Gravity Rush 2 Review: A Colorful and Bouncy Masterpiece that Will Make You Smile
Gravity Rush 2 has been hovering at the edge of my consciousness since the tease at Tokyo Game Show 2013, but its true value hit me only this year, sitting in a conference room at Sony Interactive Entertainment’s headquarters in Tokyo just before TGS.
Sony had showcased some gameplay before, but that was the first time that I was given the chance to see how expansive and absolutely gorgeous the world of the game is. When Director Keiichiro Toyama started flying freeling among the colorful clouds, I was hooked.
I was actually a bit disappointed when, after that presentation, I sat in front of a demo station to record some gameplay for you guys. It was the tutorial level that would then be released as the demo that you probably already played, and it simply didn’t give me a chance to show you what I saw just a few minutes before. I was thinking “how am I going to convey the marvelous environments I saw with just this?”
Fast Forward to today, and I’m finally able to freely talk about the game, so be prepared, because I’m going to gush a little.
The story of Gravity Rush 2 picks up pretty much where the first Gravity Rush left us, after a brief intermission showcased in the anime that was published just after Christmas. Kat and Syd are stranded on the mining fleet of Banga, forced to work under the super-strict chief Lisa to earn their keep, on top of that, they have been separated from the faithful cat Dusty and from Raven.
When Dusty finally rejoins the party and Kat regains her gravity-shifting powers, she realizes that her problems are far from ended. Unable to return to Hekseville and with Raven still nowhere to be found, the blonde superheroine finds herself involved in then problems of the people of Banga, and of the floating city of Jirga Para Lhao, beautiful on the surface but deeply torn by social injustice.
That is, of course, just the beginning, because the story of Gravity Rush 2 is definitely not that simple. It actually goes off in multiple directions, some of which find purchase in the many side quests, while other strings of the plot tie up towards the end.
This approach is actually quite refreshing, and relies heavily on the game’s charming cast of characters, who basically never fails to impress and delight with their colorful variety and adorable expressiveness. I can easily say that I smiled almost non-stop from the very beginning to the very end of the game, especially during the narration moments enriched by the lovely comic pages that fans are familiar with, and that can be defined a charming hybrid between manga and French comics.
The graphics of Gravity Rush 2 are absolutely spectacular. While they may not feature the most advanced technology in the industry, they make it up plenty with pure, unadulterated artistry.
Absolutely everything within the visual presentation of the game exudes grace and beauty (even when the subject portrayed isn’t really all that beautiful), from the gorgeous character design to the environments, the colors of the cities and the sky. Even the menus are gorgeous to look at.
Especially the vast area around Jirga Para Lhao is one of the most charming “open worlds” I ever played with, characterized by delightful verticality that will leave many with their jaws dropped. Fly up into the clouds, and you’ll find more districts floating around, hidden by the clouds. Drop down into the apparent emptiness, and you’ll find more areas that you didn’t even imagine were there. Exploring the world of Gravity Rush 2 is one of the most interesting gaming experiences I had in quite a while.
Variety is another strong point of the game, that offers basically every kind of environment you can imagine, from posh estates to derelict slums, fable-like vistas and gritty industrial areas. I spent a lot of time simply flying around and taking in the sights, and even now I plan to do so for quite a while longer.
As a matter of fact, I believe I found another example to use when I need to convince someone that games can definitely be art. I’m quite positive that picking up the DualShock 4 and flying through the clouds and around the spires of Gravity Rush 2 will leave speechless even the most skeptical opponent of the artistic value of gaming.
The effect of Gravity Rush 2‘s visuals is enhanced and crowned by a fantastic soundtrack that works perfectly in basically every situation, with tunes that complement the beauty of the environments and the charming expressions of the characters.
Sound design is also excellent, and works beautifully with the made-up language spoken by characters. The only flaw here is that dialogue is not fully voiced. Some might think that given the fictional language, voice acting every line might have been4 superfluous, but it would have probably made the already wonderful cast even more expressive.
