There’s a pure, exhilarating joy to the way Gravity Rush 2, like its predecessor, allows one to shift gravity on cue—to recklessly fall through the sky in order to fend off the monstrous, gelatinous Nevi. And yet, there’s a constant sinking feeling about the whole affair. The addition of the new and more colorful region of Jirga Para Lhao, with its floating skyscrapers, ragtag houseboat fleets, and military fortress, makes the game larger than the original by a magnitude of two. Sadly, this only compounds the problems of the Gravity Rush series: Rather than filling such wide, empty expanses with meaningful activities, the developers have cluttered these landscapes with a greater number of side missions that are closer to chores than challenges.
Gravity Rush 2‘s glut of asymmetrical online features—treasure hunts, photo sharing, and time challenges—suggest, a la Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, that the developers understand that the strength of their game lies in its freefalling mechanics. But the reliance on user-generated content also implies that the game’s story isn’t sturdy enough to support these mechanics.
With its cel-shaded graphics, shallow characters, and explosive fight sequences, Gravity Rush 2 is essentially a playable anime; the narrative is even presented as a series of manga panels. By operating within that genre, the game can get away with a bunch of trope-heavy side quests designed to do nothing more than dress Kat up as a sexy nurse, jazz singer, or waitress, but such distractions also highlight that, even as anime, Gravity Rush 2 has way more filler than plot. Moreover, the quality of that filler is questionable, since instead of developing secondary characters or showcasing Kat’s personality, the majority of the game’s side missions are outright mundane, squandering Kat’s outlandish powers so that she might play Frisbee with a dog, deliver newspapers, and stack furniture for delivery.
Just over a sixth of the game advances what’s already the thinnest of plots, and when it does, it’s often at a sluggish pace. What should be a sleek and swift experience feels like a local train stuck in traffic, a metaphor that the game emphasizes when it chooses to momentarily strip Kat of her powers. Gravity Rush 2 isn’t an elegant experience even at its best (it constantly, albeit expectedly, trips over its own camera), but when Kat is grounded, the game seems antiquated and tedious, a bit like Sonic the Hedgehog without his speed. Worse, it comes across as intentional handicapping, just one more example of where the gameplay isn’t supported by the story.
For example, there’s no real reason for Kat to fend off a gang of bandits using nothing more than her stasis field, a bubble that allows her to fling objects at her foes, save that it increases the difficulty of this challenge. On the other extreme, when Kat’s powers are required to, say, save hostages from a prison carved into a giant floating rock, there’s little challenge at all, as this stealthy break-in has all the complexity of pressing a single button at the right time. In a few rare instances—largely the climaxes to the game’s two main, and disconnected, acts—the game’s form rises up to meet its gravity-bending function, with Kat racing through the shifting labyrinthine corridors of a sentient city or squaring off against a superpowered rival.
Gravity Rush 2 is clever enough to introduce two new forms of transversal: a weightless, springy Lunar style and a hard-hitting, heavy Jupiter mode. But outside of a few style-specific and optional challenges, the game never really puts players in a situation in which these powers are needed. Toward the end of the game, Kat gains a third unexplained power that allows her to move unrestrictedly through the air, sweeping mightily through her foes. This is a betrayal of the game’s conventions, as the titular “rush” comes from that fine frisson between falling and flying and this god-like ability reduces that three-dimensional freedom to something flat and unimaginative.
It’s just one more in a long list of disconnected, broken, and un-fun elements, right there beside the collection of extraneous power-enhancing talismans and a series of replayable, bland mining zones that serve no purpose beyond allowing Kat to grind the crystal shards used to level up her abilities. Gravity Rush 2 doesn’t defy gravity so much as it just lifelessly hangs there.