Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Velocity 2X (PS VITA/PS4)

Objective gameplay comes in a wide variety of different themes within the world of gaming. Some games are meant for a quick in, and out session of arcade style scoring while others offer the gamer a more in-depth experience complete with such things as a story, fleshed out characters, or even an action packed adventure. When it comes to Futurlab's "Velocity" series the developer chose to combine the previously mentioned arcade style of gameplay with applied adventuring details, but in a way that was not intrusive to the intended fast paced experience. Initially the "Velocity" series, and it's unique take on the action-adventure/shmup genre began as a humble indie game under the PS3's 'Minis' label. Later, as the game became more popular, and gained more attention from the gaming community it moved on to the PS Vita under a slightly different title with upgraded graphics, and features. This of course eventually led to the latest iteration of "Velocity which continued the tale of those involved in Futurlab's unique Scifi universe.

The current tale of 'Velocity (aka, "Velocity 2X)' takes in account 'Lt. Kai Tana's" collision with a black hole, and her arrival in an alien inhabited universe filled with oppressed Jintinden slaves, and Vokh oppressors. Lieutenant Kai Tana ends up coming to the aid of the alien slaves, and tries her best to free them with the help of a Jintinden alien scientist named Ralan who is taking a more scientific approach to overthrowing his races' captors. As with the previous 'Velocity' you will be piloting the infamous"Quarp Jet" while going on rescue missions, taking out the bad guys/gals, and gathering the resources needed for the Jintinden's uprising. Along with the return shmup style gameplay you'll also get the chance to run in the shoes of Lt. Kai Tana as she goes above, and beyond her duty to do the right thing by a race of beings she has only just begun to understand. Of course it goes without saying that Kai Tana's home planet, Earth is also at stake in the grand scheme of things as well.

Throughout the fifty missions of "Velocity 2X" you will be piloting your Quarp Jet through maze-like airspace as you blast obstacles, and gather the things contained there-in. This gathering of items this time around includes precious alien minerals known as Rekenium crystals as well as Jintinden slaves/scientists who are contained within hidden space capsules. In some instances you'll even find yourself running through Metroidvania style stages performing basically the same mission objectives as the Quarp Jet, but will do so as Lt. Kai Tana instead. At your disposal you'll find that you have a handful of different weapons, and maneuver abilities that will help you blast your way through an area quickly as well as traverse the stages/levels in a more timely fashion. When it comes to maneuverability you'll find that both Kai Tana, and her Quarp Jet can teleport in a variety of different manners as well as use simple button presses to speed up their movement.

The Quarp Jet for example can teleport between barricaded areas via a targeting system that uses an aiming reticule ('Left Thumbstick' + 'SQUARE) to mark the destination. By holding down 'SQUARE', and tilting the 'Left thumbstick' in a desired direction the Quarp Jet will teleport in that direction. Later on the Quarp Jet will even be able to drop telepods ('TRIANGLE') for instant transport back to a branching path, or other significant area of interest. To speed up the spaceship's pace it merely takes the pressing, and holding of the 'Right Shoulder' button. Kai Tana, who does her trekking as a human on foot also has a teleporting "Teledash" move which will enable her to teleport through walls much like the Quarp Jet's ability to teleport through barricades. Like her Quarp Jet she is also able to drop, or toss telepods ('TRIANGLE' + 'Left Thumbstick') for teleporting to out of reach areas. In Kai Tana's case the telepods are also good for solving some of the game's complex Metroidvania style puzzles. Her running speed, as that of the Quarp Jet's is controlled by a pressing, or holding down of the 'Right Shoulder' button. It should also be noted that the levels that require the telepods will have you pressing the 'Left Shoulder' button to access a map diagram which displays your dropped telepods for easy access, and teleporting. The map even shows the numerically/alphabetically based objectives that require backtracking through various routes for quick reference should you need a hint as to where you should be headed. For quick telepod teleporting you can also double tap 'TRIANGLE' once a telepod has been dropped. This will land the Quarp Jet, or Kai where the most recent telepod has been dropped/tossed.

When it comes to weaponry both Kai, and the Quarp Jet start off on a humble note with a simple rapid fire weapon that comes in handy when needing to blast past obstacles, and enemies in order to gather materials, and rescue the Jintinden scientists/slaves. In the shmup levels, when you are piloting the Quarp Jet you'll need to use the "X" button to fire your ship's weapon. Holding "X" down will keep the weapon firing as one might expect from a shmup style game. In Kai's case you'll have to use the "Right Thumbstick" for a multi-directional shot which can take out targets from all angles with a tilting the thumbstick in the objects/enemy's direction. As you continue to play, and master the level playthroughs before you more tools of destruction will become available to both Kai, and the Quarp Jet. Things like a multi-directional bomb for the Quarp Jet, and a powerful rifle for Kai will come into play as a mandatory means of clearing the game's multiple objectives. As far as the basic gunfire is concerned weapon power-ups which will increase the power of the shots as well as the spread will become available in the latter levels of the game.

