FuturLab are definitely an indie developer to keep an eye on. They’ve got big ideas on how they want to change genre conceptions. Velocity was a surprise hit, but it wasn’t until the PS Vita devoted Velocity Ultra brought with it upgraded controls and visual fidelity. While Velocity 2X can be played on the go, it’s also worth noting that this marks the developer’s first foray into console game development – and what a debut it is.
We won’t spoil the conclusion of Velocity to you just in case you somehow haven’t tried out even the HD upgrade Velocity Ultra, but essentially the sequel carries on where the first game ended. For those who care about the plot, it’s serviceable, but not exactly the pinnacle of story-telling. The lore hidden within expands a little more, however, it’s the gameplay and design that truly counts in an arcade-like game such as this, so it sets up the action nicely.
A step above
Going from Velocity Ultra to Velocity 2X is like watching classic game franchises go from 8-Bit NES graphics to the 16-Bit Super Nintendo. A lot more detail has been crammed into the visual style, with the lighting used bringing the game to life. Music has an increased amount of variety, giving each level its own identity. It’s leaps and bounds above its original minis outing, without compromising on the main attraction: the gameplay.
At first glance there isn’t much different to the predecessor in the gameplay department. You still pilot a ship that can teleport, but the controls have been refined to make teleporting using the buttons a far easier endeavour than the prior versions. I actually found myself using the circle and analogue stick far more than the touch screen this time around, despite my preferences from the first game. Gates and teleport pods still factor in, but the removal of the life system makes this game a far more forgiving proposition for speed runners.
Where Velocity 2X differs from its predecessor is present in more ways than just a fresh lick of paint. Not content with changing the top-down shooter genre with teleportation mechanics, stages are often broken up into seamless transitions between top-down shooter and the brand new platforming stages. Kai Tana can shoot in 360 degress, collecting crystals and killing aliens along the way, but also has access to a sprint, teleportation, and a stronger rifle. Most enemies merely get in your way, but the larger foes (Vokh guards) require you to teleport through them (much like you do walls in the top-down shooter sections) before shooting them in the back.
Practise makes perfect
It doesn’t take long to get used to the mechanics and thankfully they’re just as tight and sublime as the classic Velocity controls. A generous health bar that is carried over between sections of each level gives you ample life to aim for speed, while instant kill red sections create a fair platforming challenge. Later on, you get access to teleportation pods that you can deploy in a similar way to the top-down shooter sections when the path branches, adding a layer of depth to the level design.
I was slightly worried that the throwing of the telepods would be a cumbersome mechanic if mapped solely to the touch screen, however, it’s also mapped to a button press and an analogue stick which, despite messing with the pacing a little bit, makes the mechanic far more tolerable thanks to the more precise control.
Velocity 2X has a habit of surprising you with new gameplay elements, even towards the end of its 50 mission campaign. Levels range from corridor-like drag races where going fast is the only real choice, to large labyrinths where it could take several minutes to navigate your way to unlock the exit. Curve balls come in all shapes and sizes, which makes discovering them all the more joyous.
Merely playing to completion is a simple task, perhaps more so than the first Velocity thanks to the removal of the life system, but there will always be the challenge of grabbing everything as fast as you can. In fact Speed Running seems to be the best way to try to play once you’ve stopped gawking at the detailed presentation and admiring the design of each level. There are secrets hidden within levels that seem to unlock a portal-based mini-game, though these are nowhere near as fun as the main game.
Velocity 2X is an incredible feat of game design, taking everything that worked in the first game, fine tuning the experience to make it tighter, while also including drastically different enhancements to the gameplay. You’ll come for the shiny new exterior, sleek level design, killer soundtrack, and addictive gameplay; but you’ll stay for the challenge of finishing everything perfectly in as fast a time as possible. It’s the perfect sequel. You don’t get much more praise than that.