Sunday, May 30, 2010
Indie Game Review - Gerbil Physics 2
The first Gerbil Physics was a great title that, though short, was one of my favorite impulse buys on the XBox Live Indie Games Marketplace. If you don't remember the game or how much fun I had with it, SHAME ON YOU. But you know I can't stay mad at you. Not when there's so much beauty in the world. Beauty that makes me smile, makes me think, and, with some stages in sequel Gerbil Physics 2, makes me want to throw power tools at an elderly couple.
Gerbil Physics 2 is a sequel to the adorable first physics game from last year by the same name. Well, same name minus the "2". Let's move on. In this game, your goal is to get each gerbil block either below the yellow line or just off the screen using the vast array of gerbil-throwing tools including bombs, ropes, disintegration rays, and the brand new slingshot. Oh, and a machine gun once you beat the game. Pretty standard tools for harmless gerbil evacuation. A few of the stages involve sending the gerbils to some other part of the stage, such as on a platform or over a wall, but the main goal in each of the 40 stages remains the same: send them somewhere.
The presentation for Gerbil Physics 2 is pretty much the same as the first one with a little more attention to detail with the backgrounds and another song or two. The gerblocks (MY TERM SO THERE) seem to be the same thing as before, which is to say still completely adorable. They still panic when you put a bomb next to them, still ask you if it's a rope, and still look quite pleased when they find themselves within the yellow boundaries of the stage. Joining them are some evil-yet-cute penguins that explode once hit and usually just get in your way when trying to be precise. Doesn't exactly make them evil, but maybe they steal road signs when no one's looking. I hear that's evil.
As with the presentation, the controls are the exact same in this one as well. Unfortunately, the game is a little more difficult, and the simple point and click with the left analog doesn't feel like it's enough for a few of the later stages. For example, one stage requires you to place a bomb while dragging a gerbil via rope, and it just feels a little awkward to hit A while needing to keep your hold of B. Mapping some of the tools optionally to the LB/RB buttons would've been nice. My main complaint was with the last stage, which involves only using slingshots to shoot your one gerbil out the top right of the stage, which doesn't open up for a solid 15 seconds or so after the floor breaks away. In short, it becomes something relying heavily on dexterity and, considering the rest of the game didn't and the controls aren't keen on that, the level is a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
Outside of that last stage, Gerbil Physics 2 is pretty much a longer update of the first game. That's not to say it's bad by any stretch of the imagination. The 40 levels provide a few hours of solid entertainment for your 80 MS Points, and perfectionists can go back for faster times to get a gold medal on every stage. Run of the mill completionists like myself will be fine with beating the game once and maybe going back for a few stages. Both groups will be well-assisted, however, by the 999 bullet machine gun that replaces the bombs if they wish it to, and I have to admit I enjoyed that for a stage or two. I do have to say that people who enjoyed the more laid back and less frustrating approach of the first game will probably be a little turned off by the extra difficulty of GP2, and I can't imagine anyone who is masochistic enough to appreciate the awkward last stage.
In the end, if you enjoyed the first game, you'll enjoy the vast majority of the second one if not all of it. If Gerbil Physics wasn't your cup of tea, however, or you are allergic to cute, there's nothing in this version that will try to draw you in that wasn't in the last one.
Gerbil Physics 2 from Pencel Games is available on XBox Live for 80 MS Points. Played game to completion, tried a few stages afterward with the machine gun unlocked, and actually had to set the controller down and walk away a few times so I didn't get too frustrated with the later stages. Grand Theft Auto ain't got nothin' on this for turning people violent.