by Robert Thomas
reviewed on PC
Adorable Octopus, Hard Platforming
On the surface, I thought Airscape: The Fall of Gravity looked like a peaceful 2D, puzzle-platformer, with colorful visuals and casual gameplay. I was very wrong. Despite the cute octopus you play as, the game can be very ruthless at times, with quite a lot of trial-and-error gameplay. For me, Airscape switched from adorable to frustrating pretty quickly.
Pressing start leads you into a simple opening, where you play as the Octopus, swimming peacefully through a small ocean area with some other octopi. After testing out the underwater controls, Aliens abduct the octopi and take them away from ocean. There's not very much story here, which allows the developers to focus their efforts on the gameplay and other design aspects.
The lack of a story means you're thrown right into the first level. You move the octopus with WASD or the directional keys, pressing shift to move quickly through each level. All the stages require you to look for three small aquatic animals to save, and sometimes other Octopi you can play as. Each level has a variety of platforming, with some traditional 2D platforming and interesting 360 degree, underwater platforming blended together for challenge. The underwater portions of the levels change the control scheme, with the left and right keys used to aim the Octopus, then the forward button to move it. You'll have to explore the entirety of each stage in order to find all the creatures, using the lack of gravity to go from a pool of water to a bit of land. It's not long after a few easy opening levels that the difficulty spikes; levels require a lot more focus, as machines with saw-blades move back and forth.
Though not as difficult, Airscape's controls don't feel as tight as most platformers. Your Octopus has a good bit of inertia to him, moving after you've let go of all the buttons. It's a very trial-and-error kind of game, especially as you collect the trapped ocean life across each level. You'll respawn quickly to help keep some frustration away, but checkpoints can be farther away than you want, meaning you'll have to go through tough areas to get to where you failed last.
Cute and Peaceful
Although intensely difficult, its art design is adorable. You play as a lovable octopus that looks like it's straight out of a very well done cartoon about helping wildlife. The levels have the same friendly art style as the octopus, with it all being incredibly cute. Even the enemies, despite their murderous intent and somewhat plain design, seem almost endearing. It's almost jarring how sweet the visuals are, while the gameplay can border on frustrating at times.
Similar to the art, the sound is very casual. There's rarely any big action compositions or upbeat Mario-esque songs. The music is very subdued and keeps a constant loop as you fail. Themes of underwater creep in, almost like bubbles, creating an incredibly peaceful soundtrack.
Although challenging, Airscape can fall into tedium very quickly. The trial-and-error gameplay may be appealing to some, but it can be dreadful when your last checkpoint sends you back to a difficult obstacle you passed before. Formidable jumps wouldn't be as unpleasant if the controls were just a little more tight, and the Octopus had less 'float' to it.
Even with all that, the 2D platforming is still very solid. My bigger problem with Airscape: The Fall of Gravity is the underwater controls. Although moving through the waters is simple enough, with the left and right moving your positioning and the forward button pushing you forward; the problem arises when trying to launch from the water to land or into another circle of water. When you launch your Octopus, it feels off and sometimes inconsistent with how it should feel, not launching as high as it should've. In a tough platformer like this, controls needs to be precise, so errors like that really stop me from enjoying the game.
I really wanted to like this game a lot, but it just didn't mesh together properly. The art and sound were beautiful and worked to create an interesting feeling in the game. The controls, on the other hand, were too loose and the difficulty was too high. To a fan of platformers, I think you should give it a try. People who are looking for some casual, simple fun, however, probably aren't going to find it here.
Adorable art and sound. Interesting concept. Challenging at times
Controls are too loose. Difficult at times.