Low G Man: The Low Gravity Man
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • KID
  • Publishers:
    • US Taxan
    • UK Nintendo
  • Released:
    • US September 1990
    • UK 1991
Score: 75%

This review was published on 01/22/2017.

Low G Man: The Low Gravity Man is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by KID for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was originally released in North America in September 1990 and Europe in 1991. The game was published by Taxan in North America and Nintendo in Europe. Oddly enough, the game was never released in the NES' home country of Japan. The same company that developed this game is also responsible for a number of other decent NES titles, such as KickMaster, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, and G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor. All these games have a similar feel, as they all feature similar graphical styles and slightly offbeat physics. Out of everything KID has developed for the NES, KickMaster is by far its best title. While Low G Man isn't anywhere near as good as KickMaster, it's still a decent enough title for the NES that's worth looking into if you're a big fan of side-scrolling games.

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The year is 2284 and the human race has perfected the technologies of hyperspace travel and anti-gravity. Humanity is now in the process of colonizing the entire galaxy. All types of robots have been constructed for space exploration, with whole planets of robots being created to manufacture even more robots. Then, one day, one of the planets that manufacture robots in the Orion sector is discovered by an advanced race of alien life forms. At first, the aliens peacefully bargain for a technological exchange with the computer in charge of the robot manufacturing planet. It was all a ruse, however, as the aliens download the computer's data and reprogram the entire robotic population of the planet for war. Using their newly acquired robotic army, the aliens wish to eradicate all humanoids in the galaxy. To combat this threat, the Countries of United Earth, otherwise known as CUE, send in one of their top soldiers, the eponymous Low G Man. That's you.

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Like a vast quantity of NES games, you press left or right on the d-pad to walk left or right. Unlike most NES games, you tap left or right twice quickly to run left or right. This is surprisingly hard to pull off consistently, and also not very useful, so you probably won't be doing it much. What you will be doing a lot of is jumping, which is done by pressing the A button. This is where the game's title comes into play, as you're able to jump insanely high, much higher than Italian plumbers named Mario. You're able to jump two thirds of the screen's height by default, but you can increase your maximum jumping height by collecting power-ups known as anti-gravity material, or AGM for short. After collecting three AGM power-ups, which is the maximum, you'll be able to jump nearly two whole screens high. It's a bit impractical as you'll probably hit your head on enemies or hazards that are off screen, but being able to leap vast distances sure is fun.

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By default, pressing the B button will fire a bullet from your Electro-Magnetic Disruptor Pistol, otherwise referred to as the EMDP. This gun doesn't actually harm enemies, but it does stun them after a few shots. Once stunned, enemies will remain frozen for a few seconds, allowing you to harmlessly jump on top of them as if they were platforms or attack them with another weapon. Your other main weapon is an armor piercing spear that you thrust upwards or downwards by holding up or down on the d-pad and pressing the B button. The spear cannot attack towards the left or right, but unlike the EMDP, it can actually harm enemies, usually taking out small fry in one triumphant thrust. For the most part, the main strategy is to stun enemies with the gun and then stab them to bits with the spear, forming a one-two punch of death. While you don't have to actually stun enemies to damage them with the spear, stunning them first certainly makes things easier. This method of attack definitely takes some getting used to, but is fairly cool once mastered.

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Besides the stun gun and spear, there are other weapons you can use. If you press the start button, you'll bring up the Weapon Select screen, where you can select a sub-weapon. Once selected, you can switch between the sub-weapon and stun gun during play by pressing the select button. These special weapons all consist of projectiles that damage enemies on contact, like a boomerang, fireball, energy wave, and bombs. However, all these weapons have limited ammo, but certain enemies will drop more ammunition for specific weapon types. Additionally, the more ammo you gather for a particular weapon, the more powerful it will be, allowing it to shoot in multiple directions. Each weapon can go up three levels, and you keep them even if you die, but you do lose everything if you die enough to get a Game Over. Enemies that don't drop ammo will occasionally drop other stuff, like upgrades for the stun gun that allows it to shoot multiple bullets at once, upgrades that extend the spear's length, and the aforementioned anti-gravity material that increases the height of your jumps. Unlike the special weapons, you lose these upon dying once. There are also the usual life restoring potions and 1ups, but sometimes enemies will drop red potions that actually hurt you.

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Another of this game's unique mechanics is the ability to steal vehicles from certain enemies. To do this, you simply have to stun the enemy, stand on top of their vehicle, then stab your spear downwards repeatedly to kill them and snatch their ride. The stolen vehicles include a bipedal tank that jumps around and fires a stream of bullets, a hovercraft that throws a barrage of bombs, and a spider-like machine that can reverse gravity. You're completely invincible when in control of a vehicle, but the machine has limited fuel that drains as you pilot it, and it'll explode once it's empty. Fuel also drains faster if your vehicle takes damage, so there's still incentive to not get hit even though you're invincible. You can press the select button to demolish your vehicle if you want to leave your ride early. Being able to rob the vehicles of your enemies is neat, especially since they're fun to pilot.

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Stages are referred to as "chapters" in this game, and they're divided into smaller portions called "scenes." You'll encounter a fair amount of environments while on your mission, such as frozen wastelands, undersea caverns, dark mines, magma filled mountains, and futuristic cityscapes. Some of the stages will take place in massive vehicles, such as submarines and tanks, and they're usually filled with many dangerous obstacles, like turrets. None of the stages are especially mind blowing in design, but the ones set within vehicles are nifty. During some stages, you'll find prisoners that, when rescued, will give you a helpful power-up. There aren't many stages that have them, though. While it's far from the hardest NES game, Low G Man does get insidiously difficult later on, but there are unlimited continues. In order to see the true ending, you must beat the game three times in a row, with each time being harder than the last. Luckily, you can use the simplistic password system to cheat your way there.

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There's usually a boss at the end of every scene, and they range across mediocre, good, great, and bizarre. The more mediocre bosses are small and will do nothing more than lazily move around the screen as you stab them to death. An example of a good boss would be this robot operating a tractor-like vehicle with a crane that juts out to attack you. One of the greatest bosses, however, is a giant machine you jump inside of while avoiding traps in its body to stab it in the head. Then there are the bizarre examples, like a robot with multiple arms that does nothing but throw red potions at you. Overall, the bosses are a mixed bag in this game, but there are enough good ones to offset the ones that suck.

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Unlike KickMaster, Low G Man isn't exactly a legendary classic or lost gem. It is, however, good enough to put it above a good chunk of the NES' other 8-bit offerings. The graphics and music alone are worth mentioning, sporting a fantastic gamut of colors and a soundtrack that's unusually cheery given the dire circumstances the game takes place in. Enemy movement is a bit choppy, though. There's also some interesting mechanics at play here, such as the whole thing with freezing and stabbing enemies to death, not to mention the fact that you can steal their vehicles. Being able to jump so high also feels liberating. The game is slightly let down by the loose controls and occasionally mediocre bosses, but is fine otherwise.

Word Count: 1,500

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