It's a good thing that ex-PlayStation Vita exclusive Gravity Rush is getting a sequel, because playing PlayStation 4 port Gravity Rush Remastered highlights the untapped potential that this fledgling franchise harbours. Four years removed from its Japanese debut, the upside-down action platformer feels a little lacking in the mission variety department, but it's still packing one of the most satisfying open world traversal mechanics in the medium today.
For those not familiar with Silent Hill creator Keiichiro Toyama's eye-catching intellectual property, it puts you in the high-heeled shoes of Kat, an amnesiac with a feline friend named Dusty who's able to bend the properties of gravity to her whim. By manipulating the laws of physics, the blonde-haired bombshell is able to essentially "fall" in whichever direction she decrees, ultimately granting her the ability to fly wherever she wants to go. It's a brilliant bit of design.
And the system works just as well on the DualShock 4 as it did on the Vita: you stop gravity with a tap of the trigger, and then use a combination of the right analogue stick and gyroscope to determine how you'd like it to flow. There are sensitivity controls available in the options for those who demand a little extra finesse, but we found the default settings to be very responsive. It's definitely odd to be playing a game where motion controls matter again, but they're seamlessly implemented here.
Subsequently, it's simply fun navigating the game's ultra-stylish world. The art style – which has been meticulously recreated in 1080p by conversion specialists Bluepoint Games – is inspired by Franco-Belgian comics, and it's got a real exotic look to it as a consequence. Each area employs a different colour palette, with entertainment district Pleajeune opting for deep purples, while the factory hub known as Endestria instead goes for hazy yellows.
Precious few releases dare to consider such unusual art directions, but Gravity Rush swings for the fences and hits a home run. The game definitely shows its handheld origins at times, but many textures have been touched up as part of the porting process, and consequentially it's no slouch on a large screen. Even draw distance tricks like the way in which far-away elements turn into sketch outlines help enhance the game's sense of style, rather than reveal its portable origins.
The problem, then, is that the 15 or so hour campaign is a bit of a one-trick pony. Most missions revolve around you defeating Nevi, a mysterious foe which is poorly explained. To off these beasts, you'll find yourself soaring through the air, gravity kicking their exposed weak points in order to crush them. It's got a Sonic the Hedgehog-esque sense of momentum to it, so once you start chaining together attacks it feels really good, but the game doesn't really know where else to go with the idea.
This results in a handful of missions that, with the benefit of hindsight, are merely there to pad the campaign: a dream sequence which sees you collecting cats, a trivia quiz about one of the locations, and a section which sees you setting up sensor arrays for no reason whatsoever. The ideas that the game establishes are outstanding, but they get stretched thin over the course of the ultra-anime story, and it leaves you longing for a little more variety.
No more is this true than in the handful of quests where the game actually takes away many of your abilities. On the one hand, this odd decision helps to underline just how enjoyable the gravity-based gameplay is, but it will leave you frustrated as you wrestle with Kat's limited moveset trying to achieve things that would be easier if it would just give you back full control. It feels like filler, and there's a bit too much of that as the plot introduces threads that are barely explored, let alone resolved.
But while the game occasionally frustrates by failing to iterate upon its own innovations, it peeks at huge promise for the forthcoming sequel. Simply floating around collecting gems – which can be used to upgrade your abilities – is entertaining on its own, and it's easy to imagine it being married to a more fulfilling piece of fiction and some more interesting mission objectives. What's here should be savoured for the stunning presentation and sheer audacity of it alone – but there's a much better game waiting to be built upon its blueprints.
Gravity Rush Remastered will have you purring at the potential that its sequel looks set to fulfil, but it's a fine release in its own right. The mission variety's not quite there and the plot's paper-thin, but the traversal's some of the finest that you'll find on consoles full-stop and the audio-visual achievements are outstanding across the board. It's an excellent first attempt, then, so irrespective of the laws of gravity, the only direction for this promising property is up.