Gravity Rush review: Disorient Express

Gravity Rush for PS Vita is a particular kind of superhero simulation I can't recall seeing before: not only is it an excellent approximation of what I imagine it's like to be a superhero, it approximates the life of a new superhero, with all the awkwardness that entails.

Protagonist Kat, who wakes up with no memories and a starfield-patterned cat companion that allows her to alter her personal gravity, is not terribly graceful with her abilities, as befits someone who just gained the power to fall in any direction. She is, however, immediately willing to help save her new friends from mysterious "gravity storms" eating away parts of the town, and the "Nevi" monsters that start creeping in, and her enthusiasm makes up for the growing pains.%Gallery-156045% We experienced those growing pains together. At first, I had great difficulty controlling Kat's powers, which allow her to freeze mid-air, aim her trajectory (with the accelerometer or left analog) and then begin falling in that direction. I overshot targets routinely, fell off the side of the world, smashed into walls, ceilings and floors, and I may have accidentally launched a few bystanders into space by going anti-grav next to them and taking off.

But after a few hours of exploration and combat, a few hundred gems found lying about the city, and a few upgrades to my basic abilities thanks to those gems, I ... all right, I still careen around Hekseville like a drunk bullet. But I do so mostly on purpose, and I get where I need to go with speed and efficiency.

In fact, it's easy to forgive the things that Gravity Rush gets wrong because of the absolutely basic thing it gets spectacularly, brilliantly right: movement. You might have guessed already, but I found flying around wildly to be fun in itself. I frequently skipped shortcuts in favor of just slinging myself around from point A to point B –- thankfully, on-screen prompts directed me to waypoints (set from the map screen), so I didn't have to worry about getting lost or too confused about my spatial orientation.

Since you spend so much time just traveling from thing to thing in games, especially open-world ones, I'm surprised more attention isn't paid to making that fun. By putting so much joy in the navigation of the world, Gravity Rush shares space in my mind with standouts like Batman: Arkham City and Jet Set Radio.

But about those things the game gets wrong. There aren't that many enemies, and they can be infuriating in intentional ways, shooting projectiles directly at you as you're flying in for a powerful kick; waving their one glowing weak spot around in a way that's impossible to target; occasionally getting stuck in a wall, forcing you to hope your kick combo connects with the obscured weak spot. Furthermore, targeting your long-distance attacks is something that gets better as you level it up, meaning that it's just really hard for a long time.

There also aren't that many side missions or other things to do in the city, other than some unlockable challenge missions that make you race around or keep destroying Nevi to fill a timer. It's certainly not the breadth of content you'd expect from an open-world game. However, I was more than content to explore the whole city searching for gems. I am content to do that. I wish I was doing that right now.

The city of Hekseville, divided into a few different, unlocked districts, is a great place to have gravity powers. It's basically a series of floating islands, with tall buildings on top and interconnected latticeworks of pipes, girders, and outcroppings underneath – a smorgasbord of surfaces. And those are the places that make sense; a series of "rift planes" takes you in even more fanciful directions, through floating brick pathways, giant tubes, and mushroom platforms.

Kat's ascent to the height of herodom takes place within a beautiful, anime/European world, as just part of a fascinatingly ambiguous, deep, and somehow simultaneously fun storyline. When I had completed Gravity Rush, I wanted nothing more than to play more Gravity Rush, which, thankfully, I could do. There are still so many gems to find, on so many walls I haven't smashed into.

This review is based on a Vita review build of Gravity Rush provided by Sony.

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