Sometimes, a piece of hardware needs to be flipped on its head in order to find new success. The PlayStation Vita has flatlined since release due to inconsistent software and a lack of a real killer app, and while the mind-bending Gravity Rush may be taking my first statement a little bit too literally, this action title once destined for a PlayStation 3 release might be exactly what Sony’s handheld needs to grab a few new pairs of eyes. The game doesn’t force you to vigorously rub the touchscreen or hold the Vita up to the nearest bright light to solve a puzzle, as this isn’t an experience dependent on gimmicks. Instead, Gravity Rush impresses with a unique artistic style and a fresh gameplay hook that makes it one of the most promising games on Sony’s handheld.
The grim yet multihued adventure takes place in the floating town of Hekseville, where the protagonist Kat resides with her memories in shambles. While traversing the town, the confused girl runs into a mysterious black cat (with a “C”) that bestows upon her the bizarre ability to control gravity. Though this “gift” is baffling to begin with, the appearance of the Gravity Storm and the Nevi monsters force the unlikely hero to use her abilities as not only a means of self-defense, but as protection for the people of Hekseville.
It’s a group of civilians the player will want to save, too. Game director Keiichiro Toyama, best known for terrifying titles like Siren and Silent Hill, has had plenty of time to lovingly craft the environments and people in the world of Gravity Rush. Toyama has claimed the game was conceptualized over 10 years ago and is inspired by the French comics he read so regularly in his youth. This allows for a beautiful mix between the Japanese anime style Toyama is so familiar with and the cel-shaded appearance of a western comic book to come to life in the physiological title, giving Gravity Rush both a striking tone and look. Even though the hardware is new, this is the first game Toyama ever wanted to build and the attention to detail easily represents this claim.
It’s not all spectacle and style – Gravity Rush’s main draw is its gravity based gameplay. Walking from place to place as Kat feels fluid yet weighty to begin with, but by simply pressing the right shoulder button, any ties holding both objects and people to the Earth cease to exist. Cardinal directions quickly become hazy, but it’s painless to control character movement in the z-axis with the Vita. The right stick, as well as the gyroscopes in the device itself allows Kat to take aim with either an offensive maneuver against the Nevi or a simple transition from the air to the side of a structure. The protagonist almost dances from building to building in order to progress – effortlessly transitioning from the sidewalk to a 90-degree climb of a skyscraper. While some combo-based combat does take place when both of Kat’s feet are planted, it’s much more intuitive to weightlessly cut through the air with a flying kick.
The demo that’s available now on the PlayStation Network showcases both small, unimposing enemies and massive creatures that demand full attention. These larger Nevi require both quick timing and precision to conquer, as radiant bulbs located somewhere on their person are the only way to bring them down. The weak points may be large and glowing, but the constant offense being doled out by the creatures makes combat a true challenge. This isn’t a mindless action game where button mashing is rewarded, as careful use of gravity and well-placed attacks are often not just the correct response to a given situation, but the only answer to the puzzle.
Sony doesn’t need flashy tricks or Vita-specific novelties to attract the masses – just good games. Gravity Rush is shaping up to be just that, and maybe even something a bit more special that can draw in a few gamers who have never given the handheld the time of day. It may not star a well-known character or continue a franchise originated on the PlayStation 3, but all Vita owners and follows should mark their calendars for its highly anticipated June 12 release date.
Is this a game you’d consider purchasing a Vita for? Does the pedigree of the developer help make it a more appealing package? If so, you can grab your pre-order of Gravity Rush right now! Let us know what you think of the title in the comments, or discuss Gravity Rush in our forums.