Last July, a little game called Velocity Ultra (a beefed up version of the PS Mini, Velocity) crossed my path and entrenched itself as one of my favorite Vita titles. Now, developer FuturLab lab is back with Velocity 2X, a full-fledged sequel for the Vita and PlayStation 4. Time to fire up the Quarp Jet…
When in flight, Velocity 2X handles almost identically to its predecessor. Movement and teleporting feel like they’ve been fine-tuned, though that could at least partially be attributed to playing the game with a PS4 controller as opposed to the Vita. New moves and abilities are introduced as you progress, and most can then be used to replay older levels for improved times or to reach secret areas you couldn’t access before — these typically house codex entries or unlock bonus levels.
Action isn’t restricted to space anymore as a good chunk of the game takes place on foot. The controls follow a similar setup. For example, the right bumper, which boosts your Quarp Jet, will cause Kai Tana to sprint. This isn’t always the case, however, and it can lead to some mild confusion. You’re not very maneuverable, either, which makes it difficult to evade multiple projectiles. The ability to roll or dodge would’ve been appreciated.
Most of the core elements here should be instantly recognizable to those that played the previous game, and that means Velocity 2X retains its humble roots. What it may lack in intricacy it helps make up for with lots of colorful explosions and projectiles. There’s no shortage of yellows, greens and blues, and it helps provide a feeling of surrealism that makes the challenge more palatable. Even during tough sections it’s hard to get mad in the atmosphere it has created.
The soundtrack tends to blend into the background, especially since you’ll want to listen for the audio cues that let you know when to drop a teleportation device. Like its predecessor, 2X does a solid job both with music and sound effects but doesn’t excel in either area.
There’s a more defined story arc in Velocity 2X, which follows your efforts to help liberate the Jintindan from the evil clutches of the Vokh. It’s told via a series of still images accompanied by text, and while it’s certainly nothing special, it does provide some context to your actions.
Whether or not you care about the story is ultimately irrelevant because the selling point here isn’t the story or the sound or the graphics. It’s the design, which continuously stacks and reshuffles various elements throughout 2X‘s 50 levels. One minute you’re zooming through space, teleporting back and forth to rescue aliens, and the next you’re sliding under piping, warping through Vokh guards and leaping across superheated chasms that kill on contact.
It’s a process, and it’s one that’s brought along at just the right pace, introducing new elements at regular intervals to keep things interesting. What you’ve previously learned is never abandoned or replaced, either, creating a continuous progression that keeps layering ingredients. At the same time, it never feels like overkill where everything at your disposal is needed all at once. Instead, it’s more a constant mixing to keep things fresh.
Missions carry one of three designations: Hostile Forces (combat), Critical Urgency (speed run) and Search & Rescue (pods, lots of pods). Regardless of type, every one of these missions is scored on three or four areas with each area featuring three thresholds. Experience is earned based on which thresholds you reach, and it’s your cumulative experience that unlocks the additional missions.
Although you can make multiple runs to garner all available experience points, you’ll need to max them all out on a single run to earn a “perfect” medal. It’s a great system that allows players to continue moving forward in the campaign while also offering an incentive to replay previous missions in search of those elusive perfects. By doing that, Velocity 2X caters to a more casual audience as well as hardcore speed runners that want to streak through the intricately designed levels until they’ve mastered the run.
Half of the game’s 50 missions contain orange crystals hidden off the main path that, when collected, unlock bonus levels. Unfortunately, these prove to be a completely different mini game that amounts to little more than rudimentary puzzle solving on all but the last levels. It’s still fun to hunt for the crystals, but the payoff is underwhelming.
In terms of the main game, my only real issue was the drastically different approach the final handful of levels take. On one hand, I appreciate that it was limited to such a small portion of the game. On the other, though, its inclusion felt counterintuitive and forced — the direct opposite of the aforementioned steady pacing — and it robbed the finale of some of its would-be thunder.
It has been a banner year for the PlayStation Network, and Velocity 2X is another feather in its cap to go alongside the likes of Rogue Legacy, The Swapper and Transistor. It’s an excellent, addictive game that constantly calls out for “one more run.” Download it. Now.