Actionscript guru Keith Peters has released a sequel to Gravity Pods, his unforgiving physics puzzle challenge from last year. This time out, not only will you need superhuman patience to defeat all 50 levels, but also fist-clenchingly perfect timing. If your brain has the intestinal fortitude for it, Gravity Pods 2 will let you make the impossible seem possible.
The object of each stage is to hit the purple exit gate with a projectile fired from a turret. Click on the turret and drag to set your aim loosely, or make fine adjustments with the [>] and [<] keys. Fire with [space]. Your path to the goal will be indirect, to say the least, lined with obstacles that will both help and hinder you. The plain green barriers stop projectiles cold, dark blue circles repel them, red stars attract them, and light blue circles (new to Gravity Pods 2) reflect them from their surface.
After a handful of training levels, the game opens up (to an overwhelming degree) by allowing you to place the gravity pods yourself. Anywhere on the playing field is fair game, even inside of a wall or on top of another pod. After you've placed a pod, you can select it with the mouse and fine-tune its positioning, step by step, with the [arrow] keys. Even a one-pixel change can make a dramatic difference here.
You can choose your starting level freely, and the game will remember which levels you've beaten. But strangely, there is no Menu or Back button, so if you stumble into a difficult puzzle and want to extricate yourself to the main menu, your only option is to reload the entire game.
Analysis: It's safe to say that Gravity Pods 2 isn't for everyone. There's an exacting, cerebral tone to it that could be considered off-putting, and the gameplay is all about trial-and-error. Shoot, move a pod one pixel to the right, shoot, adjust the turret angle by 2 degrees, shoot—it's enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. Thankfully, there are no longer any limitations on your ammunition, so experiment to your heart's content.
The reward here is in overcoming instance after instance of wonderfully cruel level design. By the final stretch, they no longer even resemble levels. They look like jokes.
"Hey," says Keith Peters, "Wouldn't it be funny if you had to shoot between the blades of three different rotating walls through a narrow corridor in the shape of a "U", and you only had a single gravity pod to place? Wouldn't that be hysterical?"
"Yes it would," says you, "I sure am glad you're a kind soul, and you would never actually ask me to do such a loony thing."
Says Keith Peters, "I have some bad news for you. Welcome to level 45."
The new bounce pods are often too small for the kind of precise calculations this game needs; their surfaces reflect projectiles unpredictably, behaving more like crazy little polygons than perfect circles. Also new to Gravity Pods 2 are rotating walls, which are, trust me, the most annoying things ever invented. They sometimes require such split-second timing that you'll wonder if you might have inadvertently insulted the game's mother, and this is what it's going to do to you in lieu of reaching through the screen and breaking your septum.
But this kind of adversity can be rewarding. You have all the time in the world to get the answer right, and when you do, you'll know you've reached perfection. It's like boot camp for your cortex. "This is my vector turret. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I must master it as I master my life. Oorah!"