Our brains seem obsessed with the laws of gravity – everyone’s had terrifying dreams where they’re plummeting from great heights, or uplifting dreams of taking flight while on foot. Gravity Rush, from Sony’s Japan Studio, combines these two sensations with such a wonderful, vivid approach that it’s worth playing for its physics-warping mechanics alone. But as luck would have it, the gravity powers are only one piece of the pleasing puzzle – GR also brings a lively setting, charming characters, and wonderful music and graphics to the palm of your hands.
As of this moment, it’s the best reason to own - or consider buying - a Vita.
You play as Kat, an endearing super-heroine-in-the-making who can’t remember how she arrived in the quaint, open-world city of Hekseville. Things go from quiet to chaotic when the Nevi start to appear; these are giant monsters that look like Salvador Dali creatures sculpted from strawbelly jelly. Right in the nick of time, ethereal astro-cat Dusty grants Kat domain over the forces of gravity, bestowing her with the powers to better the city and help its gentle folk by squashing the Nevi menace.
You’ll be eager to save the townsfolk, too – the cel-shaded cast of characters is full of lovable anime archetypes who exchange pleasant banter or grimace menacingly as needed. Kat herself steals the show as the naïve but well-meaning people’s champ, but you’ll also encounter memorable secondary characters, like a God-like figure named Gade or the inept young detective Syd.
When playing as Kat, jumping to your would-be death isn’t a problem. With a tap of a button, she’ll suspend herself in midair, floating aimlessly for as long as your depleting gravity gauge will allow. Tapping the button again will direct gravity in the chosen direction, letting you plummet skyward or walk on walls with ease. GR makes great use of the Vita’s gyro sensor: tilting the Vita around will intuitively guide Kat’s gravity-aiming reticule (though you can use the right analog stick if you prefer). You’ll also use touchscreen swipes and taps to evade attacks, cover ground with gravity slides, and unleash flashy, rainbow-charged finishing moves.
It initially takes some time to come to grips with the bizarre z-axis movement that Kat employs, but it won’t be long before you’re soaring through the air or gliding across ceilings at a whim. Things never get exasperating during this learning period, either – Kat’s completely immune to fall damage (though you’ll feel guilty when she crashes to the pavement), and failing a mission sends you right back to a checkpoint in a jiffy.
The combat also emphasizes bending gravity to your advantage: though you can string together some decent kick combos on the ground, your main source of damage comes from rushing skyward, taking aim at a Nevi, then plunging foot-first into their heads at Mach 3 speed. The targeting can be a little spotty from time to time, but the guttural satisfaction of nailing a gravity-driven flying kick will make you forget all the times you sailed past your intended mark. You’ll also get to bust out some great special moves, like a spinning drill attack or a miniature black hole.
Exploring Hekseville with your newfound abilities is a thrill; you’ll find precious gems and challenge quests littered throughout the city. Your extraordinary powers make GR feel like a proper superhero sandbox game, on top of the great adventuring. Nabbing hidden gems offers the same satisfaction that some of you might have experienced while grabbing green orbs in Crackdown, and so do those exhilarating moments found in the best Spider-Man games of leaping off gigantic buildings and swooping to the ground with the grace of a bird.
Gravity Rush immediately brings the films of Studio Ghibli to mind: the gorgeous art design mixes anime-style cityfolk with color-saturated vistas, and the melodic symphony soundtrack has the same peppy and harmonious cadence you’d expect from a Miyazaki movie. Each district of Hekseville has its own mood and appeal – there’s the soothing serenity of Auldnoir, or the hustle and bustle of the Pleajeune entertainment district. If you’re a fan of games oozing Japanese style, Gravity Rush will utterly entrance you from the moment you boot it up.
It’ll take you around 10 constantly-engaging hours to complete the main story, but there’s a wealth of objectives to conquer once you’ve concluded (as well as some incoming DLC). Many of the challenges are punishingly difficult to get a gold reward in; fortunately, finishing them is a bonus and not a requirement. There’s a caveat for gamers who experience motion sickness in FPS games and the like – GR requires that you spin the camera around at any given time, so if you have a weak stomach or vertigo, you’ll feel queasy within seconds.
With a nondescript name like Gravity Rush, you wouldn’t be the first to mistake this game for a low-budget title worth skipping. But it’d be a crime to overlook – this adventure has such a vibrant world, exhilarating gameplay systems, and a delightful narrative that it deserves a spot in every Vita owner’s library. It’s the kind of game that wouldn’t exist on any other platform, and honestly, it’s so perfect for the medium that it wouldn’t need to.
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