|Dev: SIE Japan Studio, Project Siren|
|Release: January 18, 2017|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol|
by Becky Cunningham
The unsung Gravity Rush was one of the gems of the Vita, eventually earning a remastered PlayStation 4 version that you've probably got in your library thanks to PlayStation Plus. Go play it if you haven't, because it's a lovely little title flush with exhilarating action sequences. Sony's hoping to give the series the reception it deserves with Gravity Rush 2, a PS4-exclusive release that plays on that ever-tempting buzzword, "open world." Is bigger always better, though? It was something I had to ponder despite my general enjoyment of this lovingly-crafted sequel.
After saving her newly-adopted hometown of Hekesville in Gravity Rush, amnesiac gravity shifter Kat finds herself swept away by a grav storm and in the care of a hard-bitten mining tribe that operates out of the fantastical floating city of Jirga Para Lhao. Despite her primary goal of finding her friends and returning home, Kat soon finds herself swept up in the politics of this highly class stratified city. Whether mining for ore in bizarre rift worlds or soaring through Jirga Para Lhao's majestic cityscape, Kat's odd adventures are anchored by the relatable humanity of herself and her companions.
A bit Peter Pan, a bit Alice in Wonderland, Kat is a fearless, swashbuckling hero whose kind and trusting nature tends to land her in hot water. Her shifter counterpart Raven is fundamentally well-meaning, but cynical and impatient. Banga tribe leader Lisa is excellent at helping her tribe survive in harsh conditions, but so strict and severe that she's difficult to deal with. Former cop and ladies' man Syd comes through in a pinch, but is opportunistic and indolent most of the time. Thanks to some lovely storytelling in the form of lightly-animated comic book scenes, you come to love them in spite of their faults, and end up pulling for the people of Jirga Para Lhao despite their oh-so-human selfish tendencies.
Thanks to her celestial kitty companion, Dusty, Kat has the ability to shift gravity around herself. It looks like she's flying, but she's actually falling in whichever direction you choose. This series is aptly named, as controlling Kat is indeed a rush. The controls are set to "fast and loose," but aiming is quite forgiving in order to compensate. There's a great "whooshy" feeling about controlling Kat, and her gravity kicks land on her enemies with a satisfying feeling of contact. She'll be fighting the strange alien Nevi creatures as well as human and mechanical enemies this time, giving more variety to her battles. Some of the huge bosses, like a giant sky whale Nevi, are particularly fun to fight.
The idea of Gravity Rush might be intimidating to anybody who has trouble with 3D games and environments, but the UI does a great job of anchoring you to enemy locations and other objectives using directional pointers. Kat's hair and outfit also obey the normal rules of gravity, allowing you to figure out which way is "down" even when you're at a random angle in the middle of the sky. I found that I rarely lost my way, either while exploring or in combat.
New to the this game are two special kinds of gravity that Kat can switch to freely once she's unlocked them. Lighter gravity allows her to jump and shoot through the air without even shifting gravity (which can be useful, as she can only shift for so long before running out of energy) as well as smack down quick opponents. Heavy gravity slows her down, but allows her to hit harder. It also helps in situations that require more precise movement. These additions include their own special combos and add extra dimension to the basic gameplay. I quite enjoyed them.
When Kat is set free to shift and fight is when Gravity Rush 2 is at its best. This new world, far more colorful than the brown-tinged Hekesville, is well worth exploring. When out mining, Kat finds bizarre ruins, gigantic plants, and glistening giant bubbles that she can bounce off in light gravity. In the huge city of Jirga Para Lhao, she can race up and down skyscrapers, use her stasis field to toss crates and benches around colorful marketplaces, and battle the menacing Council's mechanical troops on a massive floating fortress. These adventures are complemented by the game's unique graphical style and the made-up language that its inhabitants speak. All these core story, gameplay, and design elements work together perfectly to anchor this unbelievable world in its own special kind of reality.
The problem comes in the fact that when you've got an open world, you have to fill it with things to do, and the quality of Gravity Rush 2's side activities varies widely. There are the combat and racing challenges that Gravity Rush veterans will remember, as well as a huge number of side quests and collectibles to chase down. There's a little something for everyone, but also an awful lot of filler that's dragged down by questionable design decisions.