Reviews: VVVVVV

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Terry Cavanagh shows us he has some good ideas, then simply gives up.
I'm going to go out on a limb and admit that I think VVVVVV is highly overrated.

I love retro-styled indie games. I love games with awesome chiptunes and intense but deterministic difficulty. Bit Trip and Super Meat Boy were both up my alley. However, while VVVVVV had 10/10 presentation and 10/10 music, as a game, it was simply... empty.

The gameplay length is less than an hour; if you have the game memorized, you can beat it in about 20 minutes. You might take another hour to hunt down the game's shiny trinkets, only to unlock... a five-roomed secret lab with one minigame in it. Unless you're interested in speedrunning or beating the game with minimal deaths, don't expect to get more than an hour's worth of gameplay, or maybe up to three if you aren't a veteran of other, harder games like IWBTG.

The game is touted as being nonlinear with no restrictions except for your skill. However, this basically turns the overworld into a level-select hub with all five levels already unlocked. Each level demonstrates a new mechanic, but each is only about 12 rooms long, and are exactly as linear as a Mario level. The overworld itself, while nonlinear, is completely, utterly, disappointingly empty; there are no rogue enemies to dodge or puzzles to solve, and you'd be lucky to find a couple of the eponymous spikes here and there. It's a stretch to even call it a maze. And because the game has no powerups, there's nothing to really look for except the level entrances or the shiny trinkets.

The story deserves mention. It had me interested at the beginning when the ship crash-landed and teleported Viridian somewhere random, but from there... I don't know. The plot involves the captain of some ship crash-landing in some dimension, where there's some kind of disturbance caused by some kind of technology planted by some kind of forerunners in some kind of alternate reality. And that's it; there are literally no spoilers to give. The story simply doesn't explain itself; as if an outline of a good story was written, but then they forgot to fill it in with plot. I wonder if the story could have been more compelling if executed with no dialogue at all.

VVVVVV is a clever, fun, but practically nonexistant game. I'd recommend buying it for the music alone, though; it has some of the best chiptunes I've ever heard.
  comments: 1
Vouching Vocally for a Veritable Vision of Vibrant Virtue
I'm Vexatiously Vertiginous, Vying to Verbalize my Vast Veneration for this Visionary Vessel of Virtue. Villains may Vilify VVVVVV, Vociferously Voicing Vicious Vituperation. Avaunt! I Vehemently Veto their Vapid Vitriol, Vouching Vivaciously for the Innovative VVVVVV!

I Invite you to Visit it and Verify; your Vacillations will Vanish with Voluminous Velocity. Its only Vice is its Vacuity of Volume, but this Vies in Vain to Vitiate its Virtues.

Verdict: Voluptuous!
  comments: 7
A retro game with modern sensibilities
I'm not naturally a fan of difficult action games: I just don't have the reflexes for them. Even Sonic gives me a hard time. I still haven't got out of the Forest on Super Meat Boy.

And yet I beat this game. It took over four hours to reach the Game Complete screen, with over 2000 deaths and collecting just six trinkets (although I did have a half-hearted stab at Veni, Vidi, Vici), but I beat it. I've since gone back and collected eleven more (still not V,V,V!), with another two hours and 500 deaths.

So what made me push on through? A few things. There's the very dry sense of humour, for starters. The checkpoint system takes out a lot of the frustration: it's a painfully hard game, but it's also a very fair one. This is a retro game that has learnt from the modern era, removing needless hangovers like a finite life count. Not the only game to do so, of course, but I'd say that the checkpoints are friendlier than Meat Boy - and unlike I Wanna Be The Guy, there are no real "Screw You" moments.

The music deserves a special mention - often it's the driving force that keeps you playing, setting a tempo for Captain Viridian as he keeps trying to get through yet another test of hand and brain. I like chiptunes anyway, but the VVVVVV soundtrack's complexity and variety is something else. As with the game itself, it's retro with modern sensibilities.

Probably the biggest criticism I can make is of the controls, which are floaty as hell, and a leading cause of deaths. Overshooting is easy, correction tricky: Viridian zips forward like a racecar but turns like the Queen Mary. I understand that this is deliberate, but it's curious in a game that compensates for its difficulty as much as possible otherwise.

There's also the length, although as far as I'm concerned that's less of an issue. As I say, it took me just four hours to beat the core game, and I understand that's *long*. But if the game had been twice as long, maybe I'd never have finished it. I prefer my games short and sweet on the whole, and VVVVVV is certainly that (I got the game as part of a $10 donation to Humble Indie Bundle 3, so I have no qualms about value for money).

Still, if you're looking for a gateway into the land of Very Hard Platformers, this is a good place to start. It doesn't hate you. In fact, it loves you. That's why it has to kill you.
  comments: 0