Gaming Nomad vs. VVVVVV
Puzzle games in the past have usually been characterized by the player trying to fit blocks, blobs, or some other odd things together to clear out rows on the screen before the board fills up. However, since games like Portal came around, platform puzzle games have become quite popular, especially in the indie game community.
The oddly named VVVVVV (aka V six times, Vs, or V-6) was created by Terry Cavanagh in 2010 as an Adobe Flash game for PC and Mac OS X. It has since expanded on to many different platforms. It has very retro visual design and is made to look like a Commodore 64 game. While this game has been out for 3 years, I only found out about it recently when watching an episode of Steam Train.
I decided to check it out and downloaded it for my 3DS. VVVVVV has developed the reputation of being an insanely difficult game and it sure does live up to that reputation. But what more does this game offer besides a high level of difficulty?
STORY & GAMEPLAY:
This seemingly simple game does actually have a story. You play as Captain Viridian aboard a space ship with his 5 other space travelers. Suddenly, their ship comes under some kind of dimensional interference and the crew escapes through a teleporter aboard the ship. They all become separated in this bizarre neon colored dimension of spikes, flying words, and geometric shapes. It’s up to Captain Viridian to find and rescue all of his crew so they can escape this strange universe.
The story is a simple one: find and save all your crew mates. There is some back story that can be found on computer stations throughout the game but I never found it too interesting other than some of the funny messages you’ll find. You also get some amusing conversations between Captain Viridian and the other crew members but, other than that, there isn’t much story and that’s just fine for this type of game.
The gameplay is very simple in VVVVVV; you run around and use gravity to flip between walking on ceilings and floors.
It’s similar to Metal Storm but with no shooting robots. It is fun to use this mechanic and learn the ways it can be employed. You will use gravity to navigate through the various platforming challenges you will face throughout the game and there is a good variety in the puzzles. Your challenges start off simple enough but gradually become more and more difficult. Then it goes from difficult to insane.
It’s a good that death is a minor thing in this dimension Captain Viridian finds himself in.
Scattered throughout the world are light bulbs with Cs on them. These are checkpoints in which you will respawn at if and when you die. And trust me, you will die. A lot. You need to hit these checkpoints in order to progress through the game’s difficult segments. Nothing hurts more than going for a very long stretch with no check points and dying, having to start a section all over. There is no down time between death and respawning so you’ll get back into the action right away. Also, you have unlimited lives so die as many times as you need to.
The game is technically open world, letting you explore the different areas in any order you wish. You have a map that gets filled in as you progress screen to screen. I find this map works a lot better on the 3DS as it utilizes the bottom screen while, on the PC versions, you would have to pause the game to bring up the map. You can also locate warp gates that will teleport you around the map, saving you some leg work. Most of the rooms are individually titled as well, usually having some kind of snarky phrase describing the room’s challenge. In addition to finding your crew mates, you can also collect items known as shiny trinkets. I’m honestly not sure what happens when you collect them all but if you plan to do so, be ready for some really hard challenges ahead of you.
This is the part where I should bring up the game’s legendary difficulty. This game is really, really, really hard at times and will frustrate and anger you to no end.
More casual gamers may be turned off by this. There are rooms in this game where you will die over and over again as you trial and error your way into solving the puzzles. This game demands perfection with some of these puzzles and your reflexes has to be extremely fast. It doesn’t help that some of the hit boxes are a bit questionable at times leaving you to throw your arms up and yell ‘OH COME ON!’ and other more colorful language. This game will test your patience and possibly your sanity. Even with rooms that you will find yourself dying hundreds of times in, the game is pretty short at around a little over 2 hours and, for what I paid, that is a little questionable. I paid a little over $8 for this game and while it does have some extras like different gameplay modes and player made bonus levels, it is still a little lacking for at $7.99 for me. If it were $4.99, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.
GRAPHICS & SOUND:
As I stated before, the visuals of VVVVVV are designed to be retro and look like a Commodore 64 game (it even starts with the flashing boot screen). The game’s graphics are very simple but colorful. Captain Viridian and his crew mates all look exactly the same except for being different colors and they all look like Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet, which may or may not have been an influence for this game.
The visuals do the game well but it is the music that steals the show.
The music by Magnus Pålsson is electronic, upbeat, and perfectly fits the retro look and feel of the game. The music is probably what kept me sane while trying to get through the hardest parts of the game. I downloaded the soundtrack, that’s how much I enjoyed it. It’s perfect for light switch raves.
Overall, VVVVVV is an interesting puzzle platformer and a good example of an indie game. While I did find this game extremely difficult at times, I did really enjoy it. However, it’s that difficulty that I feel will probably keep most causal gamers or those who are not fans of platformers away. If you love a challenge and retro looking games, then it’s right up your ally. I do feel the price is a little high for this title, so if you have 8 bucks you want to spend; I recommend it on this game or wait for a steam sale. I have seen it down to $2. That said, I still recommend the 3DS version over the PC version for how the map and menus are handled. Thanks for reading! Keep an eye out for Grant’s review of Assassin’s Creed 4 and my review of Journey: Collector’s Edition.
- Interesting puzzle gameplay
- Awesome soundtrack
- Colorful and nicely designed levels and puzzles
- Extremely high difficulty might turn some gamers away
- A little over priced
- Main game is very short