Oh dear. This is always a danger when reviewing games for Bytten - I have already lost countless hours. Gimbal is one of the most addictive offerings we've had in some time and my work is suffering as a result. Yesterday I decided to have a quick game before getting on with something else, and when I came back to reality I discovered about four hours had passed. I shall attempt to avoid the game long enough to write this review.
You are a space pilot. You have a budget with which to build your spacecraft - in the trillions of dollars, but ignore those extra zeros. $1800 trillion doesn't buy you a lot of spaceship. Your objective is to use your budget to design and build a ship that you take into combat, in order to blow your enemies to tiny bits. Destroying enemies boosts your budget. Winning combat rounds also boosts your budget, and more money means you can build bigger, badder and better ships. Don't panic about being blown up (which will happen a lot) - you never lose money. But can you climb the ranks and become the biggest killer in space?
Gimbal can be divided into two parts. One is the design and construction of spacecraft, starting with a basic platform and adding components such as propulsion, weapons, sensors, structural bits, armour and so on. Every component has an impact on the ship's mass, which may require extra thrusters to move and turn. Putting components in the wrong place can lead to unstable or plain bizarre designs - fortunately you can give any design a test flight before you take it into combat. If you don't fancy making your own ships, there are a range of default designs, and you can use any of these as a starting point if you want to amend them.
The second, major part of Gimbal is the combat itself. All combat is online, so you'll need an active internet connection. You join (or host) a server, including a range of official ones, each of which hosts a single game at a time. Games usually last about ten minutes, though you can pop in at any point. "Free for all" games are the simplest type - every ship for itself, blow up the others before they get you - but there are also team-based skirmishes and even races. Human players can join pretty much any game they wish, and bot players make up the numbers. One nice touch is the ability to "steal" ship designs from your enemies. If you destroy another player (not a bot), a copy of their ship design is added to your hangar. You may not have the money or rank to build it at this time, but this allows for some interesting exchanges of ideas.
This is a very pretty game, though the graphics are understandably limited by the modular nature of the ships. I feel the various ship components could be a little less cartoon in style (though this does make them much easier to see when you're designing it). There are plenty of particle effects and big swirly nebulas and things. Obstacles within the game are provided as big, gray "relics" (try not to crash into them) and if you fly too far from the main area you'll enter the "no fly zone", indicated by Battenberg-like squares and an audial and visual warning. Ships entering this area are likely to be atomised by the air defences, which leads to some pretty explosions but doesn't help your score much.
Sound effects include a wide range of weapons, various bangs, engine thrusters and so on, along with some voice effects. There is a pleasant backing track for the title screens and hangar, though the main game itself seems to lack any music. I'd have liked at least an option to choose a track or two here but none is often a fitting choice for these sorts of battles.
I've had immense fun with Gimbal, and I'm probably far from the best of players. Certainly the more advanced players will know how to pilot their ships with grace and finesse, and they'll have better equipment too - don't expect to last long against them. Bot players are quite a challenge at first and can still be a reasonable threat once you're established, though they tend to be the main source of cash for farming. It's great fun experimenting with the various weapons and equipment on offer - if you find the ship design aspect appealing (as I do), you'll get perhaps even more pleasure from designing new killing machines than putting them into battle. If I had any complaint here, it might be that some weapons are especially deadly to newcomers - particularly the anti-ship missiles and the lasers, as these are often impossible to dodge.
With so many potential designs to explore and build, there's a lot of replay potential here. However, the challenge may be limited by the lack of any real penalty - you can be blown to pieces as many times as you like with no loss of budget, while even a single kill will give you a slight funding boost. Keep hacking away, and even the poorest player will eventually get to the top rank. This is he main dilemma - no penalty reduces the difficulty, but penalties would cripple new players. I think the current approach, flawed as it is, may be the best. At least there is some balance in the payouts - destroy weaker foes and you earn far less than you do by blowing up a superior.
I've not really had any major issues with Gimbal. A couple of ship designs have done some very funky things with the controls, though this may be a fault with the ship design rather than the game itself. Stolen designs can have different control layouts - I'm always needing to amend them (test your ships out before you take them into combat!) and this is easy to overlook. The biggest complaint I had was with one particular game in which two high-ranking players entered the Newbie server and repeatedly blasted lesser players to bits before they had a chance to do anything - there's supposed to be a funding limit on these servers, preventing higher-ranking players doing just that, but it seems not to have been enforced. Still, this was a one-off and the simplest solution was to merely disconnect and come back later.
I may have to uninstall Gimbal from my computer soon. It's simply too distracting. Blowing up ships is fun, but designing and trying out your own ships is even more fun. I've just received my second promotion, which has unlocked a host of new ship platforms and equipment - the range of options I now have is vast. I may never leave the house again!
Keywords: gimbal review, 8888888 labs reviews, 8888888 labs games, gimbal scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.