Going hands-on with Velocity 2X was, and bare with me here, incredibly strange. Not strange in a Twilight Zone or that smelly-man-who’s-always-sat-near-you-on-the-bus-but-can-never-see way. Instead, playing Velocity 2X feels strangely familiar. It feels like Velocity Ultra at first. You’ve still got the bombs on right stick, the boost, the scrolling screen, the touch-based and standard teleporting, power-ups, switches and the potential for both bullet-hell chaos, and considered level management. So what’s different?
And that’s the strange thing. Velocity Ultra felt so tight, so perfect to play, heck Velocity on PS Minis felt utterly fantastic to play too, so why does Velocity 2X feel even better? How is it possible that Futurlab has made a game that surpasses one of the must-own PlayStation Vita titles? It just seems impossible, yet it’s managed it so wonderfully already.
Moving your ship feels tighter, more pleasing, as it glides through space (let’s not get picky about the science behind my word choice there), shooting feels weighty, bombs have heft and teleportation feels slick. And that’s all before you even notice that this game absolutely pops off the Vita’s glorious screen with its beautiful visual design. Velocity had the retro-charm of pixel-based aesthetics and Ultra made everything feel sleek and modern with some wonderful lighting providing depth. But with 2X Futurlab has outdone itself. The pictures on this page can’t do justice to how glorious it looks, it’s the subtle effects that provide moments of delight and really put you into Velocity‘s universe.
Explosions roar off the screen with splash lighting illuminating your ship, the environment and any nearby objects or enemies; and teleporting leaves a haze where you once were, and where you arrive, indicating the time and space you bent time to Quarp Jet jump to your new location. They’re subtle things, and there’s many more of them too, but it builds up to create this beautiful rolling canvas of fun. A canvas you just can’t wait to dive into and play with.
But those improvements only really tweak the Velocity formula, providing a game that’s sweeter than what came before – which is absurd enough thing to imagine anyway. No, the real winds of change come in the form of the brand new side-on levels where you play as Lt. Kai Tana running through the bowels of facilities collecting crystals, killing foes and activating switches.
At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was nothing more than a Metroid homage or – worse – clone. However, both James Marsden and Kirsty Rigden – the minds behind Velocity - have never played a Metroid game before. I know, it’s a highly taboo thing to say. But you can believe them because these on-foot sections of 2X feel absolutely nothing like Metroid, in fact it feels far more like playing Velocity than anything else I’ve had the pleasure of playing. And, if you couldn’t guess, that’s a very good thing indeed.
Instead of putting the forced scrolling on you to create that sense of pace, you bring it on yourself by dashing through most of these sections, however, obstacles like walls and some more secret areas call on Kai’s ability to teleport short distances, meaning you’ll replicate the same sense of pacing given to you in the Quarp Jet levels. You’ll speed through levels, jumping, sliding and teleporting to grab gems and take out turrets while aiming to flip switches. Kai can also throw teleportation pods to reach new areas, bringing in an element of puzzle-solving to these sections. While these levels are brilliantly designed to pace your journey through them, the real highlight – the ‘YES’ moment – comes when going up against the vicious Vokh.
While you can use the right-stick to fire in 360 degrees while running, jumping and really doing anything your thumbs will allow you to do, you can’t shoot an enemy in the face. They’re just too powerful and too well shielded for that to even work. Instead, you’ll need to enter into a game of chicken, running head-on at them – while they run head-on at you – teleporting through them at the last moment so you can fire a shot at their disrupted shields.
It’s here where the mix of the brilliant new visuals, the subtle effects, and tight controls, all come together and create a perfect moment of fun. Sure it may be tricky for some to manage, but if you’re good enough at ploughing through levels in the Quarp Jet, you’ll be a pro at this in no time. It’s just so perfect, and an experience I want to keep going back to again and again.
James also alluded to an entirely new scoring system for Velocity 2X that does away with Ultra‘s brilliant – but ultimately fudged-in – Elite Lounge. Now, thanks to so many more collectibles and measurements, you’ll be able to get points that never really have an ultimate cap on them. This also comes in the fact that the on-foot sections don’t force the scroll speed, so, with inventive techniques, you could easily slice time off there.
There’s still a bit of time left until release too, so the finished product can only get better, and we’ve not even seen how it runs and plays on PlayStation 4 yet. But nobody should have any concerns, after all it’s got Joris de Man on board again for the soundtrack and Futurlab is even more aware of how special an IP Velocity really is. Now, someone go and find a way I can play even more Velocity 2X before I go crazy.