Gravity Rush: Touched by the Hand of God

Gravity Rush is my favorite game from last year. It was the reason I bought a Vita, and it's the reason I still own a Vita. It gives a woman named Kat control over her personal gravity, and she slowly becomes a floating city's misunderstood resident superhero. The journey isn't entirely smooth for her or the player, but there's rarely a tepid moment. It’s incredibly fun just to mess with gravitational defiance, to send Kat hurtling across skyscrapers and racing along the underside of a metropolis that’s part Mobius comic, part Russian art deco. It’s a shame that the Vita’s limited success keeps Gravity Rush out of reach for many.

A certain part of Gravity Rush is troubling in one way or another. The game uses the Vita’s touch screen primarily for menus and one rather unnecessary sliding move, yet there’s a secret addition. If you touch Dusty, Kat’s pet cat and floating companion, he’ll disintegrate in a puff of smoke and re-materialize himself a second later. If you touch Kat, she’ll gasp in surprise and look around her.

Many of the Gravity Rush players who’ve noticed this assume that it’s some perverted joke, and they point out that Kat vaguely motions at her rear end as though to shield it. Sadly, this would fit with another unpleasant part of Gravity Rush. While the game takes the high road a good deal of the time, at least one scene subjects Kat to the sexualized nonsense that comic books often visit upon their heroines; a visitor catches her just after a shower, so she loses her towel and blushes. Haw haw. And since Kat’s an exceptionally likable and sympathetic heroine, this event grates even more than it would in a mediocre game. Gravity Rush, you are better than this.

But let’s give director Keiichiro Toyama and the Gravity Rush team the benefit of the doubt for a short while. Kat’s response is the same no matter where the player taps her, and her motions are identical to those she makes if she drifts too far from the city and warps back to safety. It suggests that she’s perplexed rather than harassed, or at least that the director left it purposefully vague.

Kat’s reaction is still disturbing, but for a much better reason. She’s felt the presence of some unseen entity, a being that exerts control over everything she does. Kat may be esteemed as the “Gravity Goddess” in her own world, but she now realizes that she isn’t the top of the pantheon. Unlike the player lending prayers to the final battle in Earthbound or fielding questions from the robot-girl of Wonder Project J2, there’s nothing comforting about Kat’s brush with her manipulator. She clearly doesn’t know what she experienced, only that it came from a place beyond everything she knows. As with all cases of omnipotent intercession, she can’t be sure it even happened.

Kat recovers quickly from her tinge of divine influence, and it leaves any reflection up to the player. Perhaps you, the meddlesome architect of Kat’s triumph and suffering alike, should feel bad about confusing her. You’ve dropped her off floating cities, crashed her into streets, and pressed her into service for both a scheming military and ungrateful citizens. Now you’re giving her existential tremors.

Dusty, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care about otherworldly taunts or the fragile curtain of Gravity Rush's reality. He’s a cat, after all.