Bend Gravity To Your Will – Gravity Rush Review
This game was reviewed on PlayStation Vita
If you’ve ever wondered what its like to control gravity while fighting off evil, you’re in luck, as the physics-bending title Gravity Rush has finally launched in North America. Strap yourself in, as this game is a wild ride!
The tale of Gravity Rush follows a young girl who wakes up in the strange city of Hekseville with no memory of her name, where she came from, or how she got there. To make her amnesia all the more confusing a strange cat greets her, and continues to follow her as she searches around the city for clues about herself. Quickly, she finds that the metropolis is being eaten slowly, piece by piece, by a giant black storm.
Just as all seems lost for the town, the mystery cat lifts our heroine into the air, as though gravity doesn’t affect her. Suddenly, she’s falling in various different directions, able to control gravity as she sees fit. Eventually taking on the name Kat, the young girl gets caught up in a battle to save the city from this evil storm and its dark creatures, the Nevi.
While the story may not start out in a novel way (as the whole memory loss thing has been done several times before), it still progresses in very interesting ways. Kat meets several other characters, including another gravity shifter named Raven, who cause her to start asking questions about the current events. Both players and Kat alike will start to wonder who is actually behind everything, and perhaps if maybe even Kat herself played a part in the nearby apocalypse. Gravity Rush’s narrative leaves a lot of mystery and seriousness about it, but also provides the right amount of comic relief where needed. Overall, it’s a tale that many gamers are sure to enjoy.
Of course, a story would be nothing without its protagonist, and Kat is an absolutely wonderful one. She isn’t some disproportionate , ‘smokin’ hot’ sex symbol, who flirts her way through the front door then proceeds to shoot up the place; she is simply a young lost girl looking for answers about her past, which gives her a great amount of depth and believability. Kat can often be distracted, pulled away by her curiosity (which is an obvious play on her name and an old saying about what took the life of a feline), and she will run away if over-powered or extremely frightened – making her far from your average brave, all-powerful ‘perfect’ hero.
To top it off, Kat’s power over the laws of physics is all thanks to that strange cat. Without it, she is at a considerable disadvantage, giving her a great weakness and preventing her from being an over-powered god. Do not be fooled though, as she can still hold her own quite well in a fight when she needs to. She may not be a super-warrior by nature but she is in no way a weak damsel in distress either, standing up to fight and help those in need. All of these traits may make her seem just like an average person, but in reality it sets her worlds apart from other heroines out there. Kat is sure to quickly become a fan favorite for many players.
Great story and a wonderful character aren’t all that make Gravity Rush special the unique and engaging gameplay is also a large contributing factor. The main mechanic behind the title is, of course, the ability to shift Kat’s gravity in any direction, allowing players to navigate the world without any limitations. With a press of the R button, gravity will suspend, causing our protagonist to float weightlessly. Another press and gravity will take hold again in the direction the player is facing. The direction can be determined in two ways: by aiming with the right thumbstick, or tilting/turning the Vita console. If you need to get right-side up again, a quick tap of the L button will revert gravity back to normal.
However, players shouldn’t get too carried away with gravity control, as Kat can only sustain her abilities for so long, shown by a circular meter. Should you run out of power, gravity will shift back to normal, leaving you helpless to fall as nature intended. Fear not, as the powers will recharge on their own after a few seconds, or instantly by picking up certain gems around the world. While the basics may be a little disorienting at first, they’re very easy to master, providing an incredibly flexible and expansive gameplay mechanic.
Shifting gravity isn’t all about travel, as it can also be used in combat. Before we can get there, however, we need to talk basics. Players, during normal gravity, can unleash a series of kicks on an enemy by repeatedly pressing a single button. Should you come under attack, simply swipe the touch screen in the direction you wish to dodge.
Both kicks and evasion also carry over while floating, though in slightly different forms. Dodging pretty much stays the same, other than the fact that you’re now airborne, but your kick combos turn into a powerful flying-kick while in zero-gravity mode. Simply aim at the enemy and press the kick button, and Kat will shift gravity to fall foot first fairly fast into a foe’s frightful face.
