This week's edition of Critical Reception examines reactions to Sony's PS Vita action-RPG Gravity Rush, which reviews describe as "exactly the kind of original game that a fresh-faced system such as Vita needs." Gravity Rush currently earns a score of 85 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Joystiq's JC Fletcher gives Gravity Rush4.5 out of 5 stars. "Gravity Rush for PS Vita is a particular kind of superhero simulation I can't recall seeing before," he begins. "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."
Fletcher continues: "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."
The unique mechanics require practice. "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," Fletcher recalls. "After a few hours of exploration and combat [...], 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."
"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," Fletcher praises. "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."
"One of the pleasures of Gravity Rushís central gimmick is that it really, truly functions as it claims to," Edge notes. "Watching trailers, or playing the disorientating (in a good way) tutorial, itís easy to think that youíve been equipped with a hybrid superpower -- two parts Superman-style flight to one part Spider-Man wall-crawling stickiness. This is wrong, however: Katís power genuinely is the ability to alter the direction in which gravity pulls upon her."
However: "Gravity Rushís weakness Ė and itís a good one to have Ė is that none of the other mechanics can truly live up to that central idea. The visual style is striking, offering a kind of steampunk, Ghibli-meets-Dickens, sepia-toned quasi-Victorian city in which to play, fight and explore, but the tasks and challenges the game will set you are for the most part fairly simplistic."
"Gravity Rush might not always live up to the promise of its tutorial, but itís exactly the kind of original game that a fresh-faced system such as Vita needs, taking subtle, thoughtful advantage of its control inputs while showcasing its power," Edge's writer explains. "But itís also the kind of game the medium needs -- after years of mutated, supercharged, power-armoured wannabes with an envious eye on comic books, gaming has finally produced a unique superhero."
Alex Navarro at Giant Bomb rates Gravity Rush at 3 out of 5 stars. "I waited very patiently for Gravity Rush to finally kick into gear and start offering me some truly unique puzzles and challenges," he recalls. "It never happened."
Navarro continues: "Instead, Gravity Rush pushes its gravity-shifting mechanic so far to the forefront that you have to wonder if the developers even really knew what to do with their discovery. So much of it revolves around mindless busywork and mediocre combat that you can't help but feel a pang of sadness over the wasted opportunity that is this game."
Navarro feels that Gravity Rush's rudimentary objectives are a poor match for its inventive gameplay. "No aspect of its game design nor story ever matches up to the genius quality of the game's gravity shifting mechanic," he writes. "As great as all of that is, it's not much of a game to just fly around with no purpose. So to give your gravity-adjusting antics some context, Gravity Rush tosses together a goofy amnesia storyline, some half-baked combat mechanics, and enough dull errand-running and lite puzzle-solving to more or less fill 10 hours worth of game."
"Without more things to do and more engagement with the player, Gravity Rush can't sustain itself for the long-haul," Navarro concludes. "As it stands, the gravity-shifting gameplay offered might be complete enough for game-starved Vita owners on the hunt for something to do with their device.
"But do manage your expectations, lest you be disappointed by how hollow Gravity Rush is underneath its breathtaking shell. This is a game that does one thing very well. If you need more than that, then Gravity Rush isn't for you."