Review: No Gravity: The Plague of Mind (Sony PSP)

No Gravity: The Plague of Mind
Developer: Realtech VR
Publisher: Anazor SARL
Genre: Space Simulator
Release Date: 02/26/09


Saw the screenshots alone on this one and thought that it looked worth playing. Add to it that it’s an affordable and smaller sized PSP game and you have something that could be a must have for a PSP owner. Let’s take a look.

Story
While the gameplay and controls in this little game are solid, as well as having a few other options, the story in this game is pretty bland and is not something that is very well developed throughout the game. This game isn’t really big on story and more about blowing things up and some crazy flight patterns.

The basic idea is that a plague has erupted on your world, a MIND PLAGUE. Betcha didn’t catch that from the full title either. So some enterprising individuals from your world have figured out this plague is coming from space and you all hop in your ships and head for space to track down the source. Of course the source is something you can actually fight and blow up with your ship otherwise the game wouldn’t be very exciting. The story is broken down into several segments like chapters and after each there’s a brief cutscene that explains what’s been going on and what’s coming up.

I was less interested in the story and more about getting things done and while I did take a look at it, this is definitely something that might have popped up in 50’s and 60’s B-movies, only this one has a budget for the visual effects, so it’s kinda like that terrible remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Story Rating: Decent

Graphics
This has to be one of the prettier games on the PSP and is right up there with Daxter and Crisis Core with the shiny. Space really comes alive in this game and each design is well done and looks great on screen. The lighting effects are well done and huge explosions haven’t looked this great in space in awhile.

I especially liked the ship effects themselves. As your ship takes damage if you’re in cockpit view the glass starts to crack and get worse and worse until you eventually pull a Starbuck. In third person view smoke and debris stream out the rear end of your ship, and although less noticeable than the shattered screen is no less capable of spelling your doom. The weapons are somewhat unique, and the missile trails once they leave their ships are a nice touch. It really is well done in the looks department. If only the story had this much polish.

Graphics Rating: Classic

Sound
You really have to like Techno or rave music to appreciate the soundtrack on this game. Between the explosions, thrusters and engine noises, the music really sets the mood to go with the visuals. The tracks are each well done and fit the game. I especially liked that you could listen to each on a jukebox outside of the missions themselves. The voiceovers however lost the game some points.

They aren’t terrible, and I’m hoping it was intentional, but they sound like the reading program that comes on a Mac reading a really bad wikipedia entry. The music more than makes up for that. The alarms are well done when you’re getting locked onto or are going to die very quickly without assistance. The use of a sonar in a mission was interesting as well. Having to snoop around using only the ping from your target and no real visual clues at long range made some of the missions very interesting.

Sound Rating: Classic

Control and Gameplay
The controls and gameplay are fairly simple for this game and are very tight and well done. My only real gripe is a complete lack of tutorial or instructions. Sure they teach you how to fly a bit and shoot, but to know what your controls are you have ot go in to look at how they’re set up and they never do tell you what those wonderful glowing bars are on your HUD. After playing a bit you can guess, but a bit of instruction would have been nice.

That being said, flying the ships you have at your disposal is fantastic. The controls are tight and responsive. Targeting and flight work pretty well together and the computer helps you a bit by leading your shots as you fire at your chosen target. It’s not always easy to take out a target however as the auto-targeting can’t keep up with a ship that’s not flying a linear path or going on crazy maneuvers, so you have to make up for it. You’re given 3 different ships to start with, with the option to unlock more through gameplay. Each handles a bit different, one being average, another having a ton of speed and weaponry but lacking in the ability to take any kind of beating, and another that packs a nice set of missiles but is incredibly slow compared to the others, especially when maneuvering, which can put you in a bind if you’re not careful.

Each mission requires different things, but all can be accomplished with any of the ships, depending on how good you are with each of the ships. You can also unlock entitlements which are this games equivalent of a trophy system. Extra ship paint jobs and pilots come out of there, but more on that later.

The missions themselves aren’t all the same, but combat can get a bit monotonous as you fire and fire away. There is a bit of dog fighting to it as you can do barrel rolls to get out of a missile’s way, but your list of actual maneuvers is rather small. Searching out cargo containers and even flying in atmosphere and dodging asteroids is pretty well done.

You are offered a choice of views. The cockpit view gives you more options than the 3rd-person view, which is behind and above your ship, but it’s sometimes easier to relate to how big you are and fly in circles around the debris and asteroids in third-person than in the cockpit. However in the cockpit it’s much easier to tell how far you are from your target. All of the ships have a radar image that shows you what you’ve selected as an enemy target and their distance. This comes in really handy when you’re ducking asteroids or ship hulks.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

Replayability
The entitlement system, being able to unlock more paint jobs and more pilots and a second degree of difficulty give this game a bit of replayablility. It’s not incredibly long and the missions are fun and don’t make you feel like you’re pulling your teeth out with a string and your bathroom door. It gives you a bit more than most games, and for the price a lot more than I would have expected.

Replayability Rating: Good

Balance
Veteran difficulty, or the default difficulty is fairly balanced. Each of your ships has its own unique feel and although the missions themselves are sometimes short, they’re thought out enough to offer up a challenge but aren’t impossible to complete either. And the cost on this game is great. For the cost you get a well designed and tight space sim with enough challenge to keep you playing for awhile. Add to that it looks like something a major company put together and a fantastic soundtrack and this game delivers on most counts.

Balance Rating: Amazing

Originality
The ship designs, the lighting and weapon effects, the differing pilots and ships, and the variety of environments, enemies and missions really make this one an original feeling game. While the story line smacks of b-movie it is its own. It’s not a sequel, and although it started off as a home-brewed game, really has a nice polish to it. It’s refreshing and the big boys might want to take a notice to this little game. There’s a good mix here, and while it has things like I’ve seen in other games like Descent or Wing Commander it’s just the familiarity of a decent space sim and some well put together levels and design.

Originality Rating: Great

Addictiveness
When you’re taking your PSP with you to go to the bathroom, chill out in bed, or watch a sewage pump clear your basement of water that’s some up from the latest flood, you know you’ve got something special in your hands. It plays well, it’s shiny, the framerate is decent and the music keeps my foot moving. Yeah, I’d have to rate this as fairly addictive.

Addictiveness Rating: Classic

Appeal Factor
I think I already covered this, but I can’t say it enough. This is a great cheap game that doesn’t take up that much space on a memory stick, has tight controls a great soundtrack and looks fantastic. That and it being a space sim had me drooling a bit. Even if you’re not a budget gamer there is some appeal for this game.

Appeal Factor Rating: Great

Miscellaneous
One of the things they have that can be unlocked in this game is artwork. You get so many points per entitlement that can be spent opening up these great images. It gives you a great view of these unique looking ships that are usually flitting by at incredible speeds. The designs are really well done and it’s nice to get in there and see them up close with a touch of the brush behind it, digital or otherwise. I also loved the jukebox option so you can scroll through the tracks that play in the background while you’re playing. The ability to crank up the CPU on your PSP to cut frame rate loss is a really nice touch and is a great nod to the games roots.

Miscellaneous Rating: Classic

The Scores
Story: Decent
Graphics: Classic
Sound: Classic
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Good
Balance: Amazing
Originality: Great
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Classic
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Gaming Rexes are sad!A great space sim with tight controls, fantastic visuals and a version of a trophy system along with some decent things to unlock and several levels of difficulty. Oh, and it’s on my favorite handheld, doesn’t kill my memory stick space for movies and music and won’t break your piggy bank. For the money, every PSP owner that even remotely had the wish of piloting their own space ship should download this off the Playstation Store. It’s worth it.

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