Gravity Rush Review

Gravity Rush, the highly anticipated Playstation Vita exclusive from Keiichiro Toyama, designer behind the Silent Hill, Siren and several other titles has finally arrived for western audiences after multiple delays causing several release date revisions.

The game starts off with the protagonist, Kat, falling from the sky and landing in the floating town of Hekseville. She soon wakes up completely devoid of any memories of who she is or where she’s landed. Now fully conscious, Kat soon meets a mysterious cat that has apparently chosen to accompany her for some unknown reason.

Kat’s feliene companion, Dusty

It’s not long before kat discovers that with her new feline companion, now called ‘Dusty’, she has the ability to shift gravity at will. Of course, this attracts quite a fair amount of attention from the citizens of Hekseville, some of whom regard Kat as a hero and some who only think of her as a nuisance.  Coincidentally, the town also sees an increase in devastating ‘gravity storms’, which alter the gravity in the surrounding area and sucks in anything unlucky enough to be nearby, and attacks from a species of mysterious monsters known as the ‘Nevi’. Confident in her newly discovered gravity powers, Kat decides to help fight the Nevi as they are encountered to protect the citizens.

When using Kat’s gravity abilities, the main one at your disposal is shifting gravity to virtually any direction. This allows you to walk on walls, ceilings, the sides of buildings or anywhere you can possibly imagine. By shifting gravity, you can also ‘fly’ to any desired point by using the right analogue stick, or motion sensor to move a target reticule in to place while floating, then shifting gravity to that direction. To combat the Nevi, Kat’s main attacks will be a standard kick while she’s standing on the ground, or a gravity kick, which can be used while floating in mid air and homes in on the targeted area with gravity-enhanced force. Later in the game, you will also learn new special gravity attacks you can use in battle.

Floating around one of the areas in Hekseville

The bulk of the game’s story is told through completing designated story missions, which you navigate to by finding the mission markers placed in the town. This means a fair amount of travelling back and forth around the different areas of Hekseville to get to your next objective point. While this may seem tedious, simply using the gravity powers to explore Hekseville provides an enjoyable experience as you fly around and explore the city from above the rooftops, underneath the city’s foundations or walking along the walls between the many buildings populating the area.

In addition to the story missions, you can find and play through optional challenge missions scattered around the city, each requiring you to complete a certain objective such as defeating as many enemies as possible within a time limit or use your gravity powers to pick up as much garbage as you can to clear the streets. While these extra missions aren’t essential and don’t supplement the story in any way, they do reward you with ‘precious gems’ depending on how well you do at the end of the challenge. These gems can then be used to unlock other challenge missions or upgrade Kat’s abilities and enhance her powers. Completing these extra missions and collecting gems scattered around the town will help you get a few more hours out of the game, but these may not appeal to players who are only interested in the main storyline.

Kat at home, relaxing between missions

As for the story, Gravity Rush presents a unique and intriguing tale, featuring interesting characters and consistently grabs your attention with multiple twists and turns in the storyline. While some of these plot points can be pretty predictable, the game also progresses in a few completely unexpected ways.  The story narrative throughout the game should have no problem keeping players engaged and wanting to know more about what happens next with Kat or the numerous other personalities she encounters along the way. A lot of supplemental plot points are raised during the game, such the history of other characters or where Kat came from, but the ending leaves a few of these points unresolved, with no real closure to kat’s story or any final conclusion. Hopefully, this leaves the door open for additional story content in the form of DLC or a sequel to tell the rest of the story and fill in the gaps that are left at the end of the game.

Hanging around…

From a technological standpoint, Gravity Rush doesn’t seem to be pushing the limits of the PlayStation Vita hardware in terms of graphical fidelity. However, the beautiful comic book inspired, cel-shaded graphics definitely make you forget about that. The environments and characters in gravity rush have a unique style to them and the level of detail in creating the world you explore in the game is amazing.

Even though it’s only been a couple months after the PlayStation Vita’s western release, common opinion is that it’s currently in dire need of exclusive titles for it to remain relevant for multiplatform gamers. Luckily, Gravity Rush delivers a unique experience you can only get here on the PS Vita and would be a welcome addition to any owner’s collection.

Clearing out the backlog…

I think It’s probably time I tried to update this more often with some more design and game stuff, so I thought I should start by actually posting some of the stuff that’s been lingering in drafts for the past couple months. I’ll probably need to clean up some of them as quite a few are just random sequences of words I made as notes.

Oh well…

Guess I’m officially a graphic designer now?…

Today, PlayStation Access officially announced the winner of the PlayStation Access cover star competition that I entered last month, and my design was chosen as the winner!

It was somewhat surprising that my design was chosen as it was in 9th place in terms of overall votes by the time the competition ended, but the panel of judges decided that my design best fulfilled the design brief. The design will now be featured on the cover of the next PlayStation Access magazine and also be available as a printed poster in the next Don’t Panic Pack. Hopefully I’ll be able to find one of each to keep them as examples of my first piece of design work to be printed on  a large scale.

In addition to having my work as the cover of the next PlayStation Access magazine, I’ll also be receiving a new PSVita, a Sony Alpha 77 camera and Sony NEX-7 camera. I think they’ll come in handy over the next few months.

Lumines : Electronic Symphony Review

Just over 6 years ago, Lumines debuted on the original Sony PSP console as a launch title developed by Mizuguchi Tetsuya, probably most known for Rez and its spiritual successor, the recent Child of Eden game. Fast-forward to present day and Q has returned with the latest game in the Lumines series, Electronic Symphony, for the PS Vita’s launch.

