has reached near mythical status since its release in Japan back in February and its significance can’t be overstated. While the PS Vita
pummelled us with launch titles, keen to show off its augmented reality, touch screen controls and handheld versions of popular grown up console games, it couldn’t help but feel like a plea for attention, with few titles gaining much traction with audiences or critics.
Typically, it’s those games that arrive a little after launch which have more potential to impress, free of the curtailed development and more aware of the wants and needs of a new audience of gamers. So, can Gravity Rush
help carve out a unique identity for the Vita
It certainly makes a compelling argument. Gravity Rush
sees the player take on the role of Kat, a generically amnesiac cel shaded girl in an equally stylised world who sets out to find out the truth about her past with the help of a small black cat. Rather less generically, this ever-present feline gifts our heroine with the ability to defy the laws of physics on a whim, giving her the freedom to explore the unusual world of Hekseville with ease.
Just tap the right shoulder button on the Vita
to make Kat float and tap again to fly in the direction of the reticule. If you encounter an object, be it wall, floor, clock tower or the underside of an airship, you’ll stick and be able to walk effortlessly on that plane until your energy runs out. If you send her out into mid air, she’ll soar like a superhero as you twist and turn to continue the flight.
For a central game mechanic that could have been a chore, Gravity Rush
manages to make things remarkably simple, with Kat’s hair always giving you an indication of where the true floor is and levels designed to be open enough to avoid frustration. You will get caught in the scenery from time to time but simply tap the left shoulder button to re-engage gravity, reorient yourself and get back to defying the laws of physics.
Apart from investigating her past, Kat also teams up with a crazy old man who may or may not be a god to travel into rifts in order to find and recover areas of the city that have been lost to the ravages of the Nevi – evil oozy things who form the games main enemies. You’ll fight scores of them in the regular portions of the map, before heading riftwards for a punch up with some impressively proportioned bosses.
Kat floats. Upside down. Naturally. Enlarge
Kat can get stuck into the action with regular kicks but lingering around on the ground fairly defeats the purpose of Gravity Rush
. You’re encouraged to careen into enemies from above, targeting their weak points with powerful gravity kicks or using the speedy gravity slide to take them out. You’ll even unlock new special attacks in a linear fashion which are particularly over-powered and also auto-aim – a help when your world is topsy turvy.
All powers and stats can be boosted with a simple levelling system, using a currency of gems which are liberally strewn around the levels, giving you a good reason to explore. You’ll also earn gems from the numerous challenges which can be found, that also give you a chance to practise your combat and sliding skills. Levelling also helps increase the amount of time you can spend suspended and reduces the speed at which your meter drains, while your powers also increase from helping citizens along the way.Gravity Rush’s
story is told mainly through conversations, which are brought to life in wonderful comic book style panels which make great use of the Vita’s gyroscope, letting you peer into the corners of each deliciously animated frame. You can also drop in and have a chat with random members of the public and find out more about the city in addition to taking a nap at your neat little home – which allows for saving and changing your costume.
Gravity Rush Kat Fights. Less naturally. Enlarge
mostly functions as an open world title and the sometimes perfunctory designs of the levels reflects that but developers SCE Japan Studio haven’t let that stop them from adding a host of delightful details which add depth to what might have been a barren world. Whether it’s the tiny airships going about their business or the reactions of citizens to your superpowers, it’s all finely crafted. One of my favourite incidental moments came when I engaged stasis (a power that lifts nearby objects) near a dog and watched and the flummoxed canine lifted into the air, legs akimbo.
It’s an often charming game, helped by Kat’s strangely teenaged mannerisms and added to further by the use of subtitles with the original Japanese audio. But frustration can set in too, especially as Kat’s movements around the world are always one step away from chaos, making precise movements difficult. The gravity kick is often hilariously ineffective against moving enemies, particularly bosses, leaving you spamming special moves which take many minutes to recharge and I never quite got the hang of the gravity slide, with the tilt controls particularly unresponsive.
But despite these failings, Gravity Rush
still manages to enthral due to its unique world and engaging mechanics, while the gorgeous cell shaded graphics and surprisingly engaging story help to make it one of the more compelling titles to grace the PS Vita to date.