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Gravity Rush review

by Andrew Yoon, Jun 12, 2012 12:00pm PDT

Gravity Rush is one of those rare games where its premise and charm outweigh any blemishes it has--in spite of how large, and sometimes frustrating those shortcomings can be.

It's hard not to like Gravity Rush. When the game begins, you're presented with an image of an apple. I thought to myself "that is a very pretty pre-rendered cutscene." But, as I noticed the camera shaking in line with my hand's movements, I realized that this was all in real time. Gravity Rush isn't just beautiful for a console game--it's downright pretty by any standard.

As Kat, you're granted the mysterious ability to shift gravity. You can "fall" to the side of a building, or fall up to the sky. It's an interesting mechanic that inherently invites control-related frustration.

When it all comes together, it's difficult not to be enamored by Gravity Rush's unique gameplay. Imagine flying around the city, stopping an onslaught of monsters. You fly towards a water tower, grab it with your gravity powers and throw it at one of the larger monsters. Then, you launch a flying kick attack, shattering another monster. You finally conclude your battle whilst sliding along the side of a building. Inception, eat your heart out.

Unfortunately, it doesn't always come together. Frustratingly, the in-game camera is controlled by both the right analog stick and the system's gyroscope. While using motion controls to aim Kat's gravity attacks is initially fun, it becomes a bit too imprecise for some of the game's more demanding fights. Perhaps the feature is meant to be intentionally disorienting, but I would've preferred the ability to turn off the gyro features--at least for the camera.

Kat's powers also don't always work quite as you'd expect. For example, you might be gravity rushing towards a building, only to get caught by the large bounding box of a random lamp post. It really hinders movement throughout the open world when your character gets stuck on objects that really shouldn't get in the way. Her grab move is also quite finicky, and I never figured out exactly why she chose to grab certain objects and not others when fighting enemies. (A barrel and water tower is okay--but a box is not?)

Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the game's design is the fact that Kat's abilities are intentionally hindered in the beginning of the game. You'll have to spend in-game currency to unlock better versions of her moves. For example, the gravity kick is the most useful move in the game--but it won't really work until you level it up a few times. By spending points on it, Kat's ability to lock-on to enemies improves--and only then does it feel like the game "works" the way it was supposed to work all along.

Because of that design, Gravity Rush is one of those few games that is much more difficult in the beginning than in the end. Whereas Kat struggles fighting just one or two enemies at the beginning of the game, battles against dozens of monsters in the endgame become a breeze thanks to her improved lock-on abilities. I'm not entirely sure that's how game progression is supposed to work...

There are even more odd design decisions that had me scratching my head. For example, there are many challenges that need to be completed in the game to unlock more XP. These minute-long challenges don't include a fast retry option, meaning you'll have to spend a minute to complete them and earn the chance to retry, or spend a minute quitting the game and reload from the beginning of the challenge. It's an oddly cumbersome process that's made worse by the game's lengthy load times.

In spite of these frustrations, however, I find myself constantly returning to the floating town of Hekseville. It's just fun to fly around the down, exploring the environment for hidden treasures (many exist on the underbelly of the town). When Kat is fully leveled up, fighting as Kat is incredibly satisfying--in spite of how dizzying it is. And finally, while the story may play to countless anime tropes, it's still endearing due to some terrific artwork.

Gravity Rush is far from Vita's killer app. But it's a great original game for the system--something Vita owners have been lacking in recent months. While flawed, Gravity Rush has so many memorable moments, it's worth giving a try.


This Gravity Rush review is based on a debug Vita version of the game, provided by the publisher.





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