Ah yes, I know exactly what you are thinking. “What’s with the name?” Well, the game is about rescuing five of your ship members after your space ship meets with an accident, and it just so happens that all of their names (and yours) start with the letter ‘V’. So you have six different ‘V’s, which combine to make up the title of the game VVVVVV. A bit contrived, you could say, but it certainly works. I only bought the game because I liked the demo. I tried the demo because the blurb on its Steam page sounded interesting. And I only checked out its Steam page because the name caught my eye. Mission accomplished? Yes.
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Now that we know why it’s called what it’s called, lets get to the important part – how it plays. At its core, it’s a 2D puzzle-platformer with a very, very innovative twist i.e. you can’t jump. So how do you make a platformer where you can’t jump? Its simple; instead of jumping to go up, you reverse gravity. It might not sound like that big a deal, but once put into play, it changes 2D platforming completely. So instead of moving from left to right as in any 2D games, the gravity twist often means you end up chaining moves where you go up, down, left and right in one move before you come to rest on a safe area. And of course, the gravity bit is also used to design some very interesting puzzles, where figuring out how to get from A to B can leave you scratching your head.
All of is combined means that for a game that has the simplest controls I have ever seen (left moves you left, right moves you right and action button reverses gravity), it can throw up some insanely complex challenges. But a mixture of fast thinking, quick reflexes and some muscle memory will invariable see you through to the end. The one drawback is that some of the tough parts of the game often descend into trial and error territory, where it often feels like you are playing a complex quick-time event mini game. Another slight drawback is that controls can feel slightly slippery sometimes when pin-point precision platforming is required. It’s not a big enough flaw to affect gameplay badly, but it still deserves a mention.
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Despite some blindingly tough challenges, thanks to a very generous checkpoint system, failure isn’t punished too harshly, and you will almost never find yourself in a situation where you have to play for more than a few seconds to get to where you died. When new concepts do come into play, the game introduces them in small quantities and in easy, manageable areas so you never really feel overwhelmed. Speaking of which, the game also has some excellent, well thought out level design. Well, it’s not so much levels as single screens you scroll through, but still, each screen is designed with the same thoughtfulness as a whole level in any other game. It has a bit of a free roaming concept to it as the whole map is there at your disposal to complete objectives (namely rescuing aforementioned team mates) in any order and find hidden trophies.
Priced $5, this will probably last you about four hours or so depending on skill level; more if you decide to explore a bit and find the collectibles scattered around the map. There are 20 of them to find and collect and almost all of them will take a lot of patience and skill to get, but like the rest of the game, the feeling of accomplishment you get from success is quite unmatched by most games out there today.
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Depending on which side you fall, the graphics can either be charmingly retro or amazingly bland. I would say it looks like an NES game, but that would actually be a disservice to all the NES games released. It looks like something made for the Atari 2600 (the single button control seems to reinforce this thought), but coupled with the quite frankly amazing music (sort of a mix of techno, electronica and 8-bit retro) the whole presentation comes out being better than the sum of its parts. It’s quite clear that it’s going for the retro feel, and it nails it perfectly.
You will find no great plot here, no dazzling graphics, or voice over dialogue. In fact, it’s made with a stripped down sense of urgency and everything that is non-essential to the central core of the game has been completely abandoned. It might sound like the devolution of a game, but it’s not. It’s a brilliant reminder of how little this hobby of ours actually needs to be endlessly fascinating and completely addictive. You will not spend $5 on anything better this year. Guaranteed.