Gravity Rush 2
Developed by: JAPAN Studio
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 4
“Gravity Rush 2” is a sugary-sweet conglomeration of the best of Japanese geek culture. Sharply animated and brilliantly colored, the game has the look of an anime film and tells much of its story through comic-book panels. It’s the first title I’ve played on the PS4 that has something of the madcap flare of “Bayonetta 2,” which leads me to think that cosplayers will be all over it.
The original “Gravity Rush” was held up by many as one of the reasons to own the Vita, Sony’s ill-fated handheld console. A re-mastered, 60-frames-per-second version was released for the PS4 last year. I made a half-hearted attempt to play it before my attention drifted elsewhere, so it was with barely any excitement that I went into “Gravity Rush 2.” To my delight, it won me over with its vertiginous gameplay which will probably wear out anyone out who’s prone to motion sickness.
The heroine of the game is Kat, a red-eyed, bubbly young woman who, with the help of a celestially-coated kitty named Dusty, bends gravity to her will. Kat can target an area in the sky and coerce gravity to fall in that direction until her power runs dry. When it does, she either has to wait for it to quickly recharge, or find a blue power up that replenishes it. As long as the blue gravity gauge in the upper-left corner of the screen is juiced, Kat can hover aloft. She can also run along the sides of walls, across the vaults of ceilings and over architectural supports. The game’s designers encourage you to do this by liberally dotting the environments with pink-colored gems used to upgrade Kat’s abilities. I was so taken with the gorgeous fine-line art style that I embraced these scavenger hunts which, in other titles, I usually find to be little more than busywork.
At the start of the game Kat is down on her luck. After a cataclysmic event known as a gravity storm separates her from her homeland, she finds herself at the mercy of a band of miners that take her in and work her hard. Sleeping in a bird coop, she likens her boss’s treatment of her to that of slave. All the same, she does her best to go along to get along with the debt-wracked people of the Banga Settlement who live on airborne boats. After a sketchy contractor tries to stiff the miners out of their compensation, Kat distinguishes herself by serving as the miners’ champion. After slipping the proverbial boot off their necks, circumstances force Kat and the boat people to draw harbor alongside a floating city. To her dismay, Kat discovers that the city’s wealthy inhabitants are hogging all of the resources, like fuel, leaving the city’s underclass in misery.
Basing large parts of the story around economic woes may well be the easiest path to claim social relevance these days. Still, “Gravity Rush 2” effectively makes one feel like a super-powered worker who is as ensnared in the same class structure as the rest of us working stiffs. There is a memorable moment in the game where a little girl tells Kat that she (Kat) doesn’t belong in a neighborhood because “it’s for the rich people like us.” The girl’s mother congratulates herself for raising “a wonderfully discriminating girl” then sends Kat off to deliver party invitations. One recipient is a wealthy man who enjoys stressing out his servants.
There are a number of standout missions in “Gravity Rush 2” that will have players scrambling every which way until it is hard to tell down from up. New mechanics are introduced regularly that expand Kat’s repertoire of moves and the game’s difficulty curve is gradual though substantive. There is one part in the latter half where I had to use Kat’s stasis ability — wrapping objects in a gravity field and allowing them to be hurled with great force — to catch missiles in the air before they hit their urban targets. I shudder to recollect the number of attempts I made before I got through that. But that period of trial and error crystallized for me one of the interesting things about games, and that’s how they force us to overcome internal limitations – e.g. skill deficiencies — through perseverance. Thinking about that and the story’s economic gripes, it made me consider again games’ subversive potential.
Christopher Byrd is a Brooklyn-based writer who has been playing video games since the days of the Atari 2600. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Barnes & Noble Review, Al Jazeera America, the Guardian and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Byrd.
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