A puzzle game that’s almost entirely devoid of puzzles, Newtonian Inversion is little more than a tech demo with a garish colour palette. The Finger Guns Review.
It was Sir Isaac Newton that said “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people“. It’s an apt quote, given that the mathematician’s name is right there in the title and that this space based game – ‘Newtonian Inversion’ – is a work of utter madness. This is a trend from developers The Voices. Every other game I’ve reviewed from the British developer – Lizard Lady vs The Cats & Ascendshaft and Endless Shaft – has been poor. While this space based puzzle game is the best of the bunch, it’s still cringe inducingly, maddeningly bad.
The game begins as an egg flies through space. There’s no music or sound effects and this goes on for an uncomfortably long time. All of a sudden, the egg splits and out shoots this…thing. This alien/lizard/beast/space man with terrible fashion sense flies through space towards a giant square. That is the full extent of the narrative to this game. A silent, incomprehensible video with no real bearing on the rest of the game.
The aim of each of the 16 levels in Newtonian Inversion is to guide the space man to a purple exit door that looks like a ticket booth from an alien fair ground. In order to do that, you’ll have to play around with gravity. Dotted around each level are gravity panels. When active (blue), the space man sticks to them like polar opposite magnets. Using switches and a limited use ray gun, these can be switch off. This forces the space man away from the surface. By utilising these mechanics, the player must bounce the space man past what ever obstacle the level throws at them to reach the exit.
Houston… We Have A Problem
The core issue with Newtonian Inversion is that it seems to completely misunderstand what a puzzle game is. As far as I’m concerned, a puzzle should require at least a little thought to solve. At least two thirds of the levels in this game are so straight forward, I hesitate to call them a puzzle at all. They’re more like functional tech demos of a physics engine.
For example, in one level, you simply move through a portal door that’s directly in front of where the space man spawns. The exit is right there in front of it when you arrive on the other end. In another level, you can jump to a gravity panel and then jump to the exit door. There’s literally nothing stopping you from mindlessly (but oh so slowly) floating through space to the exit. One level involves switches that move the grav plates, but because it’s simply the only thing to do around you, the solution just presents itself.
The rest of the levels can be solved with some mild trial and error. Because they aren’t complex, it’ll only take a hand full of failures before the solution reveals itself. Of the 16 levels in the game, there is only one that felt intelligently designed. This involved magnetic balls and some precise timing in order to hit 2 separate targets with them. This was the one shining moment for the entire game.
It’s fascinating too that there’s no real difficulty curve in Newtonian Inversion. Sure, more puzzle elements get introduced but the levels actually get easier the further you get within the game. I completed the last 5 levels in a single try. The last level is one of the most anti-climactic experiences I’ve had in years.
Even during the one enjoyable puzzle in Newtonian Inversion, it’s difficult to enjoy this game. That’s because of a litany of game design faux pas’. The space man’s walking animation is terrible. They strut around like they’ve got both a broken ankle and a serious case of piles. They move incredibly slowly too with no way to speed them up. It can be painful to move them from one side of a grav plate to another.
The visuals of the game are incredibly basic yet garish at the same time. There’s a strange pearlescent effect on the exit gate and space man’s armour that make them look like they belong on the front cover of Max Power magazine. The music, while actually pretty good, repeats for the entire game. By the end of the game, I never wanted to hear it loop around again.
The physics in the game are clunky too. The gravity of the plates and globes in the game only pull down when you’re directly over head of them. Rather than pulling the space man directly down, they’re span around so they always land on their feet. It all feels rough and untrustworthy. You’re never quite sure if your trajectory will have you drawn into a gravity pad or you’ll fly on by into the stars, forced to restart the level again.
An Easy Platinum Trophy For Less Than A Bag Of Crisps
Let’s talk brass tacks though – Newtonian Inversion is a budget game with a reasonable concept that costs less than a grab bag of Doritos. There’s about 45 minuets worth of content here, give or take a quarter of an hour based on retries and failures. The age old adage that “you get what you pay for” was designed for games like this. There’s very little artistic quality to be seen in Newtonian Inversion but it’ll sell copies anyway. It has a platinum trophy that can be unlocked in less than an hour. It’ll attract the usual trophy hunting crowd.
For those of you who want to support quality games design, this game is very difficult to recommend. If, however, you’re hear to confirm that the rumours are true and there’s a bunch of easy trophies to be bought up here, the answer is yes. This game is an easy Plat.
A poor physics puzzle game with a limited amount of content, Newtonian Inversion is a basic budget title reminiscent of an unfinished tech demo. Of the 16 levels it contains there’s just a single headscratcher worth thinking about. Sir Isaac Newton said “What goes up must come down”. I hope this one stays down.
Newtonian Inversion is available now on PlayStation 4 (review platform) and PC.
Developer: The Voices Games
Publisher: The Voices Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, a copy of the game was purchased. For our full review policy, please go here.
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