Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better
Velocity, and it’s reworked update Velocity Ultra, won fans the world over. It’s perfectly formed fun that was wonderful thanks to the pure simplicity of it all. Players would just point the Quarp Jet, and then go headfirst into a level, aiming to get the best times and strive for that perfect run. Puzzles would be an obstacle, but an obstacle that was enjoyable to achieve, memory-mapping each switch location and the quickest way to teleport around to grab survivors and hit some switches. So, with Velocity 2x on the cards I was curious as to how you could improve upon near perfection; and my curiosity was well deserved, because 2x falls just short of the mark.
In fairness, it had lofty heights to achieve – heights that had it been a sequel to any other game, it would have surely surpassed. But Velocity 2x is a confused work of art. It retains all the things that made its predecessor perfect, yet adds more stuff on that it actually begins to sully the very simplistic ethos that made the original so fun to play. The first foible comes in the form of story, no longer reserved to snippets of text here and there, it’s now told through beautiful stills and dialogue. The trouble is it’s not the most engaging writing around, nor is it that interesting, while a nice inclusion to tie things together, it really feels like it gets in the way of the main attraction: the levels.
This time around the slow pace of the original’s opening levels has been quickened, you’ll have discovered almost all the main techniques before the first quarter of the game – meaning the rest is used for refinement and to pose challenges. It’s certainly welcome, especially when combined with some fantastic on-foot side-scrolling sections. And things always feel at their best when Velocity has you moving quickly, taking out foes, teleporting around levels, and shooting switches to reach the end.
So it’s a shame that Velocity 2x feels like it continually wants to stop you from doing this. Boss fights are the first instance of just how Futurlab can draw something out into tedium. While you’ll end up facing the same boss in different guises for most boss encounters, things get progressively harder, even though the techniques don’t. You’ll still have to shoot out switches to take down their shield, then dock inside and go in on foot to take out some more switches to deal damage; all before repeating the process again a few times. They’re certainly frantic moments that draw inspiration from bullet-hell titles, but they’re among some of the more tedious moments 2x throws at you.
Some of the later levels also begin to feel like a slog as you realise you’ve got to hit nine separate switches scattered across a level, which really means hitting nine separate switches in four different colours, with at least two or three of those being located on on-foot sections. It takes the sense of urgency and speedrun-centric fun out of proceedings, and if you’re aiming for that perfect run you’ll most certainly go crazy trying to manage the more fiddly jumps that Lt. Kai Tana has to make in some of the on-foot moments. It also seems insane that the games namesake is a mechanic that comes in right at the end that its potential can’t be fully realised.
The thing is, even with these issues, Velocity 2x is one of the better experiences you’ll have on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4. It’s genuinely fun, and while difficulty has been evened out in terms of medal boundaries – with Bronze and Silver being rather liberal, those looking for a challenge will certainly find one in getting Gold medals and perfect runs. There’s also Lt. Tana’s diary pages to pick up to help flesh out the story and link the two games together, and gold shards that unlock extra challenge levels too.
It’s also an absolutely astoundingly beautiful game, with great detail in every level – it’s a far cry from the Minis title that Velocity started out life as. While subtle, the environmental illumination from explosions and gunfire – as well as Abrams-esque lens flare – make each level feel grounded and real. And as the environments change as the story progresses, we get to see the talent at Futurlab doing something other than dark space and brutalist futuristic structures. And the music, oh my the music, it’s some of composer Joris de Man’s best work. Just like the original Velocity score it captures the essence of the speed and overarching themes of 2x.
It’s certainly testament to Futurlab’s talent that even with the foibles Velocity 2x throws into the ring, this is still a highly enjoyable game and one that can be played without prior experience of Velocity Ultra. What it really all boils down to is how the bar was set so high the first time around that comparing it directly paints it in an unfavourable way. But taken on it’s own merit Velocity 2x is most certainly worth your time and money.
+ More Velocity fun
+ Beautiful art design
+ Wonderful level design
+ Joris de Man's excellent music
- Feels bloated with additions
- Storytelling gets in the way of the action
- Later levels become tedious