While games like Wipeout 2048 and Uncharted: Golden Abyss looked to recreate the PlayStation 3 gaming experience on the PlayStation Vita, other developers went in a different direction. With a clever idea at its heart, Gravity Rush quickly became a darling of the handheld system for its distinctive visual style and gravity shifting gameplay.
With a sequel on the way, and Sony deciding that the rapidly expanding PlayStation 4 makes a better fit, it makes just as much sense to bring the original to the console, for those that would have missed it the first time round. In the process, it also becomes the best place to play the game.
Waking up as an apple symbolically falls from a very distant tree, travels through a bustling city and bumps into her head, our amnesiac heroine has little idea what’s going on before she’s being pushed to make use of gravity altering powers to try and save a child about to be swallowed up by a gravity storm.
With a cat that looks like it’s made up of stars by her side, she tries to figure out who she is and where she came on, but quickly gets wrapped up in using her gravity manipulating powers to help the citizens of Hekseville. She’s soon battling the bizarre looking Nevi that attack the floating city regularly, goes toe to toe with another gravity shifter, and gets caught in all sorts of trouble along the way.
Gravity Rush’s art style was always a big draw to the game, and as with many remasters, that strength is effortlessly brought to the fore. It now runs at 1080p and with a solid 60 frames per second, and it seems as though there have been improvements made to the textures and some of the models in the game. There’s an added clarity to the game thanks to this higher resolution, but the art style is the overriding factor in how the game looks and feels.
The floating islands of Hekseville hang in the distance, with a monorail connecting them together and airships flying back and forth. They’re basked in almost oppressively coloured skies, with the deep and unsettling red of Auldnoir contrasting with the yellow and green skies of Endestria and Vendecentre.
It’s this otherworldly sky which helps to give the game so much of its visual character, and as the buildings and islands stretch off into the distance, they fade into that background, leaving little more than a sketch-like outline, which works well alongside in the context of the cel shaded characters and painterly textures. That exact look has been replicated within the much cleaner image on the PS4, and while the level of detail is much higher and the draw distance stretches further away from the camera, it’s not endless and details and NPCs do pop in as you fly through the world.
One of the main things which belies the game’s handheld origins, partly as a result of the constraints of the console, are some repetitive feeling textures and a lot of dull looking buildings. It’s something that’s accentuated by the manner in which you often view the world from high up in the sky, but it also makes me look forward to the sequel and the potential of a game designed with the PS4 in mind, especially in terms of how alive and vibrant early glimpses of that game have looked.
Designing the original for the Vita also led the developers down a certain path in how the story is relayed to the player. Chapters are bookended by comic book styled panels, which you can tilt with the DualShock 4’s motion sensors, and conversations in the open world are either subtitled silence over gameplay or feature character avatars and speech bubbles. On the few occasions where Kat or other characters do speak, they do so in a gibberish language created for the game.
Getting around the city is as fast and simplistic as ever, though. With a tap of a shoulder button, Kat glows red from within and rises up to float in the air, with a second tap shifting the direction of gravity for her and nearby items to wherever the game camera is pointing. Suddenly you’re hurtling towards walls – Kat never looks particularly graceful when in flight, and crashes to the ground instead of landing on her feet, a lot of the time – and walking on the underside of these floating islands. The only thing to worry about is your power meter, which gradually decreases the longer you defy gravity.
It adds a great deal of weight and impact to the combat in the game, as you perform gravity kicks which have all of Kat’s weight and momentum behind them. You always need to aim for the glowing weak spot on the inky black bodies of the Nevi, with the game making use of the DualShock 4’s tilt and motion sensors, to let you tweak your aim as you hurtle through the sky, in addition to the game’s fairly generous auto-aim. Alongside the larger and more precise analogue stick of the controller, it feels better than on the Vita, and things like gravity sliding and dodging now rely on triggers.
However, when flying through the sky, it’s still very easy to find yourself becoming lost and disorientated. It’s often difficult to keep track of what way is truly down, though the direction Kat’s hair falls gives you a hint, and NPCs outside your immediate vicinity remain unaffected by your physics manipulation. Even if you can keep track of it, you’re generally heading in a straight line as you fly, and while you can tweak your path, you generally need to come to a complete stop and sweep the camera round in a new direction. In the middle of a fight against more mobile enemies, it can be a bit of a pain.
Though it’s a little awkward at times, it’s never truly annoying, and the many virtues of the PlayStation 4 and the DualShock 4 help to make the game feel more natural and fluid in action than on the Vita. The sequel looks like it’s really really going to flesh out the ideas at play in the original, when it releases later this year, but until then, Gravity Rush Remastered is the best way to play or revisit one of the Vita’s most distinctive games.