Platform(s): PlayStation 4/PlayStation Vita
Review Platform: PlayStation 4/PlayStation Vita
Price: Free (PlayStation Plus - September) / $19.99 PSN
1st Opinion (PlayStation 4) / 2nd Opinion (PlayStation Vita)
About a year after its launch, I began to question whether the PlayStation Vita would ever have the library of games needed to justify its existence. I absolutely loved the system and all that it could do, but there just weren't enough games at the time to recommend that all gamers go out and purchase one. Then came the rush of indie games to save the day, giving the under-appreciated console a second lease on life. Among these games was a dandy, top-down scrolling shooter called Velocity Ultra, made by the talented folks over at FuturLab. With its nostalgic gameplay that harkened back to the days of playing Space Invaders or 1942 as a kid, the frantic shooter gameplay — mixed with a pinch of puzzle solving and an absolutely MUST-BUY high-tempo, sci-fi inspired electronic soundtrack — helped propel Velocity Ultra to the top of my "Must Play" list of Vita games. So it goes without saying that I was ecstatic to hear about the sequel, Velocity 2X, coming to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, and my expectations were very (possibly unfairly) high! Without further adieu, lets dive in!
Learn The Level, Then Perfect It
One thing I love about Velocity Ultra is how there's little room for error when trying to attain the harder-than-hell "Perfect" score for each level. I don't know how many times I restarted each level because I knew that even if I finished strong, my run time was going to be over the required amount to get the full points. If I missed a rescue ship, I didn't even bother proceeding...restart! The problem was that I was trying to accomplish the perfect score my first time I played each level, which is a sure-fire way to get frustrated early and often. With Velocity 2X, not only are you flying around in your Quarp Drive ship, blasting everything in sight, there are now segments of the game where you enter one of the enemy ships, and the game transitions to a 2D Platformer. The same abilities that your ship has (teleportation, primary and secondary attacks, etc.) all carry over to this mode — albeit, with a twist. It's a refreshing change of pace in terms of how the game looks, but the same frantic, addicting gameplay is still present.
There are a total of 50 levels in the main campaign, each one harder than the previous, with the last 15 or so levels providing some of the hardest stages I've experienced in the genre. My advice is to take your time going through each level your first time, getting an idea of where the enemies and rescue pods are located. This will allow you to go through the mission with your thrusters engaged, which in turn will shave seconds off your time. It's quite a sight when you see yourself blazing through a level, teleporting past walls before you even get near them, disabling shields on instinct, and rescuing prisoners without leaving any behind. This is a game that will demand your attention and respect if you hope to score perfectly on each level — which you'll need to do in order to have enough XP to unlock the final levels. Take it slow at first. Once you're ready, go for that perfect speed run.
The Need For Speed...And Tight Controls
What good would a shoot 'em up be without solid controls and an array of different abilities that, when mastered, gives you the feeling of being a real buckaroo spaceship ace? I reviewed the PlayStation 4 version of Velocity 2X (Ben has you Vita enthusiasts covered below), and I have to sa, this game plays incredibly well using the DualShock 4. That's not to say it's easy to control your ship, because there is a steep learning curve when it comes to using all of Kai Tana's (and her ship's) abilities. After you do get the controls down, 9 times out of 10 you will be blaming yourself for any mistakes you make along the way. Utilizing the thrusters (R1/R2) efficiently to speed up your ship — as well as the scroll speed of the screen — is important when it comes to time, but it can be a detriment if you overuse them. Knowing when to use your primary fire (X) or your secondary bomb attack (R3 in all 4 directions) will also save you time and help clear out a variety of enemies.
The teleportation ability is still the hardest one to master in Velocity 2X. Knowing when to use it is the trickiest part because if you're too late, you'll be crushed between whatever object is in front of you and the bottom of the screen. If you use it too soon, you may find yourself teleporting right into an enemy or shielded area. With all of these controls to worry about, it's easy to get flustered early on, and attaining perfection during later levels can be pretty tough. However, it never feels unfair, and it's incredibly rewarding when you do pull it off.
The same can be said about the platforming missions, only you don't have to worry about a constantly rolling screen. But don't let that fool you. It's easy to lose your sense of urgency when you're not flying, and you may find yourself spending too much time in these areas. I can't emphasize enough how awesome this game looks in motion, and it plays just as smoothly. There are no overpowering weapons or enemies, and the boss battles can be pretty darn challenging in the later stages. Overall, you'll be hard pressed to find a better game on PlayStation 4 that features frantic gameplay like this that never feels out of control, as long as you master your abilities.
