Gear Gauntlet is an upcoming action puzzle game from Drop Dead Interactive, launching under the ID@Xbox program.
I've been helping Drop Dead test the game ahead of its launch on Xbox One, and my brain is fried just typing about it (in a good way).
In Gear Gauntlet, your charge is to guide a spinning gear through narrow labyrinths, avoiding all sorts of hazards that wring the mind. The signature obstacles are colour-coded blocks that can only be passed by pressing the corresponding button on your Xbox controller. B for Red, X for Blue, Y for Yellow, you get the idea. The most pertinent comparison would be to Guitar Hero, except if you screw up in that, you merely hit a sour note - Gear Gauntlet is not so forgiving. Throughout each level, the screen itself chases you, eager to swallow your gear in its bezelled jaws of death.
The full game will consist of 40 levels and an infinite bonus mode, punishing players with a crescendo of increasing difficulty. Each gauntlet has divergent paths, some which may be easier, but choosing those will see you relinquish points and thus, a decent position on the leader boards. The boards factor in prominently at the end of every level, giving the game a competitive slant.
My reaction speed is hopeless, but despite repeated deaths I found myself unable to put Gear Gauntlet down. Amidst all that demanding gameplay, Gear Gauntlet is addictive. Punching out blocks chirps satisfying sounds that remind me of cube smashing in the classic Mario games and rolling into power-ups and the mind-warping layout rotation blocks evokes memories of Sonic the Hedgehog. Improving your performance at even the smallest increments is satisfying, and performance stats and leaderboards add incentive.
There's a general old school sentiment about Gear Gauntlet; from the soundtrack, to the scrolling 2D backgrounds and familiar gameplay elements. When it's not driving you crazy, Gear Gauntlet has charm.
I spoke to Drop Dead Interactive's Jay Adeloye to discuss Gear Gauntlet, ID@Xbox, and whether or not I just suck at games.
Jez: What sorts of games helped inspire Gear Gauntlet?
Jay: Games that inspired me at the time included Guitar Hero (as evident from the colour mechanic) and Jetpack Joy Ride but I didn't want to make an endless runner. Other games that inspired the difficulty and the collection of goodies came from the Sega Mega Drive era, so Sonic and games like Altered Beast.
Jez: Am I just really bad at it, or were you guys going for something a little more on the challenging end of the spectrum?
Jay: Well with most things, practice makes you better. I found this true of Guitar Hero and games like Super Meat Boy. I won't pretend I'm a god at this game (unless in god mode), there are some days I die a lot. We have testers that are achieving better scores than me, so all things are possible.
Jez: How have you found working with the ID@Xbox program? In what ways does it differ from launching on Steam or other similar indie platforms?
Jay: Ah man, working with ID@Xbox has helped me take what I saw as a hobby and turned it into something of a dream come true - developing games where people actually take notice and want to learn more. For me personally, Steam Greenlight was a scary thought. I feel some people don't give you a fair chance, especially when you're developing the smaller 2D titles. I'll tell you one thing as well - Microsoft throw nice parties, so it's always nice being in a position where you can get an invite!
Jez: What sort of release window are you targeting?
Jay: We are currently looking at a release this summer, 2015. The process has been new to me, and I'll admit being a full-time Dad with a full-time job, working on Gear Gauntlet in my spare time does take its toll but interviews and interest like this keeps me going!
Jez: Although it plays best with an Xbox controller right now, have you considered retrofitting it for touch devices? Xbox for Windows 10 and phones perhaps?
Jay: Man, I'm stoked to get this game on Windows 10 so I can play it on Surface tablets, that would be amazing. We've had requests to put it on Playstation Vita, iPhone, Android, etc. I can't say it will come to touch as I don't know how best to translate the experience, but Windows 10 is definitely in my vision.
Jez: In closing, what sort of gamer should check out Gear Gauntlet this summer?
Jay: The good, the bad and the ugly, haha. I guess gamers who like a challenge and aren't scared off easily, gamers who like competitive fun. All fans of Phoenix Rage, Super Meat Boy, and N+.
I generally shun games that reveal how much of a scrub I am, but Gear Gauntlet is a difficult one to put down. Action puzzle fans who enjoy a challenge would be insane to pass this up when it hits this Summer, exclusively on Xbox One.
Stay tuned to Windows Central for more ID@Xbox features in the coming weeks!
Big thanks to Jay for taking the time to say hi!