Title: Velocity 2X
Platform: PS4, Vita
This game is one of the reasons I feel so validated in making the jump to Playstation platforms. I can’t remember a time I felt like such a badass – Velocity 2X simply rocked my world.
I’m the type of person who always wants the best of both worlds. Every time I go to a restaurant with someone, I always suggest that we get two different dishes and split them. In one way it’s just hedging my bets, as I don’t want to be stuck with one dish if it ends up not being very good. But at the same time, I just really appreciate experiencing different things as much as possible.
This game allowed me to split my playing time in half between different styles, but shockingly hedging bets was not one of the benefits, as this game nails them both perfectly. In fact, I would have been happy with one or the other, but the integration is seemless on both ends.
In an era rife with AAA blockbusters that are afraid to deviate too far from the beaten path, Velocity 2X is a breath of fresh air that brings a truly unique experience. Juxtaposing two styles of gameplay is a concept that I first fell in love with when playing The Guardian Legend for the NES. Whereas TGL blended vertical shoot ‘em up (shmup) with top-down action-adventure RPG, 2X expertly blends shmup and platformer.
You play through stages mainly in your airship, but you periodically must jump ship to perform some platforming challenges. Each stage presents you with a series of numbered capsules that must be shot in a particular order, and this often involves needing to strategically enter and leave each of the game’s various modes. The game is linear, but the later stages force you to carefully consider your path, which adds a welcome dimension to strategy.
The art style and overall tone is perfect. Everything fits, from the slightly humorous exchanges between stages to the sleek yet simple futuristic design of the characters and setting. The movement is fluid and beautiful; the backgrounds might not be crawling with interesting designs, but I’m not sure that an elaborate backdrop would be fitting for the atmosphere this game evokes through it’s main mission. It’s just a beautiful game.
The music. What can’t I say about the music. Many people have praised Hotline Miami’s soundtracks for having a driving energetic beat; while I agree that HM’s soundtrack is excellent, 2X nails it even better. For a game to truly be immersive, it needs to have music that helps you lose yourself in the experience. The music in this game is so alive, so thriving, so pulsating, so perfectly fitting with the action on screen, that I cannot possibly imagine anything better. I’ll show my ignorance of music genres here, but it’s electronic music with a mix of techno beats that really captivates and energizes me throughout the campaign. There are some levels that have slightly less captivating music, but it’s almost necessary to have them after the blinding enthusiasm generated by the rest of the score.
There are many neat gameplay features in 2X, but I’ll just call attention to a few of them. For one, you can completely control the speed of your airship. Have you ever played a shmup where you wished you could just slow things down a bit? This game’s default speed is a crawl, but you have the option to speedily fly through the levels with a touch of a button. Speed gets you more points and makes you feel more like a badass, but you run the risk of blowing up your ship or missing collectibles.
Perhaps most interesting and innovative is the system for teleportation. You can teleport on the fly (pun intended) in your airship to any location on screen, and the affect and feel of dashing all over the place invites a feeling of power unlike one I’ve had in quite some time. You can also do some teleporting in the platforming section; though you are more limited in your range, it feels equally empowering to zip around in those areas.
There are a range of collectibles that aren’t completely necessary to advance the story. I usually don’t care about collecting things, but I found myself obsessing over the ones in 2X nevertheless. I love games that only give you a few things to collect, as that makes the collection process manageable and exciting. Many games give you such massive amount of collectibles that I end up disliking the game for annoying me with crap I don’t care about (Donkey Kong 64, I’m looking at you!). But 2X has the perfect blend of collectibles, and I found myself going back to make sure I got everything I could.
This review probably seems one-sided at this point; to be fair, I’m rating it near perfect, so you shouldn’t expect much criticism. But I will note a few things that bothered me about the game, and kept it away from scoring a perfect 10.
Sometimes the puzzles kept me from my badassery. The game needed to have them, and they were interesting, but they also took away from the frenetic pace that had strangled my attention throughout the campaign. The thing that makes this game so amazing is the ebb and flow it creates, and sometimes the puzzles make that stutter a bit.
Another very slight criticism is that they change the controls for shooting when you go from the shmup sections to platforming. Whereas you use a button for your main gun in the airship mode, you use your right stick for your main gun when platforming. It’s a small little detail that unfortunately persistently annoyed me through the campaign. Certainly nothing deal breaking, but confusing the controls from section to section was a little irksome.
All things considered, if you haven’t played this game, make time for it. This is not the type of game I would normally want to revisit, but I’ll be going back to this one time and time again. Increasing the speed and quality of my runs will net me a higher score for each level, but I don’t really care about scores personally. I just enjoy feeling like a badass, and on that level, this game is a perfect 10.