Review: Gravity Rush for Vita

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Title: Gravity Rush
Price: $39.99 on cartridge, $34.99 digital download
System(s): PS Vita
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Sony (SCE Japan Studio)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes and Use of Alcohol
Pros: Touch, motion and standard controls are used well. Players decide how to level up Kat. Kat’s reputation can improve based on actions. Lots of side challenges to earn extra gems. It has a unique look and good music. The story is well written. Each main mission proceeds in a different manner so you aren’t always doing the same thing. You can change Kat’s outfit. You can talk to citizens to hear rumors that help flesh out the story or foreshadow future events.
Cons: Battle controls can get frustrating when you face an enemy with a weak spot that can only be hit by gravity kicks/thrown objects/special attacks. There’s a bit of a cliffhanger and a few of the game’s mysteries are left unsolved.
Overall Score: One thumb up, one thumb sideways, 87/100, B+, * * * 1/2 out of 5

I’m not really sure how I feel about Gravity Rush. It’s really quite complicated. The one thing I can really pin down is that I enjoy it. I like the way it looks, the heroes and heroines and even the villains are interesting. The ambiance is lovely as well, with a fantastic soundtrack and detailed city. I want to say I love it and that it’s my favorite Vita game.

At the same time, I can’t help but feel so frustrated with it. The battle system especially drives me crazy if I play more than two missions in one sitting and there are Challenges and missions that involve flying around that never cease to get me discombobulated.

I suppose the best I can say is that Gravity Rush is one of those games where absence makes the heart grow fonder. I love it and recommend it, but I also recommend playing only one or two missions a day so you aren’t overcome by the frustrations that stem from defying gravity.

An amnesiac heroine with a cat that lets her control gravity

Kat has no idea who she is. She doesn’t even know her own name. All she knows is that she dropped from the sky into a garden in a floating town called Hekseville and a strange-looking cat, that seemed to be all black and made of stars, was there when she woke up. She doesn’t get time to catch her bearings, however, as immediately a man is running up, calling her a “Shifter” and asking her to save his son and home.

Hekseville is a town plagued by gravity storms. These can take away pieces of the town and also seem to have a habit of dropping monsterous creatures called Nevi around the area. Though Kat is disoriented, she manages to use the gravity shifting abilities, which she seems to have thanks to Dusty the cat, to save the child. She doesn’t manage to save the house, however, and instead of being thanked she’s blamed.

Kat soon learns that Shifters, people who can control gravity, have a bad reputation in Hekseville. They’re seen as troublemakers. Which means no one is forthcoming in offering help. There’s another girl about her age known as Raven who happens to be a Shifter with a bird, but she’s not very friendly. The only way to move forward and possibly find out more about her past and Hekseville is to do her best to help people and prove that this one Shifter can make a difference.

Kat takes players through an engaging story, though it does occasionally stumble

Japan Studio really went out of its way to make Gravity Rush feel like a comic book come to life. Most of the major story moments take place in static panel segments with players sliding a figure across the screen to move from one speech bubble to the next. The characters are all cel-shaded figures. Missions are referred to episodes, complete with catchy titles. Even the trophies have fake comic book cover icons next to them! They took a theme and really went with it, which is fitting since this is pretty much an origin story for Kat the Gravity Queen. The story almost has a bit of a film noir element to it, but pretty much covers every angle. You have comedic and dramatic segments, and there is even an occasional romantic moment. It’s quite pretty and is visually spectacular since tons of little details are rendered.

Gravity Rush is also a very varied adventure. Kat doesn’t do the same thing every mission. In one case, she had to find a bomb and bring it to a bomb expert to be defused, then save policemen who were trapped on tall towers, chase down the enemy responsible for it all and finally fight him and his Nevi dragon. In another, she had to help a teenage student look for his missing classmate by checking rumors around town, chase down a kid who knew more than he was telling, help the classmate search the school from the air for the girl and then beat the girl before a Nevi pretty much ate her alive. You aren’t always doing the same thing, at least in story missions. Challenge missions basically fall into fighting or racing categories and tend to be similar aside from scaling difficulty. Still, the fact that the main missions always change thing up keeps every adventure feeling fresh – as though Kat were a real heroine who was facing original challenges every time.

If only the combat were better, Gravity Rush would have been a more solid experience. In an attempt to also keep things fresh and unusual, there are a variety of Nevi enemies. Nevis can only be defeated by attacking their weak points, which glow. Kat has a lot of attacks at her disposal, from assorted kicks, throwing, tornados and claw attacks, but things can get tricky when an enemy’s weak point is obscured or required gravity shifting to hit. That’s because the lock-on system, for a lack of better word, sucks. There’s no lock-on for gravity kicks. Special attacks like Scratch Tornado, Micro Black Hole and Gravity Typhoon do have a very basic lock-on, but it isn’t guaranteed as it’s easy to run into other objects on the way or miss your enemy should it decide to do something like move, which they do very often.

Even the standard gravity controls can be quite frustrating when Kat is moving. While her scarf does always point towards the ground, people who send her flying around the Heksevilla will definitely have trouble finding out which way is up or where to go. You can click certain points on the map to have an arrow with a distance marker appear on the main screen to help with navigation, which is great. If you’re just doing some general exploring around Hekseville, since you can roam around looking for spare crystals, citizens with rumors or new manhole covers that lead back to Kat’s home in the sewers, then that’s slightly less helpful.

Before we wrap this up, I want to talk about the most frustrating mission ever in Gravity Rush. It’s Episode 10: Curiosity Killed the Cat. This is a level where Kat goes to an alternate area to retrieve a lost part of Hekseville by exploring this other area and taking out a boss Nevi. Normally, this is no big deal, except prior to this adventure, Kat’s cat Dusty, which allows her to gravity shift, eats something that makes it sick. This means gravity shifting abilities are impaired for the entire mission, which is absolutely miserable considering Kat was taken to an area with lots of jumps and bosses perched in high places. It’s this episode that made me realize how imprecise and frustrating the gravity controls can be. When you have less time to shift, you better understand how easy it is to get disoriented or frustrating the lack of lock-on is.

So elaborate and extensive that it feels like a PS3 game.

I can honestly say that Gravity Rush is the best and most original game on the Vita right now, and I hope we see more portable games like it.I really love it. At the same time, however, I’m not really enthusiastic or excited about it. It’s very well done, but I don’t find myself drawn into it the way I am with other action games. I don’t find myself saying, “One more mission, then I’ll go do something else.” It’s more like, “Once I finish this one, I can go do something else.” I think the lack of a reliable lock-on system and the occasionally disorienting areas or boss fights are to blame. I still highly recommend Gravity Rush, but I also suggest you don’t make it your only Vita game in case you find yourself in my situation.

Site [Gravity Rush]

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