Gravity Rush

How To Miss The Ground

Gravity Rush lets you decide what’s up and down.

By Anthony John Agnello • June 14, 2012

Douglas Adams’ fictional know-it-all handbook The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy makes flying sound simultaneously easy and impossible: “There is an art, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss…. Clearly, it is the second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.”

Gravity Rush’s star, Kat, is a master of the second part. One day, she wakes up, no clue who she is, alongside a kitten covered in stars. She finds she can change her personal gravity at will. She can jump in the air, hang there, then “fall” toward her destination as though it were terra firma, shifting as she goes. She’s so damn good at flying that she only misses the ground when she wants to. You get to experience the liberating joy of her skills in Rush, the PlayStation Vita’s first essential game.

Learning to fly is your first task in Rush, and becoming a hero is the second. When Kat comes to in the streets of Hekseville—a crumbling city in the sky that looks like an architectural collaboration between Charles Dickens and Little Nemo creator Winsor McCay—“gravity storms” are pulling the town and its citizens apart. Rather than springing into action with a series of instantly graceful acrobatic maneuvers, Kat stumbles while getting to know her abilities. She stumbles into a few walls before she collects herself enough to rescue a boy who was about to be sucked into oblivion.

Gravity Rush

So the game teaches you how to play at the same moment its character is coming to terms with their supernatural abilities. Those growing pains create an instant connection between player and game. Rush isn’t immediately disorienting, which is a testament to the strength of that connection. There are moments when you’re flipping around above the city so swiftly that any sense of what is properly up and down is lost. Kat’s flowing hair and scarf always droop toward the actual ground, though, cleverly cluing you in on where you are. A click of the Vita’s left trigger will also drop you right back down, as well.

Coming to know Hekseville is as much a learning process as coming to know Kat, and Rush is structured in a way that naturally reveals both. The game is laid out much like other open-world games such as InFamous and Prototype, with a number of mini-game diversions scattered around the city in addition to missions that push the story forward. The mini-games are more than just excuses to let you hurl yourself around. Each one is a public service to the Hekseville citizenry as well as a way to boost up Kat’s abilities. If you fix the lights in the streets around the local academy, Kat’s reputation improves, and you can access a challenge to race through the streets.

The first two-thirds of the game are devoted to this relationship. Kat meets people in need and then dives, with the help of Hekseville’s enigmatic creator, into the gravity storms to rescue whole boroughs and reincorporate them into the municipal whole. The final third is devoted to unraveling some of the mystery around what’s actually happening to the city—why there are people who can change gravity, for instance—and ultimately repairing the place.

Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush never shows its full hand, though, which lends the game an extra charm. Hekseville, Kat, and her friends are beautiful and beguiling. Each new borough rescued from the void appears bound to a certain time of day. It’s always night in the entertainment district, the sky a deep purple. Downtown, the sky is always green and sunny, like a summer storm is just seconds away from erupting. Getting to fly through the city and even under it, unearthing its history and personality, is enough of a pleasure on its own that the concerns of advancing the story and hunting monsters can feel less urgent. The complete backstory remains elusive, though, even as the rules of Kat’s world become clearer—the perfect balance for a fantasy.

Director and creative lead Keiichiro Toyama has a history of striking that balance between a dream world’s mystery and its tangible rules. His first game, Silent Hill, dropped players into a dark, hopeless world where city streets shift underneath them, making uncertainty the chief antagonist. Gravity Rush is Silent Hill’s opposite, sumptuous instead of ugly and liberated rather than confining. The world— how you see it and pass through it—is in your hands, so just miss the ground and soar.

Gravity Rush
Developer: Sony Japan Studio/Project Siren
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Price: $40
Rating: T

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83 Responses to “How To Miss The Ground”

  1. Cloks says:

    Wait, they make games for the Vita?

    • George_Liquor says:

      This is the game my local Best Buy had running on their demo Vita when it first hit the shelves. It seemed fun, but slow to start. I spent 10 minutes or so chasing down a cat who “seemed to know something.”

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        Oh, cats. The only time I’ve ever been delighted by that wise-guide trope was in Ghost Trick. And maybe the Aristocats.

  2. GhaleonQ says:

    I’m not going to suggest that the PSP and Vita are as vital in 2012 as the PSP was in its glory years, but games this creative and memorable are in double-digits for this year, now.  Now that 1 of my favorites, Playstation C.A.M.P., has sales success and is pushing the Vita with Tokyo Jungle, I’m optimistic for the future.

