This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Gravity Rush 2.
You may remember Gravity Rush being a quirky superhero sandbox type thing with Japanese characteristics, by which I mean, the important characters are all squeaky teenage girls looking like they had to hurriedly dress themselves in an arts and crafts shop during a power outage, released last year on the PS4. In which case, you remembered WRONG, yer idiot. Duh. As every intelligent person knows, it was first released in 2012 for the PlayStation Vita and therefore was played by slightly fewer people than it takes to push a small car out of a ditch.
But now the sequel's out and with no more obligation to prop up shitty handhelds, it's free to make the most of the PS4's superior technology. So they added some trackpad gimmicks. Oh, Sony. The spirit of the Renaissance lives on through thee.
In Gravity Rush, we play a young girl called Kat, who owns a cat, and has a friend called Raven who owns a raven. By the same principle I am sometimes known downtown as Mr. Debilitating Hernia. Kat, or rather Kat's cat, has the mysterious ability to shift gravity around her, which she uses to defend a strange society of floating islands populated by the cast of all the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, including Alien: Resurrection, thinking about it, since black monsters keep attacking.
But Gravity Rush 2 starts with Kat cut off from her home city, superpower, and cat, and being forced to work for a poor mining community, although these doldrums last about ten minutes before her cat shows up again in a manner I found slightly hilarious. "Oh, if only my cat were here," exclaims Kat in a moment of stress, whereupon her cat literally walks nonchalantly into shot from the lower right. "Oh there he is!" I love it. It's like something from the Beginner's Guide to Screenwriting for Audiences with No Attention Span, matched only by the rest of what I shall tentatively call the plot of Gravity Rush 2, which continues the trend started in Gravity Rush 1 of writing down a whole bunch of only vaguely connected story elements and then flapping its hands while blowing a raspberry.
The real challenge isn't the gameplay, it's trying to guess if the current plot arc is going to be the actual final climactic one or if it's going to fizzle out five minutes from now to start another. First the plot is helping to save the poor mining community out of gratitude for being enslaved by them, then we come to a big city with a class divide problem and overthrow the corrupt government, then after we've done that a giant monster shows up which we immediately defeat. Then the game goes "Ah, fuck it, let's just go back to the city from the first game and fight another, unrelated corrupt government. And then you have to fight Sailor Moon or some bollocks. What's that? The budget's nearly run out? Oh well, let's just pick a character at random and have them turn into a giant blob of faces and tits for want of a final boss fight. Then smash cut to credits the instant it dies. There, that's a game, sixty bucks please."
This really is story design off its ADD medication. "Oh, Yahtzee, clearly you don't understand." Well then, make me understand, passing twat. "It's called 'picaresque narrative'. There's not supposed to be a single cohesive plotline running through it, it's a rascally protagonist undergoing various adventures to explore or satirize the world in which they live." Maybe, but they've been holding back some grand revelation about Kat's identity for two games now. You could at least explain why she keeps forgetting to wear trousers.
The cat (not Kat, that is, I mean the cat cat) must be quite the fucking trendsetter 'cos it feels like every character gets a turn at mysteriously disappearing from the plot so they can reappear apropos of nothing the next time a deus ex machina is needed. Villains become heroes, heroes become villains, it's like speed dating night at the schizophrenia ward.
And the thing is, I actually like Kat as a character. She's spunky and positive-spirited with this loveable air of having no idea what the fuck she's doing. She still flies through the air like a limp noodle in a chicken soup machine, endearingly smashing into things.
The gravity shifting controls haven't changed from the last game, I still don't understand why you have to stop and go into floaty mode before we can change fall direction. When you're in the sky with no nearby points of reference and trying to fight a fast-moving flying enemy about the size of a wasp's bollock, it's actually quite easy to lose track of whether or not you're in floaty or fly-y mode and press the shift button too many times. I can only imagine what the bystanders think of my performance. "Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it two crippled kestrels fighting over an epileptic bat?"
This is the major annoyance in the boss fights, but rest assured there are plenty of other annoyances sprinkled around to make a lovely smorgasbord of pain. Two features have been added that were also coincidentally added by Dead Rising 4. The first is a camera with the ability to take selfies. Why does it feel like every game I've played lately has included the ability to take selfies? I'm not saying that it automatically makes the game worse; I am, however, always unaccountably disappointed that the different poses you can get the protagonist to adopt do not include "punch self in the sexual characteristics".
The other thing is stealth gameplay, obviously. Because when you have a girl dressed like a fitness instructor who got hurled through the window of a curtain shop, who spends most of her time flinging large objects and herself through the air and bouncing her head off lamp posts and window boxes, my first thought is that such a person is entirely qualified for covert ops. It's the worst kind of stealth, too, where they just switch it on for one mission every now and again where you fail instantly the moment a guard spots you. I mean, I play anime superhero brick wall head-butting games to escape from shit like that; it's about as fun as adding a key to a key ring with one hand stuck up the arse of a dead chinchilla. Somewhat.
Now, about those trackpad gimmicks I mentioned. You lovingly finger the PS4 controller's electronic clitoris to switch to different gravity modes in case you feel like wrestling with a different set of dodgy controls for a while. But whenever I discovered a new gravity mode power, I felt more despair than interest, because I knew it was time for another round of fucking tutorials. Tutorial mad, this game; it's like fucking teacher training college. Use your new power to kill some lads. Now kill some more lads. Now kill these ones in order. Now kill these ones in a time limit. Now kill them with a book on your head while humming the alphabet song. Alright, here's your certificate, you may now return to the plot.
Gravity Rush was a game that had a certain idiosyncratic charm to it, which the sequel still has, but it was trying my patience. I think before they make another one they need to sit down and figure out where the fuck Kat's character arc is actually going, besides into the side of a bridge support at near terminal velocity.
- Propelled by farts: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Well maybe they explain who she is in all that post-credits True Ending business I couldn't be arsed to finish
- I prefer the 'pixaresque' narrative which is the same but with talking cars