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Gravitar’s graphics and sound are minimalistic, but the arcade original’s colour vector graphics – although striking – were fairly slight as well. To me, exceptional gameplay will trump pretty graphics any time.
And, if you think this is tough enough as it is, it's prototype of Lunar Battle was exactly the same, although the gravity is heavier and the bunkers fire more often! So quit whining already, it could've been much worse! Anyway, like I said, this is a tough game, but it can be fun, and a bit of a challenge.
Gravitar offers fairly simple game play, but maneuvering the ship is where the challenge mounts. This game has a love/hate following mostly due to the intricacies of piloting the ship. It looks simple enough, but the spaces are often narrow making movement difficult. Being harder than it looks can be frustrating, but using the Beginner level for practice makes for a better experience when it gets manic. It does get manic.
Maneuvering on the planets is especially tricky since it requires players to blast their way through fortified underground tunnels where both the ground and the "ceiling" are hazards. The difficulty factor scared away some faint-hearted arcade patrons, and many Gravitar coin-ops were turned into Black Widow, a later Atari game released as a conversion kit. Gravitar can still be found in the Atari Anniversary Edition collection.
Although the control is responsive, it can be hard to find a decent shooting angle. The graphics are rough, and the sound effects include some unpleasant noises that sound like static. Unlike most 2600 games, the first game variation is the most difficult. Gravitar is a worthy challenge, but for a better gravity-defying shooter, try Thrust.
Not a massively popular game on release (often converted to Black Widow, which used the same hardware), the historical relevance and impressive design of Gravitar has since helped it gain a reputable status in cult gaming.
With so many other awesome space-genre games for the Atari 2600 like Beamrider, Gravitar isn't really something you should be making an effort to locate. Case in point, this game was actually released prior to Atari Club members only and then rereleased later (the former being quite a collectible now). If they didn't give it wide release at first, perhaps that says something about it. Gravitar is impressive when you turn it on, until you get into the actual mechanics, and then it just gets annoying. The fact that even the arcade version wasn't very popular should tell you everything you need to know. Spend your time elsewhere and play something that won't give you a headache.