A beautiful sky and city in the distance.
Since the announcement that Gravity Rush, then known as Gravity Daze, would be a launch window release for the PS Vita, many gamers had high hopes that the title would be an entertaining new IP for a system overrun with portable prequels, sequels, and ports of Sony's blockbuster franchises. Thankfully, Japan Studio, a development branch with a hand in many of Sony's most critically acclaimed titles, has worked together with Project Siren to deliver what seems to be one of, if not the best, game on the Vita thus far.
Gravity Rush feels like a superhero origin story. It tells the tale of Kat, a mysterious girl who wakes up in the middle of a town called Hekseville. Suffering from amnesia, a plot device known by gamers all too well, Kat has no idea how she ended up in this foreign environment or why she is there. When she begins to explore the town, she realizes that, through the help of a supernatural cat known as Dusty, she has the ability to manipulate gravity. As Kat talks with the townsfolk, she finds the world has been suffering from gravity storms. These unnatural wormholes spawn strange enemies known as Nevi, black and red creatures of various sizes and shapes that use a multitude of melee and projectile attacks. Kat is blamed for the appearance of these creatures as their concurrent arrivals in Hekseville seem to be connected, and she vows to rid the villagers of the beasts, going from the town's pariah to champion. While competent at first, more ostensibly needless events confound the narrative.
An early incarnation of the Nevi.
The gameplay is extremely fun in Gravity Rush. While the combat is nothing spectacular and at times frustrating, traversal is the true name of the game. I found myself exploring the town at the expense of continuing the main story or playing challenge missions, adding at least two hours to my already lengthy experience. Kat's talents include the ability to float, shift her own gravity, throw objects, and gravity slide, a faster mode of travel than walking. Combat has a limited feel to it – Kat's only actions besides her super attacks are various aerial and ground-based kicks – and takes some time getting used to, but the slight clunky sensation is never fully removed when fighting constantly moving, airborne enemies. Gravity Rush is also the prime example of how to correctly use the Vita's touchscreen and motion controls: minimally. The front touchscreen is used to evade in the from of a swipe and to finish off large bosses with a simple prompt while the motion controls can be used to fine-tune the aim of aerial actions.
Both the challenge missions and the upgrade system stand alongside the traversal system as highlights of Gravity Rush. By collecting pink gems scattered throughout the town, Kat can unlock bonus missions as well as improve her abilities. The challenges include various types of races and battles against waves of Nevi. These provide an excellent way to hone your skills and, by earning a bronze, silver, or gold medal, provide a quick source of gems. Upgrades are well balanced and each new level gained at the cost of gems conveys the feeling of Kat actually getting more powerful rather than being able to keep up with the increasingly stronger enemies.
Kat's appearance while shifting.
Gravity Rush is one of the more visually pleasing games on the Vita. While Hekseville doesn't have a diverse or vibrant color palette, the watercolored appearance of the city and sky easily bring beauty to the screen. Its presentation is very much inspired by anime/manga, even going so far as to give story progression in the form of comic cells. Those who are not necessarily fans of the art style should not be wary of this, as it is still a very accessible game. Graphics are on par with the handheld's standard and have no major problems with graphical slip-ups.
Kohei Tanaka has done an amazing job composing the score of Gravity Rush. As a well-versed and experienced musician, Tanaka adds a great deal to the arcane world by delivering perfect musical representations to the different areas of the city. The seedy entertainment district has a jazzy, upbeat sound, the residential area is a bubbly and calm tune, and factory sounds infused with a catchy track personify the industrial zone exceptionally well.
While few will run out to purchase a Vita solely for the promise Gravity Rush delivers on, anyone who buys a Vita should at least keep an eye on this game. Despite some problems with occasionally long load times and clunky combat, anyone finding enjoyment in using and upgrading Kat's powers will have a long-lasting and entertaining experience. Pleasing visuals and music that fit the environments like a glove truly make Gravity Rush a joy to play and cement it as a top Vita title.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: SCE Studios Japan
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: PS Vita (Reviewed)