Upon starting the game, you’ll be greeted with the menu, where you can select to play one of the various modes available. The main game mode, voyage, allows you play through all the skins in the game’s tracklist back to back.The core aim of the game still remains the same as always, you use the falling blocks to match squares of the same colour, which are then cleared as the time slider scrolls past the screen. As you complete each skin, you unlock it and can then add it to a custom playlist in the returning playlist mode. The first few skins in voyage mode start off rather easy, with the difficulty gradually increasing the longer you manage to continue playing without any blocks reaching the top of the screen. This is definitely useful for new players, so they can get accustomed to playing the game, but veterans may find it takes too long to get to a difficulty level which would challenge their abilities.

So, for players looking for more of a challenge mode, Master mode gives you 5 ‘zones’ of increasing difficulty and speed, which you can play through in sequence, or select a specific zone once you’ve unlocked it. Stopwatch mode is included as a simple time-attack mode where you need to clear as much blocks as you can in 30,60,180 or 300 seconds. Multiplayer is also included in the form of the Duel mode, where you can play other Lumines players via the Ad-hoc connection.

To keep ES from being a simple rehash of the previous games, several new features that have been introduced to the Lumines series. The main addition, the Experience System, keeps track of the scores you get in each of the game modes and awards you XP. as your XP bar fills and you level up, new skins and avatars are unlocked. This feature will be very useful for players who want to get some of the later skins in voyage mode but cant survive long enough to reach them.
The avatars that you select now can provide you with abilities you can use in game to help you clear blocks or to hinder your opponents when playing multiplayer. Each avatar has 2 abilities, one for single player and the other for multiplayer, with over 40 different avatars available to unlock. While the addition of avatar abilities isn’t a game-changing feature, it can definitely be useful when you have a pile of blocks nearing the top of the screen and need something to deal with them quickly. This can also be said about the ‘Swap Block’, another new in game feature, which will randomly swap the colours of all the connecting blocks when it is placed. If you’re lucky it could even create a large chain of blocks once it’s swapped the colours around.

One unusual addition to the game is the “world block”, which is a block of 2 million squares, which gets reset every 24 hours. During every 24 hour period, all Lumines : ES players are tasked with clearing this block by contributing squares. This is done automatically when you clear squares in the single player modes while connected to the Internet. This isn’t essential, but contributing to this will award you with bonus XP, which can help you unlock that next skin or avatar.

While the core game hasn’t been changed a great deal from the original, Q Entertainment have imbued Electronic Symphony with several new features to enhance the experience for old and new players alike. Playing Electronic Symphony on the PS Vita with the vivid colours and backgrounds, as well as the new 3D blocks, looks absolutely stunning on the 5” OLED screen, while the catchy soundtrack will always keep you coming back for more. If you want to be fully immersed in the experience, a good pair of headphones would be a wise choice indeed.

EAG Expo 2012

Last week from January 24th to 26th, the EAG International Expo returned to london to showcase some of the new and upcoming products in the amusement and arcade business. Several big players were there such as SEGA and Bandai Namco, as well as many distributors of arcade equipment. While I was there, I was lucky to have a chance to try out several new arcade games that have recently been released in the UK or had yet to recieve a full release.

One of the first games I tried out was a new music-rythym game called ReRave. Developed by Step Evolution & Coast to Coast Entertainment and distributed by Bandai Namco, ReRave is a touch-based music rythym game where you need to touch, hold and drag on beat markers on the screen in time with the music. Played on a large 46” 12-point multitouch screen, ReRave immerses you in the game and requires you to pay attention to the whole play area as the markers can appear anywhere on-screen.
This is a welcome change to touch-based music games since many such as DJ max technika or even ones played on mobile devices like TapSonic or Tap Tap Revenge only require you to ineract with a set area on the screen, but in ReRave, you may need to ineract with the whole screen depending on where the markers appear next. The song selection for ReRave is quite varied with some original tracks and licenced ones, but a cool feature Step Evolution has incorporated into the game is a persistent online connection which will automatically update each ReRave arcade machine with additional tracks each month. The great thing about this feature is that it won’t cost any extra to the arcade owner or the player, ensuring that each machine, no matter where it is, will have access to the same tracklist.
The Online connectivity will also allow players to track their progress and experience in the game through unique online accounts, accessed via a username and pin which you can sign in to on the machine when you wish to have your stats saved to your account.
In addition to the ReRave arcade machine, Step Evolution have also released an iOS version of the game, with an android version coming soon, for people to play on the go. The mobile version of the game features the same songs and you can also link the same online account you would use in the arcade version, so you can continue adding to your account’s experience and stats even when you’re not using the arcade machine.

With all of these innovative features, ReRave seems like it could be one of the most ambitious music/ryhtym games in recent memory and could give other games like DJ Max Technika a run for their money.

Also at the Bandai Namco booth was a large, gameshow-like setup featuring Pacman Battle Royal. Even though it had been around for a while before this expo, I had only seen it in the table-top configuration, rather than this large setup featuring a 46” screen connected to 4 joysticks, each on a separate pedestal approximately 3” away from the screen.

While at the expo, there were several other offerings from major developers, but not much that hadn’t been already announced.

2nd Assignment – Am I done yet?

Progress continues on Assignment No#2…

Keyboard 3D Model – Mostly Done

Cheap test attempt at compositing – Done.

HDRI Map created – TBC

I suppose the next stage will be to refine the keyboard a bit more and try manually tweaking the lighting in case the HDRI Map can’t be made (or fails).