Gravity Rush (opens in new tab) is a beautifully designed superhero game, in part because it’s a beautifully disguised superhero game. As Kat, you’re free to ignore the rules of gravity, to gently float off the ground like you’re being hoisted by an invisible crane, before you rocket off in whatever direction suits your whim. Instead of a tortured dude in a cape, you’ve got an exuberant gal in a scarf. Instead of alien heritage or irradiated blood to thank, you’ve got the powers of a cat seemingly made of stardust. Beyond the unusual dream-like world and an unmistakable artistic style, though, Gravity Rush deflects what you might expect of a superhero game - by making its heroine a delightful klutz.
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Just breathtaking.https://t.co/5DvfIaI2o0 pic.twitter.com/Mqa48LrWF0January 31, 2016
Superman, in contrast, is often mistaken for some other objects you might see hurtling through the sky, though he’d hardly feel insulted. Birds, for example, were born to leave the Earth behind, soaring gracefully on wind currents and landing perfectly on a tree’s frail branch. And planes? They’re a marvel of engineering, sleek and shiny tubes lifting off and then politely crashing in a controlled manner just several hours later on the other side of the world. Superman’s in good company.
Kat, an unflinchingly upbeat girl trying to figure out her place - just as much as she’s trying to figure out which way is up - is not likely to be mistaken for a bird or a plane. The residents of Hekseville, a fractured city hovering around the midway mark of an enormous pillar, might look up to see Kat and yell something that other superheroes would deem … off-brand.
“Look, up in the sky! Is it … a bag of drunk snakes that someone shot out of a cannon? Is it a giant spinning potato from space? No, it’s … oh god, it’s that clumsy flying girl! Everyone take cover!”
There’s an art to being utterly graceless in Gravity Rush - and the weird thing is you master it immediately. You’re just not that good at controlling Kat on day one, a fact that neatly aligns with the story’s suggestion that Kat not only has amnesia, but woke up in the city after face-planting spectacularly in a junk courtyard. Give it an hour and you’ll probably begin to unlearn your clumsy maneuvering, but it’s way more fun if you don’t.
That isn’t to say playing Kat as the agile master of gravity - or the “Gravity Queen,” as the residents of Hekseville begin calling her - isn’t rewarding. It’s slick as hell to leap off a building, suddenly turn 90 degrees and weave horizontally through overhanging bridges and lamps like a rocket-propelled needle. That’s cool, but it might be a little too cool for Kat.
The real Kat, as written by your flippant disregard of precision movement, lifts off the ground impulsively - taking some screaming citizens along for the ride in the sudden upswell. Let’s go …. LEFT. NO, RIGHT. Zig-zagging across the city, Kat is a bullet with a broken GPS, bumping into people, knocking over benches and separating children from their parents. Oops, oops, sorry, so sorry, you can imagine her saying with a smile. And then, at the end of a wild back-and-forth journey, Kat lands with a thud in a cloud of dust, only to get back up and do it all again.
Kat’s optimism in the face of her innate clumsiness is what makes her special. Her elegant way of recovering from super-powered inelegance makes her believable and in lock-step with your own journey into Gravity Rush. She’ll undoubtedly become a more … obvious hero in Gravity Rush 2 (opens in new tab), but for now I urge you to enjoy an origin story that flips everything upside down.