I want to say upfront that I did not finish Velocity 2X. In fact, I'm not sure I will ever beat Velocity 2X. It may go down in my pile of shame that I rarely talk about as games I cannot beat. Another one, that is quite embarrassing, given how much I love it, is Guacamelee. I hit a wall with the platforming right before the end of Guacamelee and never finished it. Did I see enough of Guacamelee to know it's one of the best modern "metroidvania" games around? Yes. Are my old thumbs up to the task? I guess not. I feel just as confident in what I have to say about Velocity 2X and went back and forth between making this an "impressions" or "review" but I have delved deep, and despite my hitting a wall I will be jumping right back in as soon as I finish writing this up.
Having been a fan of the original Velocity which was first a PS Mini and then the remake on the Vita I had a pretty good idea what I was in for. In fact I had a bit too good of an idea as the game felt instantly familiar to the point where I started to wonder if this was going to be more of a Velocity level pack than a full fledged sequel. What Futurlab has so excellently done is adding a new wrinkle every couple levels or so. The early wrinkles are the same of the predecessor but once you get moving along you start to get abilities never before seen in the series. The first, which is established early on, is the 2D platforming. It has many of the same mechanics as the top down spaceship sections but eventually becomes its own beast.
The game is quite gorgeous with a mixture of fantastic sprite work and excellent modern particle and lighting effects. The game comes across as modern even though it is exploring the depths of genres quite old. It's not "pixel art" though. Like Guacamelee this is modern look at older game design instead of a throwback. It's refreshing and often is a visual stunner.
The sound and music are also top notch. The sound design, like the graphics, is modern, as is the music. The soundtrack is a techno-trance soundscape that never overwhelms the game but it does ramp up when things get hectic and it falls into the background when the action slows down. Lasers sound like lasers, ships exploding sound like what one would assume a ship exploding sounds like. The atmosphere is quite strong overall but the story does not live up to it. This is to be expected to a certain extent... i'm not sure how one writes a great story about a 50 level top down shooter with some 2d side scrolling but what Futurlab did was serviceable. The very thin narrative atleast tried to explain why you were going on each mission. A decent attempt but one that was failed to wow from the start.
It is during the levels in the mid-twenties that this game really turns from a Velocity level pack into something uniquely its own. To explain how and why would spoil the game, as the abilities are what set it apart not only from Velocity but other games in general. Through the smooth addition of mechanics you will find the game getting deeper and deeper until the point where you go from playing a top down shooter with 2d platforming to a puzzle-top-down-2d-platform-(redacted)-beat-the-clock-(redacted)-how-did-I-do-that? By the levels in the mid thirties it becomes madness. I personally can only handle playing about three levels at a time because it melts my brain. I mean this in a good way.
In the end Velocity 2X is exactly what a sequel to an already amazing game should be. It feels like it's playing it safe early on but by the end you see the initial ideas iterated on and added to each other to such an absurd extent that you can't help but feel glee as you beat each level that ratchets up the difficulty. Will I ever beat level 50? I have no idea. Just like I have no idea if I will ever make it to the final boss in Guacamelee. But, like Guacamelee, this will be something I will be coming back to for a long time to come. This is as solid a concept and execution in a game as you are likely to find.
The game was reviewed on the PS4 using a code provided by the developers. The Vita version was not played. We will update if there are unexpected differences.
Hype level is maxxed to try this. Fantastic review, Pete!
I was a cat's breath from purchasing this before I realized that it was one of the PS+ subscription games this month. Great review, Pete. Looking forward to playing it.
Such a bad month for PS+ ................. (would of bought this day one, love Futurlab )
Glad to read that you actually liked it, Pete. I'm very tempted to downloading it.
Just reached level 20. It is a great game. Ps+ is helping discovering gems. Looking forward to playing back and see if my brain will melt ...
You are about to turn a corner into brain melting in a couple levels.
I've finally started to put some more time into this on Vita and man it's a special game. Uploaded my save data and gonna start playing it on the big screen.