Nearly five years ago, a quirky little game called Gravity Rush emerged for the PlayStation Vita. Directed by Silent Hill creator Keiichiro Toyama, this 2012 release seemingly proved the viability of the Vita. Not merely a handheld version of a console property, Gravity Rush looked fantastic and used the Vita’s hardware features in smart ways, leading critics to think, “Hey, this whole ‘Vita’ thing could still take off!”
Of course, it didn’t, and though Sony’s portable still sees a slow trickle of Japanese releases, it simply couldn’t co-exist alongside the 3DS and mobile. Thankfully, the prolonged death of the Vita didn’t kill Gravity Rush. After getting a PlayStation 4 port early last year, it’s back with a bigger, prettier take on the debut’s action. And while Gravity Rush 2 certainly pulls off an impressive sense of scope with its exhilarating gameplay gimmick, at times it feels as if the developers couldn’t figure out anything interesting for you to do in a very interesting world.
Dancing on the Ceiling
If you didn’t play the original Gravity Rush, it essentially supercharged the gravity-based gameplay of 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy. With the push of a button, you can make heroine Kat bend the forces of nature to her will by changing gravity to suit her needs. If you want her to say, stick to the underside of a floating island, you’d first have to walk her off of it, then tap the R1 button to hover in midair and align a reticle with whatever Kat needs to stick to. This mechanic can be disorientating, but since switching gravity always entails floating in place, Gravity Rush 2 provides plenty of opportunities to sort things out.
Gravity Rush 2 amounts to more than just zipping around the skies, though. Kat can fight, either on the ground with punch-and-kick combo attacks, or in the air with maneuvers that wouldn’t be out of place in a dogfight. Since most enemies can’t be destroyed unless you break the glowing red orbs on their bodies, fighting successfully involves changing gravity rapidly in order to attack their weak spots. To be honest, Gravity Rush 2’s fights often grow frustrating and tedious, but it’s always satisfying when the weak spot you’ve been chasing after finally cracks, leaving the monster to dissolve into nothingness.
The Cost of an Open World
To Gravity Rush 2’s credit, the game features of one of the most colorful and beautiful open worlds I’ve ever toured in a video game. There’s a Ghibli-esque sense of life and humanity to its bustling world of floating islands, and it’s often fun just to zip around said islands to see just how many details the developers packed into every angle. Gravity Rush 2 sets up a class-based world where the rich literally live miles above the poor, meaning its open world offers an impressive amount of verticality amid its many tiers.
Unfortunately, though, much of Gravity Rush 2’s open world exists for the sake of padding. Protagonist Kat moves with a thrilling sense of speed, but sending her to a destination often means setting the gravity in the proper direction and waiting patiently for her to finally arrive. The expanded scope of this sequel makes for a fine selling point, but the execution often falters. Gravity Rush 2 may offer an impressively large world to fly around in, but when objectives lie so far apart from each other, playing the game involves a lot of passivity on the player’s part.
The Errand Girl
While Gravity Rush 2 sets up a fantastical world with a heroine who can control gravity, the actual action ends up being pretty mundane. While the game starts off with a few creative set pieces in surrealistic environments, it’s soon apparent these high points only return between long stretches of errand running. Gravity Rush 2 has a penchant for trotting out rote MMORPG and open-world game mission types you’ve likely seen thousands of times before. Most of the time, Kat plays errand girl, using her amazing powers to assume the role of a glorified postal worker.
I’ve played and loved plenty of games that lean on uninspired mission types, but here, they feel especially bland and out of place in a game with such an inspired concept. Not to be a backseat game designer, but I’d prefer Gravity Rush 2 went with smaller, focused levels—like its intro—over an open world where Kat’s abilities start to feel spread pretty thin by the third or fourth hour. Again, Gravity Rush 2 presents a delightful world and a gameplay concept that really grabs you, but by the time you start seeing stealth missions in a game focused on the rush of high velocity (hence the title), it becomes increasingly clear that bigger isn’t always better.
Should You Play Gravity Rush 2?
If I’m coming off a tad negative, it’s only because Gravity Rush 2 deserves better. The vibrant, anime-inspired world, lovable characters, and exhilarating gravity flipping gimmick aren’t served well by rote and uninspired open-world mission types. If you have a tolerance for this type of thing, you may be able to overlook Gravity Rush 2’s mediocre stretches for its great atmosphere and production values—especially the soundtrack. Though it’s guilty of falling back on the familiar far too many times, Gravity Rush 2 still cuts a unique profile unlike anything else on modern consoles.