Saturday, May 14, 2016

Review #325: Gravity Rush

 I'm glad it moved on to the PS4.
 Gravity Rush was often touted as the PS Vita's killer ap, so much so that Sony even tried making Kat, the main character, the face of the Vita, and it's an assessment I don't quite agree with.

 Gravity Rush puts you on the heels of Kat, a dark-skinned, gravity manipulating lass that suffers from amnesia, thrust upon a world with towns that float on the sky. The art directions is a bit drab, with towns made up of browns, browns and more browns against green, yellow and red skies. As a whole, it's not entirely uninteresting, but the different 'cities' lack landmarks, or distinctive architecture to make them stand out. The idea of floating towns is not particularly original, but the way you traverse them are what makes it engaging, but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. As far as the plot of the game goes... it's lacks focus. Things go unexplained, poorly explained or are just forgotten. There's this bad guy, Alias, who is stealing power sources, and you fight him once and... the game forgets about him and his goal. Later on, Kat has a dream where Alias takes off his mask and... we are never told who she saw. Then there's this character, 'The creator' who says created the world and... that's about it. And then you meet ANOTHER creator, and just what the hell is a creator and why is there more than one!? Then there's the bad guys, the Nevi, and in one chapter one is shown trying to 'protect' a human and... the issue is never picked up again. There's also, without spoiling too much, a sort of timeskip that's never explained too well. Yeah, the plot is all over the place.
 The game features a sandbox world comprised of four different 'floating islands' or towns, but there's not a whole lot to do. There's crystals to collect, 16 'travelers' to find(Technically, it's two of them, which are hidden in 16 different places), challenges to find and tackle and the 22 different story missions. And that's pretty much it. Yeah, there's not a lot to do or find, and the rewards for exploring are crystals that can be used to enhance Kat's abilities. Luckily, the game main's mechanic, gravity control, is a blast to use. Once you level up your gauge consumption and shifting speed, you can easily go from town to town without even touching the ground, and the sense of speed and flight make it a total pleasure to just fly around and absorb the sights(as brown and mundane as they can be).

 The controls are a bit of a mixed bag. Firstly, touchscreen functions are mandatory, dodging is done by swiping on the screen, and gravity sliding is done by touch both the lower right and lower left parts of the screen, and then... turning the Vita itself like a steering wheel. Dodging might be annoying, but you can get used to it, sliding is downright uncontrollable. Every time the game implied I should slide, I just floated instead. The R button is used to have Kat float, and then you can aim by moving the Vita around or using the right analog stick, tapping R again will have Kat fly towards the aiming reticule, or you can just hold X to do it faster, and touching any surface will make Kat stick to it. It lacks finesse, but it's not an issue unless you are fighting, but when it comes to exploring, it's a joy to perform. Lastly, holding the circle button will create and Stasis field that let's you shoot objects such as boxes as projectiles.
 Combat is, sadly, one of the game's weakest components. I understand, the game had full 360 movement, so they felt like they had to tie into the combat as well. Enemies are very, very uninspired. The 'Nevi' are blobs of gooey stuff that resemble animals, like swordfishes or frogs. But you can't simply attack them, oh no, they have glowing orbs on their bodies that you must destroy in order to defeat. This means that Kat's on-ground kick is useless on 90% of the enemies, it also means that you are gonna have to use the imprecise floating-and-flying to get a good angle, and then use a gravity kick towards their glowing orbs. Sounds uninspired? It is. It's also repetitive, and most of the time makes you wish you could simply kick them to death.

 Combat? Boring. Art Direction? Well, the characters are alright, Kat and Yunica in particular look fantastic, but the cities lack personality and color. But even then, EVEN THEN, flying around is a blast. And this is why, while most people felt betrayed that Gravity Rush 2 will be a PS4 exclusive, I actually think it's a brilliant move. The reason the town felt so lifeless was, probably, to keep the framerate from chugging. With more buttons on the joystick, the lousy and unnecessary touch controls and motion sensors can be done away with. I actually think that the move to a proper home console will benefit the game greatly, because it shows a lot of potential, and they nailed their core mechanic just right.
 When it comes to Gravity Rush, while I felt a lot of it was rather dull and forgettable, I can't stress enough just how good the core mechanic, gravity shifting, feels. Flying around just for the heck of flying around made me forget how bored I felt when going through some of the more tedious parts of the game(Seriously, that spire you have to climb down in order to find a letter... and they make you go through it twice. TWICE!!), it made me forget just how lame I found the combat and the enemies to be. I've already forgotten about how some of the towns looked, that's how mundane they were, but the flying? That stuck with me. And I'm sure they are gonna make a much better game with Gravity Rush 2.
 6.5 out of 10

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