VVVVVV, PC/Mac/Linux – £9.36

ReVVVVVView by Lewie Procter

VVVVVV Artwork

VVVVVV is the story of a little bloke with a big smile. He’s Captain Veridian. He has to save the day via puzzle platforming.

There’s a story about a space ship, and lost crew members. The little pieces of dialogue that punctuate the game are full of heart and wit, and really endear you to the pixels on screen. Not that there are many pixels, VVVVVV achieves visual beauty with as few pixels as necessary.

This efficiency shown in the visual design can be seen in all aspects of VVVVVV. My first complete playthrough took me 1 hour 55 to complete, and I died 1072 times (that’s one death every 6 and a half seconds, fact fans), although I had played a few of the harder levels before, so knew the solutions already. Under two hours might seem short, but there are more ideas here than most 10 hour+ games. VVVVVV throws new and interesting platforming challenges at you hard and fast from beginning to end. All just using three buttons.

You press left to make the little bloke go left, right to make the little bloke go right, and up to flip gravity.

The gravity flip function replaces what might normally be jump. If you see some spikes, you might have to flip gravity, then walk across the ceiling to get past them. Terry Cavanagh get’s a hell of a lot of mileage out of this fairly tiny moveset, and his keen eye for level design means that you never feel like there’s anything missing.

VVVVVV takes a novel approach to death, and frankly that’s it’s single strongest asset. Where most platformers treat death as a failure, VVVVV treats it as part of a learning experience. Death is about trial and improvement.

Mechanically, deaths aren’t too different from basically every platformer since super mario brothers. You die, then respawn at some point before you died. The key differences are that there is no life counter (other than the invisible one which serves mainly to embarrass you at the end of the game), respawning is near instant, and the check points are everywhere. Apart from a few small (and annoying) exceptions, VVVVVV never forces you to repeat any of the platforming puzzles, it’s far too busy pushing you on to the next platforming brain teaser.

The ‘puzzles’ are always simple. Work out where B is, then get from A to B. Standing between A and B are some hilarious abstract enemies, spikes, moving platforms, disappearing platforms and more.

Structurally, it’s a little odd. There is a big hub area, which feels a little like a more open metroid-esque world, and hidden around it are linear platforming sections. The world successfully balances feeling natural, almost as if it hasn’t been designed, whilst also providing an interesting place to explore, and platforming challenges. There are little bits of story spread around, in the form of (if you like, completely ignorable) terminals, that tell you a little bit about the world you are in.

There’s a bunch of neat post-game things to keep you busy too. A “Super Gravitron” unlockable arcade game, time trials, a “no death mode” for those of you who are insane. Plus a really funny bonus mode that I had thought of suggesting to Terry part way through playing it, then it was already there.

Add into the mix some rather hilarious room names, and a wonderful chiptunes soundtrack by SoulEye, and VVVVVV is an excellent complete package.

The biggest compliment I can give this game is that had it come out 20 years ago, there would probably be a mediocre spin off RPG called VVVVVV: Battle network, and you’d probably see a hi-res reimagination of that happy little spaceship captain on lunchboxes across the globe.

Terry Cavanagh has made a bunch of smaller games in the past, Don’t look back being my personal favourite, but VVVVVV is by far his biggest yet.

VVVVVV is the first excellent indie game of a new decade, whichever way up you look at it.

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