These days, super heroes have penetrated every known quantity of media and beyond. They are on lunch boxes, posters and decorative tea cosies, and while Daredevil may be distinctively blind, for every disabled Catholic lawyer out there we have a dozen fire men, invisible people or strong behemoths; mundane powers proliferate the genre. Gravity Rush Remastered, the high definition version of the 2012 PlayStation Vita game, sets out to alter this with flair. Its heroine, Kat, can manipulate the gravity around her to zoom through a world of perplexing architecture with the help of a space cat named Dusty. This unique premise, along with a noticeable strain of Japanese quirk makes Gravity Rush a joyful game to both behold and play. Some fiddly controls mar the combat slightly, but do little to propel Kat’s tale from the heights of excellence.
Her powers arrive one day as if from nowhere, as she awakenss mysteriously without memory amongst the brown bricks of Auldnoir. At first, she can only perform rudimentary gravity tasks – well, as rudimentary as controlling the makeup of the universe can be – such as “falling” from one part of the city to another, or walking on any available surface. These abilities provide a movement system that is not only incredibly fun because of its fast-paced and dizzying propensity, but also one that is visually spectacular. The larger world of Hekesville, in which Auldnoir is situated, has been created using an aesthetic that gels excellently with Kat’s gravitational control; a series of homes, walkways and larger buildings blend into a hodgepodge of dense structures that suit both exploration and exhilarating falls. Propelling Kat from the highest building in the downtown region to the darker areas below the city truly justifies the titular use of the word “rush.” Moving from Vita to PlayStation 4 has also benefited the game superbly, as the wide-screen format allows for an even better view of Kat’s glorious zooming.
This manipulation of gravity is not just limited to movement, as Kat must use it defend herself against a horde of creepy, animal shadows known as Nevi, whose bulb-like protrusions must be kicked to breaking point to achieve combat success. Gravity kicks – instigated while floating – along with special attacks, such as the spiralling claw, have to be carefully aimed in order to effectively connect. Whenever Kat’s furious feet meet the Nevi bulbs, a satisfying crack of victory is produced. These instances are sometimes difficult to accomplish, however, due to flippant camera angles and troublesome aiming. I would set up an ample position to destroy a Nevi only to have the camera shift at the last minute, allowing the creature to move away from my kick. Kat would then glance off its side and fly into the distance; the Nevi, would be nonplussed. Combat works somewhat efficiently most of the time, especially when fighting on land, but these undesirable events are noticeably frustrating whenever they occur against larger or more difficult enemies.
These Nevi appear as a ghastly side effect to the gravity storm culminating below the city, propelling Kat into the position of reluctant superhero to save the day. These shadow monsters are not the only peril she must face, however, as two morally ambiguous villains thwart her every move, and forces far past the control of any human threaten the makeup of reality itself. These elements widen the story with depth, and produce a continually shifting mystery throughout the tale, but it still remains grounded despite the existentialism and space animals, because of Kat’s down-to-earth persona. Most of her scenes, told through beautiful, faithful-to-the-genre comic panels, characterise her as someone struggling to “find herself” amongst a torrent of otherworldly chaos. This humanising trait, experienced by all at some point in their lives, is only strengthened by her likeability. Kat is both self-conscious, as well as unabashedly charming, making her, above all, thoroughly relatable.
Abject quirkiness also keeps the story interesting from opening to close, as Kat regularly gets herself into awkward or confusing situations with members of Hekesville’s populace. A bratish father and son pressure her into helping them fund an ice cream stand; Kat must make a sundae for a wealthy homeowner after collecting sheets from her husband’s risqué manuscript. These objectives fit snugly into Gravity Rush’s world, as one that thrives on a weird mixture of poignancy and odd happenings. The aforementioned visual style is reminiscent of those “impossible staircase” conundrums, while the musical score flits between calmingly beautiful, to big band jazz, and back again. Uniqueness is the wind on which Gravity Rush rides.
Many sights are to be found around and below and above the tumbling blocks of Hekesville. A bevy of collectibles encourage careful investigation of its tunnels and platforms, while challenges, like killing a certain number of Nevi under a time constraint, provide a further outlet for expressing Kat’s offensive powers. These challenges, despite being fun, are bereft of the immersive qualities found throughout the city’s many narratives. Luckily, this remastered version includes the Vita’s downloadable content: six side missions that place Kat into the positions of maid, gang member and spy. Each quest adds a slew of interesting new characters, and satisfies the pangs for more story, an element that the original Vita game sorely lacked.
Upon its initial release, Gravity Rush was a joyful romp, full of quirk, unique abilities and mesmerising spectacle. These qualities remain as wonderful as ever in Gravity Rush Remastered and now, with the added story content, it is no doubt a superlative experience. PlayStation and physics fans rejoice, you have received your holy grail.
Quirk, fun and extravagance run amok in this fantastic remaster.
The 2012 Vita game is even better on PS4. With spectacular sights, world-bending powers and a thoroughly relatable protagonist, Gravity Rush Remastered is one of PlayStation's most unique titles.