Don't Get Fixated On The Looks, Or Sounds, Of Velocity 2X
It's no secret that I'm a huge advocate of movie and video game soundtracks. I mean, what better way to get you through a day of work than by listening to the music of your favorite hobbies? There have been some great games that feature excellent high energy music in them - Shattered and Velocity Ultra come to mind - and you can go right ahead an add Velocity 2X to that list. When you're playing through these levels at high speed, and you've got huge colorful explosions going off all around you, the soundtrack just adds another level of excitement. At times of tension, the soundtrack really gets you zoned in! This is another one of those games that I highly recommend playing while utilizing a surround sound system or surround sound headphones. Velocity 2X just has a way of pulling you into the game, creating an immersive experience that's hard to look away from. Running at a blistering 60 frames per second, I never experienced a hiccup during any of the screen scorching action.
If there is one complaint I had, it's that some of the levels kind of blend together, at least in terms of variety, creating a feeling of repetition. Thankfully, there's enough change once you get into another region that it's not too big of a takeaway. The art design of the game is very retro, with an appropriate sci-fi vibe to it all, and the main character (Lt. Kai Tana) is a badass female with all of the cockiness and swagger you'd expect from a spaceship pilot. There was plenty of humor throughout the story and you could tell Velocity 2X wasn't taking itself too seriously, but it still offers up an entertaining tale of "one versus everyone".
A Sequel That's Bigger And Better
I wasn't sure if FuturLab would be able to improve upon the already impressive Velocity Ultra, but this is one of the few occasions where a sequel actually builds on its predecessor's strong foundation, rather than just give you more of the same. Adding in some 2D platforming elements — to what was normally a top-down shoot 'em up — and maintaining that same high-octane action, is incredibly refreshing. Even though the gameplay has a bit of a learning curve, it makes those "Perfect" scores that much more rewarding. In the end, FuturLab has done it yet again. They've given adrenaline junkies another fast paced, highly entertaining shooter that will keep you coming back for the sake of perfection.
- Frantic, explosive gameplay
- Incredible soundtrack that's worth the purchase alone (available here on iTunes)
- Leaderboards: the ability to challenge your friends
- FREE for PlayStation Plus Members (ridiculous!)
- The challenge of mastering all of the Quarp Drive's abilities may be off-putting to some
2nd Opinion (PlayStation Vita)
Unlike Brent, I've never actually had the privilege of experiencing the Velocity franchise. I've followed its meteoric rise from cherished Mini to full-blown PS Vita title, as well as the critical and commercial adoration attached to Velocity — and later to Velocity Ultra — but I've just never been able to get over the "life hump," so to speak, and fire up the game for myself. There was always this game over here, or that excuse over there. This is wrong with my house or that problem is getting in the way, and blah blah bloobity boo hoo. No one really cares, I get it.
But that all changes with Velocity 2x.
The franchise has its quarp shields locked and loaded for its first next-gen outing, and second on the Vita, and I couldn't be more thrilled to finally take the series plunge. Everything I've heard about the series is dead on. Velocity 2x is a killer game that PlayStation players are going to be talking about.
The World of Velocity
Brent touched on the world of Velocity 2x above, and I'd like to do so here as well, and maybe even take it one step further. From the perspective of someone new to the franchise, I really like the universe, art design, and characters that developer FuturLab has created here. While Mr. Felsing toiled away from the comfort of his man cave in front of the big screen with the PS4 version, I snuggled up with the Vita version for a series of more intimate armchair play sessions, and it looks and plays incredibly well on Sony's handheld. The game has an almost animation-cell-look in terms of its aesthetic, and it's breathtaking both when in motion and when not. Brent mentioned 1080p and 60fps when discussing the PS4 version above, and I'd be shocked if the game ran anything less than 60fps and at native Vita resolution on the handheld. There is not a hint of slow down or stutter anywhere, and the fluidity and speed necessary in order to make this game look and feel the way it should is achieved without a hitch.
