Beginning life as a PS Mini, the original Velocity garnered such an adoring audience that it came to the Vita as a fully fledged title. FuturLab took the concept and added important touches to put the age-old concept of the shoot ‘em up into the hands of the modern-day gamer. Velocity 2X expands on those ideas and, even with a few hiccups along the way, produces a title worthy of adulation.
As Lt. Kai Tana, you are awoken on an operating table by the chattering of two unknown figures that have captured you after crashing your spacecraft, the Quarp Jet. With the help of new ally Ralan, you escape from the clutches of your captors and attempt to free the Jintinda from the imprisonment of the Vokh. By traversing the galaxy, picking up Jintinda scientists and collecting Rekenium crystals, Tana vows to free Ralan’s people from the Vokh’s incarceration and return to her homeland. We’ve seen many space tales like Velocity 2X before, but the lack of personality in the protagonist and her right-hand man make flicking through the short sequences before levels a chore. The art design in these story stills is beautiful, but sadly that doesn’t take away from the mundanity of the narrative.
Like the wonderful art direction in the pre-level story scenes, the frenetic gameplay of Velocity 2X is made all the more enjoyable by the wonderful pigmentation being thrown in your face. Like a fireworks display on the 31st December, explosions are happening all around you and you may find yourself gawping in awe at your telly. While the story fails to grab the imagination, visually, it’s inspired.
Velocity 2X is a spacecraft shoot ‘em up first, and getting behind the controls of the physics-defying Jet is a joy. Unlike your regular vertical scrolling shooter where it’s as simple as sending everything that moves to an early grave and reaching the finish line, Velocity 2X sees players having to teleport their way to their goal… on top of sending everything that moves to an early grave, of course. Each map will vary in its complexity, with some courses requiring you to pass through walls and that’s where you must utilise your teleportation capabilities. Holding square will allow you to use an aiming reticule and thrust your ship into another area, with ease. In the same way the Quarp Jet’s maiden voyage was a joy, the ship sections are bliss. Accelerating through space with an effortlessly maneuverable craft and downing the array of adversaries is as satisfying as pretty much anything you’ll play this year.
Many of the maps will require you to unlock gated areas by deactivating numbered switches along the way. By shooting them with your front-facing laser, or hurling bombs in their direction, you can advance past the once fatal blockade. This is also where Telepods come into play. At any particular point in a level, you can drop a marker you can return to at any point in that specific stage. As you progress, more elaborate levels will require deeper thought and extensive planning via the available map, because of deviating paths. This introduces a puzzle-like element and breaks up the play between more straightforward, aggressive action and a more measured approach.
The big addition to the series is Lt. Kai Tana’s desire to get out of her spaceship and attack the situation on-foot. FuturLab deserve a lot of credit for creating a platforming portion of Velocity 2X that is just as strong as the shmup element, bar one mechanic that slows gameplay to a snail’s pace and ultimately kills the enjoyment of certain levels. For the most part, Tana controls like the Quarp Jet. The twitch style gameplay works well in the parts where the Lieutenant is annihilating the Vokh with her rifle and features such as teleporting also transfer over with ease. However, where it all falls down is when you have to employ the Telepod technique.
Certain areas require Tana to fire a spherical telepod at a wall, so it bounces up to a higher platform that cannot be reached merely by leaping onto it. By holding Triangle, an aiming arc will appear on screen to dictate the throw of your telepod. This arc will also show the trajectory of the ‘pod after it bounces off an object, giving you an idea of where it’ll end up. In theory, it’s interesting, but the execution kills all momentum. In Velocity 2X, as the name would suggest, speed is paramount and platforming stages come to a screeching halt when Tana attempts to place a telepod in the location of her choosing. Aiming demands an uncomfortable amount of time due to it being so loose, and trying to fine-tune your throw is as frustrating as anything I’ve come across in recent memory. Stalling of this magnitude can hinder a potentially fantastic time on a level and see you picking up a silver medal rather than the much coveted gold.
Replayability is here in spades, though. You’ll eventually have to replay levels to gain more XP in order to unlock later levels anyway, but you’ll want to – it’s not a chore. XP is doled out for stellar showings in your recorded time, high numbers of Jintinda rescued (which appear as floating blue objects), the number of pink Rekenium crystals collected and your high score from eradicating enemies. Velocity 2X is incredibly moreish and you’ll find yourself constantly going back, repeating stages over and over until you’ve driven yourself up the leaderboards.
Another new aspect to this installment of the series is the inclusion of boss fights. These are excellently laid out and are certainly not just thrown in for the hell of it. At the very beginning, it’ll seem like a spray of bullets is all you need, but these boss battles are not cookie cutter. Some incorporate switches, some incorporate both flying and platforming – and they’re all terrific.
VERDICT: Velocity 2X is a sequel that takes the original idea and expands on it. Unlike a lot of follow-ups, though, it has added a whole new way to play the game. The greatest triumph is in how the spacecraft gameplay and platforming sections feel similar in parts, while also retaining some individuality. It’s disappointing that a number of factors cause Velocity 2X to experience a little turbulence, because generally, it’s a great flight.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.