As far as the missions are concerned you will find that each level carries with it up to four gameplay objectives that take in account 'Time', 'Rescues', 'Crystals', and 'Points'. In the Quarp Jet levels you will have to pilot quickly through maze-like areas that feature numerically triggered switches, path blocking obstacles, shmup-like enemies, obtainable materials, and pods that contain Jintinden slaves. At times you'll even enter tunnels that will require you to guide Kai Tana through the previously mentioned Metroidvania stages. In the case of Kai's Metroidvania style stages you'll be tending to numerical switches, alien (Vokh) enemies, environmental hazards, and resources that must be gathered for a full completion. By gathering all the required items, and making it to the end of a level with everything accounted for via a final Quarp Jet fly through you will earn a badge that displays the status of your level playthrough. Like the medals of similar score based games your applied skills will reward you with a badge of various metals (Bronze, Silver, Gold), military stripes (1-3), pink crystals (1-3), stars (1-3), and even an underlying "Perfect" title if you have scored perfect on each, and every objective. Each objective, as you can guess has three tiers that reflect the various times associated with your playthrough, the amount of crystals gathered, the amount of points earned, and the number of Jintinden you have rescued within a given level.

Keep in mind that you can play through most levels without completing each objective perfectly, but that their is a required amount of XP that must be earned before you can move on past certain levels. This basically means that completing levels, and completing their respective objectives earns you XP. Therefore completing each level to the best of your ability is a must if you hope to experience all that the game has to offer. Outside of the core experience, which is practically a series of speed runs you will find that the main menu is a rich source of behind-the-scenes info on the plot, the characters, and the many elements that apply to the gameplay scenario. Aside from optional option tweaks, and leaderboard standings you will find in place a file system menu that stores all cutscenes, and info gathered during your playthroughs. Things like 'Weapons', 'Planets', 'Enemies', 'Kai's Journal', 'A Functional Calculator (WTF!?)', 'Stats', 'Characters', and even playable 'Bonus' levels are included for your after completion benefit. It should also be noted that during each level playthrough you will find a couple of hidden, or hard to reach items that tie in with the bonus level, and information aspects of the filesystem menu. Among these hidden items is a tiny graph-like square which is the information based extras, and a orange crystal which will unlock the bonus levels which are an entirely different thing than the core levels of the game.

In regards to the bonus levels you will neither be piloting the Quarp Jet, nor running along as Lt. Kai Tana. Instead you'll be taking on an outer space puzzle that incorporates blocks, teleport tunnels, and an astronaut which must be moved using the 'Left Thumbstick'. The goal, as simple as it may seem is to collect all the floating energy cells using the astronaut without drifting off into the void of space. You must use the blocks around you as well as the Portal-like teleport panels, and the teleport tunnels (docking stations) to solve the puzzle at hand. Unlike the core levels of 'Velocity 2X' there are no end of level badges to earn, only a completion time.

For those of you wondering about sound quality, and the graphics fret not. Velocity 2X is a beautifully rendered game that uses cell-shading, and next-gen worthy graphic details. Even the level designs look stunning with their layered, and sometimes 3D features. Special effects such as gunfire, and explosions add an extra level of visualization that further enhances the gameplay at hand. Even the dialogue filled cutscenes breathe virtual life into the characters, and situations that make up the game's story. As far as the soundtrack goes the music is truly mesmerizing, and fitting of the science fiction theme that Futurlab has chosen to go along with. Sound effects are also top notch, and included everything from explosions to warping sounds, and even glass breaking. Sound, and graphics-wise 'Velcoity 2X' lives up to it's "PS Vita", and "PS4" hype.

The Verdict ...

Velocity 2X is a fun, and extremely challenging game throughout. High score hounds will no doubt fall in love with the many challenges contained within. The fact that it's a speed run oriented game will make it even more attractive to the likes of Youtubers, and gaming streamers who are looking to show off their gaming prowess. Perfecting a playthrough of each level will definitely test the gamers' skills though, and unlike games such as "Dark Souls II" it will still feel inviting enough to return to regardless of it's challenging nature. I was personally able to score several "Perfect" playthroughs, and have landed under the 60-100 mark on the global leaderboards for several levels. For those of you curious about the different versions of the game, and their perks I personally found both the PS4, and the PS Vita versions of 'Veloctiy 2X' to be pretty much the same. I will say however that certain control functions on the Vita such as the Quarp Jet teleporting, and Kai Tana's teledash didn't always work as well as intended. The targeting reticule that ties in with Quarp Jet teleporting would often times not register in an area it's supposed to work in. This left me scrambling to get my Quarp Jet out of harms way before the screen crushed it between walls, barricades, and destructible obstacles. A similar negative occurrence happened when trying to teledash quickly through barriers/platforms with Kai Tana.

In regards to those issues on the PS4 they aren't as bothersome, but will cause you problems from time to time just like the Vita. Even so I still found the game to be playable enough to get "Perfect" playthroughs in. You just have to repeat the levels until you've perfected your playthroughs, and developed a control strategy for piloting/running through each level more efficiently. In the end 'Velocity 2X' will set you back $19.99, and is a cross-buy, and cross-save for both the PS Vita, and PS4 consoles. I definitely think the game is worth the asking price, and that you'll most certainly get your money's worth out of it. The added fact that there's DLC extensions soon to be available makes it even more worth owning! Be sure not to miss out!

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