourself to it.