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Sept. 21, 2017

Game On!

Gravity Rush

June 19, 2012, 5:30 pm
By Alex De Vore

Rush is a pretty good way to put it.

The Gist
The city of Auldnoir has been torn apart by mysterious gravity storms, the police cannot stop an evil thief hell-bent on stealing the sacred gems which protect the city's various districts and, to make matters worse, you have lost your memory. You are Kat, a young girl who wakes up without any recollection of who she is or what she is doing in the beautiful city of Auldnoir. With your sidekick cat Dusty, you have been given the ability to shift gravity, and you must use your new powers to help the city become whole again while stopping the mysterious Nevi from destroying whatever chance its denizens have at a normal life. But you're not the only young woman with these powers, and unless you get to the bottom of things the world as you know it is in some serious trouble.

The Good
The newest title from developer Japan Studio (Ape Escape), Gravity Rush is the game that's going to make owning a Vita truly worth it. From the beautiful visuals and memorable story to the awesome music and interesting use of the hardware's gyroscopic capabilities, this game is impossible to put down. Within the first moments, the city of Auldnoir comes to life thanks to the Vita's OLED screen. It's an almost European civilization full of trains, flying boats, interesting districts and insane citizens. The distinct, cell-shaded graphics help to paint a gorgeous picture, and the Escher-esque architecture found in Auldnoir makes for one of the most unique-looking games of this generation.

As Kat, players are tasked with reuniting different areas of the city that have broken off and floated away thanks to the mysterious gravity storms. To do so, you'll need to use various abilities such as catapulting yourself across great distances, sliding through city streets at breakneck speed and kicking serious ass in karate style.

Controls are highly responsive. With a simple button tap, Kat floats in the air until the Vita is tilted in the direction you wish to send her, and another tap sends her flying until she has collided with any surface. Pressing your thumbs to the bottom corners of the front touch-screen cause Kat to slide through city streets. A simple swipe allows for an effective dodge-roll. It's all very intuitive, and even though it's not something we're used to, it is easy to pick up.

It's nice that Kat is a strong and adventurous young woman who isn't afraid to beat some ass or show her vulnerable side. She's a helpful and empathetic character who simply wants to help anyone she can, and since women are all too often portrayed in games as weak or dependent on Italian plumbers, it's nice to see a lady standing out from the pack. It's still a little early to tell, but let's assume the game performs well and goes franchise...Kat has the potential to join the ranks of Lara Croft and Elena Fischer in the pantheon of badass girls in games.

Combat in Gravity Rush is fantastic, and it's not long before you're stringing together combos alongside your arsenal of super abilities. Flinging yourself across a city square in a gravity-defying ninja kick never gets old, and thanks to the comprehensive upgrade tree, the more ass you kick, the more easily/gracefully you'll take down your foes. Upgrades are unlocked through the collection of power gems (a little old school, but still satisfying to search out) which can be earned by defeating enemies or simply finding them laying about in the environments. And given the super-fun traversal methods at Kat's disposal, it's totally worth it spend downtime between missions exploring for gems.

There are a number of side-quest style challenges which help to hone Kat's powers. These mini-mission events come in the form of races, combat, gravity sliding and more. This is an ingenious way to allow for more upgrading while also helping players master the mechanics of the game. And again, it's totally fun to throw Kat and her cat all over the place, so these challenges provide the perfect opportunity.

The Bad
There are odd moments throughout Gravity Rush during which it becomes apparent that even though Kat is a young girl, her character was conceived and written by dudes. We're supposed to believe Kat is a strong and independent heroin, but when she's blushing at the thought of getting a date or worrying about what that student from the university district thought of her, it seems a little sexist and doesn't really add to anything.

Later in the game we are given the option of changing outfits, but the slutty schoolgirl skirt or barely-there bikini-like thing don't seem like the type of clothes one wears when they wish to be taken seriously during their quest to save the world.

Certain abilities require a whole lot of practice to master and can be frustrating at first. For example, the first couple gravity slide challenges almost made me throw my Vita out the window after I'd fallen into the abyss below Auldnoir repeatedly.

There are often times when the story lags, and though it's not long before things get back on track and you're off on another Nevi-killing slaughter-fest, missions involving the search for furniture or hearing about a young detective's weird inability to create more than one plan serve little purpose beyond that of a device for extra gameplay hours. 

The Bottom Line
Though there have been a few standout titles for the Vita, we haven't had a whole lot of reasons to pick one up. Gravity Rush, however, stands out as a one-of-a-kind adventure full of fresh ideas. Taking full advantage of the Vita's touch screen and gyroscope adds a new layer of challenge without becoming so difficult as to cause too much frustration. Kat is the type of character we can all relate to—whether you're a man or a woman—and you'll find yourself rooting for her in her quest to save a city while maintaining her grip on living the life of a normal girl. Simply put, if you've been holding off on picking up the Vita, now's the time to get in on it.

The Grade
Let it be known to all men and women that Gravity Rush receives a score of 4.5 out of 5 stars!

The Details
Gravity Rush

Platform: PSVita

Developer: Japan Studio

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Rating: T for Teen

Cost: $39.99


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