Gravity Rush makes moving fun.
I picked up Gravity Rush: Remastered downtown on an impulse over the weekend, and it has had my full attention pretty much since then. Aside from the cool story, nice cell-shaded animation, and magic/steampunk aesthetic, its also got the most interesting system of movement that I’ve seen from a game in a long time. I missed out on it when it came out on vita, as did many people I think, but I’m definitely glad that I ended up getting it. The game is centered around Kat, a mysterious girl who fell out of the sky with the ability to alter gravity around her. She achieves this through her cosmic spirit animal, in the shape of a star studded (literally), black cat. As is to be expected, most of the gameplay revolves around this power, but what I found unexpected is how few limitations there actually are on that promise of being able to control gravity, as well as how it’s interesting that the game chooses to highlight it’s movement mechanic over almost anything else.
Usually, traversal is one of the less fun parts of a game. Unless there’s a random encounter system or some way to implement the game’s core mechanic into how they move from point A to B, moving between objectives is generally used for world building or dialogue. In Gravity Rush, however, the ability to shift gravity allows the player to effectively fly, and it’s such a joy to control that it eclipses any downtime that exists between missions. Mechanically, shifting works incredibly well. You use two buttons to do it: one that floats Kat into the air and allows the player to choose a direction for her to fall in with a second press, and one that reverts Kat’s gravity back to it’s original orientation. Aside from that, and a gauge that represents how long you are able to be in a gravity-shifted state, there are no rules. No surfaces that you are unable to walk on, no limit to how fast you can change direction, and no falling damage. Immediately upon picking up the controller for the first time, I felt like I had complete control of where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there. This freedom of movement is the basis for almost every other active mechanic the game introduces. Even combat is a headspinning affair. The game’s main enemies, called Nevi, are unbound by regular gravitational laws as well and many fights take place sideways, upside-down, or entirely in the air. Kat’s combat moveset is kinetic and graceful, albeit simple, and battles are a gratifying, balletic mix of evasion and aggression. If the controls were a little less tight, a little more restrained, or a little bit more obfuscating, this doctrine of total control would be overwhelming. But Gravity Rush makes it happen, and the results are awesome.
That’s not to say the game gives total control all of the time. Many story missions add modifiers to them that force you to think about the game space in a different way than you have been, to shift your perspective. Most of these don’t get too complex with playing on that convention, and full control is often returned quickly to the player, but I find it incredibly interesting that the game has committed so wholly to it’s pitch. The developers (Project Siren) are wholly aware of what is fun about their game, and as such have crafted almost every aspect of it to move towards that simple concept. It takes great steps to interweave what makes the game unique into the very DNA of the experience, creating a very focused game that works past its relative smallness in enemy design and combat options by providing grandness in every other way possible: with big ideas, interesting aesthetic design, and a beautiful core mechanic. The draw of the game is that you get to shift gravity, and that’s exactly what it delivers with minimal smoke, mirrors, and definitely no wires.
Good gaming, ladies and gentlemen!