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Ant-Gravity: Tiny’s Adventure (Switch) artwork

Ant-Gravity: Tiny’s Adventure (Switch) review

"Leave it to an insect to fully appreciate the gravity of the situation."

Ant-gravity: Tiny's Adventure offers moments of greatness. It's a 2D platformer with light puzzle elements that stars an ant with the power to manipulate gravity. That's a neat concept, and it could have gone amazing places. Sometimes it even does. Unfortunately, the overall adventure is occasionally too frustrating for its own good.

The heroic ant has a limited but very effective set of moves. It can move left and right, jump, or rotate the stage around it 90 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise. Suppose that ahead of the ant's current position, there is a passage lined with deadly spikes on both the ceiling and floor. This happens often. The ant can leap out toward those spikes and swing the stage around so that suddenly that horizontal passageway becomes a vertical shaft. Now, instead of falling to its death, the ant might land safely on a ledge at the far side of the shaft, which now serves as the base of a pit.

Ant-Gravity: Tiny’s Adventure (Switch) image

I really like playing with the level in that way. I've vanquished a number of video games over the years that featured similar moments, but usually they weren't the main attraction and implementation tended to quite limited. Here, gravity is constantly relevant. You'll need to manipulate it as a matter of routine or you won't get anywhere.

There are limitations to just how much manipulation is allowed, however. The quite reasonable main rule is that you can't just keep tapping a button to spin indefinitely. Once you leap, you can adjust once in mid-air and that's it. Until you land, you're stuck with the stage's new orientation and you had better hope you rotated everything in the direction you intended. If you didn't, you'll probably die or maybe accidentally backtrack a bit.

Ant-Gravity: Tiny’s Adventure (Switch) image

The biggest problem I had with the game is that everything is viewed from a perspective too close to the action. As you explore a stage, you can only see a small portion of it at once. If there's a long tunnel ahead of you, anything waiting at the other end is a mystery and might kill you instantly. Remember spikes in the classic Mega Man games? This game is full of them, and they're routinely positioned where you can't see them until you're hurtling toward them and have no time to meaningfully react. It's possible to stand on a ledge and move the camera a bit in any direction to see what lurks further away, but this is rarely useful. There are a lot of leaps of faith, and a lot of my deaths felt cheap because I couldn't avoid them until I memorized stages.

Happily, checkpoints are spread liberally throughout most stages. I rarely had to backtrack far. Also, most of the candy you collect remains in your inventory even in the likely event that you perish. You have unlimited lives, so you can keep trying a level from the last checkpoint until finally you get things right and are able to push on to the next stage. And on that note, I should add that there are a lot of levels in the game. Each of the five worlds have fourteen regular action stages plus a boss battle.

Ant-Gravity: Tiny’s Adventure (Switch) image

So about those bosses... They suck. The first one, a praying mantis that puts up only mild resistance as you rotate the room and try to set things up so a block will fall and crush him, isn't so bad. However, things quickly get worse from there. I finally had to give up on the final boss encounter, a multi-part battle with no checkpoints. Your enemy is extremely capable of hitting you almost anywhere on the screen. Against such a powerful adversary, I have to admit: I felt like... an ant. But not in a good way, as I had for much of the campaign up to that point. It really soured the experience.

Thankfully, there are relatively few moments of pure frustration throughout the campaign, final boss battle aside. Puzzles are generally basic enough that even if you don't have fun solving them, you can push through them in short order. The worst of them involve pressure plates and crates you must manipulate to open gates. Those situations only show up infrequently, so that for the most part you don't have to worry about a lot more than just spinning the level around as you find safe passage between spiky walls, spiders and scorpions. The developers also provide an excuse to replay stages, even after you clear them. They often feature alcoves where you can gather extra candy, so you need to explore and search for hidden passages if you want to find everything. Sometimes, it feels like the developers didn't know whether they wanted to make a tough-as-nails platformer or something more suitable for a younger audience, but the game does a reasonably good job of serving both purposes.

Ant-gravity: Tiny's Adventure is the sort of niche indie platformer that's unlikely to ever find a huge audience, but its low price tag and the loads of content on offer mean it's a good investment if you're in the mood for something a little different from the norm. With a bit more polish, particularly where boss battles are concerned, I would have felt good about recommending it to pretty much everyone. Instead, I'm left to say that as long as you don't set your expectations too high going in, you might well be pleasantly surprised.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (June 05, 2020)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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