I reviewed Gravity Daze last month and awarded it a perfect score. It’s the PS Vita’s killer app; it single-handedly justifies the system’s asking price. And after spending more than 40 hours with it (multiple playthroughs), I can honestly say this–it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. Now, I don’t throw that phrase around liberally, but it perfectly describes how I feel about Gravity Daze.
It’s easy to label a game a “masterpiece” in the heat of the moment (we’ve all been drunk on hype), but the true test comes once you put down the controller (or PS Vita) and the hype subsides. I believe this is when a true evaluation occurs. Faux-masterpieces are quickly forgotten once the honeymoon phase ends–while the real ones linger in your thoughts long after the credits roll.
Most open world games are about power or transitioning from rags to riches, but Gravity Daze is about self-discovery. Kat never works her way up to a sprawling mansion in the best part of town, and while she can collect enough precious gems to become godlike—she’s far from power-hungry. Leveling up her abilities felt natural, it was less about the power and more about highlighting her blossoming confidence as a superhero. Once you’ve completed the game your first thought isn’t “Wow, Kat is a real badass.” It’s “Wow, Kat has really found her place in this world.”
I don’t want to sound cheesy, all of this makes you feel like maybe you can find your place in this world. Kat has some self-doubt, and by the end of her journey she doesn’t have all the answers. But she finds her purpose in life, and there’s something remarkably human about that. She isn’t a tough guy with a chip on his shoulder, she only wants to unravel the mystery of her past, and to help the people of Hekseville.
By now I’m sure all of you know that this was originally planned for the PS3, and it was somewhat inspired by the Xbox 360 exclusive Crackdown. This inspiration didn’t surprise me, back on February 25th before the news came out I said:
What would an open world game be without collectables? When Crackdown came out, I’d spend hours jumping around the city, in search of orbs. There’s something additive about hunting for objects on rooftops. Gravity Daze has purple gems instead of orbs, and once you collect enough you can level up Kat’s abilities.
Now I loved Crackdown, to this day it’s one of my favorite Xbox 360 games, but it fell into a trap that most open world action games fall into. It was all about the action, the story was generic and almost nonexistent, the character you controlled was a tool (literally), and the game’s world lacked that special something. Still, the action was so over the top and enjoyable gamers easily forgave these shortcomings.
I bring all of this up because Gravity Daze’s gameplay is good enough to stand on its own (it’s intense, varied, and perfect for quick pick up and play sessions). Even if Kat were a nameless mercenary in a generic city and all the wonderful character interactions were removed the game would remain fun. But it wouldn’t be an instant classic, just a great game. Hekseville’s unique design, Kat’s personality, the wonderful cast, and a truly intriguing story pushes this game to the next level.
Gravity Daze is evocative, beautiful, charming, and a lot of fun to play. And in a strange twist, the English version remains one of my most anticipated games of 2012. Yes, even after beating the Japanese version a few times I’m still excited for the June 12th U.S. release date, and you should be too. As far as I’m concerned this is a mandatory purchase for every PS Vita owner.