Gravity Rush 2
Developer: Japan Studio (Project Siren)
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: Out now
Of all the gems tucked away in the PS Vita's small but distinguished library, 2012's Gravity Rush always seemed destined for greater things. Japan Studio and Project Siren's physics-warping adventure introduced handheld gamers to a seductive floating city ripe for exploration from all angles thanks to a unique and brilliantly bizarre control scheme, all while cramming in a surprisingly dense tale led delightfully by a memorable, ballsy heroine.
Bubbling with creativity and personality, Gravity Rush was a huge melting pot of ideas that threatened to burst from the Vita's hardware constraints at every turn. Gravity Rush 2 sees Kat and her magical feline Dusty fully migrate to PS4 ( following a solid remaster of the first game) and her return to 'Shifter' duties sees the series truly explode into life, all while tying up existing story loose-ends and cliffhanger character arcs over the course of a rousing 20-25 hour main quest.
The narrative pacing throughout Gravity Rush 2 is stellar, with the beginning showing the aftermath of Kat's literal fall into a world far away from her adopted home of Hecksville (with the 'how she got there' details relegated to a short animated feature). Stripped of her powers Metroid-style, the former 'Gravity Queen' finds herself toiling away on a fleet of makeshift ships functioning as a mining colony.
What follows is a simplistic but rarely immature portrayal of class division and absolute power corrupting absolutely, all filtered through the world-view of Kat's implacable altruism. This turns out to be both a trait and a flaw, as her unwavering honesty and trust in others acts as a catalyst for events across the three main chapters, and a lengthy, downright bonkers additional epilogue.
The game's upgraded, gorgeously colourful cel-shaded visuals and a cracking soundtrack shine throughout, but the free-floating heroine is always at the very heart of everything that makes Gravity Rush 2 such an offbeat treat. Whether the blonde bomber is sparking off major story characters in the beautifully drawn comic-book panel exchanges retained from its predecessor, chatting away with her far more rational enemy-turned-BFF Raven, or just barrelling through the air thanks to the game's ever-hilarious ungainly psychics engine, Kat's physics, voice-acting (in a made-up language falling somewhere between Sigur Rós and The Sims) and infectious character cements her place among gaming's best ever superhero creations.
Thankfully, Kat's huge personality is painted onto a sprawling open-world canvas ready for Newton-defying antics. Eventually spanning two gigantic regions suspended in thin air, the first area you come across, Jirga Para Lhao, is a 360-degree playground, with the affluent elite living in mansions above the clouds, with the hustle and bustle of towns and marketplaces below and the underprivileged slums forgotten and hidden away below.
This top-to-bottom amalgamation of buildings and people sees Gravity Rush 2 fully embrace the surrealist undercurrent of the first game, resembling a Terry Gilliam film in its 'normal' strangeness, while also taking cues from M.C Escher sketches in during moments of perspective-flipping glory. Hurtling from one outcrop to the next using Kat's gravity shifting skills consistently provides the kind of rush promised in the game's title. The 'falling, with style' traversal is also enhanced by two new powers that are obtained as the main quest progresses.
Each transforms Kat's combat and movement abilities, with the lighter Lunar style enabling Crackdown-like leaps and homing attacks in low gravity and Jupiter adding weighty punches and charged area-of-effect super-kicks to her standard repertoire of melee flurries. An RPG-lite system also comes into play, with passive ability buffs available to swap on the fly with Talismans and an ability tree where you can spend the collectible gems found dotted around hub world and during story trials.
The collectible hunting and combat sections encourage swift style changes on the fly, with flicks on the PS4's touch pad offering an intuitive way to switch it up in a pinch, yet it's during the midst of these frenzied, perspective-shifting encounters that the original game's control niggles resurface. Turning the default motion-controls for the game's camera helps to a large extent, but the clumsy movement that makes exploration so enjoyable can see Kat get snagged on rogue environmental objects, or flail aimless strikes and kicks at thin air as human villains or the nebulous Nevi pick you off.
Encounters with flying opponents and large-scale battles against some of the grotesque, Dalí-esque late-game bosses suffer the most from this crudeness, and while there is a learning curve to handling all of Kat's powers that benefits from practice and experimentation, the imprecise target-locking and wayward camera often do their best to undermine Kat's superhero status at key moments.
While the main story quests tend to include at least one round of fisticuffs, the myriad optional side quests, optional timed challenges and online item hunts mix up the formula nicely. Among them you'll role-play as a police detective, private inspector, movie star, photographer (with a trusy Polaroid-like camera and tripod for silly selfies), advertising assistant and other cosplay professions, although some come worryingly close to existing only for the purposes of putting Kat in an ill-fitting outfit.
Sloppy combat inherited from its handheld predecessor thankfully fails to smother Gravity Rush 2's gleefully avant-guarde design and its enigmatic leading lady. Kat and Dusty's sophomore outing sees the series' potential explode in vibrant, joyous fashion. The rough edges are still there, but you'll have to squint to see them as PlayStation's refreshingly eccentric franchise soars to spectacular new heights.