Sometimes I dream I can fly — but it isn't the majestic soaring of an eagle, Superman or even R. Kelly. It's awkward, like something I've forgotten how to do and have to learn all over again. I can barely control my altitude or velocity, so I never know when I'll plummet to the ground or crash into a wall.
"Gravity Rush" (Sony, for the Vita, $39.99) captures that mix of exhilaration and anxiety. Your character, a girl named Kat, can't remember her own past and is just figuring out how to use her newfound ability to defy gravity. Add in some gooey monsters from another dimension, and you have the stuff of nightmares.
Kat doesn't exactly fly. Instead, she changes the effect gravity has on her body, so she can walk up walls or hang from ceilings. The mechanics are simple: You press one button to make Kat float, point a reticle where you want her to land, then press another button to make her leap to the next surface. She may arrive with a crash, but she's generally impervious to any damage from falling. The perspective then shifts so that wherever Kat landed is now "down."
At first, it's easy to get confused trying to remember which way is up. But the developers of "Gravity Rush" gently ease you into using Kat's powers — so by the time the alien Nevi arrive, you're ready to take them down with high-flying attacks.
Kat can simply run up to enemies and pound them, but it's far more effective to use her "gravity kick": By aiming at the monsters as she falls, she adds the force of gravity to her attacks. Getting a bead on some of the shiftier creatures can be frustrating, but it's quite satisfying when you nail one just right and send it spinning into oblivion.
Beyond combat, though, I really enjoyed just exploring Kat's new home, the steampunkish Hekseville. Scattered throughout the city's towers and sewers are pink gems Kat can spend to upgrade her abilities, including the power of her attacks and the length of time she can stay airborne. It's easy to lose a few hours just bouncing around town, discovering its secrets and meeting its citizens.
There's a solid story here too, told largely through comic book-like sequences, and Kat is one of the most charming video-game heroines in a long while. She makes "Gravity Rush" a must-buy for anyone who has invested in Sony's new portable game machine. Three stars out of four.
"Inversion" (Namco Bandai, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $49.99) promises similar high jinks — like "Gravity Rush," its cover art shows the protagonist "standing" horizontally on the wall of a building. But it settles for being a mundane shooter, failing to exploit the possibilities of its gravity-bending gimmick.
As "Inversion" begins, Vanguard City is being invaded by a race of particularly unpleasant aliens. But as brutish as they are, the Lutadore can manipulate gravity. It's up to your character, a cop named Davis, to steal one of their "gravlinks" and wield it against them.
You can use the gravlink to make a ceiling crash down to provide an escape route. Or you can lighten heavy objects and throw them at enemies. But the controls are aggravatingly imprecise — by the time you grab and hurl a projectile, you're likely to be shot down. It's safer to play "Inversion" like your standard gun game: Find cover, shoot, repeat ad infinitum.
Eventually, "Inversion" lets you climb the walls or even fight in zero gravity, but it's a long and tedious slog to that point. By then, a promising concept has come crashing to earth. One star.
Follow Lou Kesten on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lkesten
- Arts & Entertainment