It’s a rare occurrence when a game manages to not only excel with regards to the core aspects of its genre, but manage to inject a sense of identity and originality as well. When said achievement is managed by a team of so few its even more impressive and that is exactly what Futurlab’s Velocity has managed. Make no mistake about it, Velocity oozes enough class, quality and style to propel it to unimaginable heights given its ‘minis’ status. The Brighton-based studio has crafted a game that is a gargantuan fish in a mere puddle; a lion amongst kittens; a three-course meal at a picnic. Try as I might, no metaphor will accurately highlight just how grand an accomplishment this is. It’s no unjust praise to declare that Velocity is comfortably the best ‘minis’ title on the market – and subsequently one of the best titles on the PSP and PlayStation Vita.
For those unaware of Velocity’s premise, it’s an aromatic journey of nostalgia and futurism with some top-down space shooting action – but with a bit of a twist. Teleportation. Missions will obstruct you with unsurpassable terrain and with the screen constantly on the move you’d quickly meet an earlier grave – after a life or two that is. However, with the quick press of the square button you can aim a reticule to anywhere on-screen and, providing it’s untaken space, teleport to safety. It’s the primary facet of a game brimming with charm and intelligent concepts, one that alters gameplay to great effect.
Much like Inception, it’s a remarkably simple premise that flourishes as time elapses, opening up incredible possibilities and diversity in a genre that has become increasingly stagnant. Although it may be a top-down shooter at heart, Velocity has many puzzle and racing aspects hidden within, and could even be completed without eliminating a single foe if you so desired. Shields block certain sections that can only be passed by shutting down their generators, however, they must be done in order. This utilises two other mechanics in the game, bombs – which can be thrown vertically or horizontally to hit targets, and telepods – allowing you to backtrack certain areas for an increased hit of puzzle. The array of interactions strike a fine balance between simplicity and complexity; as Velocity is certainly an easy enough title to get to grips with, but will see you become a master after a short while.
The game’s glorious retro art style looks superb on both the small screens of the two handhelds, and brilliantly crisp on far larger screens thanks to the PlayStation 3, but it’s the soundtrack that takes center stage. Accentuating the game’s industrial throwback appearance, the auditory delights are clear. Co-written and co-produced by Killzone composer Joris de Man, it’s a collaboration that will invigorate even the most darkest of souls.
Few games control as sweetly either. Directing your ship – the Quarp Jet – is done using the left analogue stick which is prompt and responsive, without ever feeling over sensitive; your on-board weapon, which takes a backseat to the teleportation mechanic, is simple yet can be upgraded via pickups; whilst the boost and bombs are used to good effect to add spice and variety to gameplay.
Futurlab ensured that an expansive backstory encapsulates the gameplay to grant a labour of love essence to the entire package, which at just £3.99 is an absolute steal. As Lt. Kai Tana pilots your ship on a rescue mission, the aim of each mission is to collect/rescue all of the stranded pods, as fast as you can and eliminating as many enemies as possible. These three areas are assessed come the end of each mission, equating into XP garnered and medals awarded. It provides both the means to unlocking future levels – allowing the avoidance of a level you perhaps found too challenging, a barometer of success and subsequent challenge in itself. Getting three-barred gold medals are the goal, with a perfect run being a particularly impressive achievement if you can muster up the skills. Fifty core levels make up the game’s campaign: with a beautifully executed difficulty curve, a soft reveal of gameplay mechanics and flourishing level design that teeters on genius it’s near perfect. There’s also a splash of secrets to unlock and find, but I’d rather not spoil those for you.
Claiming that Velocity is the best ‘minis’ game out there does a disservice to the title. It’s far better. This is a game that deserves to be recognised as one of the most well-rounded releases in many-a-year, mastering both the pick-up-and-play mindset whilst also making you never want to put it down. Drawbacks? The only one of note is that its ‘minis’ barriers has severely limited the wealth of potential that the title posses. I for one will be greatly hoping for a full PSN release with HD graphics, which could see a sequel lift both the game and the studio to another level. An auditory and visual delight with rock solid gameplay and a brilliant hook, what’s not to love?