Review: Velocity (Sony PS3/PSP/Vita)
by Aaron Sirois on May 14, 2012

Velocity
Publisher: FuturLab
Developer: FuturLab
Genre: Vertical Shooter
Release Date: 05/01/2012

One of the best things about Minis is that they often give you the chance to try a game outside of your comfort zone for a very small price. I’ve never been a fan of traditional shooters. This isn’t because I think there’s anything wrong with the genre. On the contrary, I find them to be quite interesting. I’m not a fan simply because I really really suck at them. As you could surmise, this puts even some classics out of my league. I may like Gradius well enough, but I find the game wholly frustrating to play.

You might wonder, then, why I would hastily volunteer to review Velocity. It wasn’t that I was bored or in dire need of something to review. In fact, I had already started on another game when this came up. It was simply because I don’t play enough traditional shooters, and the allure of what Velocity was offering outweighed my usual trepidation at playing them.

In layman’s terms, it looked pretty damn cool.

Story/Modes

A huge supernova sends out an EMP blast that cripples various space colonies in the galaxy. On top of that, the ensuing black hole and encroaching enemy forces threaten the survivors. Time is of the essence, and a regular rescue mission won’t cut it. Instead, you’re sent in with the prototype Quarp engine with all kinds of crazy abilities.

If you play through the main game in one go, that’s about all the story you’ll get until the ending, which I won’t spoil. There are a couple of screens where a rescued survivor repays the favor by upgrading your weapons, but that’s it. However, the extras section contains a number of communications that you unlock as you progress. These add depth to the story and are quite interesting. Also, many of the trophies and mission names reference various science fiction lore. There’s a little bit of everything, from famous authors and movies, to character names. Yes. There’s a “Kirk” trophy. These little touches add some flavor and make the tale an overall enjoyable one, even if there is little to it.

For modes, there are more than you’d think. First there is the main campaign, where you simply need to progress through levels. You earn experience through speed and diligence, and experience unlocks more levels. I found that I was able to unlock most of the levels with no problem, though I ended up replaying a few to earn the last bit of needed experience. There are also twenty bonus missions which you can unlock. These are tough, but those looking for the most challenge will certainly find what they’re looking for. On top of that, there’s a playable version of Minesweeper. You can’t mess with the options, but that’s still pretty cool.

Velocity may not have all the splash of a major release, but it certainly has plenty of personality. There is more than the average amount of content for a Mini to play with. It certainly offered more than I expected.

Graphics

Graphically, this game isn’t really doing much beyond what it absolutely needs to. Using simple colors and shapes, the game is slightly above something you could play on the NES. There isn’t much variety either, with almost every level involving gray structures in space. The enemies have some detail, but they are generic as well. Your ship looks great in pictures, but is just another ship during gameplay.

That being said, the game doesn’t look bad. In fact, the look is clean and runs quite well. There are no moments where you’re confused as to where you can go and what’s liable to shoot at you. That’s a plus. It’s just that there was so much room for improvement. I’ve seen plenty of better looking Minis out there.

Audio

The composer for this game is Joris de Man, who apparently also did the score for Killzone 2 and 3. I don’t really know any songs from those games, but it seems to be one of Velocity‘s selling points, so I figured I’d mention it. I will say that the music is pretty darn cool. It’s heavy on the synthesizer in a good way and was very enjoyable background music that actually managed to stay in my head a bit. I wouldn’t mind listening to it when not playing the game. Alas, it doesn’t seem to be on Youtube.

The sound effects are also great. By themselves, they are ordinary, but they seem to have been more carefully chosen than that. You see, every sound, from laser blasts to shattering glass, fits with the music. I’m sure it was intentionally done, but if not, kudos to them for getting so lucky. I made the aural experience quite enjoyable.

Gameplay

Velocity brings a few quirks to the table that really help separate it from the usual shooters.

For starters, you can teleport. By holding a button, you can move a cursor on the screen and instantly travel to any spot you can see. I don’t have to tell you the implications for this, but I will. You can get out of a tough jam, teleport to the perfect firing spot, and get all of those hard to reach upgrades and items. The levels have been designed to use this tool to its fullest. Often a pathway will be blocked until you shoot colored switches. These switches are also numbered, meaning you have to hit them in the correct order. Rapid teleportation is key, and there are many instances where your quickly move from one target to the other while dodging enemy fire. It can get nuts.

In addition, you also gain the ability to drop “telepods”. These devices allow you to instantly transport yourself backwards on a map. This is great for when you come across a fork in the road, and there are plenty of levels that have you going back to take multiple paths in order to find all of the survivors. You have a limited number of pods to use each level, but they can be used indefinitely.

If teleportation weren’t enough, you can also speed the game up by pressing a shoulder button. This increased the speed of the vertical scroll and allows you to move through a level much more quickly. There are several levels with short time limits where this technique comes in handy. It’s also great for replay and skill runs.

