AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!—A Reckless Disregard for Gravity is a bizarre first person journey into science-fiction dystopic base jumping. Available through OnLive’s service, you play as a base jumper in a futuristic Boston where buildings free float in the sky. Each mission tasks you with jumping to a specified landing zone while avoiding obstacles, spraying graffiti, saluting (or taunting) spectators, and smashing through plates of glass worth varying amounts of points. The more buildings you “kiss” or “hug” by getting close to, the more points you get. While Aaa… may seem like a weird name for a game, but that’s also the word you’ll most often yell as you plummet by floating skyscrapers and dodge walkways, often unsuccessfully.
The game is remarkably challenging, despite its simple level design and conceit. It’s not just about surviving your jumps, it’s about doing so in style and getting the most points. You earn the most points by essentially putting yourself in the most danger and getting closest to the obstacles you need to avoid to survive. In addition to weaving in between the vast vertical cityscapes, you need to pay attention to special buildings you can graffiti, spectators you can interact with (for huge points) or plates of glass to smash (again, for huge points). You need to keep all of these factors in mind while plummeting to the ground very, very fast.
Later, you’ll be able to unlock a triple espresso that will slow down time temporarily so you can execute more difficult moves and maneuver your body out of harms way. Even with this temporary boost and the ability to pull your parachute early, you’ll still see lots of gameover screens telling you’ve broken both your legs, ten of your fingers, or snapped your pelvis “in twain.” It’s all very funny at first, but since you die so often, the ambulance-like siren and mocking of your fate can get old quickly. The fact that you only have a meter on the side and your own first person perspective to see how close you are to buildings (instead of say a third person view) means you’ll often clip buildings and die when you thought you had avoided them entirely.
The mission menu is presented as a rotating orb with numerous cubes that you can unlock by spending “teeth,” the game’s strange currency you earn from jumping. You must unlock a cube adjacent to one you’ve already unlocked, so the game doesn’t have a linear progression, but the missions do get more difficult. You can replay missions you’ve already completed to get better star ratings and earn more teeth.
Some of the cubes give you “hints” which are actually just factoids about base jumping, many of them are completely fictional but help explain the bizarre culture of the game. Other cubes warp you to “meditation” sequences that are either funny or disturbing, depending on your perspective. While viewing the menu, you’ll often hear a monotone radio host give you hilarious news updates: A building dropped 200 meters and spilt a lot of popcorn. Please stop spitting on my car. Remember to spay and neuter your whales.
The world of Aaa… is reminiscent of a cross between the dystopic society of Razor’s Edge and the impish anarchism of Jet Grind Radio with the neon-infused permanent-night feeling of Blade Runner thrown in for good measure. In this far future society, “jumpers” are rebels, attracting both fans and protesters. The government is also against your activities so while you’re (illegally) jumping off buildings, you can spray graffiti on government towers, give the thumbs up to fans and flip-off protestors.
Of the games I’ve played through OnLive, Aaa… seems to suffer the least from the resolution drop. It’s an indie game and while the world is bright and fun to play in, the graphics weren’t cutting edge enough to begin with.
Macworld’s buying advice
There’s a good reason that Aaa… got so much press at the Game Developer Conference this year. It’s a fun, unique journey through a bizarre and often hilarious world. The developers often reckless regard for chronology, storytelling, and good taste can lead to some genuinely funny moments. It’s not only fun to jump into this world, but you wish you could walk around in it for a bit too. While the difficulty can be prohibitive to enjoyment at times, when you successful execute a series of death-defying “kisses” and “hugs” and land-safely—it’s an extremely satisfying experience.
[Chris Holt is a Macworld associate editor.]