    Excellent review, Anthony.  Team Siren’s clarity of ideas match the clarity of the review.  I think it takes that clarity to avoid making a mess of a very difficult-to-develop concept. It’s so Sony in the way that Jet Set Radio was so that era of Sega.

    I do want to add that the music is a soundtrack of the year contender.  Think of every underrated soundtrack/series you’ve known.  Just Breed, To The End Of Makyo series, Sakura Wars series, Alundra series, Mars Story, Super Attacking God Xardion: this man.  As far as I can tell, he’s spent more time on animation lately before reappearing for 1/2 of the End Of Eternity/Resonance Of Fate soundtrack.  Then, he appears with this.  It’s downright triumphant.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

      The problem I see is the limited audience (in the States, anyway) for Vita games.  You can foster the most creative, well-made catalog, but I’d believe that Vita lost a lot of possible customers by having a weak launch lineup.  If they offer a price break (despite the Swiss-knife-like variety of fuctions, I can shake the feeling that $249 is pretty steep), I can see people coming on board and embracing this handheld platform.  If they don’t, I can see the Vita going the way of the PSP.

      • doyourealize says:

        The PS3 overcame a weak launch, so hopefully the Vita will, too. I don’t have one, but am increasingly annoyed at this because of the excellent games I keep reading about. They keep it up, and they could turn the Vita around.

        • caspiancomic says:

           I think you’re being overly charitable by calling the PS3 launch “weak”. Sony seemed hellbent on personally insulting as many potential customers as they could when they put that thing on the market. The fact that Sony is even still around today is frankly kind of surprising.

      • George_Liquor says:

        I wish Sony would lay off that Swiss army knife approach to game console building. I don’t want to drop $600+ for the PS4 or wait another three years after its debut for the price to drop.

        • The_Misanthrope says:

          I’m not sure that it’s Sony-specific, though they do tend to be the one with the priciest options package.  I think the Big 2 (Sony and Microsoft) have been panicky about the fact that the tech gap between generations is narrowing and this overstuffing is their way to distract and overcompensate.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          I was just reading about the supposed plan for selling XBOX systems in a method similar to phones ($99 for the console/Kinect, with a two-year $15/month plan that includes a Gold plan). If Sony insists on ever-more expensive hardware (and they’re going to have to make sure the U4 engine is compatible with the PS4) with a bunch of frills thrown in, maybe they can find another way to make us pay for it. 

    • Holy crap, it’s the same guy that did Alundra! I knew these jams sounded familiar. The music is indeed excellent in Rush.

      I also agree with your observation that the game feels distinctly Sony, but it’s been a long time since it put out games in the vein of Rush. Something about this game in particular reminds of the freewheeling creativity that defined the original PlayStation.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I really like this idea of a game being particularly “Sony” in an of-the-era sort of way. It’s pretty obvious what sorts of games would be distinctly “Nintendo”, and like you said Jet Set Radio was part of the real Sega Golden Age, along with games like Power Stone and Crazy Taxi. but Sony has had a much less distinct vision for its design philosophy, I think. Do you have any more examples of games you think of as being distinctly Sonyesque?

      • Devil Dice!

        Truth is Sony hasn’t lost that willingness to invest in aesthetically weird, cerebral games. 

        Intelligence Cube for PS1 for example sort of provides some DNA for Echochrome.

        That identity has just sort of been sublimated in recent years by the action oriented stuff like Uncharted and God of War. Great games, sure, but missing that unique flavor.

        • caspiancomic says:

           Oh man, I used to love Intelligence Qube! If that’s the sort of game we’re thinking about, I remember No One Can Stop Mr. Domino getting a lot of press back in the day.

        • root (1ltc) says:

          Xi Jumbo is one of the few PS1 games which I still play with some frequency to this day.

          Too bad the PS2 entry wasn’t as good.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @root1ltc:disqus Man, XI Coliseum for the PSP is a great set.  I think I might like XI Go the best, though I always sucked at that series.  I think its difficulty is why I preferred that one.

          @caspiancomic:disqus Someday, someone needs to talk about Artdink.  Check NeoGAF for a fun recent topic.

        • root (1ltc) says:

          Xi Go looked very nice and had the grace to include Xi Classic and Jumbo modes. But I consider it to otherwise be deficient: 

          – Quest Mode was a time waster which warranted no replay. Cute, yes, but pointless.

          – Xi Go rule set is interesting and different enough from Jumbo or Classic, but playing a new game of it is painful early on because of the character evolution (which means you don’t pick up sufficient speed until 15-20 minutes in) and leniency given to the timing of explosions. A detonator button would have been nice.

