The corest of core PlayStation fans caterwauled for more of Kat and crew, and Japan Studio has delivered in abundance: Gravity Rush 2 is a much, much bigger iteration of Keiichirō Toyama's physics defying favourite – and while it's still far from purr-fect, it's hard to deny that its heart is in the right place. This stylish superhero sequel is guaranteed to take existing enthusiasts on an entertaining upside-down ride, while it may pick up a few new stragglers along the way.
As far as follow-ups go, though, this one (gravity) falls into the bracket of evolution rather than revolution. The contrary yet kind-hearted main character largely has access to the same suite of abilities as in the original, meaning that you'll once again find yourself floating through colourful worlds, kicking orange-eyed foes named Nevi into the metaphorical litter tray. As the campaign progresses you'll unlock two new superpower styles, though these don't fundamentally change the way the game plays.
Why fiddle with a winning formula, right? Well, because the largely untweaked combat still feels like the weak link in what is otherwise a very strong series. While the open world traversal – which sees you altering the flow of gravity in order to clumsily "fly" from destination to destination – is among some of the best that the industry has to offer, Gravity Kicking those who stand in your way can take real patience at times. And that's despite improvements to the way that the lock-on works.
The release has regressed in some areas, too: the gem collection aspect that was so compulsive in the original has been pared back in order to make way for new activities, while the skill tree doesn't feel as satisfying to fill in, and collectible modifiers named Talismans don't really lessen the blow. But while these may sound like damning criticisms, it's absolutely worth stressing that the remainder of the package tends to build upon its 2012 predecessor – and for fans of the franchise, that's a good thing.
In fact, you're getting more Gravity Rush than you may have bargained for here. The core campaign itself – which seemingly ends, only to then be extended by a beefy final chapter – will take you a good 20 hours to beat, with dozens upon dozens of side-quests and end-game activities to keep you occupied beyond that. Where the PlayStation Vita original boasted a slender running-time, Japan Studio has absolutely packed this follow-up with content – and there's still a free expansion to come.
You may be forgiven for thinking that, with such a long running-time, the game may rely on padding – and it's true that the mission structure can feel a little formulaic at times. However, the title manages to negate this criticism by keeping the narrative interesting; while it can be hard to follow in places – particularly during the off-the-wall ending hours – the cast never fails to endear itself, and you will fall a little bit in love with every single one of the primary personalities.
This actually extends to the side-quests, which use the title's core systems in intelligent ways. One mission, for example, sees Kat assume the role of a stunt woman, while in another she has to help market a new brand of ice cream. It's light-hearted stuff, and while the moment-to-moment gameplay remains quite rote, the scenarios that are built around the optional activities are strong enough to make you want to see as many as you possibly can.
Of course, as you tick these off, you'll be exploring the expanded world, which encompasses an entire new map. Hekseville does also eventually make a return, though the novelty of seeing the original game's setting rendered in high definition has been reduced by the release of Gravity Rush Remastered. Still, it's the fresh backdrop of Jirga Para Lhao which will thrill; the expansion to the PlayStation 4 means that the world is bigger and busier than ever before, and the bandes dessinées-inspired art really pops.
The soundtrack, too, is a highlight. As was the case in the original, jazz-esque motifs provide the backdrop to the topsy-turvy action, while the title's fictional language – a fusion of French, Japanese, and English – helps to give the setting a foreign yet familiar feeling. If there's any disappointment with the presentation it's that the engine is prone to copious pop-in and texture filtering issues, while the cut-scenes are unforgivably rendered at a sub-HD resolution, resulting in ugly compression artifacts.
It's a strange oversight, because the care exhibited elsewhere in the package is hard to fault. Some sloppy – but, let's be honest, bizarrely obligatory these days – stealth segments aside, there's a real attention to detail here that's indicative of a long and focused development cycle. The final boss battle, for example, may accentuate the shortcomings in the release's camera system, but it goes on and on – ramping up the stakes with each successive bout. And the playable credits sequence is a joy.
There are little flourishes elsewhere that elevate the package, too. A new photography system is both integrated cleverly into missions and used as part of an online component, where you can share your snaps with the world. There are also treasure hunts which see you guiding other players towards landmarks using your camera, while the returning challenges system from the original now has a DriveClub-esque competitive mode where you can invite the rest of the world to beat your best scores.
And this is without even mentioning the new end-game activities like mining – which see you working through some rare and challenging Nevi – and the ability to collect furniture for you to kit out Kat's sewer home with. The gameplay does, at times, creak under the sheer weight of the content that's been created for it, but with so much to interact with – there are even collectibles that you must photograph – there's always something slightly different to do.
Even though the core of Gravity Rush 2 remains largely unchanged, you'll be hard pushed to find a fresher open world title in a sea of Grand Theft Auto and Assassin's Creed clones. Kat's traversal mechanic is still among the most satisfying that the sandbox genre has to offer, and an endearing cast of characters means that you'll actively want to spend time in their world. The combat and mission structure may still be this series' biggest shortcoming, but colourful scenarios mean that you'll stick around long enough to see the sizeable story and its many side-quests through. So, while not everyone will be dazed by what this release has to offer, the sequel should at the very least ensure that existing fans continue singing Kat's chorus.