Gravity Rush is a curious game. Undoubtedly, it’s a pretty gorgeous thing to behold on the Vita’s lush OLED screen, and on a technical level, it manages to uphold the grand scale of the world’s scenic open-ended environments . The gravity-shifting conceit at the heart of everything is also extremely well realised and a pleasing anime-esque art style helps along a decent if predictable ten-or-so-hours-long story. However, to its own detriment, issues with flat combat and run-of-the-mill level design conspire to make Gravity Rush a frustratingly dry and lax game on the whole, as it fails to employ its more original and inspired mechanics into the service of anything truly memorable.
As super-natural heroine Kat, you possess the ability to adjust your gravitational pull and essentially drift at high speeds around the world in any direction you see fit. To keep movement at a steady pace, you’re able to halt your movement entirely to get your bearings head in the right direction. When you drift in the way of buildings or other obstructing surroundings, Kat will simply “land” onto that object and stand vertically against it. This power can be switched on or off at will, although usage is dictated by a depleting meter which can be sustained by collecting specific gems strewn about the place. Above all else, Gravity Rush excels at making this type of unique movement both look and feel rather majestic. The way in which Kat’s body is partially limp against the elements of her own power as she glides through the sky is certainly an eye-catching sight to behold. And more importantly, it feels good, too.
This ability to shift gravity is bestowed upon you by Kat’s best friend: a black cat called Dusty whose small feline body exhibits some sort of weird and abstract celestial pattern (that will never make sense until you see it for yourself). So by that description alone, it should be fairly clear to you what the game is going for in terms of its fiction and tone. For the most part, the story beats and characters are all enjoyable enough and stay away being entirely self-serious, although none of it is particularly stand-out. More than anything else, Gravity Rush focuses squarely on its gravity-shifting conceit, but this vision ends up being the game’s greatest weakness at the same time.
This is largely because the gravity shifting is never really put to any really good use—at least, the kind of use that is deserves. Mission objectives are far too tedious—most encounters against the opposing Nevi creatures simply boil down to fighting swarms of them in each area and then moving onto the next hapless group to do the same. Positioning yourself to attack an enemy mid-flight is a feat often too finicky for its own good, and the results are never satisfying enough to justify the hassle it puts your through. Plus, the otherwise nimble mid-air movement is usually reduced to a sluggish pace in which you waste time feebly trying to wrestle against the Vita’s right thumbstick to try and get a good bead on a Nevi’s weak spot for a useful attack. The action just gets increasingly more tedious as the game progresses, even with the introductions of fresh moves and upgrades you’re able to spend experience points on as you move forward. While the combat isn’t broken by any means and is largely quite easy, it still feels frustratingly lacking given how fun the movement can be outside of combat scenarios. The standard on-ground combat, which involves some more direct kick combos and the like, also fails to make a worthy impact.
The world of Hekesville contains attractions beyond the main story, although they don’t exactly deserve the moniker: basic time trials and combat challenges are littered throughout each individual city, and there are also small distractions and side quests you can take up at the behest of the world’s inhabitants. There are some vaguely interesting moments which crop up in the side quests, but none of it is vital. Unless you really like the sound of repeating the less-than-stellar parts of the combat and time-oriented challenges to compete for medals, then it’s best just to go through the main campaign and see the better parts of Gravity Rush’s overall package.
While it isn’t an outright bad experience, Gravity Rush feels like a disappointing misfire. It’s packed with some genuinely great ideas, and the open-ended world Kat glides and weaves through is quite spectacular in its scope and style, especially for a handheld title. But even when it’s putting its best foot forward, it doesn’t quite reach the heights it needs to. The game’s smooth-as-butter movement is a great hook which deserves to be paired with a more engaging game, as the end result feels far too sparse and underused in the greater context of everything it has going for it.
Have you downloaded the latest issue from GamerZines yet? Check it out here!