If one were to describe Gravity Rush with one adjective, it would be ‘Japanese.’ That word is like Marmite to many video gamers. Plenty of players will adore the insanity and quirkiness of a Japanese video game while many will find themselves lost and confused by the niche product. Whichever side of the fence you fall on, I would hasten any gaming enthusiast to (at least) give Gravity Rush a chance.
The game opens with a young girl (later known as Kat) waking up on the ground with no memories after being hit in the head with an apple. She instantly meets a space-cat who gives her the power to shift gravity. Yup, that’s the foundation on which this insanely nonsensical tale is built upon. From here, Kat uses her powers to save the people of the floating metropolis of Hekseville from the mysterious monsters known as the Nevi (black creatures with conveniently target-like pink dots on them). That’s about as much sense as I could make of what was going on. Again, this may not appeal to those who hate Japanese Marmite.
Gravity Rush could be loosely described as an open world game. I say loosely as even though you are free to roam Hekseville with Kat and her cat (OMG I see what they did there! Clever), there really isn’t very much to do aside from the main story missions. There are some fetch quests, time trials and the like but nothing to keep you coming back for more.
Gameplay is where Gravity Rush truly shines. With one click of the PS Vita’s ‘R’ button, Kat will float into the air. The player then has to aim with the right anologue, click ‘R’ once again and watch Kat soar through the air with no care for the conventional laws of gravity. The controls are daunting to begin with but after a few hours they become second nature and you’ll be flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Watching Kat twist and turn, as her scarf flaps madly in the wind, is one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve enjoyed in a video game to date. To eliminate enemies, Kat glides towards them and delivers a range of attacks from kicks to summoning black holes. It’s exciting, it’s chaotic and it’s brilliant.
Visually, Gravity Rush showcases the power of Sony’s handheld and is utterly beautiful. The cell-shaded style gives the game a Manga-feel which totally suits the outlandish story. Distant buildings appear as mere pencil outlines and become more detailed as you grow closer. Characters are your typical Anime designs and look right at home in their surroundings. The most impressive aspect of the game’s visual design, however, is the motion comic story sequences. Instead of cut scenes, we get these beautiful comic book panes which fly onto the screen with sound effects and all. The only downside is that the story is so hard to follow that I found myself quickly flipping through these to get back to the gameplay.
Gravity Rush is also one of the very few games to get collectibles right. Purple gems are scattered around Hekseville for Kat to collect and these can be used to upgrade your powers and abilities. It reminded me of Crackdown’s agility orbs (and I was very fond of Crackdown’s agility orbs).
As a Vita exclusive, the game obviously uses some of the console’s gimmick control schemes. Touch screen is pretty much limited to menus and story sequences. Players can fine tune their aiming by tilting their Vitas and this actually works pretty well. That’s about it. The game did not need a bunch of tacked-on, touchy-feely controls and thankfully these are not crammed in and forced on the players.
I do have some issues with the game. There are pacing problems within the main campaign as there are moments in which Kat’s abilities are impaired or taken away completely. These sequences are frustrating as they take away the one thing which makes Gravity Rush so great: controlling gravity. Additionally, can I please have a Japanese game in which there are no female character’s in skimpy schoolgirl outfits? Just one. Gravity Rush is far from the worst offender but it still managed to conform to the stereotype.
Gravity Rush is far from perfect. Many will miss having a story which they can engage with or even understand for that matter. However, look past this and you have some of the most uniquely fun gameplay on any console. Forget the dumb name, and how Japanese it may be, because if you own a PS Vita then you really should have played Gravity Rush.