If loose objects are conveniently within reach, players may utilize them as projectiles. Kat is able to pop up a stasis field, which traps anything within it a fixed distance from her. She can then either carry said set piece around, or send it hurling at an enemy from afar. While this is mainly used for combat, there are points in time where it must be used as a form of effortlessly delivering objects (or people) to their required destinations.
It should be noted that falling through the air isn’t the only way to get around, as players my also use gravity to mock-surf across the ground. Called the Gravity Slide, gamers can have Kat use this power by pressing on both lower corners of the screen, causing her to use her powers to slide across the ground at high speeds. To turn, players need only rotate the Vita as though it were a steering wheel, and quickly shake the system to jump. Each and every gravity mechanic, from simply floating to flinging park benches at enemies, provides a rich and expansive gameplay experience that players simply won’t find anywhere else.
In between storyline missions, players have the option to repair or power different landmarks and attractions. Doing so will not only improve Kat’s reputation around Hekseville (which plays an important part in character progression), but unlocks challenges for the gamer to try their hand at. These tests can involve fighting Navi using only specific powers, racing, or simply navigating a set route through the air – all of which rewards medals if you’re fast enough.
Each medal awards the player with a specific number of purple gems, which can also be found scattered across the city. These shiny objects are for more than just hording, as they are fuel for the various city objects, but may also be used to power up Kat’s abilities. Just about every aspect of her skills is augmentable, including things like: total health, shifting regeneration rate, fall speeds, combo length, attack strength, and stasis field size. While these powers can only be advanced a few times at first, as Kat’s reputation grows, so does her total amount of upgrades. These RPG-styled elements work out wonderfully for the title, and allows the player to somewhat customize their play and battle styles.
One of Gravity Rush’s most notable features is its amazing art style, which makes the title appear as one giant playable manga. In-engine graphics have a degree of cel-shading to them, giving the world a cartoon-y appearance. Taking the theme further are cutscenes, which are hand drawn and take the shape of a comic-book – so much so that in order to progress text and pictures, players need to swipe the screen to turn the page. This overall theme is purely gorgeous, and is an absolutely wonderful concept.
In terms of actual graphical quality, the game is quite the powerhouse and sports little error. Whether it’s character or environments, the amount of detail is considerable for a handheld title, and really showcases the power of the Vita. For the most part, the title is also free of any surface issues in textures or skins, but there is one anomaly that occurs on occasion. Many civilians populate Hekseville, and can be found littered around the city. However, while navigating the environment, NPCs will at times appear out of nowhere, as though they could teleport. While not a massive concern, it does take away from the overall quality of the game.
Accompanying the impressive visual experience is an equally remarkable audio one. Gravity Rush features a spectacular soundtrack from composer Kohei Tanaka, and is very reminiscent of the title Resonance of Fate (yet another Tanaka masterpiece). Whether it’s the light sounds of strings and flute in Old Town, the upbeat, jazzy riffs of muted trumpets in the Entertainment District, or the orchestral and brass strings of combat themes, each tune is wonderfully well-composed and is a definite treat to the ears.
Worth noting quickly is the title’s voice work, which is entirely in Japanese with English subtitles. Although most titles ported from Japan feature a localized voice cast, they often under-deliver, sporting over-the-top acting and annoying vocal styles. However, Gravity Rush keeps to its manga theme and uses voices sparingly, only using speech in cutscenes and vocal noises in combat or to relay emotions during conversations (such as crying or grunts of pain). Some gamers might wish that the small amount of acting was in their local language, but for the majority of players it will be a no-harm-no-foul situation.
When you feet finally hit proper ground, you’ll see that Gravity Rush is an amazing title, one that demonstrates what the Vita is truly capable of. Including an interesting story, unique and entertaining gameplay, a brilliant art style, and a wonderful soundtrack, this one title that Vita owners should pick up, or at least check out. So what are you waiting for? Grab your Vita and get started breaking the laws of physics!
Final Score: 4.75 / 5.0 and gravity shifting cat.
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