Velocity 2X is all about speed, memorization, hi-scores, and blowing stuff up, and it manages to do all of that very well. It’s a hyperactive blend of classic arcady top-down shoot-em-ups and 2D action side-scrollers, draped in a futuristic sci-fi setting with beautiful backdrops and a rad art style that drip-feeds a mostly forgettable narrative. Brighton-based developer FuturLab have seemingly perfected the shmup genre in Velocity 2X, making it a must-play, but there’s one quirk that I just wasn’t a fan of–hi-score progression locking.
Like I mentioned above, Velocity 2X is a bit of a hybrid. Throughout its 50 levels you’ll be swapping back and forth between top-down shooter action within your Quarp Ship, and 2D platforming on foot as the sassy, violence loving heroine, Lt. Kai Tana. It essentially feels like two games in one, and flip-flopping mid-level not only gives the game a bit more depth, but a breath of fresh air that prevents the 5-hour experience from growing stale.
The top-down elements control extremely well, using the left stick to navigate along vertically scrolling landscapes. Your Quarp Ship has the ability to launch smartbombs in four directions using the right stick, while peppering baddies with ammunition, teleporting through walls, and placing teleportation beacons with the face buttons. The L and R buttons are reserved for viewing the map (which is 100% necessary in later levels, once you start dropping those teleport beacons) and boosting your speed, which rounds out a nice and easy layout that allows you to keep your fingers exactly where they need to be at all times.
Teleporting plays a significant role in Velocity 2X, granting the ability to slip through walls or escape enemy fire, and the Vita version allows precise teleportation at a moment’s notice by tapping the desired location on its front touch screen. If this sounds annoying, don’t sweat it–it’s not necessary, but helps during some of the trickier segments. Living without it on PS4 was just fine, but it did make the Vita my preferred platform.
When Lt. Kai Tana steps out of her Quarp Ship, the same mechanics apply in Velocity’s 2D realm. She can sprint, teledash through walls and enemies, blow up damn near anything with her arm cannon, and toss teleportation beacons to reach unexpected heights and locations (remember the drone mechanic from Axiom Verge?). As the game progresses, it requires more precise platforming and creative use of her teleportation abilities. Few things in Velocity feel as satisfying as sprinting along the floor, leaping over deadly traps, pitching a teleportation beacon across the room, trading places, and teledashing through a wall in mid-air. It may not happen often, and maybe that’s what made it so special, but I absolutely loved the thrill of feeling like a platforming God.
Velocity 2X’s 2D segments are an absolute blast (pun intended), even if its nothing more than memorizing layouts, shooting numbered switches in the correct order, and collecting items. It’s not an overly difficult game, and everything just meshed well.
It controls like a dream, and looks equally gorgeous, thanks in part to character artist Jack Hamilton. Although its story isn’t anything to write home about (don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it’s there), there’s some truly amazing artwork on display during storyboard cut-scenes, featuring alien worlds, space-age technology, and vivid explosions, outside of our fearless heroine and a pair of extraterrestrial races. The same style is used in-game, creating a vibrant, hostile world that works extremely well in both 2D and top-down views. It also features an expected electronica soundtrack (courtesy of James Marsden and Joris de Man), with lots of beautiful ambient tracks and high-energy beats that further play in to Velocity 2X’s sense of wonder, space exploration, and speed.
FuturLab does an excellent job pacing the player in to learning new mechanics, new power-ups, and allows them to perfect their skills in a handful of interesting boss fights… before replaying earlier levels, in order to beat the clock. If you’re not in to speed running (which I’m not), or at least revisiting older levels a few times (which, again, I’m not), this may not be the game for you. Unfortunately hi-scores are mandatory in order to progress the story, and a lot of that has to do with blazing through stages as fast as possible. In a game that I felt was nearly flawless in its execution, this is the one area that caused me to roll my eyes and sit down my Vita.
I invested my time in to the game, which is the most precious resource of all, and although I performed (what I felt was) pretty well, I was stumped around level 43 of 50. Up until that point I had no idea the game required a certain overall score in order to unlock the next level. No matter how much I enjoyed Velocity 2X, I had absolutely no interest in replaying levels I had already beaten, just to improve my time and unlock the next stage.
In my opinion, this sort of thing (hi-scores) should be optional.
There are already Achievements and Trophies in place to earn top honors on each level, so why bother locking progression behind scores? I don’t get it. You can say get gud all you want, but I was fine putting the game down and playing something else instead. I had my fill of Velocity 2X, and what I played was fantastic, but being forced to replay older levels just wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time. It’s a shame, considering the game does so much right.
*So where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I did spend a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if it’s worth playing.
Velocity 2X is available on multiple platforms, and has been since 2014. Although I dabbled in the game on PS4, this review is mostly based on my experience with the Playstation Vita version.