No Gravity: The Plague of Mind

In space, it's always said that no one can hear you scream. It's a particularly narrow take on the lack of atmosphere however. No one can hear you sneeze or fart either, but we're never warned about those, even though they're two things you really wouldn't want to do in a space suit.

Of course, the core of the statement is that space is an exciting and scary place: a place that's likely to make you scream rather than sneeze or fart. But the real problem with space, at least in the context of games, is that in space no one knows which way is up.

Such a lack of spatial awareness effectively killed off the mass market flight simulator, but in space there's not even a horizon or ground plane for orientation. There's literally nothing, and it's all black too. It is indeed enough to make anyone scream.

Yet developers still bravely fire up their boosters and head off into the deep galactic unknown to try and convince us that space shooters can be fun. Bizarrely, there were plenty of earthbound combat sims in the early years of the PSP. None was successful.

It's little surprise then that No Gravity: The Plague of Mind, a (£10, €10, $10) digital-only release available on the PlayStation Store, doesn't really hit the mark.

Both the price and its genesis from the demo coding scene mean there's definitely a whiff of the budget sector about it. Similarly there's a focus on a backstory that has nothing to do with the action, while the missions are so linear you're really interactively just joining the dots.

Graphically it's fairly pretty though, with colourful over-blown explosions and particle effects, while the music comes in a suitably Eurotrash style.

But to the spaceship. Controls are fairly standard and simple, with the joystick used to manoeuvre, double-tapped shoulder button to roll (avoiding enemy fire), plus lasers, missiles, lock on and thrust distributed among the face buttons. The D-pad is used for different cameras angles.

You have a choice of ships but, as ever, it's the all-round model that's best and there's little reason not to take it.

The missions are somewhat uninspiring, too. You start off blowing asteroids into little bits before moving onto mines, then it's time to shoot down enemy fighters, and then to stop the enemy fighters destroying your ships, and then to destroy an enemy capital ship - destroying waves of defending enemy fighters in the process.

The context for the action is reasonable. You generally have wingmen whizzing around ineffectively trying to help you, although you can't interact with them, apart from shooting them down by mistake. Unforgivingly, this is one of the stats you get at the end of each mission.

It doesn't help that, as typically happens in space combat games, you'll shoot down one enemy only to find you're now miles away from the action.

This means you'll spend several seconds trying to orientate yourself - which way is up? - before boosting off to find out where you're supposed to be. In your frustration, you'll start shooting at anything that moves - even friendlies.

And if that weren't enough, the process of shooting down enemy fighters - the basic gameplay mechanic - is too cumbersome. There's little joy in a dogfight: do it and move onto the next. Everything's faceless and cookiecutter.

The final frustration is the game's structure: sub-missions are linked together, meaning you'll need to complete three or four set pieces in between each save point.

Whatever the designers say, this is thoughtless, particularly when it comes to a game which is so random in terms of enemy placement in the level, and so repetitive in terms of what you're actually doing in those levels.

No Gravity is, at best, interesting for a couple of hours. After that point, you'll find the frequency of save points combined with the repetitive requirement to shoot down enemy fighters ad nauseum becomes too much. Not enough to make you scream, sure, but not enough to make you smile either.

No Gravity: The Plague of Mind

While there's some fun to be had with No Gravity: The Plague of Mind, as space combat games go, it becomes repetitive and rather weightless