It’s too early to state that the PS Vita’s soft system sales and lack of original software is approaching dire straights, but the situation on both fronts is less than ideal. E3 will certainly reveal a host of new games, and possibly new hardware bundles/price cuts, designed to right the ship, but what if you want to play something coolly original now?
Enter Sony Computer Entertainment’s Gravity Rush a game that many have deemed as the PS Vita’s savior. I sat down with the demo last night, and wasn’t an initial believer, but the more I played, the more it grew on me. A lot. The game won’t hit physical and digital store shelves for another two weeks, but this brief demo, which lays down the title’s unique mechanics, should keep players excited.
The story follows our gravity-shifting hero Kat, who has fallen from the sky with no memory of how or why it happened. Shortly afterward, Dusty, a cosmic cat, bestows gravity powers upon her. As quickly as Kat obtains her powers, another gravity-shifter arises with a raven bearing the same cosmic attributes as Dusty. The mysterious figure is on the run from the law, and that’s when the Nevi, reddish-black blobs of pure evil, appear to wreak havoc.
This is honestly the first game that has made me appreciate the Vita’s OLED screen. The cel-shaded and water-colored graphics combination create vibrant colors that burst off the screen, but the game itself looks a bit blurry. The pop-in and draw-distance is also apparent, but it didn’t hamper the experience. A mixture of small cut scenes and manga-inspired dialog segments advance the story, but the lack of voice acting might turn some away. Still, the conversation bubbles fit right into the games quirky theme and anime feel.
The game’s focus is the unique gravity-altering mechanics. When players press the R button, Kat enters a state of zero gravity, which result in her floating in the air. Players then select a surface with the right stick, or the Vita’s motion controls, on which Kat lands and walks. Both control methods work well for the most part. The motion control sensitivity is adjustable, but the right stick sensitivity isn’t; it’s a bit sensitive and may hamper targeting for some players.
Toying with gravity seems foreign at first as you try to learn the mechanics while adjusting to the changing camera angles as you float, but it quickly becomes familiar. Moving around the environment feels great, especially when falling/flying long distances; the speed picks up and the landing impact sends Kat into a heroic pose. The demo doesn’t allow you to travel far into the starting area often forcing you toward the objective, but the amount of freedom given to land on many of the buildings and surrounding sells the gravity control illusion. I hope the full version allows us to move freely around the environment without the restrictions set in the demo.
Combat is simple: Your first foray into heroism consists of simply mashing Square to kick any Nevi that stand in your way. As you progress through the demo, you gain access to a gravity kick. Kat enters zero gravity and then launches herself towards enemies. The more distance between Kat and the enemy, the bigger the pop.
Surprisingly, what ended up catching my attention and changing my overall opinion of Gravity Rush, is the breathtaking track that plays during the demo. Headphones are a must. The whimsical melody really fits well with the game’s atmosphere from the swell of the wind instruments to the melodic backdrop set by the piano. It’s both inspiring and soothing.
Frankly,based on this demo, Gravity Rush appears is a love it or hate it game. Otaku will certainly fall for the overall manga aesthetics while other gamers might dismiss the game’s gravity mechanics and constantly changing camera. The demo left me with a great impression, thanks to the solid and refreshing gameplay. It may not be the console-moving game Sony desperately needs, but it’s a damn good game that has a lot to offer.
Stay tuned for the full review in the coming days.