The mixture of two genres seems a relatively simple concept on paper, but, in action, recently released PSN title Velocity 2X makes it appear almost revolutionary.
A sequel to a 2012 PS Mini game, Velocity 2X retains the top down shoot-’em-up action of its predecessor, but the kicker here is that it is possible to dock your ship in space stations, at which point the game transitions to something similar to Metroid crossed with SpeedRunners. On crack.
It is even possible to enter the enemy during boss fights by docking with them and then finish the fight on foot.
Throughout the game you take control of Kai Tana, an ace human test pilot who has found herself stranded thousands of light-years from Earth. Detained - and then after escaping, pursued by the villainous Vokh race. Tana pilots her hyper-advanced Quarp Jet which features the ability to teleport between locations. This is a key gameplay mechanic of Velocity 2X and the requirement to master it at high speeds is indeed challenging but rewarding. It is akin to completing a difficult level on Super Meat Boy or beating your best on 10 Second Ninja. For me personally it really scratched my Resogun itch.
Along her journey, our heroine will fight a host of different enemy and boss types, meet various allies, rescue Jintinda survivors and collect Rekenium crystals.
The graphics are sharp and beautifully “hand rendered”. The game plays and looks like an interactive comic book and moves at a relentless pace. The only break the player gets is during the “cutscenes” which are presented as animated still images - again, much like a digital comic.
Velocity 2X is dazzlingly colourful. The only downside is that for some reason the game screen does not fill my TV and at 47 inches I am left with considerable real estate left unused. I looked through all the options to configure this, but I was left wanting. Although I did find a calculator. Yes, in the "Extras" menu there is a fully realised and functioning calculator. I am yet to find out the purpose of this, but I am sure it has one.
Dave Gabriel of Futurlab contacted me on Twitter and let me know that it is possible to adjust the game's screen size via the "Sounds and Screen" option on your PS4. Please explain the calculator next!
Like the first game, most of the music is created by Joris De Man who has worked on big budget titles such as Killzone. The soundtrack offers a rather calming juxtaposition to the kinetic on-screen action. On some levels though, the music picks up pace and is more of an equal match for the on-screen craziness.
The previously mentioned flicking back-and-forth between gameplay styles is the main selling point for Velocity 2X. From top-down 2D shooter to side-scrolling speed platformer; with some levels combining both. Each gameplay type requires a different mastery. The controls are similar for each mode, but utilised in slightly different ways, making the constant transitions a real challenge. Personally, I found myself replaying each mission around five or so times before moving onto the next.
Most levels feature a race against the clock, the need to collect either all survivors, crystals, or both at the same time. Enemies to kill and high scores to earn. Gaining a "Perfect" score on a mission requires you do all of the above in one go, without dying. This can sometimes require the dexterity and limbs of an octopus who is also a space ninja. I am not going to lie; This game can be tough and getting through even one level can be a challenge and there are 50, before taking into account secret ones.
Once you start progressing to the later levels and your powers start becoming upgraded (and you unlock the immensely fun bombs), the game becomes even more hectic.
Everyone remembers the dreaded "tunnel escape" level from games they have played in the past. You know, the on rails escape section? Moving at uncontrollable speeds. Having to dodge unseen objects trying not to explode into a million pieces. Well Velocity 2X plays out like that all the time. Except that it does it right. It never leaves you frustrated. It offers the player a nice balance between challenge, mastery and satisfaction. I often found myself restarting a level if I made even the tiniest of mistakes. The levels blow by so fast that this never became a chore.
The decision to build the game around two different gameplay types almost makes the player feel rewarded with two games for the price of one. And when that price is “Free” (to PlayStation Plus subscribers for September 2014) that is a very good deal indeed. The two aspects of the game, “ship” and “on foot” are well thought out and deep enough that they could have been released separately and no one would bat an eyelid.
Without the benefit of PlayStation Plus, Velocity 2X costs £12.99. I would still recommend the game at this price, but if you are a subscriber to Sony’s service I only have one thing to say to you:
Download this game immediately!
Developed by British studio Futurlab, Velocity 2X is available now on PS4 and PS Vita. Visit the game's wonderful site here.