Superheroes get around town in lots of ways. Superman flies, Spiderman Web Slings, Batman glides. Web slinging was always my favourite because it requires skill, agility and accuracy but it also lacks the exact precision of flying which makes it less predictable and more exciting. Stan Lee thought up web slinging over 40 years ago and now Naoko Sato (previously known for the Siren series and the first Silent Hill), may have just come up with an even cooler form of super hero transportation.
Meet Kat, she’s a typical manga style character; young, sexy, troubled and she has a superpower that she’s learning to control. Specifically, she has the power to manipulate gravity which means she can turn off gravity’s effect on her and then she can aim at any point, in any direction and turn gravity back on so that way becomes her new ‘down’ and she falls in that direction. If she lands on the side of a building, she can then walk along that wall just like we all walk on the ground. Confused? You probably should be, the only way to really understand this is to play it, which is what I did and here is what I found…
The game opens with Kat waking up on the street with no memory of who or where she is. She quickly realises she has this ability to wield gravity and that she is located in Hekesville which is a floating city. Being able to manipulate gravity is particularly handy when you’re situated in a floating city and Kat sets off on an exciting and intriguing adventure that brings her from the streets and sewers of Hekesville to other dimensions, where up is down and down is up and she battles creatures of all shapes and sizes including other hot chicks.
The graphics are cell shaded which means they are done using a type of non-photorealistic rendering designed to make computer graphics appear to be hand-drawn. This results in a very cool comic book effect that fits in superbly with the cut scenes which are also done as comic strips.
The development team at SCE Studios Japan put a huge amount of effort into creating the floating city of Hekesville. You can go everywhere from the top of the highest building to underneath the foundations of the city and everywhere in between. It feels completely open world and hours can be spent exploring the city and doing side missions after completing all 21 chapters of the campaign.
The plot is that a mysterious gravity storm has appeared over the city and monsters called Nevi are causing havoc for the citizens of Hekesville. As the game progresses, the story gets more intriguing as it includes several characters including a flirtatious cop, an old dude who created the city, (just like the Architect in The Matrix), corrupt politicians and other hot chicks who have similar powers. The story evolves in a way that will keep you interested as each mission reveals a new part of the city or another realm, some of which are extremely exciting. They include a volcanic level, a level where Kat battles monsters as she falls into an abyss and another that involves portals and puzzle solving, (the puzzles aren’t challenging and the portals are really cool).
This is all good stuff but where the game really stands out, is the gravity manipulation game mechanics. I’ve already explained how Kat can control the direction of the effect of gravity on her but she can also use it to seriously kick ass. The basic attack is a gravity kick which means she flies in her chosen direction, feet first, inflicting major damage on whatever she connects with. The best thing about this move is how the Vita controls are so cleverly employed to make it work. The right analog stick controls the direction Kat faces but the tilt control allows further momentum for the direction of the gravity effect. It’s difficult to explain but you’ll quickly get the hang of it and before you know it, you’ll be defying gravity in style all over the city.
There are also special combat moves that are obtained as the game progresses. These are critical to effective combat and they are well worth the effort of finding them. One of them turns Kat into a human torpedo, another creates a type of gravity black hole to absorb enemies and another propels devastating energy in the direction she’s facing. They are all useful, all imaginative and all well designed. There is an upgrade system that can be accessed at any time which allows you to increase Kat’s abilities as you collect jewels that are dotted all over the city. Some abilities are more useful than others so it’s important to increase these first but as there is an abundance of jewels, there is plenty of opportunity to increase all of her powers.
As each mission is played, an onscreen arrow indicates the direction of the target. At first I thought this was a little unnecessary but due to the design of the city, it could take a long time just to figure out where to go, so frustration could quickly kick in without this directional aid. A map can also be accessed at any time and it displays the location of the next mission as well as information points around the city and the location of the bonus missions.
The Nevi enemies range in size from smaller than human to huge guys the size of a double decker bus. Combat with them can get a little repetitive as each of them has the same weak spot and that’s how you kill them. The small guys have a single glowing red spot and the big ones have multiple glowing red spots. Just smash the red spots and the Nevi will die, it’s almost always that simple. Several missions have an end of level monster that takes a lot more effort to kill and they sometimes involve getting the enemy to chase you in an effort to lure it into a trap set by a comrade.
Which brings me nicely to the comrades. Some of the characters are similar to our protagonist i.e. they have super powers, wear super sexy outfits and they are just super. Every red blooded ape will have a few inappropriate thoughts about these characters and the level where Kat goes undercover as a school girl is just downright unfair. It feels so wrong, yet it’s also very, very right. Anyway, getting back to the point, when the other girls come into the story it usually involves a battle and some of these are great fun. They take place on roof tops, on the sides of buildings and underneath buildings. This combat differs from battling the Nevi and it breaks up the fighting scenes nicely so as not to become monotonous.
Some of the cut scenes are also a little edgy. In one in particular, Kat goes for a shower and afterwards she drops her towel. You get to see just enough to get the imagination going and as a man in my thirties, I freely admit that I felt slightly guilty for having those thoughts, so then I had a shower – a cold one.
There isn’t an online multiplayer option but I don’t think that multiplayer would suit this type of game as it would be utter chaos and incredibly difficult to get any kind of organised game going. There are DLC packs available that cost around €4 and these will add some extra story and challenge missions. One will add a special maid costume for Kat and this ape reckons that it would be worth it for the maid costume alone.
If I could sum up Gravity Rush in a few words it would be “innovative, clever, sexy, fun & addictive”. It is a totally immersive game with a full and intriguing story, interesting characters, varying types of levels and expansive environments to explore. It is a home console game but it’s on your Vita where is utilises the controls brilliantly, creating a totally unique gaming experience. For anyone who needed it, this is proof that the Vita is not just about arcade style and mini level games as this shows that you can play full and in depth games without being restricted to your home. It delivers hours of top quality gaming and it really makes you get your Manga on, so much so that you will want to run out and stock up on more Japanese styled vids, games and comics just to continue the vibe. – Plus it’s sexy. A definite purchase for any Vita owner.