Monday, January 9, 2012

Game ReVVVVVView

VVVVVV, an indie title originally made by Terry Cavanagh (et al), is a platform game created for the PC in the year 2010. The first thing one may notice when starting this game is the retro style graphics and music, something that is a staple of indie titles almost as often as it is not. However, when playing through the first few parts of the game, VVVVVV rapidly shows a deeper complexity than initial perceptions would reveal…


The game initially starts with the player as Captain Viridian, being thrown into another dimension, known as Dimension VVVVVV, and split from his fellow crew members aboard the ship. After running through a series of dangerous obstacles, he finds a teleport that returns him to his ship, where he meets one of his crew members. He then rescues the remaining four crew members by going through a series of challenges that involve a litany of hazards, finding them, and using the nearest teleporter to return them to the ship. In some cases, the teleportation will go awry and instead sends him to another alternative dimension he must escape.

When he finally rescues all the crew members, he is sent to the alternative dimension alone, and destroys a machine that causes dimensional interference, which is the reason the expedition was started to begin with, as his home dimension is somehow falling apart. He then escapes the alternative dimension and is safely delivered to his crew members. Overall, the story is relatively simple, but conveyed to the player through dialogue between characters – a somewhat rare commodity in platform games.


One aspect that is unique about VVVVVV is that there is no actual “jump” key. There is an action key that flips the character upside-down and right side up. This flipping is limited as one can only flip while on solid ground, not in mid-air. I find this resulted in the creation of some very clever puzzles using this mechanic. The player will often find themselves trying to solve puzzles upside-down or rapidly switching between both sides. The game also offers a “flip mode” that flips the entire screen upside-down so the player can see the game in a different perspective – where up is down and down is up (although the game is still beaten the exact same way).

The game’s puzzles are relatively varied. Some puzzles seem rather generic, using moving platforms, spike and enemy hazards, and “pitfall” blocks that dissipate when the character steps on them. However, VVVVVV features scrolling levels (upwards, as opposed to left to right) which prevents you from leaving by causing spikes to spawn when the character reaches too close to the top or bottom of the screen. This also serves as time limit to bypass obstacles before being gored by spikes on the bottom or as a preventative measure from rushing through the level. The game even uses this mechanic to its advantage, making each player’s movement in such scrolling levels require incredible precision.

The game also introduces special thin line objects that automatically flip the character when he touches them. These lines have a short “recharge” time before they can flip the character again if they are of the vertical variety (although ones that go horizontally across the screen seem to have no such limitation). Finally, at one point the player has to manage two characters at the same time, flipping the main character to the ceiling to prevent the second character from moving and avoiding deadly obstacles with both.

Overall, the puzzles in this game can require some patience, but many require a combination of speed and precision, especially near the end of the game. Expect to die, a lot, as in “I Wanna Be The Guy” or “Super Meat Boy” a lot (but fear not, for there are many “save” points scattered throughout the game). This is really saying something, considering the game is rather short (it took me two hours to complete it on my first run).


The game’s sounds followed the theme of the game itself. There were the bleeps and bloops, but it was easy enough to distinguish sounds like, say, “speech” sounds during dialogue sequences and overall the sounds fit well – there was no nonsensical ear rape mess, but just what was necessary.

The music, on another note, seemed to be far beyond the age the game seemed to emulate even though it too, matched the retro theme of the game. The soundtrack is purely composed of chiptune style songs by Magnus PĂ„lsson. However, the music sounded well-composed, almost as if it could match orchestral soundtracks that are present in many of the modern games today.  It was, to be frank, a fantastic soundtrack and was the primary driving motivation to continue playing. Who cares if I keep dying on the same screen if I’m treated to music like that which is in VVVVVV?

Final Thoughts

Give VVVVVV a try. The game may seem simplistic and shallow at first glance, but for a cheap price this indie gives a great bang for its buck if you’re into platformers, especially ones that add the spice of difficulty without making it seem overwhelming, and, more importantly, trying to trick you (*cough* IWBTG *cough*). Even though the game is short, there are a multitude of extras, such as time trials and the absolutely insane “No Death” mode that will keep you entertained. To earn most of these extras, you simply have to progress through the game or find little shiny trinkets scattered all over the dimension

Overall, I would score the game as follows, given my descriptions of the games in each of three categories above:

Presentation: 7.5
Gameplay: 9
Sound: 9.5
Overall: 8.666…

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