Gravity Rush Review for PS Vita

Gravity Rush Review for PS Vita

360 Degrees Of Open World Action.

The PlayStation Vita has had something of a hushed stigma since its launch. Everybody was hoping for a console-like experience on a portable platform, and the hardware of the Vita can certainly provide that. However, so far the brunt of the Vita’s releases have been either straight PS3 ports or shallow series spinoffs.

Gravity Rush itself was originally designed as a PlayStation 3 title, but director Keiichirō Toyama (the creator of Silent Hill) decided that the Vita could better showcase the gravitational manipulation through the various motion controls and touch interfaces. It doesn’t come without flaws, but they are minor in the grand scheme of things, and it is immensely refreshing to see a brand new intellectual property on the fledgling portable system.

Gravity Rush Screenshot

After the player plucks an apple from a branch via the touchscreen, it plummets off the spire its tree was rooted in and rolls around unblemished through the urban streets of a floating metropolis called Hekseville, rolling to a stop at the head of our unconscious leading lady. Suffering from a major bout of amnesia, she has no idea who she is, why an odd looking black cat is following her, and, most importantly, why this feline friend grants her the ability to control her personal gravity field. So begins our story.

Before there’s any time for our heroine to ask questions, a local slums resident beckons her to help save his boy who is about to be pulled into swirling vortex in the sky. After the rescue, and a verbal scolding from the locals for being a gravity shifter (apparently, shifters are to blame for the current state of tension), she finds herself a small person in a big city, completely alone except for a cat whom she oddly calls Dusty. Syd, the next character she meets, gives her the name Kat, due to her four-legged companion.

Gravity Rush Screenshot

Many characters shift in and out of focus during the course of the adventure, making it hard to find any empathy towards them. However, Kat remains endearing throughout. Her innocence, curiosity, and willingness to aid others despite any scorn give her qualities that keep players rooting for her. As puzzle pieces from her past start to fall into place, you’re given just enough information that you’ll want to find the next mission just to see another cutscene.

Although, don’t expect many cinematics here, as Gravity Rush opts for the comic book approach, dishing out plot through a series of still scenes that the player swipes through using the touchscreen. It may not seem as dazzling, but this approach fits the game perfectly and is just one of the refreshing departures from the norm that can be found here.

Gravity Rush Screenshot

The controls have to be the biggest flaw in this game, which is a shame because with some fine-tuning they could have been near perfect. The standard “move with the left stick, work the camera with the right” is an input style all gamers should be familiar with when navigating a three-dimensional space. However, since Gravity Rush is essentially a 360-degree experience, the movement and camera often become frustrating. Markers on the screen—as well as Kat’s hair and scarf—always follow the true gravitational direction to alleviate some of the confusion when floating. But a manual lock-onto-enemies feature, keeping your target in sights, would have been a small addition with an enormous help. Also, the game has you swipe the screen to evade, which should have been a button input, and the speedy on-rails ability called Gravity Slide requires both thumbs on the touchscreen, which throws the camera control completely off. Using the rear touchpad for this would have solved the issue and could have been one of the better uses of the back panel I have seen.

But if you can adjust to the unorthodox control scheme, Hekseville is a robust city to explore. Citizens go about their daily lives; some will offer advice, while others offer tasks. Special challenge missions present a variety of diversions, from dispatching as many enemies as possible within a time limit to running obstacle courses through checkpoints, as well as various other minigames.

Your scores are ranked on a global leaderboard, and earning a bronze, silver, or gold medal will award you with precious gems. This currency is required to fix the damaged facilities of the city and unlock the challenges, but more importantly it plays into the game’s RPG aspect. As you collect these gems you can purchase upgrades to all your abilities, such as stronger kicks and longer gravity gauges. They are capped at the beginning, but as your reputation grows, you can invest more levels in these skill upgrades. It’s a simple but effective feature that will have you retrying challenges and scouring every face of every building for these purple jewels.

The game uses cel-shaded visuals, which fits the comic book storytelling and allows for some exaggerated facial expressions. Considering the medium, there is great detailing in both the backgrounds and the characters, but the stonework-heavy scenery is very bland in the color department. The reds, tans, and grays have been almost completely washed out, dulling any life that could have been given to the world. Even the sporadic trees have faded green hues that make the world feel dull.

The enemies, called the Nevi, are very primal in nature, formed as black gelatinous masses with red cores (the cores being your target for attacks). I cannot help being remind of the Heartless from Kingdom Hearts, and would have liked a little more solidity here.

Gravity Rush Screenshot

Finally, the draw distance is very limited, and considering how fast you can zip through the air, getting your bearings can be a tricky affair. But despite all these little grievances, it’s still the best-looking title I have seen on the Vita. It must require a lot of hardware power, because Gravity Rush will quickly suck the battery life from your system.

I have one minor audio criticism: Although the game was designed first and foremost for the Japanese audience—and it does have good English subtitles—it would have been nice to have seen localized voice work rather than translated Japanese dialogue. But this is trumped by possibly the best orchestrations I have heard in any game (and I take extreme pride in exceptional musical work in any video game). From the first solo piano alluding to Kat’s initial loneliness to the wonderful string work as you explore the city, and even the crescendos when engaging in battle, the soundtrack is simply impeccable. The music streams fluidly as you move from each section of the city and from exploration into missions, all fitting together perfectly.

There are a couple other complaints you should be aware of. The load times are excessive, especially when doing multiple attempts of a challenge mission. Also, disrupting gravity around innocent bystanders will cause them to be flung over the sides of the city and down to their deaths far beneath the clouds, and the game doesn’t discriminate for children or even pets. This just seems beyond careless for a heroine who takes pride in helping people, yet it’s an inevitability in the gameplay that you’re forced to accept.

Gravity Rush is by no means a perfect game. Though it doesn’t feel like a rushed production, many of the controls and other design choices might not have been given the proper discretion prior to the game’s launch. Yet despite my scrutinizing eye, I am still anxious to delete my quick playthrough file and comb every inch of Hekseville with a new adventure, just me, Kat, and Dusty. It may not be the best title on a growing list of Vita games, but if you’re looking for something new and engaging for your Sony handheld right now, Gravity Rush is definitely one to pick up.

The cel-shading blends perfectly with the comic book story design, but everything has a bland wash to it. 3.8 Control
It’s hard to find a perfect balance for 360 degrees of control, but a few small changes could have made it so. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Features the best orchestrations I’ve ever heard. I only wish there was English voice acting. 4.5 Play Value
There’s a lot of city to explore, and not just the surface. Challenges and precious gem collecting are addictive diversions. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Manipulate gravity to save your world from destruction. Gain a new perspective as you take on the role of Kat, a strong-willed girl seeking the means to protect her future in a world that’s crumbling to pieces.
  • Tilt and move the PlayStation Vita, taking gravity into your own hands to deliver devastating attacks, uncover the secrets to your past, and explore a mysterious world.
  • Experience beautiful cel-shaded graphics brought to life through OLED technology, delivering crisp and vivid colors.
  • Use the motion sensor to control gravity, slide through environments and dodge enemy attacks.

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