While most gamers will remember the gravity swapping mechanic best for its refined use in Nintendo's Super Mario Galaxy and sequel, a popular indie title also featured the mechanic to great effect. VVVVVV--that's six Vs for those too lazy to count—developed by indie gaming legend Terry Cavanagh in 2010 eschews the action mechanics in Metal Storm to instead focus on the puzzle-solving potential of gravity manipulation. Players must utilize both quick reflexes and clever thinking to work their way through devilishly designed levels where death comes quickly at the single touch of a floor/ceiling/wall spike. VVVVVV effectively capitalizes on the puzzle-solving potential of the gravity swapping mechanic to produce an addictively frustrating experience.
Retro games remain a fascination for me because of their creative and experimental gameplay, but often inhibiting that creativity is an attachment to the design paradigm of their era. Where Irem saw gravity swapping as a neat twist on the popular side-scrolling platformer format, Cavanaugh recognized the mechanic's potential as a game's singular drive.There are still many forgotten concepts in retro games just waiting to be mined by modern game developers. Going forward, I will seek to identify these concepts, where they have been used by modern game designers, and how they might be re-purposed to appeal to the sensibilities of the modern gamer.