Monday, December 22, 2014

REVIEW - Velocity 2X.

Velocity 2X - sequel to a 2012 smart phone game that was good enough to get a pretty-damned-awesome PS Vita remake - has an attitude very different from most indie games.  Developer FuturLab have, in the past few years, garnered a reputation as a studio whose titles possess razor-sharp mechanics that demand the very best of their players, but remain exceedingly playable.  They specialize in fast-paced, twitchy action games, and the amount of accolades they've earned between Velocity and Surge Deluxe is expansive.

Indies can occasionally come across as a bit... desperate to be liked.  A bit needy for your approval.  Velocity 2X doesn't give a shit what you think.  It knows it's awesome.

It's very confident, and not without reason.

Velocity 2X represents the developer at the top of their craft, and is the most polished, accessible-yet-viciously-challenging, well-presented game FuturLab has ever made.

Its narrative is pleasingly-presented with lush, cartoony storyboards that showcase hero cyborg pilot Kai Tana's general badassery as she takes it upon herself to spearhead an interstellar slave revolt in her quest to return to Earth (after she got sucked into a black hole at the end of Velocity Ultra).

The gameplay is instantly-comfortable to anyone who threw down with Ultra in 2013 - a classic top-down shoot'em up with puzzle elements that require total mastery of your ship's ability to teleport across the screen at will, which ends up being blisteringly fast when you start shooting for top scores across its fifty levels.  It remains as thrilling now as it was then to bamf bamf bamf teleport through a series of obstacles, disappearing just before enemy projectiles would have smacked into you, reappearing in the middle of a formation of evil drones and flinging bombs in all direction.

Instead of the relatively uniform environments of Ultra, 2X sends the player across garden worlds, ice worlds and space junks - though it is, admittedly, hard to notice the lovely background art when you're blasting by as fast as possible.

2X doesn't sit on Velocity's laurels with a new coat of paint and some new levels.  Roughly a third of the game consists of Kai leaping out of her Quarp Jet for sidescrolling platforming so speedy it would make Sonic long for his sixteen-bit youth.

Cleverly, Kai's controls on foot are largely identical to the Quarp Jet's.  R1 is run here as it is boost there, and square permits her to tele-dash through solid objects and enemies.  Instead of feeling tacked-on or half-baked, her 2D platforming is even sharper, her action more confidently expressive than when she's in the pilot's seat, and the game's greatest thrills are found as she dashes through alien halls at a breakneck pace, obliterating collectible crystals as she flies by with a long rapid-fire string from her palm-blaster.  It's so incredibly fast - and so easy to screw up if you're not entirely invested for even a second - that it ends up being not only the most visually impressive part of the game, but also the most satisfying.

The game's challenge gradient is excellent - it goes from merely challenging and entirely linear to utterly insane and labyrinthian by the end, but still eminently doable thanks to a steady escalation of complexity that slowly turn the player into a speed-running, teleporting martial artist.

It's exemplary, and an exemplary sequel - from tip to tail.

  • Lovely presentation
  • Lovely art direction
  • Excellent music
  • Very fun
  • Very challening
  • Excellent design
  • Additions to the formula work beautifully 
If there's a strike against it, it's that - once mastered - you won't feel a pressing need to return to Velocity 2X any time soon.  It's not a game like Olli Olli that calls you back, every so often, to zip through its levels as a quick diversion.  It requires absolutely all of you, or nothing.  

If you don't bring your A-game, you'll never get past level 45. 

Despite its nearly uniform excellence, it's not a game for everyone - but if you're longing for something that rewards keen reflexes, path memorization and classic arcadey sensibilities while thumping you with an awesome electro soundtrack, Velocity 2X would like a word.

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