Since its initial unveiling Gravity Rush has stood as a sign of the original concepts Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) intend to bring to the newest handheld format available. As a PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) exclusive, Gravity Rush promotes the ideal of innovative gameplay and stunning visual design during the earliest days of a console, and for the most part it manages to deliver on those promises.
Set in the fictitious floating town of Hekseville, the story of Gravity Rush begins as our protagonist Kat looses her memory. After running into a mysterious black cat, who she names Dusty, Kat receives the power to control gravity, which she then uses to protect people from the threat of a Gravity Storm and the Nevi monsters that have appeared along with it. This is a tale of selfless heroism, and is a typically ham-fisted affair with a barely likable heroine, but it’s efforts to offer reason to the eccentric platform gameplay design is at least passable.
Gravity Rush’s unique gameplay mechanic is that control of gravity. While at first it may sound as though the player is overpowered the structure of the challenges presented are obviously designed to work with the mechanic: when boiled down to its essence Kat’s ability is no different to flying with Kazooie, sinking with Metal Mario or spin dashing with Sonic. The player can jump as with any platform videogame, but this will typically be used only to project your avatar before a tap of the R button initiates the gravity function. Upon doing so a reticule will appear, which can be repositioned with the right analog stick, and another press of the R button will realign gravity to the same face as whichever platform you have targeted. This plane will then remain in command of gravity until the player alters it once again, or their gravity meter expires.
Of course, with this gravity alteration principle being the core mechanic, the vast majority of Gravity Rush’s challenges are designed around it. Players will be asked to leap to-and-from moving platforms, reach distant objects and protect other characters, along with an assortment of other familiar platform tropes. All of this is presented to the player within the opening few chapters, so it’s not long before Gravity Rush can begin ramping up the difficulty.
The structure of the videogame is very similar to that of Super Mario 64 (and the hundreds of platform titles that have followed since) with Hekseville acting as the hub in which story missions appear one-by-one. Additional challenges are available with every story mission that you complete, and a number of collectible hidden items are littered throughout the hub. One series of these items is a currency that allows the player to upgrade certain character traits, from health to the duration of the gravity meter.
In terms of technical prowess, Gravity Rush is a mixed bag. Its visual quality is certainly commendable for a handheld title – arguably one of the finest videogames yet to appear on the PlayStation Vita console – and yet there’s still an issue with the variety of landscapes. Gravity Rush’s cel-shading exudes an anime quality that is only compounded bit its comic book inspired story sequences, and adds a distinctive personality to the videogame as a whole. The sound quality is also commendable, despite Gravity Rush’s comparatively diminutive download package; weighing in at just 1,450 MB the videogame is suitable for storage on even the smallest memory card currently available for the console.
Gravity Rush may be a familiar experience at its most basic level, but it’s the fact that its chosen unique selling point hasn’t been attempted before that makes it such a worthwhile entertainment product. Platform videogames are becoming fewer and less inspired, and so when one manages to capture the console gaming audience in the way that Gravity Rush has it should most certainly be respected. Given that it delivers on most of its promises, Gravity Rush is a welcome addition to the PlayStation Vita platform. However, that being said, it is arguably a title with limited ingenuity, and as such any future sequel would have to add a lot of new things to the mix in order to remain just as successful.