Vertigo is best described as a platform-physics puzzler, though ironically it doesn't really push the boundaries of any of these elements. The game takes place on several worlds, whereby players must guide a round sphere-like object called a Xorb across various pitfalls and platforms to a goal. It's a very simple concept and has been successful for many titles in the past too.
Vertigo offers quite a few modes, although some aren't that thought out. Players can take part in Career, Arcade, Time-Trial and Practice modes, as well as a Xorb Bowling mode. The last is a pretty basic version of 10 pin bowling, except players guide their Xorb at the pins over a ramp. There are a few differing arenas and this mode can offer some fun, though it feels nothing like real bowling aside from the objective of knocking over 10 pins. The practice and time-trial modes are fairly self explanatory, with the later offering the ability to try and beat other players times.
The other two modes are where the main bulk of the game can be found though, and there's quite a lot to experience. With eight worlds, and an additional one to unlock, there are fifty-four courses overall. Commendation goes to the design of each of these courses and worlds, as each has a very unique feel and atmosphere. However, things start to dwindle from here on in as the gameplay really isn't the best. It's just far too sensitive and when you consider that the main bulk of the game heavily focuses on your ability to maintain speed throughout a course, while maintaining balance, it doesn't make for a very fun experience.
Even when you start off the game, you'll instantly feel like perhaps you're missing out on something. Typically, the early levels have times which are achievable, but you might find you struggle to even place in the Top 3. It's often caused by an almost obsessive need for caution, as opposed to any kind of speed. There are shortcuts that you can use to cut your time down, but attempting these was not only risky from the perspective of dying, it also makes you miss out on checkpoints. And in an ironic twist, you can't complete the level without getting these checkpoints.
The game also places several power-ups around the courses, but picking these up seems to do very little to the actual Xorb itself. The game makes no attempt to actually explain what each of these do either. One, called Anchor, seemed to be rather frequent, but also didn't seem to do anything noticeable. The courses also incorporate some specific 'interactive' objects, such as bumpers that knock the ball if it makes contact, giant air fans that cause the ball to blown slightly, and various boxes and objects to make moving around tricky platforms a bit more of a difficult prospect.
To control the Xorb is fairly simple, on a basic level. Pressing X speeds up the ball, while Circle applies the air brake. There is a boost function, but it's almost redundant due to the sensitivity. Although considering the nature of the d-pad and nub controls on the PSP in general, not being the most accurate game makes controlling the ball at speed even more frustrating. The air brake is a saving grace, but seems to defy the rest of the physics in the game; it stops the ball dead in contact with a surface.
The other mode, Arcade, focuses on all the courses seen in the career mode. However, this time you can navigate through a series of path options. Here, the times are much more important. In Career mode, simply finishing a level is all that's required, but in Arcade, time is of the essence. Expect to be shouting abuse at your PSP as the voice over starts to announce that 'Time is running out' when you're only half way through the course. Trying to do it faster just results in frustrating mistakes, and the camera doesn't help matters either by being slow and clunky. There's an element in irony in a game that allows triangle to show an overhead camera which is totally useless at speeds as it barely shows anything on screen at all.
It's a sad affair when presentation is the game's only real saving grace. The environments really do feel quite unique, and the music is suitable, if not enjoyable in some cases. But then the rest of the game is such a let down in other aspects. One other thing the game boasted was the ability to customise the Xorb with over 2 million unique combinations. Presumably most of these are unlocked through completion of levels in certain times, as otherwise there seems to be hardly any.
Vertigo was originally a game for the Nintendo Wii, and it shows. The concept isn't bad, but it's implementation is terrible. There's very little positive that can be said about the frustrating gameplay, aside from the fact it's challenging. But even that's a negative, as it's not challenging for the right reasons. By all means if you're looking for a hardcore speed fest against almost unachievable times on overly complicated and confusing layouts, go for it. But if you're fond of your sanity it's probably best to steer clear.