Gravity Rush is available on Playstation 4 & 5.
I’ve been adoring every minute I can sneak in with Gravity Rush.
I could be playing Elden Ring, generating a wealth of water-cooler stories and talking points about character builds.
I could catch up on the Kirby games or see how absolutely chaotic Strangers of Paradise ended up; both series are top-of-mind this week.
Or I could even play The Lost Frontier, like I’ve been meaning to for ages. And I really wanted to, as a send-off to a series that made me fall in love with video games.
Instead, I’ve just fallen head-first into a game that’s been sitting on my shelf “for a rainy day”. One of those “I’ll-probably-like-this-when-I-get-to-it” titles that I so rarely end up, y’know, actually getting to. But – get this – those hang around on the shelf for a reason.
Gravity Rush, despite being a whole decade old now, often feels more fresh than almost anything else I’ve played this year.
Up Is Down
Before starting Gravity Rush, I knew two exactly things about it:
- The main character is an upbeat Peter-Parker-type
- Every last screenshot I’d seen involved her free-falling upwards or sideways
( Okay, this is a bit of an exaggeration. But any other details had mostly left my memory anyway, so roll with it. )
That first element is a known quantity. Everybody loves a Spider-man. That’s an easy sell.
The second is something I’ve done in maybe one other video game before, not counting on-rails setpieces.
And here is where I give the world’s hardest high-five to anybody who recognizes the name Shattered Horizon. For the other 99% of the crowd, it was a first-person shooter from 2009, which on its own is an utterly unremarkable description. The hook is that it plays like the Battle Room from Ender’s Game – a fully 3D environment that begs you to make full use of all three of those dimensions.
An O’Niell cylinder is an entirely different puzzle to attack – let alone defend – than a walled fortification on solid ground.
It was fascinating, to the point that I nearly missed a class or two for it.
But not fascinating enough to others to survive much more than a few years, unfortunately. And, when an online game loses support, that’s pretty much that. No more gunslinging across the Z-axis for me.
…thought that’s mostly just because I didn’t own a Vita, apparently.
Falling With Style
Now, I’m not going to pretend that Gravity Rush is playing in exactly the same space. The ten-year-old “wanna-be-an-astronaut-when-I-grow-up” slice of my brain accepts no substitutes. Still, in its own way, it’s hitting on that same specific “Ooooooh! I don’t have reflexes built for this yet!” sensation.
You can see it in how non-gamers approach modern titles – there’s just an assumed language to most video games. And that helps get you from zero to sword-swingin’ in minutes, sure. But it can also make whole categories of games, frankly, feel very samey.
And it also makes it so, so obvious when something treads outside that language to create something actually novel.
If I try to describe what it’s like to actually play Gravity Rush, it’s going to sound either overly simple or overly pedantic. You hit a button to float, then hit the button again to make gravity “point” in that direction. Every task in the game boils down to finding a rhythm between those to throw the heroic Kat around.
Fall up skyscrapers. Stick to walls. Tumble along the ground and crash into petty thieves – the skies are your oyster.
Actual and proper freedom of movement.
Frankly, it doesn’t even bother me that there’s little to actually do in Hekseville. 10 hours of story, another couple of side-quests, and a run of Obligatory Open-World Race Challenges. Except, for once, I actually enjoy doing petty time trials; efficient movement is the core gameplay, as is knowing your way around the city. And not just as a mini-map – as an object with layers and depth and hidden nooks, to move around and through ever-more-eloquently.
In my first hour, I “tripped” and crashed off the side of a monorail track. In my eighth, I was sliding along it pulling kickflips.
The last time I felt a personal growth curve like that in a game, I finally got kinda-okay at Street Fighter.
At Any Age
What’s more, this was built for the ( sadly deceased ) Playstation Vita, so there was even less to work with at the time.
No wonder people adore that little console so much – it would’ve blown my socks off to play this on a handheld in 2012. A physics engine used for more than projectile motion. Covering for its limited cutscene animation with hyper-charming comic-book pages. I even want to play with its original full-tilt motion controls now, just to see what it’s like to physically move around and feel a small slice of Kat’s vertigo.
But the main thing that keeps me thinking about it is that, in the decade since, there’s been nothing else really quite like it.
Sure, some superhero games get close with their flight and acrobatics. But that’s not really the same sense of weightlessness, of having free reign over a space. With those, you soar, you defy gravity.
Kat doesn’t need that; she is gravity.
Crashing down to earth feels like a whale breaching for air; necessary, but hardly where she belongs. I don’t want to speed over the land beneath, or even for the land to be beneath. I want it to whiz past my ear as I lurch toward town square, spiraling down with the full confidence that I can toss myself back up, trampoline-like, at the drop of a hat.
It’s a rush.
And if anybody finds another game in the same mindset, let me know. But I’ve looked, and I haven’t.
Gravity Rush, it seems, remains one-of-a-kind.