Editor's note: If you haven't played Gravity Bone you should definitely do that before reading this. It's packaged with Thirty Flights of Loving, but you can also download it free directly from Blendo Games.
Right from the start you know you're in for a treat. Trumpets blare a tune straight from Copacabana Beach while an elevator takes you to a raucous masquerade ball in the sky. Planes create smoke patterns overhead, while a trio of men in dark suits and sunglasses watch from on high, tracking you like the eyes of the Mona Lisa.
Gravity Bone has a lot of tricks, but its best is that it manages to feel lean and focused while still displaying the ambition of a game five times its size. In just 15 minutes it squeezes in an interactive tutorial, platforming, exploding birds, photography, plot twists, light puzzling, and a chase sequence that’ll blow your socks off—and it does it all to the accompaniment of upbeat Latin music.
You can tell that it was made on a budget (the party guests all talk in a wordless language that sounds like a frog getting stepped on), but Gravity Bone papers over the cracks by putting lots of interesting things on screen to constantly distract the eye. A green sign points to a door that you just have to look behind, a man with a red suit stands out from the sea of black-and-white outfits, a waterfall tumbles into nothingness. And besides, you’re not hanging around long enough to get bored. Within two minutes you’ve disguised yourself as a waiter, dropped a Manitoba beast bug into a champagne glass, served it to the man in a red suit, and made your getaway.
The second level pulls similar tricks. Basically, it’s the same task repeated five times: you freeze a lock, whack it with a hammer, and take a picture of a bird on the other side of that locked door. But it's broken up enough to keep you engaged, first by sending you into a new environment with a mini overhead train that you gawk at for a few seconds, and then by some platforming between flag poles that wobble in the wind.
Gravity Bone also slips in elements you’d expect from larger games, tricking you into thinking there is something grander beyond its borders. When you complete your first mission you're given money—but you never get the chance to spend it. One of your inventory slots remains empty, urging you to find an item to fill it.
The chase sequence is what really elevates it all. Up to then Gravity Bone feels clever, but running after the woman who shoots you is a genuinely frantic sequence that doesn’t give you a second to stop moving forward. You’re dodging incoming trains. You’re dropping through hatches. You’re falling onto a banquet table, the eyes of every diner on you. You’re following her over railings and along precarious rooftop walkways. It’s over in the blink of an eye but every section is so distinct that you can easily piece the whole thing together in your mind afterwards.
The chase culminates in a series of flashbacks after you’re shot and thrown from the top of a building. You see a car chase with passengers firing guns, a woman’s face, and an athletics race that could be from a school sports day. What's going on? Perhaps it’s just deliberately obtuse, or perhaps the obvious answer is the right one: it’s your life flashing before your eyes.
Gravity Bone is packed with personality. If you try to quit and then change your mind you get a cheer of celebration. Those five birds all fall off their perches and explode after the camera shutter clicks. When you land on a banquet table during the game’s chase sequence, your foot squelches in someone’s dessert as champagne glasses shatter.
It all adds up to a game that feels a lot more substantial than its short runtime, and demands multiple playthroughs to appreciate the detail that’s packed into it. Gravity Bone looks great, sounds excellent, and oozes class.