Platform: Playstation Vita
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Out of all of the malice directed at the Vita, there is at least one fair complaint that both sides can mostly agree on: there is a distinct lack of original content on the Vita. Mortal Kombat, Rayman Origins, and Metal Gear Solid are all appreciated efforts but they don’t define the platform and feel more like console games shrunk down for portable use. Gravity Rush is one of Sony’s answers to this debate, a new IP that isn’t on any other system and one that aims to give gamers a wholly original experience. Gravity Rush is undeniably charming, original, and something the system needed, but its delivery will leave most wanting for more.
The story will especially leave an odd sense of hunger when finished. Kat, an amnesia stricken young woman, stumbles into Hekesville, a city that is in need of a savior. A mysterious force has been sucking various parts of the town into a void, leaving the townsfolk without a good chunk of their habitat along with loved ones nearly evaporating. Kat’s initial introduction makes the locals cynical towards her, with her gravity bending powers being a misunderstanding and a borderline demonic curse among the natives.
Snatching back areas of town from the Nevi, the blob-like antagonists, is just about the only loose justification to go on story-based missions. Because of this, just about every mission feels like a DLC side mission or something that was cut because it didn’t advance the plot in any meaningful way.
Even though this is a pretty noticeable and large shortcoming, the plot is salvaged by the inherent charm of the entire story. Kat’s written dialogue, although she rarely audibly speaks, is always enjoyable, with the right amount of wit, sarcasm, innocence, and cuteness to round her appropriately as a worthwhile character. Her positive qualities make it that much more frustrating that she wasn’t given a worthwhile plot to star in. Nothing narratively was outright bad, but it was oddly safe with not much going on. Kat and her underutilized rival Raven should get the appropriate screen time they deserve in a better developed story if a sequel is in the works.
As the title infers, gravity co-stars along with Kat as a manipulatable force. Dusty, the mystical cat made of space, grants the ability for Kat to bend gravity to her will. By tapping the shoulder button and aiming in a direction, Kat’s center of gravity changes. The open and ever growing land of Hekesville becomes a shifting playground that allows Kat to basically fall/fly to just about anywhere in the city.
Just like climbing in inFamous and Assassin’s Creed, raw traversal in fun in of itself, making getting around the actual enjoyable part. Gems are the readily available collectibles that handle upgrades, justifying their existence and giving the player a reason to zip around the cel-shaded city.
When gravity is readily able to be tampered with, the game soars and finds its soul. Strangely, like most games, Gravity Rush likes to limit the player’s ability to shift and leaves mixed results. Flipping a mechanic around sounds like a good way to shake things up, but this absence of power takes away what makes the core gameplay so enticing. Freedom is nearly absent in these situations and even though the thought is appreciated, other ways to switch this core mechanic up would have been a better solution.
Although the combat is a much more apparent issue in comparison. When Kat isn’t falling through space, she’s usually putting her heel into the nearest Nevi… or flying straight past it. While floating, Kat’s main attack is a basic straight-shot aerial kick, one that all too often misses the target and sends her flying off course. Nevi might be giant behemoths in some occasions, but their weak spots are solely bulbous light bulbs, meaning no other part of their bodies take damage. Ground combat is also shallow and unsatisfying, with special attacks, basic mashing, and throwing objects being the only offensive methods, but the aerial combat overshadows it with its own set of problems. Boss fights, of which there are many, exemplify this and prioritize testing your patience over your skill.
Even when Kat is soaring past her target, she’s at least crashing into a beautiful environment. Cel-shading does wonders for the art style and allows every locale to glisten with a whole swath of bright colors. The stylized looks gives the game its own personality and works within the limitations of the hardware to give the title a timeless aesthetic that never stops being remarkable.
Within a few hours, I had had my fill of Gravity Rush. Not to say that they dropped the ball or that the game fell to crap, but the joys of Gravity Rush aren’t complex enough to carry an entire game, even with its shorter run time. Bending gravity to your will, reading Kat’s charming dialogue, and finding gems can only work for so long before the tiresome formula of combat and limited gravity powers takes its toll. The strong foundation has been set but despite being named Kat, she doesn’t quite land on all fours.
A gravity shifting cat made of space:
+Strikingly colorful visuals
+Kat is a charming protagonist
+Once you acclimate, flipping through gravity is novel fun
Your shitty cat:
-Combat is frustrating and very shallow
-Story is basically nonexistent
-Missions are repetitive
Final Score: 7/10