Gravitar Recharged – Reviving the Under Appreciated

Gravitar Recharged - Reviving the Under Appreciated

Atari’s Recharged series has been great in giving a shot in the arm to many games from their arcade catalogue. But I found the series to have stagnated lately, as more recent entries started to blend into each other thanks to offering little more than a visual overhaul. So there was a mix of trepidation and curiosity as I installed the newest instalment Gravitar: Recharged and got myself ready to blast off.

Gravitar: Recharged has you piloting a small star-fighter, travelling through space. As with the other Recharged games, got two modes are on offer – Arcade mode serves as the core game, with the Missions mode building upon that to offer a variety of short challenges.

In Arcade mode, your journey will take you across 4-star systems. You’ll visit the planets of each, and complete their missions which results in a black hole being formed that warps you onto the next.

If there was one thing I loved most with this Recharged version, it’s how it expands the planetary missions. Where the planets of the arcade original had one goal — taking out a number of emplacements, those in Recharged offer a variety of missions to complete. 

These range from taking out a number of enemies, to activating beacons or even negotiating a base to steal intelligence, each of them is distinct and builds upon the flight and combat gameplay to offer up quite the challenge.

As the name implies, Gravitar: Recharged is all about mastering gravity. You can rotate your craft and fire its engines Asteroids style, and you’ve got a tractor beam for scooping up items located across the level. The most important aspect to control is being precise in your movements, else you’ll be hurtling out of control right into a planet’s surface.

Or worse: using up all your fuel then becoming friends with a planet’s surface!

These controls work nicely whether playing via JoyCons or a Pro Controller, though your ship’s rotation was a little too sensitive at times (at least with the former). It’s not a major pain, but it made lining up with enemy emplacements fiddlier than I’d have liked, especially when they’re sitting off-screen taking pot-shots at you.

I also love the other major addition to the game – the additional pickups, joining the fuel pods from the original game. Rescue Pods will earn you extra points. The real fun I found was with the additional weapons, even if only available for brief moments, as they’re very handy for cutting through hostile threats.

As a classic arcade experience, there’s a certain challenge to the proceedings, as the difficulty ramps up from system to system to keep you on your toes. Thankfully, it doesn’t get as tough as the original game, making Gravitar: Recharged a game for the rest of us, instead of just those dedicated to the original arcade machine.

Missions mode serves a series of challenges, each taking the form of a single planetary mission. Where Arcade mode focused more on a methodical approach to clearing it, you’ll need a new strategy here, as you’ll want to complete the objective as fast as possible. Not only that, but if you want the highest score, you’ll need to find all the pickups as well! 

It’s the perfect treat for when you’ve got your Switch with you on a short train or bus trip and need to kill some time without getting stuck into a deeper experience.

What seals the distinctiveness of Gravitar: Recharged for me is its aesthetics. Particularly the soundtrack, which ditches the pulsating beats of the prior games for a more ambient soundscape. When combined with the visuals, which ditch the neon glows and dark backgrounds of the other games, replacing them with muted outlines, and picturesque backdrops, the result is something I feel is far less tense and provides a more approachable atmosphere than the original game.

Gravitar: Recharged is a greatly appreciated shot in the arm for Atari’s series of revivals. Its Arcade mode modernises the original game, firstly by expanding its mechanics, then by reducing the brutality of its challenge. The Missions mode is a great alternative, for when you’ve only got the time for a brief run instead of tackling the complete experience.

I hope future Recharged instalments take a cue from this in building upon those original games and their mechanics, rather than attempting to compress them into a similar box and crushing their distinctive values in the process.

Gravitar Recharged was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with code kindly provided by the publisher. 

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