Falling Blissfully Upwards
All great games have high points. Those peaks in the action, the memorable bits that give a title its identity. Sometimes those moments are in the gameplay; when pulling off a killer move or surviving a dangerous encounter. In other games, it might be a story beat, a great plot thread building to a cinematic crescendo, or maybe it’s in that moment of down-time, in which you really get to soak up the atmosphere of the world the developers have created. In Gravity Rush 2, it’s in the simple act of getting from A to B.
It has all those other moments too, but the sheer joy of upending gravity and shooting protagonist Kat from one end of the majestic, floating city of Jirga Para Lhao to the other is utterly unique. That initial sensation of weightlessness followed by a shift in gravity and an exhilarating burst of speed, coupled with the stunning visuals and atmosphere of the world, make basic movement in Gravity Rush 2 more fun than many games can muster in their entirety. Does this seem like an outlandish claim? Not to me. At it’s best, Gravity Rush 2 is a kinetic masterpiece, but let’s see what else it has to offer.
The player takes on the role of Kat, a mysterious girl in a strange world. Kat is a refreshingly upbeat character. She sees the best in everyone and refuses to be brought down, and harbours a burning desire to help people and make the world a better place. Despite these nauseatingly saccharine personality traits, she never drifts into annoying or cluelessly naïve, managing to stay adorable throughout.
As you may have guessed, she has powers over gravity as well. These powers are provided to her by her cute and mysterious cat companion named Dusty, who seems to be formed of negative space, and floats along for the ride. Kat can fall through the air in any direction as she adjusts the pull of gravity around her, and there are endless opportunities for exhilarating exploration as you run up the sides of buildings, float about the underside of docks and archways, and launch Kat off into thin air just to see what’s on the other side of that cloud. The world is bright and beautifully designed, a fascinating mix of cultural influences from around the world suspended on floating islands in a dazzling sky.
Changing up a gear from the PlayStation Vita original, Gravity Rush 2 also gives Kat two additional gravity styles, which affect her levels of weightlessness and how hard she can smash into things. The light and airy lunar style increases Kat’s speed and jumping ability, while the weighty Jupiter style enables her to deal more damage as a trade-off for manoeuvrability. The combat predominantly consists of airborne battles with sinister, formless entities called Nevi. However, hapless, ground-based soldiers and the occasional boss fight offer some variety. The combat is fine, and at its best can feel spectacular and impactful, but if the camera doesn’t feel like cooperating that day, it can start to become a little too infuriating for comfort.
The struggling camera is Gravity Rush 2’s only real downfall. You can approach any location from any angle at any time and change direction in a heartbeat, and this can result in occasions where Kat and the camera just don’t get along. It’s not unusual to find yourself exposed in combat as you desperately try and search for the nearest enemy, or completely baffled as to which way is up or down following a camera angle flip because you got too close to a corner. It feels like the developers did the absolute best they could with the camera, but given the nature of the game and the sheer freedom of movement, there were always going to be times when it just couldn’t keep up with the action.
That aside, Gravity Rush 2 is an endlessly charming, often breathtaking and beautifully presented game. The story is fun and unusual and occasionally emotional, and provides some nice surprises for those who are invested in Kat’s murky origins. The game world of Jirga Para Lhao initially seems to be similar in size to Hekseville from the Vita original, but when Hekseville shows up in full part-way through as a completely explorable (and beautifully visually-updated) new area, that preconception gets blown out of the water. Massive, endearing, surprising, and full of unique gameplay, Kat’s gravity-defying journey is a joy to experience. If you put Gravity Rush 2 into your PlayStation and float away into it’s artistic and mysterious world, you won’t want to come back down.