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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Gravity Rush.

Transcript Edit

Gravity Rush is a game first released in 2012 that at the time nobody played. “Oh, don’t be so hyperbolic, Yahtzee, you know full well it was a PlayStation Vita exclusive.” I beg your pardon! Gravity Rush is a game first released in 2012 that at the time nobody played except for some mad people. I did hear the game was all right, but I wasn’t gonna buy a fucking PS Vita to play it; that’d be like adopting an incontinent chimpanzee cause you fancy the lady who comes ‘round to change his nappies. Thankfully, a remastered version of Gravity Rush came out last week for the PS4, which I very much appreciate, because I’m sick of all this mad people privilege in modern society. They get all these exclusive games, they hog all the fun medications, and there seems to be a whole bunch of them running for President at the moment.

Anyway, Gravity Rush is a sort of Japanese take on the superhero sandbox genre, and broadly resembles what you’d get if inFamous had been directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It is also probably the only game you’ll ever play in which the central character is a flying homeless person. If not, then it’s definitely the only game about a flying homeless person who dresses like a slag.

In a weird fantasy floating city where constant magic storms and attacks by weird blobby monsters are doing catastrophic things to house prices, a strange girl wakes up with no memory and equipped with the following things: a magic cat made of Vegemite, the ability to manipulate gravity in a small area around herself, and a Renaissance fair burlesque dancer’s outfit. She sets out on an epic quest to discover the truth about herself, which she abandons almost immediately because she got distracted by a shiny object.

Seriously, the plot must have been written by the kind of person who gets bored halfway through reading a stop sign, cause it feels like the game brings up a new plot thread every ten minutes and never ties any of them up. By the end, they’re all left swaying in the breeze, like the frays of the poorly-knitted sweater the main character sorely needs to put on.

I’ll spoil right now that we never find out who the fuck the Amazing Homeless Stripper is, or where she came from. And she doesn’t seem to care! Her first priority is to set up home in a sewer tunnel, and then start hanging around in the car park of a home depot looking for odd jobs. She does some work with the police, the army, she becomes a maid at one point… is this a story, or a series of contrived excuses to put on fetish outfits? Oh, I think you know!

As I said, there’s monsters, we never figure out where they come from — wait, this one was trying to protect someone, is there more to them than meets the eye? Nope, move on! Look, there’s another homeless stripper with gravity powers, perhaps she knows who we really are. She doesn’t! Oh. Well did we both get gravity powers from the same source? Probably, who cares? Now there’s a mysterious master thief antagonizing us who seems to know something about our past— oh, he’s dead. Never mind! Oh no, the city’s been taken over by a fascist military state, what could their sinister plan be? Is it to weaponize the m— It’s to weaponize the monsters. How did you guess, other than it being the video game fascist military state’s default setting?

So the final climactic showdown is with a monster that was introduced two minutes beforehand — but wait, the deposed fascist military leader knows something about your past! Great, what is it? Hey, we’ve gotta leave something for the sequel, haven’t we?

I do find the characters and setting endearing, in a “City of Lost Children with the anime turned up to a billion” kind of way, but the story’s all setup and no payoff. It’s like trying to masturbate to the first season of Lost.

How the flying works is that you push button to shift gravity to the direction you’re looking in, so you don’t so much fly as plummet in specific directions; whatever surface your nubile young body smashes into at terminal velocity becomes your new floor, which can get slightly annoying if you hit a lamppost or something and end up tightrope walking over the abyss that is Main Street — though frankly, if you do hit a wall, you’re doing it wrong. Despite the main title image being the heroine standing on a wall, there’s not a whole lot of tactical usage to standing on walls, unless you’re trying to teach the third-person camera the essentials of ballroom dancing. It’s a lot more expedient to keep switching gravity before you hit things and stay in the air.

But having said that, the gravity switching controls could be more efficient; in fact, they could be precisely one hundred percent more efficient, because you have to press the button twice to change the direction of gravity where I feel once would have done. The first press cancels your gravity and puts you into hover mode; the second picks the new gravity. It’s like having to stop the car and put it in neutral before you can change gear, and your car dresses like a whore.

The combat is… well, it’s certainly there. Monsters appear, usually for flimsy reasons, and you have to hit them in the traditional obvious glowing weak spot — again, remaining on whatever currently passes for the ground is a mug’s game because hitting the weak spots calls for accuracy that is found wanting in standard kicks and jump-kicks. I just stayed in the air and used the gravity-shifting divekick, speeding towards targeted weak points, missing, and disappearing over the horizon as if only just now realizing that I didn’t put my trousers on this morning.

The combat works when it becomes this sort of aerial ballet, about finding the right angle of attack, but fails to develop from there. None of the bosses are particularly hard once you have the divekick down. There’s a couple of superpowered attacks that range from “more damaging version of divekick” to “complete waste of energy that would have been better spent flicking bogeys at the enemy.”

On that note, you can also throw physics objects, which is the most pointless and awkward-to-use ability of them all, don’t even bother. There are some challenges based around it, which are like asking a butcher to challenge himself for five minutes by replacing his knife with a drinking straw.

What’s worth noting about the combat is that monsters never show up in free-roam, only at pre-determined points in missions. It’s almost like the combat doesn’t integrate terribly well as a core mechanic, and is being thrown in as an arbitrary challenge whenever we remember we’re supposed to be a video game.

At the end of the day, Gravity Rush can’t boast great design, nor much of a sandbox given the shortage of missions and that you can drive around the whole world in ten minutes (and that includes the break for sandwiches), and even then there are entire sections of the world the game will do maybe one thing with and forget about — possibly because the game had to keep cutting its arms and legs off until it could squeeze into a handheld.

But there’s a certain charm to it — the story element feels like a basket of individual kittens loosely tied in place with string. But the highlight of the game is a mission that starts with in innocuous fetch-quest and turns into a years-long odyssey to the end of the universe, and a game with tighter control of itself probably couldn’t have done that. It’s like Willy Wonka fucking nails the childlike wonder thing, but you wouldn’t put him in charge of the company sports day.

Addenda Edit

  • Head in the Clouds: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Still I can see the logic of the flying girl who changes gravity all over the place not wanting to wear a skirt
  • Someone should get around to patenting dive kicks
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
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2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
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2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
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Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
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2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017

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