While no one can doubt the power of the Vita, there has been a serious lack of new games of late. After an impressive launch line-up, releases have almost dried up, leading many to wonder if the Vita is doomed to share the fate of the PSP. Those thoughts may be a little premature, though, with the release of Gravity Rush giving fans a reason to get excited. Sony needs a game to get players talking about their hardware again and this may just be it.
Gravity Rush sees players take control of girl suffering from amnesia. As the game starts, this mysterious lass is lead into to trouble by an equally enigmatic cat. She quickly discovers that the cat is a source of power (specifically the ability to manipulate gravity) and she uses these newfound skills to rescue a boy from a gravity storm. Players then follow Kat (as she was named by a passer-by) on her journey to discover who she is, why parts of the city are missing and why citizens are being accosted by weird blob-like enemies. With such a promising, if clichéd, start the story could have been quite interesting but unfortunately it never reaches its potential. There is a lot of confusion as to what is actually happening. This is brought about by some weak writing and while Kat is a likeable character, the rest of the game is filled with generic and uninspired NPCs.
Luckily the gameplay makes up for this disappointing narrative. Players control Kat in much the same way as any open world third person game with one great difference. The ability to control gravity is more than a dot point on the back of the game cover, it is central to the whole experience. It enables players to fly through the air, pick up objects and people, run on walls and hurl items at enemies with joyous abandon. There is a sense that Kat isn’t quite on top of her talents and that comes across in the movement. She isn’t actually flying but throwing herself in a direction, giving the feeling of uncontrolled power. The developers have put in a nice system so players can always tell which way is down. Kat’s hair and scarf always point towards to the ground. This simple visual cue keeps players from getting disorientated and lowers frustration levels considerably.
All of these actions are handled extremely well by a simple and effective control scheme. The right trigger lifts Kat into the air and a second press sends her in the direction she is facing. Pressing the trigger again halts her movement, allowing corrections to take place. Other actions are mapped to face buttons and function well. There is a slight issue with using the touch screen to evade enemies. This action could have been easily mapped to a button and making players use the touchscreen seems unnatural. Apart from this issue, the remainder of the touch screen controls, such as sliding and steering, all work nicely.
Something that doesn’t work as well is the combat. Kat can use simple combos and jump kicks to take enemies out on the ground and this involves some fairly heavy button mashing. This is mixed up somewhat by her gravity powers, which allow her to use some special attacks and a devastating gravity kick. It becomes apparent very quickly that the gravity kick is the easiest and most efficient way to take out opponents, turning battles into a process of floating Kat in the air, waiting for the right moment and pressing the gravity kick button. This tactic will get the players through every fight in the game, even the boss battles. It becomes boring before long and combat is reduced to a repetitive task that pales in comparison to the freedom offered by the rest of the game.
The adversaries themselves are also fairly boring. “Black blobs in various shapes” is the best way to describe their appearance. All enemies also revert to the old video game formula of having a bright orange weak spot. This is a rather uninspired part of a game that in all other areas features an amazing sense of graphical flair. Gravity Rush is simply stunning. A sharp hand drawn anime look is infused into the game world, giving the appearance of a Japanese cartoon such as Naruto. It is a pleasure to be able to play in such a lovingly created world.
The missions are also top notch, mixing up what Kat is required to do, meaning there is very little in the way of repetition. Stealth challenges, escort missions, timed races, puzzles and platforming all make an appearance and all are altered significantly from the norm by Kat’s gravity abilities. The stealth missions are especially satisfying. Using Kat’s ability to walk on walls and ceilings to sneak by guards is a true joy. This variety keeps players glued to the screen, ensuring that the urge to press on and finish the game remains strong even though the story is a little flaccid.
Gravity Rush is a perfect flag bearer for the Vita. It highlights the strengths of the system. It’s fun in both short bursts and long bouts. The gravity manipulation suggested in the title is much more than a gimmick; it is the foundation of a great game. If players can look past the boring combat and weak story to the amazing freedom and wondrous style they are in for a treat. It’s certainly worth the price of entry and should be just the thing to tide Vita owners over until the big rush of games later in the year.