The central gimmick behind Gravity Rush is that amnesiac Kat can, at whim, shift where her floor is, allowing her to transverse the cursed floating island city of Hekseville by falling sideways and walking on ceilings. It’s a navigational delight, as refreshing as the zero-G segments from Dead Space or the parkour of Mirror’s Edge. Sadly, the cartoonish plot—charmlessly told through blunt comic-book panels—fails to ground any of this free-floating gameplay. Almost half of the game’s missions turn these magical powers tiresomely toward chores, like furniture collection, and there’s little real difference between the skills required to fight ooze-like Nevi monsters and the task of taking out the trash. Mary Poppins and Miyazaki flicks have enough wonder to wring the fantastic out of the mundane, but the sameness of Gravity Rush, along with the underwritten plot and characters, doom this game to be little more than a proof of concept.
Granted, Gravity Rush was first designed for the PlayStation Vita, where the game’s smaller scope and lack of visual polish weren’t nearly as noticeable. But a Remastered release shouldn’t be cutting corners, and it seems silly that the game’s four major zones are all still so faded, dull, and repetitious. Sure, there are neon lights in the entertainment district, Pleajeune, and smokestacks in Endestria, the factory area, but beyond that there’s little difference between the rich portions of Vendecentre and the mercantile slums of Auldnoir. Even the Rift areas, interdimensional obstacle courses that bring NiGHTS to mind, are underwhelmingly detailed, even in the psychedelic Mirage, which is teeming with space mushroom platforms. The cel-shaded approach works to add a bit of fluidity to Kat’s movement, but when far-off objects appear as little more than sketches, it makes the whole game seem more like a draft than a finished product.
Kat’s aerial balletics are captivating, but Gravity Rush hasn’t built much of a game around them. There’s no real progression of difficulty or variety of design, and the game relies on an upgrade mechanic that rewards the laborious collection of gems rather than the skillful execution of given abilities. The challenge missions scattered about the open-world districts supposedly force players to master specific skills, like the gravity slide’s momentum boost or stasis field’s kinetic throws. In actuality, players need only upgrade the right talents in order to breeze past them, clumsily (but speedily) completing courses that not only once seemed impossible to perfect, but which actually were. This extends to the main story as well: Most levels are completed by spamming a spinning, homing gravity kick, with a minimal amount of effort extended toward first moving Kat to a place in which a weak point is visible.
All told, there’s actually a lot of content in Gravity Rush Remastered, which throws in all of the bonus missions that were once released as DLC. Sadly, so little of it is worth playing, given the lack of difficulty or variety. It’s telling that despite the specific labels for the Maid, Spy, and Military packs, their missions are relatively identical: float to a location, kill a Nevi. That the rewards for these side stories are simple costumes only emphasizes the extent to which the game is attempting to dress up its shortcomings. And that’s a shame, because the central mechanic lives up to the game’s title. When in full swing, Gravity Rush is both dizzying and dazzling. It just desperately needs something to occasionally give it some weight.