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Veritable Verticality - VVVVVV Review

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When it comes to 2D platformers, a lot of ground has been covered in the 40 or so years since home gaming became popular, particularly since the days of early personal computers. Most throwback games are styled on popular 8-bit games of the NES, not so much from the Commodore 64 and its brethren making up the PC scene at around the same time, but VVVVVV provides a stark and simplistic contrast that flips conventions upside down, literally. Inspired by classic PC titles such as Jet Set Willy, Terry Cavanaugh takes us to a time oft forgotten and shows us just how a change of perspective can broaden the scope of a game.


Platforms: PC, Xbox, Playstation, 3DS, Switch [Reviewed]
Developer: Terry Cavanagh
Release: November 17, 2017
MSRP: $9.99


VVVVVV Screenshot Switch

The primary mechanic of VVVVVV is how you can flip gravity instead of jumping, testing the player’s spatial awareness upside down on top of the normal perspective in order to navigate your way through creative obstacles. VVVVVV takes this core idea and explores every possible angle that comes with it, both directly and indirectly with numerous ideas presenting themselves even in one single screen. The sheer volume of possibilities that present themselves is ridiculous, but thankfully never overwhelming.

Many challenges are eased onto you bit by bit, before gradually escalating and eventually merging other ideas together to create even more unique layouts to navigate through. Nothing ever feels like it repeats itself, even if you do happen upon a similar challenge you took on before, thanks to the creative usage of all the combined elements coming together.

VVVVVV Screenshot Switch

As such, it does get rather difficult. This would normally lead to frustration at dying repeatedly, but the combination of ultra-responsive controls, generous checkpoints dotted about and the quick respawn time means you’re right back into the action faster than you can blink. Add to the fact that you only take on challenges on a room by room basis gives you time to digest things one at a time and a sense of relief once you do succeed each one.

There are some areas that go against this, particularly one multi-room trial that will truly test your skill and patience, but never in such a way that leads to things being unfair. Great care was put into the design to make sure nothing feels unreasonable whilst also pushing the player forward with an addictive sense of conquering each progressively escalating hurdle.

The plot to VVVVVV is deliberately simplistic, having its tongue planted firmly in cheek with how basic it is. You play as Captain Viridian with the goal of finding missing crew members of your spaceship after it suddenly gets hit by dimensional interference. The six missing members act as the goals for each of the game’s themed areas, with unique puzzles that distinguish them from each other. Scattered around are monitors with documentation that fleshes out the plot further, but are entirely optional.

The primary collectible are literal trinkets that are simply comforting and nice to look at. Adding to its quirky sense of humour is that every single room has a unique name, all named by Bennet Foddy of Getting Over It fame. Many are laced with pop culture references, meta jokes or even just silly gags. One such example is a room with the name “What lies beneath?” where if you decide to go one room below you find out it’s called “Spikes do!” and you immediately die to spikes.

VVVVVV Screenshot Switch

It’s rare to find a game that knows its identity so well and is designed so accordingly with the escalating challenges it presents. VVVVVV would be less of a game if its brevity meant it never overstays its welcome, less is more would easily describe the philosophy behind it. With its sharp design and even sharper wit, it’s hard not to recommend VVVVVV to any avid platformer fan.


Pros:

  • Superbly designed
  • Brilliant sense of humour and knows it
  • Challenging without being frustrating
  • Doesn’t overstay its welcome

Cons:

  • It is still short though

Verdict:

Great

Great

Great games are generally good buying decisions and are recommended for those with an interest in the genre. There might be a few flaws that detract from the gameplay, stories, controls, presentations, or value, but the game is still an enjoyable experience that justifies a full playthrough.



Want to know what this score means? Check out our Scoring Guidelines page.

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