A portable open-world superhero game with a great twist.
June 30, 2012 12:47 pmKevin James
It really only takes one new idea to make something special. You can add as much time, money, and polish to a project in the hopes that its pedigree will raise it well above the competition, but if the past few years of super-ingenuity in the independent gaming space have taught us anything it’s that one unique hook can be all it takes to spearhead a great game. Gravity Rush has one of those neat hooks that’s thankfully given room to breath in a fully-realized final product that never forgets it’s a game, but you might wonder otherwise.
Gravity Rush is, at first, a simple formula to understand: it’s an open-world super hero game. Images of Sucker Punch’s inFamous games may soon flash in your mind and rose-tinted memories of the old Spiderman games might begin to resurface to anyone familiar with the free-roaming genre that trades mayhem for altruism, but Gravity Rush brings something thankfully fresh to the formula that seemed to plateau with inFamous 2 last year: gravity shifting. Kat, our adorable protagonist, has the ability to change gravity’s direction for herself on a whim, which basically allows her to fly around the floating city of Hekseville as she “falls” into the sky or in between rooftops. The game’s sense of speed and inertia are done well enough to give you the occasional sense of vertigo and a constant rush (yes, I went there) as you zip around the city.The mechanic is controlled by aiming Kat’s center of gravity around with the PlayStation Vita’s analog sticks or by using the built-in gyroscope and moving the Vita itself around, which is a surprisingly natural way to handle what could easily have been a jarring and unpleasantly disorienting experience (although it can still tip toe into that territory, which can sometimes add to the fun or just flat out confuse you).
Outside of flying about, the ability to shift gravity allows the player to have some real fun changing perspectives of this hovering city. Effectively allowing you to rotate the world any way you which, Gravity Rush lets you run up and down buildings and fight enemies perpendicular to the streets below (your hair and scarf always react to gravity’s “true” pull towards the ground, which is a nice touch). There’s a lot of fun platforming and even some puzzle solving to be had with changing the orientation of your falls, and Hekseville is littered with collectibles to incentivize you to do just that as you explore and discover the fun you can have with Kat’s powers. Even combat rises above simple shooting or melee combos- you can shift your gravity towards and enemy and become a veritable rocket and smash into them. Experimentation is thankfully encouraged, although the scenarios you’re put in aren’t exactly groundbreaking (fight these monsters, collect these items, etc). It’s the shifting ability again that puts such a new angle on all of these things in a literal and figurative way that the entire experience feels fresh.
Gravity Rush could have easily tossed story out the window and been exclusively dependent on 3D platforming like Super Mario 64 or even given us a thin plot like the original Portal, but the project was given a full story to flesh out Kat, her powers, her enemies, and the strange world she inhabits. The writing is flat-out confusing and Kat, herself, is pretty empty, but she’s so amiable and loaded with humility that we like her all the same. While the plot thankfully never inhibits gameplay and always puts us in new situations to flex our muscles with, it bears mentioning that the plot in and of itself is pretty aimless after a few hours and it doesn’t really motivate you forward. The gameplay itself does though and it’d be unfair to address that Gravity Rush’s comic book cutscenes and page-flipping touchscreen interaction are inviting. You can even rotate the Vita in place to make small changes in perspective during these story beats, which makes them bearable a bit longer then they would have been otherwise.
Since the PlayStation Vita hit shelves in Japan last December many have been anxiously awaiting Gravity Rush as the first must-have exclusive for the system. Thanks to the game’s use of touch screen and gyro controls, its well-paced level structure and ample supply of side missions, this really is a product that was thankfully developed from the ground-up with the Vita in mind. Sony Computer Entertainment Japan handiwork here is strong, new, and reasonably well-developed. It’s rare to get such a full package alongside what could easily have been a gimmicky platform concept, and that’s something to appreciate.
Great style and aesthetics go a long way. The sensation of acceleration and speed are well done. Little else pops.
A little loop-dependent and lacking in anything that demands headphone listening. Pleasant and inviting though.
A great new idea put into a strong entry for the genre. Platforming, combat, exploration, and some puzzles: it's all here.
A moderately lengthed story with OCD-driven collectibles & side missions with online leader boards.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING
out of 10