The original Gravity Rush was a showcase game for the potential of the PlayStation Vita, full of brilliant gameplay elements in gorgeous open settings. Yet, it was heavily off-set by frustrating and clumsy controls. Ported to the PlayStation 4, it proved it was well-worth playing despite the issues, so a sequel is a welcome addition.
As a game about controlling gravity in large open cities and strange alien landscapes, Gravity Rush 2 takes some getting used to. Up and down are subjective terms when you can bend gravity to your will, or, in this case, to the will of your cosmic cat. Leading lady, Kat (with kitty in tow), can be a joy to fall for (and with) through the game while just bumping around to see the sights or running and fetching across the massive floating cities.
Presentation-wise, Gravity Rush 2 is stunning, especially on the PlayStation Pro. The vibrant colors, gorgeous character designs, and breathtaking atmospheres are pure candy for the eyes. The Japanese voice acting (with English subtitles) is used with restraint, but with expression-especially for the giddy and frequently taken aback Kat. The soundtrack is sweeping and fun, and from a purely sensory perspective, Gravity Rush 2 is the best thing I’ve seen this new year.
Kat is also infectiously likeable, even if she plays a little too much to clueless girl stereotypes. She’s upbeat, helpful, polite, determined and a beautiful change of pace from the usual gruff and angry gaming protagonists the audience is typically battered over the head with. She’s in direct contrast to her fellow gravity-controlling heroine, Raven, but the former enemies-turned-besties in the original game make a surprisingly compelling team as the game progresses.
There’s a lot to be said for the distinctive joys of a gorgeous and upbeat presentation. Even when the game gets grim, dark, and moody, Kat still manages to be a bright light in the (frequently literal) storm. There’s also an enormous amount of things to do in the game. Main story missions aside, there are always side missions that often help flesh out the personalities of the people around Kat.
A lot of the missions are simple find and fetch tasks—locate a person to give them a message, find item A for person B… nothing too creative. Then there are joutright crazy situations like Kat finding herself mistaken for a pop singer or having to beef up customers for a street vendor. You’ll mine for precious resources, rescue people, fight off endless waves of creepy shadow monsters, catch criminals, deliver crates, and more all in an effort to get more powerful and spend more time in the game’s vibrant world.
Yet, for all the things I loved about Gravity Rush 2 there’s no shortage of things wrong with it. Controlling Kat requires tapping the R1 to turn off gravity, thus causing her to float upward. From there, you aim the reticle where you want to go and tap R1 again, and she’ll fall in that direction. She can land on nearly any surface and have gravity adjusted to her, but manipulating gravity is a timed affair. Kat has an energy meter that starts running down as soon as she starts floating, but once on solid ground in normal gravity, it recharges almost instantly.
Once you get used to the gravity system, generally moving around by falling is easy enough and fun. Fine aiming and targeting during combat, however, can be a nightmarish bout of pure rage-inducing frustration. Kat can do a stunning aerial slide at a targeted object or enemy, but it’s absurdly easy to lose your lock and go careening out into the void. The camera seems locked in Marquis de Sade mode, intent on finding the absolute worst angle possible during the worst possible times. The player will find themselves constantly tweaking and resetting it.
These flaws combine to make combat against multiple enemies a confusing mess—especially when fighting a mix of larger boss-style creatures and smaller ones. Targeting is unreliable and turns each encounter into a frantic disaster. Although Kat has special ground and aerial slides, basic combat is just one-button bashing like the original game, which is also disappointing. She can gather up projectiles like large rocks and fling them at enemies though.
While there’s a lot of good to be said for the variety and fun absurdity of the game’s missions, the inclusion of ludicrously bad stealth missions is another major source of annoyance later on. For one especially lengthy stretch in particular, you’ll be forced to endure one of the clumsiest and poorly thought out stealth sequences I’ve seen in awhile. The missions are thrown into the game without any change to the mechanics to accommodate anything even vaguely resembling stealth.
Even regular missions tend to get repetitive after awhile, especially while binge playing. Gravity Rush 2 does mix things up by allowing Kat to increase or decrease her gravitational “weight” thanks to Jupiter and Lunar modes that, once acquired, are switchable on the fly. This allows for some amazing long range jumps and positively explosive ground smashes, but doesn’t help any of the other control issues.
The mixture of frustration and amazement has been a problem in Gravity Rush since the original Vita release, yet none of the flaws are enough to make me outright stop playing. Despite some awful mission design and as annoying as combat and righting Kat during a bad fall can be, there’s always enough charm and beauty here to keep me going. So, Gravity Rush 2 isn’t as resounding a success as I was hoping, but it’s still ingenious and entertaining enough to stay on my hard drive for awhile yet.
Gravity Rush 2 was developed by Project Siren and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Our review is based on the PlayStation 4 version.
Jason D’Aprile has been covering games and entertainment for the last three decades across a variety of platforms, many of which are now extinct. In addition to covering gaming (both obscure and otherwise), he also writes a bit of the odd fiction and tries hard to avoid social media.