Gravity Rush Review
Game: Gravity Rush
Developer: Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation Vita only
With the PlayStation Vita now in the difficult “post-launch” stage of its lifecycle, this is the time where we should expect the appearance of games that justify a console’s existence, games that use the system’s features and specifications, without suffering from the gimmickery that launch-titles may have experienced.
Enter Gravity Rush, a game that was originally meant to be a PlayStation 3 title. Despite its home console heritage, could the Japan Studio-developed open-world title be just what the PlayStation Vita – and by extension, PlayStation Vita owners – needs?
Upon loading Gravity Rush for the first time, you are greeted with a view of an apple in a tree, begging to be plucked by touching it. This classic symbol of gravity’s constant presence is a hint of how this all-important force of nature envelopes the entirely of the game. Kat, an amnesiac player-controlled character, is a Gravity Shifter, a person with the ability to bend gravity to their will. These powers come to Kat via her trusty pet cat, Dusty. Together, they must fight an anomaly called a Gravity Storm, the enemies (Navi) that it appears to have spawned, plus a few other antagonists in order to save the world.
And what a world it is. Gravity Rush is an free-roam game (inspired by the Xbox 360 classic Crackdown, I kid you not), set in a town that is quite literally split into various districts, that must be found and pieced together. Gloomy, almost Parisian mazes of tall buildings, narrow alleyways and town squares; this is the type of playground that M.C. Escher would have been proud of. It’s the game’s variety of locales that consistantly amaze, thanks to a beautiful cel-shaded art style that makes the game feel like an interactive graphic novel. Which is rather appropriate, considering each chapter of the game is bookended by gorgeous comic-strip cutscenes that provide the game’s narration.
Kat’s Gravity Shifting abilities begin with a simple mechanic of using the right trigger to switch off gravity around her. Using either the right analog stick or the Vita’s motion control capabilities, a reticle can be moved; pressing the R button again will make the target of the reticle, a point of gravity, where Kat will instantly move towards, so long as a gauge that governs all gravity-based moves, doesn’t run out. If Kat reaches a solid object, she will stick to it, allowing her to walk over it like a normal floor. This ability is the bread-and-butter method of traversing these beautiful locations, but as a certain cowboy from Toy Story would say, it’s not so much flying as it is “falling with style”. This constant shifting of gravity also opens up some combat possibilities as well, in regards to a Gravity Kick, as well as a few other moves that are unlocked throughout the game.
I can happily say that the game’s controls are pretty damn good. Motion control is accurate, although I would recommend using the right analog stick (with the sensitivity turned all the way up in Options) to maneuver the camera, while using the motion controls for slight adjustments. It’s a little cumbersome to evade attacks as you need to swipe the touch screen, but I rarely even used the evasion ability throughout the entirety of the game.
In terms of unlockable moves, Gravity Rush has its fair share. Various precious gems are littered throughout the game world, and are also earned by completing missions, acting as a form of currency that can be either used to purchase/upgrade abilities, or repair amenities throughout the world, which in turn usually unlock challenge missions. This is good, because Kat’s combat abilities are a little weak in the beginning; she has a ground-based kick and the aforementioned Gravity Kick, but other moves are unlocked as the game progresses, all of which can be upgraded.
The game’s structure is pretty linear, while also lacking depth for an open-world game. There are story missions and a handful of challenge missions, but collectables don’t extend beyond various gems: purple precious gems, blue gravity gems that replenish the Gravity Guage and green gems that heal. It’s just unfortunate that there is simply not enough variety to the missions, it’s all about getting to a particular area, moving an object or person to a certain location, or killing a certain number of enemies. For all the promise that the Gravity Shifting mechanic brings, the developers haven’t thought of anywhere near enough things to do with it. This lack of creativity extends to the game’s use of its brilliantly designed world. The environments in Gravity Rush are full of various nooks and crannies, with so much scope for exploration; but there is no need to explore it, unless you want to collect gems, which honestly isn’t necessary unless you are after Trophies.
Another problem with Gravity Rush is that, for as much as the gravity mechanic can be a liberating experience when it comes to travelling, when using it to fight enemies, it quickly becomes an irritation. The main offensive move is the Gravity Kick, a homing move that will lock onto an enemy that is targeted via the gravity reticle, causing Kat to speed towards it with her foot outstretched. There are other moves that are gained throughout the game, but it’s the Gravity Kick that is the most useful. The problem is that – more often than not – enemies have an annoying habit of moving or dodging out of the way, causing you to shoot straight past them and into the stratosphere; it is incredibly irritating. The whole game is very easy; the only challenge throughout the whole game is wrestling with the clunky combat mechanics.
While the game’s hand-drawn cutscenes are gorgeous, much like the rest of it’s 10-14 hours of gameplay, the Gravity Rush’s story lacks substance. The narrative suffers like a poor quality anime, that is to say it consists of an almost incomprehensable plot, including characters that come and go without making any sort of impact. It honestly feels like there are chunks missing from the story at times, because nothing is explained and things happen for absolutely no reason.
VERDICT: Gravity Rush could (and should) have been a must-buy game for the PlayStation Vita. It’s not a bad game, but it’s incredibly disappointing to see that as creative as the game’s graphical style, gravity mechanics and environments are, there is absolutely no imagination in terms of actual gameplay. It’s like Japan Studio have given you the keys to a magical and wonderful playground, only for you to find that all the swings and climbing frames have been vandalised by angry youths.