While Gravity Rush 2 is certainly a story-driven game, it’s also chock-full of additional things to do. From treasure hunts to side quests, mining site exploration and challenges, there is plenty of additional content to distract you from the main storyline.
Interestingly, a few of the additional activities are driven by asynchronous multiplayer interaction, which means that, when the servers will be populated by more than just a few thousands of journalists, there will be even more to do.
An example is treasure hunting: you’ll often find photo hints left by other players giving you a vague visual indication of where a treasure chest is located. At that point you’ll have to fly around to find the chest, but the game doesn’t stop when you locate it and receive your reward. You’ll then be prompted to take your own picture to serve as a hint for other players, and you’ll receive additional shinies if your hint helps them find their own chests.
This is just one example of the multiplayer aspect of the game. You could easily define it simple, but it’s very addictive, and extremely clever in how each player that enjoys the feature is then encouraged to continue the chain, creating more gameplay opportunities for others. On top of that, it also encourages you to be creative and to grab pictures that are both nice to see and a good indication of the location of the chest.
Flying around is of course the most relevant mechanic of the game, or I should probably say “falling” around. For those unfamiliar with the series, Kat’s superpowers grant her control over gravity, which means that you’re not actually flying, but you simply decide the direction towards which gravity pulls you, making you “fall” anywhere you like.
Mastering the full extent of Kat’s powers can actually be quite technical, and one of the few flaws of the game is that controls aren’t always 100% spot-on, at times paired with a camera that might fail to react fast enough to the presence of narrow areas and obstacles. That said, once you get used to the slightly quirky control scheme, floating around the beautiful skies of Gravity Rush 2 is a real pleasure.
Combat is just as technical, especially when you pair it with the flight/falling mechanics. There is a ton of room for finding your own sweet spot within the many options offered by the game, and I can see many creating their own personal styles by combining different variations of attacks and flight patterns.
Luckily, the game eases you into the mechanics but providing just the standard style at the beginning, and adding the agile Lunar Style and the heavier Jupiter Style as the story progresses. While of course the number of combos you can execute is limited by programming (but expanded through character progression), the combination with aerial stunts in every possible direction creates one of the most flexible combat systems featured in a game of this genre.
It’s simply great to explore and experiment on what Kat can do, and I’m absolutely eager to get a more extensive taste of what Raven is capable of, with the free DLC that will feature the dark beauty as playable protagonist coming in March.
Since I’m struggling a little to find flaws to mention, I’ll bring up something which is more of a weird quirk. The world is populated by a myriad of random NPCs, and they will automatically be picked up by Kat’s gravity powers when they are activated nearby. Since they will be dragged around for a short distance, and large sections of the game are set on floating island-cities among the clouds, you’ll end up throwing a ton of people off the platforms and into long falls to their untimely deaths. Basically, Kat is one of the most innocent-looking mass-murderers of the history of video games.
While the main questline is great, side-quests, that often are overlooked or reduced to fetch and kill tasks in many games, received full attention from the developers, and it shows. For the most part, they’re full-fledged mini-stories with plots and twists just as interesting as the main story. While they may be time consuming, I strongly advise not to skip any, first of all because they’re a lot of fun, and also because they provide a better insight into the story, the characters and the world.
Gameplay-wise they also offer a lot of variety, from investigation to stealthy infiltration, character interaction and much more. While Kat is often used by her peers to perform the most menial of tasks, the gameplay involved in those tasks is definitely not menial, and basically never less than very enjoyable.
Here in italy we say that “you see a good day from the morning,” and if Gravity Rush 2 is an indication of what we can expect from this year, 2017 might really be awesome for gamers. Japan Studio’s new game hits almost all the right notes, and besides a few sparse flaws, it’s a delightful experience all the way through the many hours of gameplay it provides.
Not only Gravity Rush 2 is a worthy successor for the first game, but it surpasses its predecessor (and its remaster) in ever aspect. It’s extremely fun, engaging and even challenging. Due to its production and artistic value, it’s definitely one of those titles that you’ll want to show your friends when you need to demonstrate why you’re proud to be a gamer. They’re bound to be impressed.