Copyright Adam Schlosser
Contact:
aschloss@gmail.com


Copyright 2005 Adam Schlosser


Posted by Pip

F86- Is Not On My Side

It's time to check in with our next power couple. “Time” to check in. “Tiiime”... Comedy gold, people! Ha!
The island of time is a dangerous place and with quickly switching weather patterns, who knows when you might need an umbrella or suddenly need a toque! Or a volcano opens up under you and plunges you into primordial lava. Actually, kind of sounds like it's worth it. Go, Time!


Quick Critique: Gravity Rush
Kat is an adorable character. She's probably one of the most immediately likable new game characters in some time. She has awesome powers, a cool look, and a magical cosmic space cat. There's a great sense of weight to the game. Kat doesn't gracefully float around when messing with gravity, she's off-balance and spins around all sprawled out with her scarf and hair flying about. When you crash into something, she really slams into it with the appropriate thudding sound effects and parts of the environment will snap off or break if you really ram into them. As cool as the game looks and yearns to be, it's kind of just not fun to play.
I despise the controls and that immediately limits how long I want to play it. Even with the camera sensitivity turned way down and the gyroscope controls off, the camera is too quick and floaty and the slightest movement causes leaps and shifts in what you're looking at. You use X to jump, R to active your gravity powers, the left stick to move, and the right stick to aim/move when floating. That's not a comfortable control scheme. Then another move has you hold the bottom right and left corners of the touchscreen to start sliding and you flick the system up to jump. This is the "you will never use this unless the game absolutely forces you to" move. L to jump and R to use gravity would have worked just fine and some of the moves/controls just removed to make for a more enjoyable experience. Combat is pretty lackluster so I'd happily see all of that gone. If you're on the ground, you mash X to kick but then you have to swipe on the touch screen to dodge so you're trying to use the buttons, analogue sticks, and touch screen all at the same time. If you're in the air, you fight by flinging yourself at the enemy. So all you're doing is lining yourself up, pressing a button, and waiting while Kat flies over to the enemy. If it moves out of the way, you stop, line yourself up again, and try again until the enemy sits still for a second. The only nuance is whether you fling yourself at the enemy from the side, above it, or keep flinging yourself at it if it's armored. None of that is fun and if the enemy moves more than a tiny bit, you fly past it so you have to maneuver around and adjust the camera, all while the enemy is spewing projectiles at you from off-screen. The upgrades are super expensive and the way you get points towards them is by completing challenges. However, the challenges are almost all combat or time attack modes that aren't any fun since you spend most of them fighting against the camera or engaging in the crappy combat, so you get bad scores which leads to lower points which leads to things being harder since you aren't upgrading which means you do worse in challenges and so on and so on. It's a poorly designed system since the only way to get help with the game is to already be good at it and it's not fun to put the practice into it to get good at it. I simply chose a handful of powers to upgrade and ignored everything else to make up for the upgrade points I couldn't get. There are also instant fail stealth sections. That's never, never a good idea.
You have these cool gravity powers but the game keeps taking them away from you during missions. The proper way to introduce challenge as players power up is to ramp up what they have to do or change how they think about obstacles to force them to use their new abilities in novel ways. Gravity Rush instead just takes your powers away from you. So when things are normal, you're about as strong at the end of the game as you were at the start, but in the middle, the game just dictates that you can't fly or your powers run out after two seconds. The game is dangling "hey, we have this awesome premise!" and then it snatches that away from you and denies you the fun part of the game.
Even small things prevented me from enjoying my time outside of missions. The starting town music is suuuper annoying after the first 10 seconds. The music loops are also really short, so if you're doing any exploring to try to find the upgrade points, you will hear this lousy music so so much. It doesn't seem to actually save all your progress when you save. Townspeople you can interact with have speech bubble icons on the map, so if you go talk to all of them, save, then quit, when you reload the game, all the speech bubbles are back. I'm not sure if that affected how the story unfolded since the game might think I hadn't talked to people or didn't have some information, but it doesn't seem that hard to save that information at the very least. It's really inconsistent in when you can save too. Some times you can save after every story mission but at some points in the game, it immediately throws you into the next or even next two missions without a break between to save the game or quit since you need to return to a specific spot to save. That's poor form in a portable title. It's bad enough not allowing players to save anywhere in a handheld title but to force them into missions does not work for players trying to portably use their portable game.
After a final boss fight that's more tedious than challenging or anything approaching fun, the ending leaves A LOT unexplained. I'll go so far as to say that it explains nothing. By the end, you still don't know where Kat came from, her backstory, and how she got her powers. You don't learn anything about the magic space animals that seemed to be linked to other characters' powers. You don't know what the enemies were or where they came from and why they're evil. You don't know what the world is or what all the talk about it existing in a dream is about or who the characters that call themselves the Creators are and how or why they created this world. You don't learn anything about the alternate dimension, maybe non-dream world, maybe drug trip world where Kat is maybe a space princess. You start the game not knowing anything and end the game knowing only that gravity powers are keen, Kat is cool, and magic space cat seems to have life figured out. I guess the story concludes with a "buy the sequel!", which now 3 years after the game's release still does not exist. Also, you straight up murder the villains. But then the game chickens out and during the credits tells you that the character you exploded a mini-Death Star on was only hospitalized with light wounds. Gravity Rush is a really great tech demo for showing off what the Vita can do, but as a game, it would have been far better to ditch the touch control stuff and rework the control scheme to be more usable and play like a normal game.