          – Xi Jumbo mode isn’t as interesting because only the mechanics are included, but the new dice types aren’t.

          Basically, the perfect Xi game would be to take Jumbo’s Kiroku mode, circulate all of the various dice types on a regular basis (wood, ice, ghost, magnetic, steel), and have objectives involve them and occur more randomly.

          Give me that and I won’t even think about TGM.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @root1ltc:disqus Basically, I can sum up my taste in gaming by saying, “I love pointless, cute single-player modes.” Fantastic analysis, otherwise.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        Power Stone! I remember that being a better version of Ergheiz. 

      • GhaleonQ says:

        Well, I think Sony has always been less auteur-driven.  You mentioned that rebirth of Sega, but there was the original Yu Suzuki run from Space Harrier 1 to Virtua Fighter 3, maybe the greatest in the history of video games.  Nintendo had its teams built around big names.

        I think the problem is that its brand isn’t made of its sales pillars, unlike those other studios.  It mattered that The King Of Fighters 1998 was a phenomenal artwork, but it also mattered that it dominated arcades and consoles.  It defined S.N.K.’s new identity in the way that Metal Slug 1 did earlier.  As much as I like Klonoa and think it exactly matches the Namco aesthetic, it didn’t CREATE the mold because of its sales, so it’s less potent as a symbol.  1,000,000 Tons Of Debris/Patchwork Heroes, Infinite Corridor/Echo-, Ico series, and Monkey; Get You/Ape Escape are all that stylish, brainy, mischievious game that fits right in with Gravity Daze.  They just don’t blaze up the charts.  So, I’d say the closest it has is Polyphony Digital’s stuff (smart and slyly cool, at least).

        That’s its core identity, as one can’t really consider true 3rd party series.  As much as I don’t want to admit it, its western purchases in the Playstation 2 era defined its eastern identity much more.  I think you’ll agree.

  3. caspiancomic says:

    Well Jesus, this sounds amazing. Is the Vita backwards compatible with the PSP? I was planning on picking up a PSP on the cheap to play a couple of titles I had missed, but if stuff like this is going to be coming out for the Vita, I may just jump right in to this generation of handhelds.

    • It is backwards compatible with many PSP games, but not all of them. It’s a weird situation. The Vita’s download store has a bunch of PSP games but some like Castlevania X Chronicles can’t be purchased right on the device.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Aaaargh, I’ve checked the list of backwards compatible titles and a bunch of the games high on my list are unavailable for the Vita, so if I want it all it looks like I’m buying two systems. Guess I should start knocking over liquor stores now. Thanks for the info, Anthony.

        • George_Liquor says:

          I was thinking of picking up a PSP too. Any suggestions for games I should look for?

        • caspiancomic says:

           The games I was looking at were almost all by Square Enix, so I don’t know if I’m the best guy to ask about recommendations. For what it’s worth, the titles I was looking at are Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core, Dissidia, and maybe FFT: War of the Lions if I could stomach the self-serious and pointlessly Olde-English new translation. There’s also a serviceable Disgaea port on the system. There are also some “typically Sony” (see conversation with @GhaleonQ:disqus and @facebook-1362601810:disqus , above) puzzle style games that could be worth a look, like Patapon and Loco Roco.

        • George_Liquor says:

           Cool, thanks. I’ll look for those.

        • Those SE games will definitely make their way to Vita. War of the Lions is already up there (so very good), and they’d be crazy not to put up Kingdom Hearts (pretty good), Crisis Core (very good), and Dissidia (baffling) up as well. 

          You can also get Tactics Ogre (jamazing) and The 3rd Birthday (a game that hates you.)

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          It’s the lack of backward compatability that has put me off buying new systems. My computers can find ways to play old games (and Steam makes it even easier to access ’em across devices), so the fact that I’ve got PHYSICAL discs from PS1 and PS2 games that I can’t run without paying more money for a “virtual” copy just pisses me off. Do they really think that we can’t see what they’re doing?

        • George_Liquor says:

          The PS3 will play PS1 games, and some of the early PS3 models have an emotion engine chip built in, so they can play PS2 games too.

          But yeah, it really steamed my hams to learn Sony removed all PS2 compatibility from the PS3 slim. Hell, Microsoft pulled off Xbox emulation entirely in software with the 360.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus Indeed.  And region-locking.  Portables, too!  Ugh.

