VVVVVV: A game that is almost as hard to play as it is to pronounce

VVVVVV

In my last review I talked a lot about gravity and how throughout the course of the game you’d learn to tame the beast. Well it obviously did not enjoy domestic life as it decided to come back with a vengeance at me with this nightmare of a game. 1059 deaths just about sums that up…

So we present to you the third game in the Humble Indie Bundle: ‘VVVVVV’. If you think ‘V for Vendetta’ is serious shiz then multiply it by 6. And if you think V for Vendetta is a heartwarming, family friendly, romp in the park then ignore this analogy and just trust me. This. Game. Is. Hard. While ‘And Yet It Moves’ may have been confusing and headache inducing at times, presenting a challenge more due to the concept of the game than the game itself, VVVVVV is completely and utterly an extremely difficult experience. So if you’re the rage-quit sort of person then perhaps look away now.

The player assumes the role of Captain Viridian whose spaceship has been affected by ‘dimensional interference’ (not helped by his tendency to mess about with forces of nature as explained later). His crew escape through a teleporter but become stranded throughout a dimension known as ‘VVVVVV’ and it is up to the Captain to rescue them. And it is up to whoever was assigned to name dimensions to find an alternative career path.

A platformer through and through, the unique selling point is its lack of jumping. Which is rather odd considering the whole point of platforming is jumping across platforms or around obstacles. However in VVVVVV the ‘jump’ button has been replaced with the far more exciting ‘super-ultra-reverse-gravity-thingy-of-awesome’ button. Since jumping is now far too mainstream for indie developers you now must guide the valiant Captain Viridian around hazardous objects by changing the very fabric of time and space. So next time you have to step over a puddle, you know what to do…

Seems simple enough and indeed the introductory stage is relatively straightforward. But as you progress in the game new concepts are introduced which enhance the difficulty in addition to old concepts being stepped up a notch or two. Or two-hundred.

Indeed the game is produced to look and play like a retro game made in an era when games were made for the ‘hardcore’ few rather than accessible to the masses (and hence far more profitable). VVVVVV is stylised to look like a Commodore 64 game (apparently… I’ve never had the urge to play a Commodore 64 game so I’ll take the developer’s word for it) complete with chiptune music (think: Super Mario Bros.). It may be seizure inducing at times (try find the strobe-light elephant of doom) but I have to hand it to them: it looks pretty good and the music is surprisingly catchy!

The game is designed as several levels connected to a ‘hub’ level of space which must be explored to find the entrances to new stages. This means no loading screens which is definitely a massive plus for a game like this that will undoubtedly (and has indeed) attract the attention of speedrunners. Those crazy people that aren’t satisfied by just completing a hard game BUT MUST DO IT WITH THEIR EYES CLOSED AND HANDS BEHIND THEIR BACKS IN 5 MINUTES! That being said watching a game that had me almost diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome getting completed without deaths at a blisteringly fast pace does leave you in mild awe…

The game has surprising longevity with the main game alone taking over 4 hours for me to complete. Furthermore there are also ‘shiny trinkets’ to find throughout the game world which can be explored in more detail after completion of the main game. Even furthermore, upon completion time trial modes are unlocked for each level and a no-death mode for the game is revealed testing how far you can get without facing your inevitable fate. I can’t even comprehend the number of swear words required to get through that mode though.

It’s very difficult to find something wrong with this game. Obviously it lacks the high production values of a larger game studio but in many respects that adds to the quirky nature of the game. 8-bit just feels… so right! Then again this is the person that writes Retrospectacles talking… The extreme difficulty cannot be criticised because the game is designed to be that challenging rather than simply through an oversight of the level designers. Also the frequency of checkpoints means you will get frustrated but never frustrated enough to quit. My one tiny complaint (which I must add purely because in my cynical world nothing is perfect) is that some segments are simply trial and error and impossible to complete first time through without dying. That’s it. Everything else is fantastic and I can do nothing more than heartily recommend this game! And possibly some soundproofing of your room… and maybe a stressball too…

Not to act like an advert but you only have 7 days left to get this and 5 other fantastic games for whatever you want to pay! You can pay as little as 1p if you want (though obviously I’d encourage more due to the indie-ness of the developers and the charity that a fraction of your money will be going to). So hurry up and get them here!

Now to mash my keyboard like a maniac, cry like a kid and swear like a sailor (who has just stubbed his toe… and has Tourette’s). It seems gravity pulls my standards down too.

Rating: A-

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