Gravity Rush Review

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When I first saw footage of SCE Japan’s Gravity Rush, it looked to be one of the most artistic, captivating games on a handheld console.  Looking at Gravity Rush’s beautiful watercolor art style, it’s actually surprising something so great looking could actually come from a handheld.  The draw distance of the environment is short, meaning there are setbacks to its visual prowess, along with a sometimes dragging plot line and clunky, frustrating combat.  Do these problems make Gravity Rush a bad game?  No, but they hamper Gravity Rush from being anything more than great looking and enjoyable.

Gravity Rush follows Kat, a girl who falls from the sky and lands on the floating city of Hekseville.  Kat doesn’t remember how she fell, or where she came from, but she soon realizes that with the help of her cat Dusty, she has the power to change gravity.  Gravity Rush is very much a superhero origin story.  Along the way, we meet her arch-nemesis Alias, frenemy Raven, government agent Sea Wasp, and an array of other villains and heroes.  The characters of Gravity Rush don’t particularly stick out in any positive or negative way, but the character design and animation is great.  The main villains, shadowy creatures with red glowing spots called Nevi, are a cool idea, but some of their designs mess with the flow of combat.

The combat is one of my biggest quaffs with Gravity Rush.  Besides it being incredibly clunky and difficult, it’s eventually reduced to spamming one move, “Gravity Kick”, which seems like the only practical way to attack people.  Flying Nevi?  Gravity kick.  Nevi on the ground?  Gravity kick.  To combat the over usefulness of the Gravity Kick move, SCE Japan made the Nevi weak points (which glow, in typical video game fashion) incredibly hard to get to.  Instead of adding difficulty to the game’s AI, they made Kat’s attacks incredibly frustrating to control, and put weak spots in places where the attacks just can’t hit.  If any of the Nevi move when you’re attempting to gravity kick them, Kat will sail right past them, not even landing a blow.  I can’t describe how annoying this really is.

Gravity Rush has one of the best platforming systems I’ve ever seen.  Kat is a “Gravity Shifter”, which means she (or her cat Dusty, rather) is able to control gravity, and use it to travel all around Hekseville.  This is all controlled by the right shoulder button, and is presented in a way that’s easy and intuitive.  Flying around Heksevills is probably the best part of the game because it’s so fun.  Sadly, if you shift directions too much, you’ll lose all sense of direction and the camera will freak out.  It’s a minor gripe, but it’s still there.

There’s plenty to do in Gravity Rush besides the main quest.  Besides cheap costume DLC that come with tons of side quests, you can collect precious gems scattered all over the town.  The precious gems aren’t hard to find, but it’s actually fun having to platform and gravity shift to get them.  There are also minigame challenges and races all over that you can compete in if you feel like it.  They aren’t too interesting, but it gives the package slightly more replayability.

The story has a lot of charm brought to it by its Japanese developers.  The foreign influence is apparent, and actually makes Gravity Rush something you haven’t seen before story-wise.  In many ways, it feels like a Japanese inFAMOUS, except without the blood, swearing, and other gritty stuff.  The cutscenes in the game are mostly told through comic panes and bubble dialogue.  I didn’t mind this, and swiping through the panes was actually a cool feature, but it does keep you from fully connecting with the world.  The watercolor art style and comic book cutscenes do really make Gravity Rush a unique experience, and adds a really nice ambiance to the game.

The motion and touch compatibility of Gravity Rush is there, but it doesn’t entirely enhance or break the game in any way.  You can use the gyroscope to turn the camera when you’re flying, but it can also be handled with the right analog stick, which is much easier.  Along with aiming, most of the features are optional.  That is, except for “Gravity Slide”, a move where you touch the front screen with both thumbs and tilt the Vita to change direction.  I am completely awful at tilt motion controls, so this was a major turn-off for me.  It looks cool, and when it works it really works, but it’s frustrating beyond belief when it doesn’t.

If you’re interested in Gravity Rush, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get it, or at least try out the demo.  It’s a great game with amazing ambiance and art, but it’s combat system is deeply flawed and the Vita-specific controls are clunky.  It’s not a must-buy, but it does deliver a great experience.

I’m giving Gravity Rush 8.0/10.

Disagree with my thoughts?  Have some of your own?  Respond in the comments below!

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