Bird-free physics puzzling in space with Gravity Fleet

Gravity Fleet is a new iOS-based physics puzzler from young Argentinian indie studio Coffee Powered Machine. It’s available now as a $0.99 Universal download from the App Store with a free Web-based demo available here.

The basic premise of Gravity Fleet sees players commanding a spaceship whose job it is to defend various celestial bodies from a seemingly endless army of planet-devouring monsters. This is achieved by firing a variety of different types of missile at the giant alien miscreants and taking advantage of the gravitational pull of nearby planets to curve shots.

The control scheme is simple but effective — players tap on the screen where they would like to aim their missile, press the “fire” button and watch to see if it successfully defeats any enemies. Once all enemies are defeated, the player is given bonus points according to how many missiles they have left and how many planets have survived. They are then given a ranking of up to three chevrons according to their performance, are awarded with in-game currency and may then either retry the level to improve their score or move on to the next.

Like Angry Birds Space, the player’s arsenal for each level is both strictly limited and follows a fixed order, and this is where the puzzle element of the gameplay is most apparent. Determining which order to destroy the aliens in becomes very important, as does determining which group of aliens should be punished with a three-way missile and which should feel the wrath of an area-effect bomb. It’s possible to brute-force most levels, but the elusive three-chevron ratings will remain out of reach unless the player determines the most efficient, effective order in which to destroy their adversaries.  The puzzles in Gravity Fleet have very precise solutions which can be worked out by eye and then executed first time, removing the need for frustrating “trial and error” gameplay almost entirely.

For those who need a little assistance in leveraging the game’s celestial physics, a number of powerups are available for in-game currency which provide a longer “guide line” for aiming missiles and the facility to display how far the influence of a planet’s gravitational field extends. Clumsy players who have found themselves inadvertently blowing up habitable planets with their own missiles may also choose to protect said worlds with a force field powerup, too.

Alongside the powerups, players may also spend their in-game currency on various “assistant” characters. Each of these provides a special bonus — some increase damage or blast radius of specific missile types, some increase the rate at which defeated aliens drop free powerups and some increase the “health” of planets. Meanwhile, players may also purchase new ship designs, though these are largely vanity options that change the appearance of their vessel and the projectiles it fires. The ships on offer pay non copyright-infringing homage to a wide variety of well-known sci-fi games, movies and TV shows including Futurama, Mass Effect, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and even retro classics Asteroids and Space Invaders. Players earn in-game currency at a steady rate over the course of the game, though impatient players who immediately want to start using a rather square-looking Starship Enterprise may purchase packages of credits ranging from $0.99 to $29.99.

The game does not include any social features at this time, though Game Center support is promised in an impending update, along with more levels, assistants and ships to purchase and an interface tweak to make the iPad version run at the correct aspect ratio rather than scaled-up iPhone visuals. Should the developer continue this level of support over the game’s lifetime, it deserves to enjoy some success — though the unfortunate timing of its release during the beginning of Angry Birds Space fever may mean it gets glossed over by many players in favor of Rovio’s title. This would be a real shame, as barring some in-game text whose English translation could do with a proofread, Gravity Fleet is a high-quality iOS game that features excellent presentation, fun gameplay and unobtrusive monetization.

As a new release, Gravity Fleet is not yet listed on our tracking service AppData, but check back soon to follow its progress through the App Store charts.