Ve­loc­ity 2X

EDGE - - GAMES -

PS4, Vita

The trou­ble with se­quels is that ev­ery­one ex­pects more. While big­ger does oc­ca­sion­ally equate to bet­ter for videogames, that ap­proach isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the wis­est course to take with one as taut and lean as Ve­loc­ity. When a game is built for speed, as this one un­doubt­edly is, it can’t af­ford any flab. It’s a shame, then, that Ve­loc­ity 2X has re­ported for duty car­ry­ing a few ex­tra pounds. This is still a very fine game, but at times it’s also a cau­tion­ary tale: it turns out you re­ally can have too much of a good thing.

Not that you’d nec­es­sar­ily no­tice from its snappy open­ing, or the way its new ideas steadily un­furl over the first two dozen or so stages. For the most part, this is the Ve­loc­ity we know and love: you’ll weave and boost your way through a se­ries of elab­o­rately con­structed stages, bomb­ing tur­rets, blast­ing ships and tele­port­ing past ap­par­ent cul-de-sacs, res­cu­ing sur­vivors in float­ing blue space pods as you go. As be­fore, you’ll have to dis­able en­ergy bar­ri­ers by shoot­ing se­cu­rity gates in nu­mer­i­cal or­der, the twist be­ing that this time you won’t always be able to see the num­ber.

Hap­pily, there will always be a nearby port at which to dock your ship so you can de­ter­mine the miss­ing digit. Th­ese sidescrolling plat­form­ing sec­tions see Lt Kai Tana, the space pilot who fleet­ingly ap­peared in the pre­vi­ous game’s in­ter­sti­tial comic pan­els, us­ing a se­ries of biome­chan­i­cal aug­men­ta­tions to run faster and jump far­ther than would oth­er­wise be pos­si­ble. Her suit is pow­ered by en­ergy from a min­eral known as Reke­nium; hand­ily, she’ll find plenty of crys­tals in­doors, which she can dis­lodge from the floor and ceil­ing with blasts from her palm can­non. It’s not long be­fore she’s able to mir­ror her ship’s tele­por­ta­tion abil­ity, al­though her tele-dashes are com­par­a­tively short-ranged. At first, she’ll blink through walls, then through hazards, and fi­nally through guards from a malev­o­lent alien race whose weak spot is on their backs. Dash, turn and fire: it’s enor­mously sat­is­fy­ing ev­ery time. Like­wise, the slide that Tana em­ploys to skid be­neath low walls, and when­ever you pull off a per­fect jump-dash to escape the laser hazards that mean in­stant death.

As th­ese ob­sta­cles get in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to by­pass, you’ll be grate­ful that Fu­turLab has re­moved the orig­i­nal game’s lives me­chanic, as if it un­der­stood that some sec­tions here are likely to kill play­ers re­peat­edly. That per­haps says much about how ex­act­ing th­ese in­te­rior se­quences can be. In some, there’s not much lee­way when it comes to the tele-dash, though the ab­sence of any in­stantly ap­par­ent pun­ish­ment for death means that some of the ear­lier game’s tension is lost.

The later ad­di­tion of tele­porter pods that Tana can throw, how­ever, is more prob­lem­atic, en­tirely dis­rupt­ing the game’s sense of flow. You’ll have to stop, hold Tri­an­gle, move the ana­logue stick un­til you find the right arc, and then re­lease the but­ton to throw.

This is a very fine game, but at times it’s also a cau­tion­ary tale: it turns out you re­ally can have too much of a good thing

Some­times you’ll have to tar­get spe­cific points on the floor or ceil­ing, clum­sily de­noted by icons to high­light ex­actly where you need to aim. Ve­loc­ity 2X is at its best when you’re al­lowed to build up thrilling mo­men­tum; th­ese sec­tions bring you to a jud­der­ing halt.

It’s telling that only care­less­ness or haste will get you killed when you’re back in­side the cock­pit – there are few mo­ments that re­quire the same kind of in­tri­cate ma­noeu­vring as Ve­loc­ity de­manded – whereas on foot some­thing as sim­ple as an un­for­tu­nate tele­pod bounce or a split-sec­ond er­ror on a jump-dash is enough to lose you that per­fect rank­ing. And while the gold medal stan­dards are as strict as ever, the par times for sil­ver are too gen­er­ous – if you don’t sur­pass bronze on your first at­tempt, you surely will on your sec­ond. By this stage, having likely res­cued all the pods, col­lected all the crys­tals, and earned the max­i­mum points tally (each of which gives you an XP bonus to­wards un­lock­ing later lev­els), you’ll be forced to con­sider whether the gold medal is truly worth it. On a stage like Level 47, in which a sil­ver medal per­for­mance might take you 20 min­utes, you may come to feel the re­ward isn’t quite com­men­su­rate with the ef­fort.

It’s tes­ta­ment to the high stan­dards set by the rest of the game that th­ese prob­lems don’t de­rail it for too long. Ve­loc­ity favoured sub­stance over style, but there’s an abun­dance of the lat­ter in Fu­turLab’s art here. With five very dif­fer­ent ar­eas to ex­plore – from the ver­dant planet of a paci­fist alien race to the Mir­ror’s Edge

in­spired ar­chi­tec­ture of Tira­cas, the par­adise home of the an­tag­o­nists – Ve­loc­ity 2X doesn’t lack for vis­ual va­ri­ety. And while you’ll hear familiar themes in the sound­track, you’ll strug­gle to find any game with bet­ter sound ef­fects for beam weapons and shat­ter­ing glass.

While a speedrun at­tempt never quite feels as in­stinc­tual as its fore­run­ner, with a few too many vari­ables to con­sider at any one time, Ve­loc­ity 2X re­mains as­ton­ish­ingly sat­is­fy­ing at its core. It’s easy to get the ba­sics wrong, but Fu­turLab knows that con­trols should be re­spon­sive, fram­er­ates should be smooth and con­sis­tent, and ex­plo­sions should be large and noisy.

Ve­loc­ity 2X is a game that al­lows you to be nim­ble and pow­er­ful all at once, whether it’s weav­ing through a hail of bul­lets in your ship or sprint­ing through a room while erad­i­cat­ing a swarm of in­sec­toid foes with a bar­rage of three-way fire from your palm.

As a se­quel, Ve­loc­ity 2X is rarely short of ideas. A re­cur­ring boss has a new trick ev­ery time you meet him, while one ter­rific late flour­ish ar­rives just three lev­els be­fore the end. If it’s a lesser game than Ve­loc­ity, it’s not for a lack of ef­fort on Fu­turLab’s part. That it leaves even the faintest taste of dis­ap­point­ment speaks vol­umes about the qual­ity of the orig­i­nal de­sign, and the con­sis­tently ev­i­dent tal­ent of its mak­ers.

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