If there was one word to describe Gravity Rush, it would be “charming.” Taking a novel approach to locomotion is not without risks, and though there are issues throughout the experience, shaky combat mechanics and a shallow story don’t hold it back from being an altogether pleasant experience. From the main character to the art direction to the narrative, the charm of Gravity Rush outshines its shortcomings.
The star of the show is Kat, a mysterious woman whose close cat companion allows her to shift gravity at will. You’re quickly tasked with helping various residents of the town, and though there’s a feeling of meaningless quests here, everything works together and the atmosphere melds well with the missions you face throughout the game.
The storytelling mechanic of Gravity Rush reads like you’re progressing through a comic. Most story sections are depicted through static depictions of scenes in the format of a comic book, and tiling the Vita allows you to see extra parts of each page, strengthening the illusion.
Tilting the Vita helps in other ways as well, such as assisting with fine tuning combat. One of the game’s strengths and weaknesses is the combat system. Kat can change the force of gravity in a little bubble around her, making for interesting and unique traversal within the confines of a meter that declines as you “fly.” You can pause and shift gravity at the touch of a button, and utilize it to attack enemies as well as move quickly. The system takes time to adjust, but it does work and it is worth the early struggles.
Actual combat can be explained as rudimentary at best, as you are fairly limited in the number of attacks you can perform. However, the rub is that you often attack by changing gravity and flying through the air with a long-winded kick that is immensely satisfying, and it’s this unique system that allows for subtle aiming mechanics through the tilting of the Vita. It’s a subtle interaction that works well, but it does become tedious after a point due to lack of variance.
It became easy to fall into a rut of just using the gravity kick, the regular kick, and the first special move that you learn. Combat could use refinement as it was often difficult to line up gravity kicks, even with half a dozen hours under my belt. There’s no denying that there is something cool and unique here, but the mechanics would benefit from a bit of refinement.
The art direction remains soothing throughout the game, and the cell shaded look never outwears its welcome. It’s a beautiful game, especially on the older OLED Vita models. The ebb and flow of music that gently rises and slowly falls in conjunction with stark and calming visuals simulates an endearing environment. The cell shading technique aligns with the interests of the people in this world; mostly tranquil with bouts of brilliance or shine. Characters are outlined with a thick black line that separates them from the background and which also adds a little harshness to the visual presentation overall. This works because the game has sections that seem to mesh together, as the game heavily favors green shading – it almost feels like you’re looking through a green lens at everything – making the bold separation an ideal fit for the situation.
The city itself seems to be part of a floating metropolis where storms constantly thrive on the horizon. “The universe ripped their families and homes away” said an old man who sets the stage for the story. Kat is an endearing protagonist who simply tries to help people with their plights. Again there’s nothing too flashy here; she’s not going to set the world on fire. Kat is someone who has stumbled into her powers and doesn’t realize the gravity of some of the situations she finds herself in. Which is part of the enjoyment of the game; significant things are happening, but it never feels too serious. She spends the first part of the game finding furniture (i.e. garbage that others have thrown out) and crafting her home in the sewers. Not your typical woman, you get the feeling that she’s strange even in this odd world.
Gravity Rush should be applauded for stepping outside the box and doing something different. Using gravity manipulation as a form of traversal and combat remains fun and entertaining through the entire experience. The game oozes charm, and the story is never deep or even that meaningful yet the simplicity brings with it a pleasant aftertaste. Sometimes games are so desperate to work in a story that it feels forced and get old quickly; this game knows what it is and keeps it simple. Gravity Rush is a must-play for Vita owners.