Gravity is beyond Hermes, and he can switch it on or off at his own will. As a scavenger of scrap he sets off on a journey to collect stuff, and save the world. The story isn’t what Inertia is about, and it barely sets the scene for the game.
Inertia : Escape Velocity is a physics platformer that has more in common with pinball than Super Mario. The first tutorial levels fooled me into thinking this was a basic jump over obstacles platformer. Soon you get to learn how to defy gravity, and Hermes turns into a pinball zipping around the levels. It is hard to get into the controls, and too often the behaviour of Hermes fails to match the input. The small buttons for left and right movement are really small, and I found them hard to combine with the equally small jump, and inertia buttons.
What is even harder to get into is the wonky physics that comes with defying gravity. Hermes feels light as air, and bouncing around the hard walls without even a grunt of pain. Setting up jumps to bounce around obstacles, or finding paths between magnetic fields is also hard. This is both due to the small buttons, and due to a sense of randomness to the movements of Hermes when hitting surfaces. Once he picks up speed in the bouncing around it is really hard to figure out where he will land, and I tend to let him zip about until he lands somewhere safe. Trying to pick up all the scrap, and bolts while not having perfect control soon feels like a chore.
To unlock new levels you have to collect scrap. There are also speed goals for each level, and there is an inferno mode further enhancing the lack of control/level of difficulty. The level selection screens are clunky, and spoil the sense of progression. It is much nicer to continue from level to level, but at times you have to replay levels to collect more scrap.
The presentation is not too good for the regular iPhone version of Inertia. There is a HD version that looks really good on the iPhone 4/4S, and iPad 2. I find it a real shame to have different versions like this. The version I am reviewing looks jagged, and low resolution. This fact is even more evident when I downloaded, and tried a lite version of the HD version.
The sound is good with powerful whoops, and whooshes as Hermes zips around. Slow ambient science fiction music helps setting the scene.
Inertia : Escape Velocity comes with 35 levels with ever increasing length, and challenge. There are hours of gameplay within, and this is perhaps one of the biggest strengths of the game. With scores through Openfeint the game is covered for online functionality. I miss Game Center though.
Inertia : Escape Velocity is a mixed bag of challenging gameplay somewhere between platforming, playing pinball and being frustrated over the controls. There is definitely an audience for the game, and it is not the casual market it caters to at all. For those prepared to spend time learning to cope with the lack of gravity, and lack of consequences of smacking about it will probably give a lot of reward. To most of us the investment for that reward is too large.
Inertia : Escape Velocity $1.99
Seller: Red Fly Studio, Inc.