Thursday, 25 September 2014

VVVVVV - Steam

Simple, short and sweet, the old day return.

Retro. I've spoken about this before in earlier articles and reviews but this is a game that truly qualifies as being Retro by definition that a Retro game is a modern game made to be styled after an earlier/older fashion either in the core of the game or the style in which it modelled after. VVVVVV is certainly a retro game that almost stays TOO close to its roots and harkens from a time when games would bound to tapes and huge (but small in data) diskettes and would invariably take a long time to load. So it was with a great surprise that I'd pick up VVVVVV and find myself whisked back to days long gone of Monty On The Run and the ilk.

Full Level Editor, let the replayability grow!

VVVVVV is a platformer, probably down to its barest possible roots as a platformer and yet is so much more within itself. As a story, VVVVVV begins with the inevitable crashing of a spaceship which leads to our Captain Viridian being our Captain Protagonist (That joke doesn't work so well when the main character is called Captain...). Once evacuation of the ship has taken place via teleportation, it becomes apparent that the other characters are scattered all over the Dimension VVVVVV and that the main plot of the game is to rescue these people and ultimately escape the Dimension before it collapses and traps everyone there.

...Or run past, and leave Vitellary to feel loneliness and solitude.

Unlike a lot of other platformers, VVVVVV has no jump. Instead what it has is the ability to flip gravity at the touch of a button and leave the main character either falling up or downwards. Meaning that at some points (quite a lot of some points actually) you'll be running across the ceiling to escape traps and enemies or flipping back and forth to avoid spike pits (who puts them anywhere though, really?) and using all manner of gravity switching tricks to escape death and continue onwards into the game. As such, there's no way to reverse a flip in mid-air, once you switch gravity you're committed until you land or hit one of the gravity lines found in various parts of some of the levels.

It's in the room but nobody talks about it.

Everything, graphically, stinks of the old C64 days and like a good cheese, it stinks so nicely. For those that grew up and played the old ZX81 and C64 games, you will find a wealth of reminders of the old days of gaming. I cited Monty On the Run as an example earlier with the seemingly randomly themed enemies (Teapots chasing you down...) and the usually psychedelic colouring system for the development of levels and platforms to show the difference between one screen and another while navigating and traversing a level. For younger players, they may find the graphical design either to be interesting from a historical point of view or turned off by the simplistic style compared to many modern games of today. Their loss if they do.

You need to remember this game wraps around.

Controls are about as simplistic as it can get, left and right move you left and right and the spacebar can be used to flip the gravity for Captain Vermillion. In some places you can access teleporters that let you navigate from one part of the game to another and also signify the end of a particular chunk of a level, usually bringing the rescued teammate home or leading to another sub-dimension with more traps and puzzles to solve. Interestingly there is also a dab of escort missions here and there when rescuing other crewmates.

They defy gravity and move quickly, I love the old enemy styles.

The game has a LOT to offer regarding exploration, level dynamics and variation. Each new aspect is steadily introduced and then pushed further and further in use until you're doing some very advanced and mind-bending tasks with the new toys. What can catch some people out is that later, towards the endgame, some of these come back and it can take a moment or two to get to grips again with the concepts that were introduced earlier in the game.

One of the last gauntlet sessions, a vertically scrolling spike trap.

It's a short game is VVVVVV, but having said that, it never overstays itself and is very welcomed in that regard. Nothing is really overused or allowed to overstay its welcome and things change and develop at a very appropriate pace for what essentially could be a very fast game. The regular use of checkpoints prevent a large level of frustration at beating certain puzzles and having to re-do them so any and all progression in the game is recorded and a welcome relief once having solved a particularly difficult situation in platforming.

The plot is there, if you hunt aruond enough for it.

Well worth playing, particularly if you're fan of older games from a bygone era.