Written by Max Kahn
In a year full of giant AAA games like The Legend of Zelda, Resident Evil, Spider-Man, and several more, Gravity Circuit dashed onto the scene and underneath many’s radar. Developed by Domesticated Ant Games, Gravity Circuit is a fast-paced 2D platformer released for PC, PS4/5, and Switch on July 13, 2023. The game stars Kai, the Gravity Circuit, who must run, punch, throw, and kick his way through several stages to stop a robotic threat.
Gravity Circuit’s plot is simple, yet still has just enough charm and depth to push it forward and close off in a satisfying way. Years ago, a futuristic world populated by robots discovered a mysterious structure, which they dubbed the Ark. However, a villainous army of robots, the Virus Army, emerged from the Ark to wreak havoc across the world. Nine powerful robots, called the Circuits, of Guardian Corps fought against the threat, with the two sides dealing tremendous damage to one another. Years later, the virus army now returns with eight of the Circuits on their side.
The last remaining Circuit, Kai the Gravity Circuit, must face his former comrades, and put an end to the long conflict. While simple at first glance, fighting against the different Circuits and talking to allies at the HQ hub area opens up new characters and perspectives on the world around them. Even the game’s data library has short entries on every enemy, boss, and character to give just a bit more background on the game’s colorful cast.
The game’s primary inspiration comes from the massive Mega Man franchise, which is very apparent in almost every aspect of the game. Eight main stages, each with an appropriately themed robot boss at the end? Fast-paced action? Hidden upgrades? Rideable robot mechs? All of that and more, but it still has enough distinction from its inspirations to give Gravity Circuit an identity of its own.
The main attraction of Gravity Circuit is its smooth and solid gameplay. Similarly to Mega Man X, Gravity Circuit has a similar set of moves, but with its own twists and additions. Kai can, of course, walk and jump across the screen, but holding or toggling the run button sends him sprinting at a higher speed. While not exactly a straight-up dash from Mega Man X, it provides Kai with just enough speed to truly take advantage of the game’s rich and surprisingly-deep combat system.
Kai’s main form of attack is his punches and kicks, allowing him to quickly dispatch his foes from close up. Holding the d-pad or control stick in a certain direction while attacking even leads to different moves, such as an upward kick or a downward plunge. Yet, after defeating an enemy, they turn a dark gray color for a few seconds. This allows Kai to use his other signature move, his hook shot. Harkening back to the Chain Rod from Mega Man Zero 2, Kai can use the hook shot to grapple onto ceilings and swing across the screen like a 2D Spider-Man.
But, the hook shot’s main combat use is for Kai to grab enemies, and continuing to hold the button keeps the enemy in his grasp. Then, Kai can fling the enemy in any direction, whether that is at a secret wall to uncover an upgrade or a civilian robot that needs rescuing, or at other enemies. Chucking your fallen foe at another enemy could then instantly defeat that enemy, and then they can then be thrown at another. So on and so forth. The hook shot combines movement and combat together in a wonderful way. Chaining together punches, kicks, and throws becomes second nature as Kai is running and swinging across the stages.
Defeating enemies also makes them drop energy for Kai’s other main moves – his burst techniques. These abilities, which Kai can equip four of at a time, allow Kai to perform a powerful attack, such as a rising uppercut, a piercing dash through enemies, a quick heal, a giant laser beam, and many more. These are purchasable from Nega, a mysterious yet humble robot present in the hub. They add a much-welcomed combat option for players, while also adding to the game’s flashy and cool nature. Using these attacks during the riveting boss fights make everything feel more alive and animated, especially when the bosses use burst techniques of their own.
Burst techniques are not the only upgrades available, as the nurse sells equippable upgrades called booster chips that boost Kai’s recovery power, jump count, attack speed, and more. However, these chips also require a certain amount of rescues, with the aforementioned civilian robots that can be found behind secret walls and challenges hidden throughout the main eight stages. Booster chips and burst techniques are not too expensive, so players can easily buy a couple of each after every stage. While this may cause an overwhelming feeling with so many techniques and chips available, and only being able to equip a few at once, testing the most appealing out is the best way to find what’s right. One may have a build that focuses on staying alive to tank through a difficult boss, others to tackle a platforming challenge, while another concentrates on speeding through stages and enemy kills as quickly as possible.
Kai can fit anyone’s play-style and level of experience, making the game harder or easier with his upgrade capabilities alone. Easy, normal, and hard modes are all still available so that anyone of any skill level can hop right in and enjoy. Yet, even on normal, the base difficulty is perfect throughout every stage and boss. Every death was faced with a smile, and not once was there a moment of cheap enemy placement or unfair level design. New stage obstacles are always taught to the player in a safe environment, giving time to properly learn how to counter that gimmick later on. Every challenge was conquerable, with some taking longer than others. Boss fights feel almost like a match from a fighting game, and each of their moves felt like there was a way to counter, but the same was still true for Kai himself. They’re the perfect blend of flashy, fun, and challenging, and every death just means another opportunity to enjoy a fight against that Circuit boss.
Gravity Circuit’s exhilarating gameplay is only strengthened by an old-school aesthetic that oozes a cool aura. Each character is only given a set amount of colors, which blend together to make them all unique, fun, but still all feel like a team. While the themes and abilities of each circuit may not be as in-your-face or wacky as Mega Man’s Robot Masters, each still sports a design that makes you wish they were playable as well. Whether it’s Bit the Shift Circuit’s cool sunglasses, Hash the Cipher Circuit’s four arms, or Trace the Patch Circuit’s unique lab coat, each of the circuits offer something new to the table to differentiate them from bosses of other games.
Although some only get a few lines of dialogue, they all have just enough for any player to pick a few favorites, and also hope for their return in future games or updates. These characters are all translated beautifully into the game’s crisp in-game artwork and sharp sprites. The game’s more muted color palette brings all of the sprites and artwork together, and wraps it all up to create a game straight from a platformer fan’s dream. The music is also energetic and upbeat, with each stage’s theme perfectly fitting its look. A mesh of electronic instruments combined with familiar chiptune sounds fill every song, creating songs that motivate Kai through any stage or battle.
With so much on Gravity Circuit’s side, it’s hard to find room to complain. It is a game that has been crafted with nothing but love, and spear-headed by a team that knows exactly how to appeal to its core audience from its gameplay, sprite work, and kicking music. Short and sweet is exactly what Gravity Circuit is, but replaying and mastering the stages and combat mechanics is part of its fun. For only $16.99 on Steam ($21.99 on consoles), the game is a solid introduction into the expansive world of 2D platformers, and a love letter to long-time fans of the genre.