Games which advertise a gimmick as a main feature should generally be avoided. This goes double when the “gimmick” isn’t a gimmick at all (Think of when DVDs first came out–remember when “Scene Selection” was on the box as a “Special Feature”?). Today’s game is a double whammy in this regard. Can it overcome these two strikes against it out of the gate?
Developed by KID and published by Taxan in 1990 (Similar to the brilliant minds behind Rambo, neither company is in the video game business today), Low G Man: The Low Gravity Man (Henceforth just “Low G Man”) has a pretty typical futuristic action game plot. Directly from the game, here it is:
IT WAS A ROBOT PRODUCING EXPLORATION PLANET LIKE ANY OTHER
BUT THEN THEY CAME…..
WE’LL SEND IN LOW G MAN
There’s something missing here. If the game is gospel, this isn’t like Independence Day, where aliens show up and proceed to immediately blow up major US landmarks. Apparently, WE decide to SEND IN LOW G MAN before even ascertaining the motives of the aliens–for all WE know, they just wanted to sit down and have tea with us.
Anyway, it’s your run-of-the-mill save-the-world-from-an-alien-invasion plot. Like Shatterhand, the plot is never advanced in the game, though unlike Shatterhand, you get to see this intro if you leave the game for a short time, so you have at least some idea of why you’re running around doing the things you do.
I mentioned gimmicks earlier. Taxan decided to advertise the game based on the fact that your character can jump really really high. At the start of the game, you can jump about half the height of the screen. A couple powerups later, and your jump height increases to nearly two screens. This is important, since some levels are almost three screens tall, including the boss levels, which are often closer to “The boss IS the level” monstrosities like you’d see in R-Type.
The other part of the gimmickthon is that “Includes Password Feature” is written on the front of the box, and therefore, on the game itself. I’m grateful for the feature, but password and/or save systems are generally reserved for back-of-the-box ad copy, not trumpeted on the game itself.
Whatever the reason for its advertisement, the password feature is part of a game that is pretty generous difficulty-wise. The game is broken up into five chapters, with each chapter consisting of either two or three scenes. The password puts you at the start of the current chapter; in addition, you get unlimited continues, which place you at the start of the current scene. The passwords themselves are a very reasonable four characters long.
Just because the game is generous, though, doesn’t mean it’s easy. The scenes have no checkpoints, meaning dying and Game Overing have almost the same net effect (The only difference is that Game Overing takes away your limited-use subweapons). The scenes also have minibosses at the end, which can take many, many hits to bring down.
Making the game harder is the fact that your default gun can’t actually kill enemies, only stun them temporarily. To kill your foes, you need to either use one of the limited-use subweapons I mentioned earlier, or or spear an enemy from above or below. To use the spear, you press up or down along with the attack button. This is the big issue with the controls–jumping through the air, you’ll swear you went to spear an enemy, only to end up shooting your gun and taking damage instead. The rest of the controls can best be described as “clunky”. You move faster through the air than on the ground, but there’s a slight delay between hitting the button and jumping. This manifests itself most obviously when you need to spear something above you with no range powerup–if you’re just a little off in your timing, you’ll miss your strike, and maybe take damage too.
Low G Man’s soundtrack has strange “instrumentation”. The music is inoffensive enough, but the actual sounds are more cheery and upbeat than you’d expect from an alien invasion tale.
Despite its challenge, Low G Man isn’t terribly long. I beat it after about 4 hours spread across two sessions (Thanks, Password Feature!). Or, more accurately, I beat the first quest. One hallmark of Taxan games are Legend of Zelda-esque multiple quests. After you beat the game and see the ending, you’ll get a message saying roughly “Good job, but how about a bigger challenge?”, then go back to the start to do it all again.
But the controls were enough that I didn’t bother trying subsequent quests. The “jump really really high” conceit didn’t hold my attention, particularly since you need to collect powerups to truly jump really really high. It was never re-released, so if you want to try to find it legally, EBay is your best bet. Honestly, though, I wouldn’t pay more than $5 or so for it.