Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Gravity Falls: Legend of the Gnome Gemulets - ZHOFRPH WR JUDYLWB IDOOV

My first exposure to Gravity Falls, a Disney cartoon best known for its heavy mystery element as it follows twins Dipper and Mabel Pines’ summer vacation, came in the form of a panel at San Diego Comic-Con promoting a few Disney Channel series; I was there for more information about Wander Over Yonder (which I would later grow to dislike outside main villain Lord Hater), however what little I saw of Gravity Falls (which at the time was only 5 episodes into its run) had me hooked. Though it was a small panel, it became an interesting experience seeing the panel room for Gravity Falls only expand over the years as its popularity grew (and even then the panel I first discovered the show at already had a small, yet very devoted following). I have since become a big fan of the show myself, absorbing any piece of Gravity Falls media I could get my hands on through legal channels, including a Choose-Your-Own Adventure-style book and a copy of Journal 3 signed by series creator Alex Hirsch himself.

While I did not have a 3DS at the time it came out, my acquisition of one to play Yo-Kai Watch allowed me a chance to finally play Gravity Falls: Legend of the Gnome Gemulets. One thing that caught my interest prior to playing was the fact that Alex Hirsch and other members of the Gravity Falls team were actually very involved in the game’s development, ensuring that it was a true Gravity Falls experience. This is very definitely the case, though the game is still a little lacking.

The Gnome Kingdom is in danger, and Jeff the Gnome is unable to handle his duties as leader of the Gnomes. When Dipper and Mabel enter the Gnome Forest, Jeff recruits them to search for powerful artifacts known as the Gnome Gemulets, each related to a particular element. When Jeff offers Gnome Gold in exchange, Grunkle Stan appears and accepts the offer. After obtaining Gnome weapons, Dipper and Mabel set off on a quest to find the Gnome Gemulets and restore magic to the Gnome Kingdom.

The gameplay is that of a 2D sidescroller with some Metroidvania elements, making good use of the UbiArt Framwork Engine to replicate the look and feel of the animated series. Dipper and Mabel each have their own unique weapons and abilities, including a sweater and a grappling hook for Mabel as well as battle cuffs and a flashlight for Dipper, each of which can be upgraded by either Soos or Old Man McGucket. There is also the ability to switch between Dipper and Mabel freely, which is handy for sections that require the two to split up and reunite later. There’s also some puzzle segments, some of which make use of the 3DS’ touch screen, plus various items scattered between levels to collect and return to different citizens of Gravity Falls.

A typical objective. (From left: Wendy, Mabel, Dipper, Stan)

Things can, however, get a little repetitive, mainly in terms of combat against various supernatural oddities. This also applies to the boss fights, including the final boss, which doesn’t really do anything to stand itself out from the previous bosses. There is some variety in the different sections in each level, however you will end up practically memorizing each area as you go back and search for any missing items you haven’t collected yet, some of which can be hidden by foreground objects or going in a direction you wouldn’t think to go in previously (Protip: Look behind you at the start of every level). You can check what’s remaining in the touch screen’s menus, which are modeled after Journal 3 from the series (it even includes recreations of select pages).

On a positive note, the general experience of the game nails what it’s like to watch an episode of the show, down to the visuals and especially its style of humor. Character personalities are very much intact, helped by the fact that actual Gravity Falls staff were involved in the development as mentioned above, to the point where I could actually hear the characters saying their lines in my head in spite of the absence of voice acting in the game. It even includes the series’ signature use of cryptograms scattered throughout, mostly relegated to dialogue (which is explained away as chanting), including at least one hidden within optional dialogue when talking to certain characters.

For Gravity Falls fans keeping track, there is evidence that the game takes place within the timeframe of Season 2, namely after the episode “Northwest Mansion Mystery” (S2E10). The evidence is contained within character dialogue, which can contain various callbacks to the show in addition to certain background elements, adding to the overall Gravity Falls experience. As a result, the game generally makes more sense and is much more fulfilling if you are already a Gravity Falls fan.

Gravity Falls: Legend of the Gnome Gemulets does everything right in recreating the experience of watching Gravity Falls, down to its characters and environments (and even music). However, the game could potentially have been longer and offered more variety in some aspects, though the various callbacks to the show and hidden cryptograms seem to be an attempt at making up for this. If you are not a fan of Gravity Falls, this game may not interest you much, as it is very definitely made with the fans in mind. If you are a fan of Gravity Falls, this game is still worth checking out if you want to get more out of the series’ lore and characters. If this game interests you and you have not yet seen the show already, I would highly recommend watching the show from the beginning and in its proper order to get more enjoyment out of the game and better understand its numerous callbacks to the series proper.


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