Everyone wonders what it would be like to have super powers; to zip through the air, fighting bad guys and saving the day. What if, however, you just fell out of the sky one day with no idea who you were, where your powers came from or what they could do? This is the situation that Kat, the heroine for Sony’s new Vita title Gravity Rush (Gravity Daze in Japan) finds herself in. Seemingly drawing her power from a magical cat named Dusty, Kat sets out to help the town of Hekseville survive a Gravity Storm and the horde of monsters (called Nevi) that came along with it.
The story in Gravity Rush is just as wacky as it sounds, but it never ceases to be interesting. From the side conversations that you have with the residents to the progression of the story as a whole, you’ll be captivated as you struggle alongside Kat to get a grip on her powers and purpose. Perhaps the best connection here is that, at the beginning of the game, you are in the same position as Kat. You don’t know exactly what she can do and how to control it and neither does she. As the game progresses, actions get easier, movement gets smoother and you both start to get a handle on exactly what she’s capable of.
Perhaps the first thing that you’ll notice is that this game has a visual style all its own. Combining elements of Japanese and European style with comic book sensibilities creates a game that’s as interesting to view as it is to play. The town of Hekseville is a series of floating islands being ripped apart by the Gravity Storm, which creates some pretty incredible looking environments. Cutscenes play out through beautiful comic book style panels that pop off the screen with an incredible sense of depth, made possible by the Vita’s accelerometer. Tilting the Vita during these scenes allows you to subtly change the viewpoint, resulting in the illusion of 3D. This is a really cool effect that must be seen to appreciate, and I would imagine an effect we’ll be seeing a lot more of on the Vita.
Kat has the ability to affect the gravity around her, which as you can imagine allows for some really interesting gameplay experiences. Pressing the R button eliminates gravity, sending Kat (as well as any nearby pedestrians) floating into the air. From here, you can move the camera around to find a landing spot. Pressing R again will reinstitute Gravity in the direction you’re pointing, sending Kat plummeting towards your chosen landing spot. I can’t express how cool it is to activate zero gravity, turn the viewpoint towards my goal and reactivate gravity, sending Kat hurtling through the air toward her destination. This never gets old and makes traveling around town (often the most mundane part of many open or semi-open world games) a blast. It can be a bit disorienting at first though, so be prepared to spend some time getting used to it before you master the mechanic.
This device not only forms the basis for all the puzzling/platforming contained in the game, but it also plays a role in the combat. While you can approach combat with minor enemies with your standard “walk up, attack” method, with larger enemies you’ll need to employ more creative tactics. While in zero gravity, you can press the attack button while aimed at an enemy to send Kat flying that direction to apply a devastating kick. Unfortunately, despite some really neat mechanics in this area, the combat is certainly the weakest point of the game and can cause a lot of aggravation, particularly later on.
Enemies are pretty smart, and they will do what they need to in order to prevent their untimely demise at your hands. This means you should expect to be hit with projectiles while flying and for enemies to dodge out of your way at the last minute. While one can’t blame the enemy for applying a realistic method of avoiding getting their weak-spot hit for massive damage, it makes for some frustrating moments. This isn’t enough of a deterrent to completely shelve the title, but just be prepared for some intense action as the game progresses.
While Gravity Rush does contain some attributes similar to open world RPGs, for instance a map with quest markers and interaction with NPCs, this is by and large a direct path from beginning to end. There are some welcome distractions along the way, scouring the town for gems and some additional challenges unlocked as you progress, that keep the action from getting stale.
The visuals, narrative, and gameplay of Gravity Rush are unlike anything available on any other system. The motion and touch controls here are perfectly tuned to its platform and nothing feels tacked on or gimmicky. The only drawbacks are the somewhat clunky combat and some disorientation while travelling or trying to position yourself carefully. Vita owners who have been looking for a new justification for their purchase have certainly found one here. If you own the system this game should be in your library.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.