Gravity Rush Remastered

Year: 2016
Alternate Title: Gravity Daze (Japan)
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Review Date: 11/11/16
Rating: ****

Originally released on the PS Vita in 2012, the remastered PS4 version includes improved graphics, smoother frame rates, and all of the original add-ons. It also includes pointless motion controls, whose only purpose is to shake the screen, so you have to hold the controller very still while you're playing. The game begins when a mysterious young woman falls from the sky and lands in the floating city of Hekseville. She befriends a magical cat that grants her the power to control gravity, which earns her the nickname "Kat." Wandering around the city with no memory of who she is, she uses her newfound powers to help people in distress and learn more about the strange world that she woke up in. She eventually becomes recognized as a superhero, and as more areas of the city become accessible, you have to deal with increasingly dangerous threats in the form of monsters, gravity storms, government propaganda, and a rival gravity shifter named Raven. The game ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, which makes me anxious to continue Kat's adventure in "Gravity Rush 2."

The first thing you notice when you start the game is the fantastic music score. Unfortunately, the next thing you experience are the clunky controls, which make movement and exploration extremely cumbersome. It isn't until after you complete the first couple of missions that you actually get to control the camera and move in a reasonable manner, but until then, the game is nearly unplayable. At this point, the world opens up and you can take in all of its majestic beauty. Hekseville is a fascinating city with a quaint steampunk aesthetic of brick and steel. It's very easy to get lost in its multiple levels, tunnels, and alleys, and your ability to walk on any surface gives the city even more dimensions. The art direction is superb and the game is simply stunning to look at. Kat is a charming and cheerful character, and the thoughtful writing imbues her with a very endearing personality. She's eager to please and be helpful, but quick to call out questionable motives and bad behavior. The game starts to lose its momentum around the halfway point when Kat leaves Hekseville and finds herself in a lost world where time is altered. By the time she returns, the game has pretty much worn out its welcome.

Apart from the first couple of missions, the controls are intuitive and easy to use, although it's easy to become disoriented when you're upside down or walking on a wall. As your powers increase, manipulating gravity allows you to fly around the city with an effortless and invigorating sense of freedom. Combat tends to be a bit repetitive and boils down to one basic attack that you use over and over. There are also several special attacks you can use to speed up the process, but you want to save those for the really difficult enemies. The difficulty ramps up at a steady and reasonable pace, but some of the battles in the second half of the game require a lot of perseverance to get through. The side missions offer some fun diversions and introduce more colorful characters. They also unlock various costumes for Kat, which is something I always appreciate. Unfortunately, the final side mission for the military is literally impossible, and appears to be different than the original Vita DLC. When it comes time to evacuate the second group of citizens, you are immediately killed as soon as you approach any one of them. Curiously, every online video and tutorial that I saw didn't include this part of the mission, which I find very odd. I spent at least an hour trying to figure out how to get around this, and eventually had to quit the game in disgust, and without the military uniform that I wanted to unlock. Thankfully, it's an optional mission and didn't keep me from completing the main story arc.

Overall, "Gravity Rush Remastered" is a slightly flawed, but extremely fun game to play, with a cute and endearing main character, a compelling (but often confusing) story, fantastic world design, beautiful scenery, and a delightful soundtrack. All of these elements come together to form a thoroughly engrossing experience.