by Chris Priestman
reviewed on PC
All Of Those V’s…
Veridian, Vermilion, Violet, Victoria, Verdigris and Vitellary. Okay, so you may be thinking that I have watched V for Vendetta far too many times. But these six names belong to the crew of a spaceship in the indie title VVVVVV. It may not be the most gripping of game titles, but it definitely stands out from the crowd, much like the game itself. However, this game is not for everyone, certainly not for the weak-hearted. It divides opinion in a similar to fashion to what Moses did with the Red Sea (or thereabouts) due to a few bold statements it faces its players with:
This game is hard. This game is retro. This game is VVVVVV.
You will either love it, or hate it. Plain and simple.
…And Not A Vendetta In Sight
Aboard a spaceship that resembles a hallucinogen-influenced 70’s disco, the six crew members are shocked when they hit an interference causing a huge rupture on board. Their only option is to bail out through a warp gate that sends them into another dimension. Due to a mishap during the warping procedure, the crew are separated from each other and lost in a strange dimension with no clear way back. Cue the sad faces. As the captain of the ship, it is up to Veridian to travel across this mad world and track each of his crew down and bring them to the nearest warp gate back to the ship. A simple premise for an equally simple game. VVVVVV takes the platform genre and strips it devoid of any clutter that is has become occupied with since its initial premise. In doing so it takes graphics back to the time when 8-bit was quite advanced. The advantage of this is of course that it is an easy way for an indie developer to make a game that rides on its gameplay to appeal to players.
One of the core elements of the platform genre is the ability to jump. Quite self-explanatory; to get from platform to platform, the character is required to jump. Add a number of hazards along the way and you have your basic platformer. VVVVVV quite bravely takes this core element away, well almost. The controls are quite understandably very easy to grasp due to their simplicity, they consist of just three buttons. Basically, these are move left, move right and by pressing the up arrow or W, you can flip Veridian between the floor and ceiling. It is this principle that the game bases itself entirely around and expands in difficulty by testing the player’s skill by combining precision, timing and speed in increasingly complex ways.
Shiny, Happy People
Navigation through the fluorescent world in which Veridian inhabits is done by panels; when you reach the edge of the screen you are then moved to the next panel. A nice touch added here is naming each and every panel. Although at times you will be concentrating too much on the task at hand to notice these names, when you do get a chance you will discover they are humorous, often remarking on the difficulty or obstacles in that panel. This style carries across the game, a kind of childish visage inside an adult game. Although the game is very accessible to younger players, the reference to retro gaming culture seems to aim the game more at those older players who remember today’s retro when it was modern all those years ago.
Amongst the complex games of the modern era, VVVVVV has quite a casual feel to it, you can literally play it one-handed. One element that stops the game from becoming an absolute nightmare like previous platformers, is its presentation. The shiny happy world and its appropriate characters are too innocent to lose your temper with. Alongside the visuals you have a glorious chiptune soundtrack that both reflects the current environment and keeps your spirits high. The simple 8-bit characters talk to each other with speech bubbles and convey their emotions through cute sound effects and adopting either a large smile or frown. The game is simple through and through, and done so in a way that you cannot help but praise.
Addictive, challenging, simple, clever, humourous, fresh and a whole lot of fun.
Not for everyone and requires a degree of patience to play.