Generally, the appeal of most games on the market boils down to how well they generate a rush, as well as how long they can maintain it while still being enjoyable and achievable. Different games use varying means of achieving said rush, and for racing games, that method usually boils down to how high you can get the speedometer to go. In the case of ANTIGRAVIATOR, a new game from Cybernetic Walrus, the needle goes flying right off the gauge.
Inspired by the likes of the F-Zero and Wipeout series, ANTIGRAVIATOR is a racing title whose main attractions lie in its basis of insane speed and antigravity tracks (go figure), complete with an immaculate sci-fi veneer. The game itself, while not displaying the broadest sense of scope in its modes or customization, outshines the majority of its AAA counterparts. This holds true not only in terms of aesthetic, but also by hammering that notion of “speed” as the sticking point for the entire product.
In the words of a certain blue hedgehog: Gotta Go Fast
ANTIGRAVIATOR’s main gimmick lies in having absolutely no upper limit to how fast you can go. When partaking in any of the game’s races, whether they be the standard three-lap endeavors or avoiding premature detonation in the treacherous Deathmatch mode, maintaining and building your speed ever upwards ultimately becomes the deciding factor between you and last place. The game gives players ample means of building more acceleration, paving the tracks with plenty of speed-boosting pads, and abundant cartridges that can be stockpiled or used immediately to give a massive spike to your vehicle’s dizzying velocity. And as long as the player is deft with their drifts and avoiding obstacles, your vehicle will speed up indefinitely.
The way the game utilizes its speed limit (or lack thereof) is addictive, even psychoactive at times. Colors get distorted, sound shifts around you, and precise movement becomes increasingly more challenging and necessary for success. The push to increase your max speed not only makes you hone in meticulously on every little aspect of the screen, but also potentially forces your hand on making more and more risky decisions to keep or push your spot. That being said, ANTIGRAVIATOR pulls no punches if you screw up. Making too slow a turn and grinding against the rails, or getting hit with any of the map’s various traps, has some hefty consequences. Such errors reduce you back down to starting speed, reap your stockpiled boosts, and can potentially impair (or even blow up) your vehicle. Yet despite the obvious negative connotation of dealing with these setbacks, losing your speed, in some ways, is just as fun as gaining it. It forces players to strategize and makes the build-up back to ridiculousness all the more enjoyable.
While the sheer speed of the gameplay is admittedly overwhelming at first, the simplicity of the controls makes ANTIGRAVIATOR fairly easy to pick up. Getting acclimated to the velocity the game blasts you through becomes surprisingly manageable despite its extreme nature, and in combination with its spectacular aesthetic, gets the blood pumping in a way that few other games can. Additionally, the level of customization for your vehicle also allows for a layer of nuance and strategy to each race. This customization encourages players to diversify and prioritize the maneuverability, acceleration, or durability for their vehicles, adding to the replayability of races by mixing and matching to suit your style. Lastly, the ability to trigger traps on the track, or occasionally launch missiles through item pickups, keeps player tensions high while also maintaining a challenging, yet balanced, level of difficulty.
Aesthetically, ANTIGRAVIATOR is pure sci-fi eye candy. Cybernetic Walrus have created a game that can be sold on visuals alone, boasting beautifully rendered locales that provide a great backdrop for the game’s high-octane races. The particular focus on high contrast and neon coloration acts not only as a sci-fi gimmick, but also acts to complement the speed factor of the game, making every little detail stand out even while zipping past stretches at over 1000 mph. If nothing else, ANTIGRAVIATOR knows how to create a thrill ride, even for those who are not the most adept of racers.
Insert your favorite/ most obnoxious EDM track here
There are only a few things that I take issue with in ANTIGRAVIATOR, and they largely amount to nitpicking. One said gripe is the lack of variety in terms of the courses. There are only 12 tracks in total, a third of which are simply copies of a previous track in reverse. Another hiccup is how the provided tutorial does a less-than-stellar job explaining some aspects of the game, such as how traps aren’t for the most part “pick up and use,” but more “obtain randomly and cause a distraction on the track.” In all honesty, I still don’t have a complete understanding of how the trap system works within this game, despite using it quite often. But with such blisteringly chaotic races carrying the gameplay, this quibbles aren’t even able to register in the rearview mirror.
ANTIGRAVIATOR is intrinsically engaging, regardless of your interest in the genre; it demands your attention, holding it with intense visual flair and an even more intense sense of speed. The game is nothing short of a thrill ride, and for what little it offers you in terms of variety, it makes up for by getting your adrenaline pumping for every second it can.
Reviewed on PC