Conquer your fear of heights!
Gravity Rush is one of those titles that has a very original concept behind it. This action-platformer with a swirl of RPG to it is one of the titles that separates the PlayStation Vita from other consoles, as there is no such game to be found anywhere else.
The game is built around a simple premise; you can fly around by shifting gravity. Shifting gravity allows you to fly around Hekseville. One thing that might be confusing to some people is that the world design is not only horizontal, but also vertical. The districts have different levels and moving from the top of such district to the bottom can be a little bit confusing, but flying around you discover many hidden areas in the underbelly of the districts that you would have never found if you were to scratch the surface of the game. Flying around is fun, and if you occasionally land on a building wall you can keep walking on it as if the wall were perpendicular to the earth’s centre.
Gravity Rush features an enamouring blonde protagonist called Kat. She wakes up without a memory of who she is or what she has done after falling from the sky and soon discovers she has the power to shift gravity because of her special cat Dusty. Gravity Rush’s story is absolutely bonkers. The game is a semi-open world game set in Hekseville, a city consisting of separated districts, such as an entertainment district (which sports a giant Ferris wheel) and a sprawling downtown area featuring gray, square skyscrapers. Hekseville is threatened by gravity storms, which have swallowed several parts of the city into mysterious, hallucination-inducing areas called ‘rift planes’. The gravity storms seem to have some sort of relation with the strange enemies (black-reddish blobs with an orb on their bodies that you have to shatter in order to kill them) called Nevi. Just like many other story elements, the origins of these gravity storms or Nevi are never explained. They’re just there. Halfway through the story, it takes such preposterous turns I feel I am allowed to say it is a ‘clusterfuck’.
Secondly, there are a number of different villains whom you never really get to know and the final chapters seem very hasty (most of the game’s important story is told in the last few chapters), though they feature great and fun boss battles. Nevertheless, Kat is a charming, somewhat shy, character and despite its shortcomings, her tale is enjoyable. As you master her powers and you complete story missions (which limit you to a certain area and are not open-world), such as rescuing parts of the city or fending off Nevi attacks, your reputation increases (allowing you to further increase your skills) and the citizens of Hekseville start to like you more and more. I definitely enjoyed the ride, as the story was not comparable to any other game I have played before and the way it bounces through every nook and cranny of Hekseville is excellent. The story is presented in an original comic-book style (it’s fun to tilt the pages using the touchscreen).
Gravity Rush has a stunning, cell-shaded art style influenced by anime (the game was made by one of Sony’s two Japan-based studios). Character models look fairly basic, but the textures on the buildings are absolutely gorgeous. Hekseville is somewhat reminiscent of the older parts of European cities such as Paris or Amsterdam. The classical music score that accompanies the game is great. Every district has its own track, and I love every single one of them. The music in old town is majestic, the music in the entertainment district is upbeat and jazzy, and the music in the industrial district is slightly mysterious and I would go as far as calling it unsettling, while still sounding great and fitting the visuals.
Despite classifying as an open world game, there is surprisingly little to do in Gravity Rush. You can play the story missions, where you progress through the story, and there are challenge missions. I didn’t like the challenge missions very much, but they are not badly designed and mastering them can be great fun. They are often time trials in which you have to race around town using your wonky gravity powers, but the narrow corridors of Hekseville aren’t really suited for the somewhat loose controls of Gravity Rush. There are only a handful of NPCs to talk to and there aren’t really any side-story missions (if you don’t count the DLC, which adds two story missions and some challenge missions).
Flying around without strings attached is transcendent and the main reason why I this is my favourite Vita game despite its flaws. The controls are good and looking at all the buildings and characters scurrying around is very addictive and rest assured, you can spent half of your game time in Gravity Rush with just flying around and admiring the architecture. There is also another thing that motivates flying through the city in between the story missions; gems. There are three types of gems: green gems (adding life), blue gems (restoring a part of your gravity meter, which runs out the longer you shift gravity) and last, but definitely not least, purple gems (the only ones found outside of the story missions). Purple gems are spread around the city, mainly in the lower regions and on rooftops. They are kind of experience points; you can use them to level up your skills, and this motivates you to scour around town looking for shiny purple gems. If I spot a bunch of gems, I completely forget my mission objective and hurry to collect them instantly. It works and it is a fresh approach to experience and encourages you even more to explore and discover hidden areas in the city.
A large portion of Gravity Rush consists of combat; the Nevi are defeated by shattering the orbs on their body. Standing on the ground, you can kick them and dodge their attacks. However, since Gravity Rush is focused around flying, the main portion of the fighting takes place in the air. Early on in the game, air combat is fairly straightforward, but as you progress, it requires more precision, which might sometimes be frustrating if you miss another enemy by a millimetre. You can use your standard gravity kick or special attacks, which have to recharge after use. The challenge and fun in the combat does not lie in picking the right moves, but in timing your attacks well and mastering your flight. I’ve never felt destroying Nevi to become repetitive, as battles get progressively harder and the boss battles become more fun, and take advantage of the different things you can do by manipulating gravity (such as picking up objects and hurling them at your opponents, or picking up water tanks to put out a fire). I’ve never felt the game to become too hard in its main storyline. If you want a challenge, then you should definitely play the challenge missions, as getting many points in them is hard but rewarding.
Gravity Rush is a gem with many shortcomings that still do not hinder this from being a solid game. The art style and music are excellent, the story jumps all over the place but still manages to keep you playing and the core gameplay is very enjoyable. For an open-world game, it is a bit short on content and the world sometimes feels empty, but its concept is fresh and I believe this game is definitely worth picking up at full price if you can live with the myriad of ‘little tiny’ issues the game has.