For weapons, you have a basic laser that gets upgraded over time. There are also temporary upgrades that give you a wider shot or a more powerful blast. Clearing a wave of enemies drops a restorative item, so you could theoretically hold onto an upgrade for an entire level. Also, you can fling bombs up, down, left, and right. These deal splash damage and are invaluable for clearing paths, taking out enemies, and hitting out of reach switches. Combined with the teleportation ability, the bombs become absolutely devastating.

If there’s one caveat, it’s that the focus of this game less about shooting and more about collecting. The goal of each level is to find all of the survivors in the fastest time possible. What shooting there is very laid back. It takes a while for enemies to start shooting at you, and the your weapons are more than up to the task. Even the tough enemies can simply be avoided in necessary. There aren’t any boss fights to be found either, which will be a let down to some. In truth, this game is more about working your way through all the twists and turns. It still offers plenty of excitement, but this fact hurts the game’s appeal a bit.

All of the unique features help this game make up for the flaws though. It is downright fun and unlike anything you’ve ever played. I imagine it would have killed at the arcade.

Replayability

To start things off, there are fifty levels to work through, and a top ranking to earn for each of them. That alone would be plenty of game, but diligent players will find special items that unlock twenty bonus levels. These offer a stiffer challenge, and will really test your skills. That’s a sizable package, especially when you add in the version of Minesweeper that’s available.

For the money, you’re getting seventy levels that will take several hours to complete. If you get into playing for the higher rankings, this game will more than get your your monies worth. It’s about as fully featured a Mini as I’ve seen, up there with Pix’N Love Rush and 1000 Tiny Claws. Those are my two favorite Minis, so I’d say that puts Velocity in good company.

Balance

I didn’t find this game too difficult to complete. Like I said before, the trick is more about finding a path to the end more than surviving tough waves of enemies. Unlike a lot of shooters, you have a health bar and can take multiple shots before going down. Health kits are readily available. That’s not to say that death is impossible, but not nearly so common as in other games.

That being said, you do have a time limit. Also, you must collect a minimum number of survivors or the mission is a failure. Though these instances rarely cause failure, they can still happen. The real challenge is finding a way to get the top ranking, which requires top speed and efficiency. Mere progression isn’t the goal. If you can go with that, this game will work out fine for you.

Originality

I’m not exactly an expert in the shooter genre. As such, I asked around to see how unique all of this teleporting business was. No one I knew could come up with a game that does what Velocity does. I’d say that’s impressive, especially considering that we’re talking about one of the oldest video game genres.

With teleportation, scroll manipulation, and design, this game clearly sets itself from the pack and is one of the more original games I’ve played in years. For players looking for something outside the box, this can certainly fit the bill. It goes to show you what independent developers can come up with on a platform like Minis.

Addictiveness

Even now, I kind of want to play this game. The only problem is that I’m not sure what I have left to do in it. I find my skill level isn’t sufficient to improve too many more rankings. Even still, replaying levels is still a blast, because you can always try to be faster and more accurate.

I blew through this game much more quickly than I had anticipated. I saw those fifty levels as a mountain at first. Now, I wish there were more. That’s always a good sign.

Missions are rarely longer than a minute or two, which makes this a great pick up and play game. You can just as easily play for a few hours as play for a few minutes. I found it hard to only play a level or two. Before writing this review, I was going to play a level just to get one final look. I decided against that and watched a trailer because I knew I would end up playing for a while.

Appeal Factor

This is a hard area to judge. Shooter fans are definitely out there, and affordable new entries are always welcome. However, the shift in focus from killing enemies to working through labyrinthine levels may turn off many who would otherwise enjoy what this game brings to the table.

For those who aren’t into the genre, the unique aspects of this title make it intriguing. I for one was attracted to what this game had to offer, and I rarely tackle these kinds of games. So perhaps for every fan the game loses, it gains a new one to replace it.

At any rate, the game’s low price should make this a steal for any player. PlayStation Plus users get the game for free, and this is one you should definitely pick up.

Miscellaneous

I’ve already mentioned how the game includes twenty bonus levels, a version of Minesweeper, and some bonus content to help get the player into the world of the story. In addition, you unlock art as your progress through the story, and there are dozens of trophies to earn. That’s a pretty sweet package for a Mini, up there with the best of the format.

Overall, if you consider yourself someone who looks for quality and originality, this game should be right up your alley. With a low price point, there’s no excuse for not giving this game a shot.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Above Average
Graphics: Mediocre
Audio: Enjoyable
Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Enjoyable
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Classic
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Above Average
Final Score: Enjoyable Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

Velocity is good for one of the highest scores I’ve ever given a Mini. That should show you how much I enjoyed it alone, but I’ll recap as well. Thanks to the unique teleportation gameplay and all of the extras that were put in, Velocity manages to go above its platform and become something truly special. There truly is no other game out there like this, and it’s available at such a low price that I can easily recommend it to anyone with a PSN account.



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