PlayStation Minis still is a great outlet for budget titles on all three of Sony’s consoles, but if there is one thing we learned last year, some great games can be improved if given a full-blown release. Velocity was one of them, not only showing that space-themed vertical shooters can be accessible, but also tons of fun. Brighton-based developer FuturLab had plenty of feedback on the game from critics and fans alike, with many calling for a dedicated PlayStation Vita version with improved graphics and control input additions. Does Velocity Ultra truly live up to expectations?
Velocity Ultra is more focused on refining the core game than changing it entirely. The 50 levels in the main campaign still follow along a brilliant difficulty curve that teaches you as you progress. Rescuing survivors from the potential calamity that menaces over them in the shape of a red giant about to turn into a black hole, Lt. Kai Tana must pilot the Quarp Jet – a rescue ship that is capable of teleportation. You can also fling bombs in one of four directions and deploy teleportation pods to warp back to a previous point in the mission.
By the time you get to the final level, the game becomes a test of your reaction skills by placing not only branching paths with multiple obstacles, but also narrow paths and long gaps between where you are and where you can teleport to. Before you know it, you’ll spend a long time trying to rescue all of the survivors in the gold time while racking up the quota of points required to perfecting the mission.
The key differences between the PlayStation Minis version and the rather shiny PS Vita only version are that while Velocity had a retro vibe going on, Velocity Ultra is vibrantly detailed with clean, good-looking sprites being displayed at the PS Vita’s native resolution, together with a rather striking art style for the still-image cut-scenes. While Joris de Man’s co-produced score is left unchanged, this is far from a negative point as the techno-inspired music still fits the game quite nicely. What is most apparent however is just how polished it feels as a result of all these tweaks.
Other big additions to the gameplay come in the form of convenient control additions. Veterans might be used to teleporting using the buttons, but the touch screen is a practical alternative that is useful throughout the entire game. Having the ability to fling bombs by just pushing the right stick where you want it to go feels a lot more natural compared holding down the circle button, pushing the direction you want the bomb to go, and then releasing the circle button. By fully utilising the PS Vita in a clever way, you can play in a way that feels natural, whether that is using the traditional controls, the Vita exclusives ones, or even a mix between the two.
As you explore each level, you might come across either a secret bonus area or bonus medals. These are tied in quite nicely with the extra content, which includes mini-games based on retro space shooters from the past, minesweeper, and even a couple of two player games. Leaderboards and in-mission challenges round off the package, and while the calculator is a confusing addition, one is to assume that the true nature of this feature is well hidden. You even get various challenges where even touching the walls means certain death, which will really separate the rookies from the skilled aviators.
If PlayStation Minis was considered a hindrance to Velocity, there are no such qualms with Velocity Ultra on PlayStation Vita. Still at a budget price, you will get a lot more enjoyment out of it as a result of this being a far more polished game from FuturLab. Back last year, we said that Velocity was, “An auditory and visual delight with rock solid gameplay and a brilliant hook, what’s not to love?” Almost a year later, Velocity Ultra is an updated gem that is an essential purchase for anyone with a PlayStation Vita. It’s that good.