This month’s PS+ gave subscribers to the service ‘Velocity 2X’ from Futurlab – on PS4 AND PS Vita. It also happened to be a brand new release. Of course, veterans of the original ‘Velocity’ will know – roughly – what they’re getting into. So much so, that they will have already downloaded it and won’t waste anytime reading reviews. This review isn’t aimed at any of them – infact, I’m not sure that this is even a review? I’ve put this under the review banner because I will be talking about the gameplay, graphics and soundtrack – but this is more of a plea than a review.
Every month, the PS+ games drop and people start complaining about indie games that ‘could have been made 15 years ago.’ This is causing many gamers to ignore absolute gems. Velocity 2X is a prime example of this. On the face of it, Velocity 2X may look like a simple topdown, retro-inspired space shooter. It’s only when you pick it up and play that you realise it has so much more to offer.
The game’s dynamics are presented to the player slowly and at breakneck speed. Allow me to explain…
After a comic book style story introduction, you are dropped into a ship with a new weapon, skill or ability brought in at the start of each early level. However, the best way to get through each level is to smash through it as quickly as possible. You start by learning to boost – simple. Next, you are shown how to shoot at stuff, to destroy the environment and open up new paths (and eventually, defeat enemies). So far, so 16-bit. Any retro shooter you care to name has been pretty much covered by this point. Move, boost, shoot, repeat.
Velocity doesn’t take long to expand upon this formula. Within a few short levels, you are introduced to teleporting dynamic. Your ship can teleport short distances, through walls, past enemies, through shots fired at you etc. Hold the square button and move the curse to your desired location and -zip- you’re there as soon as you release!
As you fly through levels, you’re tasked with rescuing survivors (essentially, flying through rescue pods littered throughout the stage). The teleport function allows you to zip into hard to reach places, rescue survivors and escape again in fractions of second.
It doesn’t stop there either; before long you’re given the ability to toss bombs in one of four directions using the second thumbstick, drop your own spawn point that you can teleport back to allowing you to explore both paths when there is a fork in the road – and more. Perhaps the most unexpected part of the game is also one of its greatest features. The ability to leave your ship.
Whole levels (and often mid-level sections) are dedicated to leaving your ship and continuing your 2D adventure on foot. At this point Velocity 2X becomes less a high paced, top down, puzzle shooter and instead morphs into a cross between Metroid and Sonic the Hedgehog as you race through a 2D platform world, shooting, morphing, sliding and leaping to unlock switches, collect crystals and escape back to your ship to continue the battle in space flight.
It’s always fast, frantic and insanely fun. Both your ship and your character are constantly being upgraded and presented with ever more deceptively complex puzzles to navigate. Nearly every button of your Dualshock 4 or PS Vita is put to frequent use as you find yourself combining every technique and weapon to charge through levels collecting crystals, killing baddies, rescuing survivors unlocking switches and teleporting in and out of danger.
Velocity 2X rates your performance after each level based on survivors rescued – which is relatively easy to hit max level early on, crystals collected, points scored; and the crucial part – time taken to complete. As you might imagine, one often comes at the price of the others. When I first started playing, I found I could max out survivors and points, but speed suffered massively as I was thorough, but not quick. As I developed better control of my craft and more confidence in my weapons, my speed started to shoot up, but I was now missing survivors.
The Velocity veterans – which I’m knocking on the door of, but not there yet – combine their speed and skill to grab every survivor, gem and kill every baddie without missing a step and manage to max out all four. I’ve achieved this on some earlier levels – but will be a long time chasing that Platinum Trophy.
The game looks stunning, super smooth and vibrant whatever platform you choose to play (and yes, cross-buy and cross-save are supported in you own both). It has an awesome, thumping yet ambient soundtrack that adds to the immersion, especially through a headset. Screen shots may make it look like a simple game, I advise you first to watch video footage – which may actually make it look intimidatingly complex. The learning curve is, thankfully, incredibly fair. It allows you to get to grips with each ability one at a time, but doesn’t waste any time introducing the next one either.
So here I am, back to my plea. Don’t let this one pass you by just because it’s developed by an indie company. You might have skipped out on Don’t Starve, ignored Mercenary Kings or given Towerfall a wide berth? Don’t let that happen here, Velocity 2X is something incredibly special – that definitely couldn’t have been attempted 15-20 years ago. If you think yourself a veteran gamer (I don’t use the term ‘hardcore’), this game will push you to the limit, but it’s just as accessible if you feel you’re more of a casual gamer – just don’t expect an easy ride in the later levels or a ‘cheap’ Platinum Trophy (see Walking Dead for details).