          @George_Liquor:disqus @caspiancomic:disqus 1st, in English and in Japanese (with very little dialogue if you don’t know it), it is the successor to the Playstation 2 for compilations.  Most Capcom fighting series, most Konami shoot-’em-up series, a lot of Namco upgraded ports, and a lot of S.N.K. compilations spring to mind.  Do Metal Slug, Vampire/Darkstalkers, Power Stone, and Parodius.

          Nippon Ichi rules the system.  Besides its ports, get for lighter action than the rest of its lineup.  Any Sony Japan games, especially Patchwork Heroes/1,000,000 Tons Of Debris.  Acquire and Square-Enix are safe bets.

          The 2 Hero 30/Half-Minute Hero games are the system’s best.  The company makes great games, anyway, but they are such brilliant parodies and so smartly designed.  Plus, their soundtracks have all-star lineups (like, Super Smash Brothers Brawl-tier).  For instance, a man who looks like this did this awesome parody of video game butt rock

  4. Mookalakai says:

    It’s been a big week for gravity manipulation games. I hope this leads to a reaction against them, and a series of games where gravity is so strong, the main characters bones are about to shatter, and you have to drink a lot of milk.

  5. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    I really want to want a Vita.  It’s an undeniably enthralling piece of hardware, but I do worry that it’ll just collapse under the weight of indifference or poor marketing.
       This game though.  This game alone does a pretty excellent job of cleaving away that first want and getting me to the second.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Unlike the Playstation Portable, developer support could actually erode.  If there’s no Monster Hunter savior soon, I’d be worried.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Yeah, as loathe as I am, I might have to wait a year and see where the respective handhelds stand.  I was hoping this year’s E3 would help me finally decide, but no such luck.
           Bioshock is certainly a powerful draw, and FF X is more intriguing than it has a right to be.
           Though all other factors will be moot if one of the two systems releases a FF VI remake.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

       I think there’s an underlying problem with handhelds, at least in this generation.

      Japanese developers treat handheld gaming as if EVERYONE lives in Tokyo, hence all the features in games that require you to be near someone else who is also playing. Just doesn’t happen as much in the west, especially outside of cities.

      Western developers tend to treat handheld gaming as a place to dump extremely watered down versions of console games with bad controls.

      Add to this and the fact that most people’s cellphones also contain enough games to keep them occupied for a few minutes at a time and the market doesn’t seem to fare too well.

  6. rvb1023 says:

    And this was the game I was incredibly ready to drop $300+ to get, it looked that incredible.  I just wish there was more than just Soul Sacrifice and P4: The Golden in the future to look forward to.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

       I’m going to be honest here. Persona 4: The Golden is the sole reason I got a Vita. Seems weird to drop $300 on a system for an updated remake of PS2 game I’ve already beaten about 3 times. And it is weird. And pretty stupid. But I’m a Shin Megami Tensei junkie, so, yeah.

      But hey, it’s got games like this, too. And a Disgaea 3 port. So at least my junkie-hood comes with some nice side-benefits.

      • rvb1023 says:

        Atlus’s support is the number one thing a handheld needs, I think the only reason I am holding off on this is  waiting for Square Enix to inevitably start remaking stuff for this.

    • Cheese says:

       I just picked up a Vita, and part of me is regretting it given how few games are available or scheduled for the system. But there are so many psp era games, especially JRPGs that I haven’t played that even if I only get Gravity Rush, P4G, and maaaybe the Vita Assassin’s Creed in the next year I’ll still be swamped.

      It really is an amazing piece of gaming hardware. I hope it overcomes the slow start. I think the PSP launch was weaker, so I’m optimistic.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        A long delayed response, but pertinent.  I also just recently picked up a Vita and was feeling some buyers remorse.  It is beautiful and really comfortable to play, but I still worry that Sony is, not to put too fine a point on it, going to fuck it up.
           But having just begun Gravity Rush, I swear that game has single-handed erased my anxiety about the system.  I mean, I still think there’s a better than average chance Sony will mess something up through neglect or poor decision making, but this game is so gorgeous and so honest-to-god fun, it feels like something made all to rarely for any system. 

        • jessec829 says:

          Right? I’m so in love with my Vita that I feel like a cult member. All hail P4 Golden and Gravity Rush. White tennis shoes for some, poisoned koolaid for others!

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  8. jessec829 says:

    No one will ever read this, but I’m playing Gravity Rush right now, and it’s awesome. like I-have-to-work-in-5-hours-but-I-can’t-stop-playing awesome. My Vita was an impulse buy; I bought it to play Persona 4 Golden. I have no regrets.