Velocity 2X arrives on the PS4 and PS Vita as the sequel to Velocity, a shoot em' game that started life as a PlayStation mini title. It looks to expand upon the original's gameplay mechanics, while also building upon the enhancements that were brought about by the release of Velocity Ultra last year. On paper, it looks like it should be a bit of a disaster. There are so many different ideas in play - some of which are introduced right at the end of the game. But despite this, Velocity 2X manages to blend all of these elements together to create what turns out to be a rather coherent experience.
In this iteration of Velocity, you take on the role of Kai Tana. She is a human who has ended up in some rather unfamiliar territory and is now a captive of the Vokh Empire.
Although quite sparse, the story talks through Kai Tana's escape from the Vokh Empire, her efforts to return home, her aiding of a new friend (Hjun Ralan III) and her battles with the Vokh Empire as a result of all the above (namely General Glaive). Story segments always appear as a short snippet before each mission and despite being very brief, they do get you up to speed with what's going on. However, unless there is some kind of equipment modification, the correlation to what takes place within missions is often rather minimal.
As you play through the game in both the shoot 'em up and platforming sections, you will gradually be introduced to the various gameplay mechanics and also the different puzzle mechanics. It's commendable that there are so many different elements in play, but it also to the game's detriment. So much time is spent introducing new systems that this is still taking place even after you have played approximately half of the game. And this continues to be the case "“ new mechanics are even brought into play in the last few levels.
Many of these mechanics are shared across the shoot 'em up and platforming sections, but they behave in different ways. For example, one of the first things you are introduced to is the ability to boost/run. When in your ship, you will need to boost to progress the stage forward at a decent speed, whereas when platforming, running is crucial for not just getting around quicker, but also making jumps.
Another mechanic involves short-distance teleportation. Again, this is present in both the shoot 'em up sections and the platforming, but the experience is very different. In one, you will be using it to cross voids, probably at great speed, while in the other you will find it becomes part of a rather deep platforming experience.
These become intertwined with a puzzle mechanic that involves destroying locks that are hindering progression. These need to be destroyed in numerical order and it's something that for quite a few missions, is very straight forward. It's only due to the introduction of long-distance teleportation that this mechanic develops into something more interesting. As you play through levels, you will sometimes encounter a fork in the road. At this point, you can drop a beacon, go down one fork and then teleport back to that beacon once you have done all you can. Later on, this mechanic is used to traverse numerous forks, across the two different gameplay mechanics and it can be glorious.
The problems come with how the game draws all its tools together, or rather, how it doesn't. The rather expansive "tutorial" doesn't help, but there are also three mission types that offer different experiences. Whereas one might be about pure speed, which sees the game often foregoing the puzzle mechanics, another is the complete opposite. And when you are playing these missions in sequential order, it presents a disjointed experience.
There are only a few missions later on that grasp the true nature of what Velocity 2X could have accomplished. Level 42 (The Imperial Vault) is a particular example of this and it's in these missions that everything comes together to create the beautiful shoot 'em up, platforming, puzzle game I'm sure the developers envisaged. Here you get to experience the urgency the game promotes, enjoy the well polished gameplay, and witness the true depth of the teleportation puzzle mechanic.
By the end of the game, you are left wondering why the rest of the experience doesn't offer the same thrill. In isolation, each of the different facets of Velocity 2X just isn't as powerful and you can't help but feel frustrated because of this.
It's a similar theme when it comes to other aspects of the game too, including the visuals and audio accompaniment. The music starts off as rather powerful, offering a thumping techno vibe and the visuals look crisp and fresh. But after a fair few levels of looking at the same visuals and listening to the same tunes, they start to wear thin.
When it comes to replay value, Velocity 2X will very much appeal to those who want a challenge. To unlock the later stages, there is a requirement to complete earlier stages to a decent degree of completion and this factors in speed, collectables and overall score. This isn't all that tricky, but getting Perfect scores is another matter entirely. When things are quite simple, it isn't all that hard, but in the later stages, it will require a rather concerted effort. You need to know the levels, adapt to changes in mechanics and also controls, while not missing a beat for minutes on end. Speed runners will have a field day.
When it comes together, it's safe to say that Velocity 2X offers an unrivalled experience. It just happens so infrequently throughout the duration of the game that you're left with a rather indifferent feeling at the end. It's a huge shame, because there is a lot of great stuff packed in, but when it gets isolated, it doesn't seem so great any more.
|When it all comes together.|
|Breezing through platforming sections feels awesome.|
|The puzzle mechanic.|
|Only a few levels show off the game's true potential.|
|Sometimes when you're going for speed, there's so much going on your brain may hurt a little.|
|It feels like the game is still in its tutorial after more than 20 missions.|