There is a really cool story running through Velocity 2x, and I was honestly surprised by how rich and fleshed out it was for a gameplay focused affair such as this. There is no spoken dialogue or animated cut scenes, but each break between levels is filled out with a short sequence involving Kai and those she meets on her journey. Beautiful still pictures are accompanied by short written dialogue exchanges, and I found myself really liking Kai as a character. She's a headstrong female and courageous to a fault, but there is also a nurturing undercurrent that drives her sense of justice. The world is further established through strikingly detailed journal and codex entries, and I really got a sense for the mythos behind Velocity during my time with the game. Having never played the first game, I was worried I may be lost in terms of what happened before, but that's not the case here at all. This title is completely self-contained, so those with similar fears need not worry; you'll follow along just fine.
Gradius Meets Bit.Trip Runner Meets, uh, Nightcrawler
This game is tough, but not in the traditional sense of the word. There is no controller-breaking-frustration at the prospects of getting past X level, and there aren't any stages where you will be sitting there thinking it's impossible to complete. The difficulty in Velocity 2x stems from mastering all of the gameplay mechanics at your disposal. The learning curve is quite steep, as Brent talked about earlier, but those who are patient will be rewarded with a great gaming experience.
The game sort of mashes up these genres we know and love, throws in a few unique tricks of its own, and creates something fresh and new on the other end. The space shooting segments bring to mind something like shmup legends Gradius and Raiden, and the 2D, side-scrolling platforming segments will immediately bring to mind any number of platformers you've experienced over the years, with the Bit.Trip Runner series being a particularly appropriate analog. The teleportation mechanic, though, is what really differentiates the game and makes it distinct.
I mention the Runner series, as I feel like, once you've mastered the control scheme and gameplay mechanics, this game is almost supposed to play like an endless runner. The game is called Velocity for a reason. The sense of speed and control you have, darting in and out of areas with smooth finesse, is where the game really shines, and its intoxicating sense of addiction rears its admittedly beautiful head. I didn't get this at first. I was getting frustrated with my lack of ability to manage all of the tools at my disposal, and I found myself slowly working through levels. I wondered how I was going to manage directing my teleportation destination, aiming my bombs, shooting my lasers, destroying the switches, and transitioning to the platforming segments without pulling my hair out. But then you realize that's how it's supposed to be. You're supposed to be slow and uncoordinated at first. You're supposed to fail and hit the wrong button as you learn how to play the game. Once I took the time to slow myself down, learn where to go and how the game played, Velocity 2x began to open up and sink its hooks into me. I was starting to get faster. I was dashing through walls and disposing of enemies without a thought. I finally saw what everybody was raving about, and I had to have more. As Brent talked about, once you begin to master the dynamics at play, the sense of reward and accomplishment felt when you complete a "Perfect" run, or defeat a tough boss, is incredibly satisfying.
The Neverending Story?
Velocity 2x does come in a bit on the short side, at least in terms of the raw included content. Experienced players will more than likely quickly work their way through the 50 included levels, but to those that understand Velocity and its addicting gameplay mechanics, this is really only half of the fun. The "real" game comes as you try to perfect your runs through each level, and this is something that will not come easy at all. The levels are only a few minutes in length, and I love these types of experiences, especially on the Vita, as you attempt to replay and master the levels one-by-one. The later levels are especially complex and tricky, introducing more puzzle based mechanics, and I can see these being ridiculously difficult to obtain that coveted "perfect score."
My first time with the Velocity franchise has been a real treat. The game's intoxicating blend of space combat, platforming, puzzle solving, and teleportation is a unique beast in gaming's often "me-too" landscape. While the learning curve is steep, those who take the time to master the game and all of its mechanics are in for a hell of an addicting experience, especially as they try to rack up perfect runs throughout each of the levels. I only have a handful of perfect runs under my belt so far, and I cant wait to get back in there and give it another go.
With the promise of DLC on the way, there is even more Velocity in our future, and I'm excited to try out what new and devious worlds FuturLab is cooking up for us. To those of you on the fence in regards to Velocity 2x, take the plunge and don't look back (those of you with PlayStation Plus can download it for free! What're you waiting for? Go forth and download! Vamanos!). Velocity 2x is definitely a ride worth taking. After all, that Vokh army isn't going to eradicate itself!
- Beautiful world and aesthetic
- Original mechanics
- Addicting "gotta-master-it" gameplay
- Steep learning curve may frustrate some
- A tad on the short side