Gravity Rush

8 / 10 Banzai!s

gravity-rush-coverThe Game:
While not a launch title, Gravity Rush (known as Gravity Daze in Japan) was released only two months after the PlayStation Vita hit the shelves.  Created and directed by Keiichiro Toyama, the mastermind behind the Silent Hill and Siren series, Gravity Rush is a third-person action platformer with RPG elements, and set in a dark, Tim Burton like setting with an equally bizarre story.

The game begins with a girl – later named “Kat” – waking up in a street and suffering from amnesia.  Without knowing who she is or where she came from, Kat finds herself in the floating city of Hekseville.  The town, however, isn’t without its problems.  A strange gravity storm has broken pieces of the floating city away, sending them to other planes of existence, while black liquidy monsters known as Nevi have appeared to terrorize the inhabitants.

Shortly after waking, Kat comes across a mysterious cat which grants her powers to control gravity.  This allows her to float, fly, or run across walls and ceilings.  Kat uses her powers to fight off the Nevi while attempting to seek out and return pieces of the floating city.

The story is told through a combination of cut scenes and comic book panels, in which the player swipes their finger to see the next image.  Kat’s primary attack is kicking, but as she gains reputation for performing good deeds, as well as experience points, players can upgrade her powers to include gravity kicks, tossing items in a gravitational field, and even opening a black hole to suck in all the enemies.

What I Liked:
I found both the gameplay and story to be quite original.  In an interview, Keiichiro Toyama said he’d imagined the concept for Gravity Rush ten years ago, though it never came to light until the release of the PlayStation Vita, which allows one to see the world beyond the screen by tilting the device.  Gravity Rush could work on the PlayStation 3, but certainly not as well with its static camera.  A large part of the game is about exploring new worlds from a three-dimensional, floating perspective, and the Vita almost feels as though it were designed for this specific game.

gravity-rush-screen1Running along walls and ceilings is a good way to get around, especially in the beginning when Kat’s gravity powers are limited.  But after some upgrades, Kat will be drifting, flying and soaring over buildings and even under the city.  It’s disorientating at first, but players will quickly get the hang of it.  The game provides an indicator to show where the next mission is, and one can always watch where Kat’s long hair is pointing when wondering where is “down.”

The story is broken into 20 missions, and things start simple enough as the game introduces the characters and setting.  But soon, things will start to get strange.  I don’t wish to spoil anything, as I felt the story was the best part of the game, but it was reminiscent of Bioshock Infinite or the Lost TV series, where answers lead to more questions, continuously fueling my interest.  Even more so, everything in Gravity Rush connects well, from the gameplay to the story, with “gravity” – and its effect on time and space – being the central theme.  It’s difficult to explain without ruining the story, but trust me, it works.

On a side-note, I’d like to mention that after having played several Vita titles released just after its launch, including Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Ridge Racer, it seemed developers were utilizing many of the Vita’s touch-screen features simply as a gimmick because it’s new.  Gravity Rush, however, is what it is.  Rather than feeling as though these gimmicks were applied simply because they can be, Gravity Rush feels like a game that can only work on the Vita.

What I Didn’t Like:
The only reason I couldn’t give this game a higher Banzai! score, is due to its shortness.  The story, as great and imaginative as it is, will only take about 10 hours to complete.  While there are still a few side-quests and challenges to do, it’s difficult to stay motivated to do them when you know the story is finished.  I suppose you could argue it’s quality over quantity, but still, 10 hours is a bit short for me.

gravity-rush-screen2Also, there are times when the script sounds translated.  By that I mean, while grammatically correct, the dialogue occasionally has unnatural expressions as though straight out of an ESL textbook.  This is a shame, since the story itself is so good.  Though as I haven’t played the Japanese version, I couldn’t tell you if this is at fault of poor translating, or perhaps a poorly written script to begin with.

On a final note, while the plot comes to a full conclusion at the end, there are many unanswered questions left lingering (those who felt unsatisfied with the finale of the TV show Lost may feel the same way with Gravity Rush).  However, I didn’t dock marks off for this, as I can assume Toyama did this intentional in preparation for the sequel, due sometime in 2015.

So far, Gravity Rush is certainly one of the best games I’ve played on the PlayStation Vita, and it’s a game that wouldn’t port well onto another console.  An engaging story with interesting characters, imaginative and fun gameplay, great graphics and presentation, and certainly a game for anyone looking for something new.  The story is a bit short, but if you love challenges and side-quests, then perhaps you may not mind.

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