Ahh, “Gravity Rush.” A well-loved game from the Playstation Vita’s launch that was originally a PS3 game re-worked to provide some needed support for a fledgling system – and which has since made its way onto the PS4. It was also one of the inaugural “free” titles when Sony expanded the PS+ service onto the PS Vita, which is where I picked it up.
Unlike last week’s “Resident Evil 4,” I had attempted to play “Gravity Rush” when I first got it. However, I wasn’t feeling the pull and soon found myself putting it away entirely in favor of what would become one of my all-time favorite games – “Persona 4: Golden.” (Review re-post forthcoming)
Will the gravity-inspired platforming draw me in to its orbit this time? Or will I once again float aimlessly away, attracted by bigger, brighter stars? And just how many vaguely gravity-themed puns can I make? Let’s drop in and find out.
The Story and Characters
Arguably the most important parts of “Gravity Rush” are its story and characters. You’re dropped in right away with a familiar anime/JRPG trope – an amnesiac hero who soon discovers their destiny – and you’re left to pick up the pieces of your own backstory while saving a (floating) city at the same time. Nothing particularly ground-breaking, but told decently well enough on its own right.
Kat is perfectly acceptable as a main character; full of pluck and self-doubt both despite and because of her lack of memory and (seemingly) new-found powers. She understandably gets most of the development out of the opening section that I played.
Enemies – known as Nevi – are pretty creative looking, though not particularly memorable or unique in your approach to fighting them. More on that later.
Unfortunately, there are few other notable faces that are introduced that seem to stick around. There’s a detective who shows up just a couple of times. A couple of villain-types make a brief appearance. Then there’s the guy who claims to be the creator of the world who tasks Kat with saving the floating town. Everyone comes and goes so quickly it’s hard to get any sort of impression from them, which is a shame.
This is especially important because…
What should be the cornerstone of any action game is given just enough attention to work, but not enough to work especially well. Unfortunately, given the gravity and perspective shifting nature of movement you’ll find yourself fighting the camera as often as the enemies.
Fighting is a rather straightforward affair, complete with every enemy having a glowing weak spot to attack. Starting out, Kat has your standard ground-based kicks to deal damage. More effective and marginally more fun are her gravity based abilities – allowing you to “fly” up into the air and then come crashing down to deal additional damage after falling a particular distance.
While this attack provides an initial rush it soon proves to stretch itself rather thin. Needing to constantly re-adjust the camera when attacking multiple enemies that take multiple strikes is consistently disorienting. This is especially true because of the camera/aiming controls being tied in to both the motion sensor and the right control stick. You’ll find yourself contorting your arms into uncomfortable angles, barely able to see the screen, just to land another consecutive hit.
On the bright side, navigating the world outside of battle is more enjoyable… for a while. Soaring up into the air and then crashing down to the surface provides an initial thrill. So does the obligatory ability to walk on walls and ceilings. However, after a certain point – about when you get a firm grasp on how the gravity mechanics work – it suddenly just loses that fun, thrilling edge. It then becomes your standard 3D collect-a-thon platformer, only with virtually zero platforming difficulty.
The mechanics and controls are fun enough, it just doesn’t feel like there’s enough to actually do with them. Unfortunately, this gives the game an incredibly shallow and dull feel as soon as everything clicks into place. For me, this was within about 30 minutes.
The Everything Else
Other random impressions from my time spent playing:
- The graphics are really nice for a handheld game, but it left me pining for a larger, HD screen. The PS4 Remaster would probably be a lot more enjoyable
- Swiping the touch screen to dodge never felt natural. Ever. It felt like a decision that was forced by the lack of buttons, and perhaps pressure from Sony to “take advantage” of one of the Vita’s unique aspects.
- Sound and music are good, though even in my 90 or so minutes of playing the music was getting rather old.
- The RPG elements to level up powers is nice, but with how shallow everything else is it’s hard to tell just what else could be added beyond “More health” and “More gravity energy.”
“Gravity Rush” seems more like a concept than a game. It has a very cool idea wrapped up with pleasant cel-shaded visuals… and not much else. While the story is interesting enough to get me to keep playing, I’m already afraid it’s going to be too much of a slog to overcome.
*Note – My score is not a review of the game. Rather, it’s a measure of how much I am looking forward to playing more of this. A 1 means I couldn’t even finish playing through my 1-hour first impressions and a 5 means that I’m probably already finished with this game since writing this article.
*Note – In-game screenshots were taken from the PlayStation Store’s page for “Gravity Rush Remastered,” not the Vita version that I played.
Excellent concept with a seemingly shallow execution. Unless it really picks up, at this point I'm just playing to finish the story.
I obtained this game free copy obtained through Sony's PS+ service. I played about 90 minutes, which is around 50% more than my typical first impressions length.