FuturLab's recently released high speed shoot'em up Velocity 2X Trophies picks up not long after the original left off. After the events of the first game, test pilot Lt. Kai Tana finds herself nearly dead in a strange part of space at the mercy of a violent species of aliens called the Vokh. An alien scientist saves her life by replacing parts of her damaged body with cybernetic enhancements that allow her greater mobility and combat skills while on foot. With these new skills and her trusty Quarp Jet, she needs to escape these deadly aliens and find a way home.
FuturLab is well aware of what made their first game successful, and it's clear to see that the focus is still the same here. There's a wonderful sense of awe and agency present in every action. Hazards are scattered throughout each level that can quickly send Kai back to a checkpoint, but almost all are stationary, and those that are not stationary move in a regular pattern. Even the boss battles are almost entirely predictable, if not necessarily easy, so that death only ever occurs as a result of the actions of the player.
As the name suggests, Velocity encourages break neck speeds, with all manner of abilities, boosts, and teleportation techniques that allow Kai to move through the world as nothing more than a blur. It's hard not to get a sense of pride and delight when everything clicks and you start posting record times.
Unlike the previous game, 2X incorporates some on foot action into the gameplay, allowing Kai Tana to hop in and out of her ship in a flash to find what she needs to continue her journey. With the success of the ship based gameplay of the first game, this addition could have been a huge disaster, slowing down the gameplay and diluting the experience, but the on foot areas are perhaps even better than the tried and true ship based sections. Even as the levels expand and the pathing becomes more complex, the combination of trying to perform very light puzzle tasks while simultaneously avoiding deadly traps at such crazy speeds embraces everything that makes the ship based gameplay so outstanding.
When a game so obviously relies on snappy gameplay, twitch reflexes, and skill, it's no surprise that boredom sets in once the pace slows down. Whereas the boss fights bring the game to a near crawl, there's at least a level of challenge and action to them that keeps you interested and focused. On some of the later levels, the level layout is more like a warren of paths, docks, and switches that must be crisscrossed several times over to find a way out. On these levels, looking at maps trying to find out which dock to visit next and which of the 40-60 odd switches to trigger will take up more time than actually moving around, creating a feeling of wasted time rather than accomplishment. When coupled with the boss stages, they account for only seven of the 50 stages, the rest of which benefit from largely great level design and challenge.
Hit purple switch 4 before blue switch 1, and whatever you do, don't hit the red switches!
Similarly, when on foot, a small, throwable teleportation device causes the same kind of problem, requiring a full stop to use it. In a bid to maintain the speed with this device, the developers added colored tiles to make it obvious where to stand and where to throw the device, but this only served to remove any rewarding puzzle element while inadvertently causing some frustration when the device doesn't bounce off the right section of the marked tile. Thankfully, there are some timing intensive situations later on in the game that require you to throw the pod, teleport to it while it is in mid-air and teledash through an obstacle to safety that redeem this mechanic to some degree.
Now, if I bank it off the ceiling, bounce it off the floor and over the red patch...
The story, on the other hand, does little more than provide a framework for the gameplay. Barring a few interjections such as tutorial information or pre-boss chatter, story is confined to still image cutscenes and text boxes. The writing seems to be intentionally oriented towards younger audiences with a comically allegorical plot and a perfectly archetypal cast of characters. This can lead to some rather unfortunate and cringe worthy dialog, but the intentionally childish nature makes it more likely to garner a chuckle than anything else.
This lack of attention seems to extend to the music as well. While the sounds serve the important function of providing information in the chaotic and frantic action, the music only goes so far as to provide the appropriate tempo. While lacking in any memorable or catchy tunes, they aren't inherently bad, having a fun and generally upbeat tune to them. However, the music could be swapped out for almost any generic techno/synth music, or even some fast paced punk, and the player is likely to not notice the difference as the music tends to fade into the background.
Though markedly more appealing, the art direction suffers a little as well. There aren't a particularly large number of back drops, but each is beautifully detailed with sparkling stars scattered about or jungle flora covering ancient buildings and multiple layers are used to give the backgrounds a sense of motion as Kai moves about. The lighting and particle effects are nothing short of spectacular and add a real sense of style to the surroundings. Vita and PS4 versions of the game are roughly equivalent graphically, though there's a slight downgrade to the rendering of explosions in the Vita version, but it's so stylistically consistent that it'd be hard to notice unless you took the time to stop and look. It's obvious that someone on the development team was passionate about space and the sci-fi genre as the art assets are nothing short of a labor of love; it's just a shame that so much of it flies by in the background without a second look.
Don't you wish the night sky was so clear?
While much of the joy of the game comes from the challenge, many of the trophies do not. Aside from the prerequisite trophies for story progression and finding collectibles, of which many aren't tough to locate on your own, most of the trophies will be unlocked simply along the way to completing the story. The requirements are often so simple that it's difficult to know what action unlocked the trophy without reading its description. Considering that there's a trophy for the daunting task of perfecting every one of the 50 levels, it's hard to feel particularly accomplished after earning most of the trophies.
Velocity 2X is a wild ride that takes off and never looks back. While the core story framing the action probably takes no more than six hours, it'll have you chasing perfect scores and medals for probably a dozen hours more with its constantly satisfying balance of risk versus reward. Any adrenaline junkie, challenge fiend, or perfectionist will find a dangerously addicting ride that shouldn't be missed.
The reviewer has played the game for 10 hours, earning 27 of 36 trophies and managing 13 out of 50 PERFECT medals. The game was obtained for free through PlayStation Plus.
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