VVVVVV Was the Perfect Travel Distraction and a Great PS Plus Freebie on Vita

Whenever I travel, I like to bring along my Vita to pass time during bouts of insomnia. I’m a terrible sleeper, so it’s not uncommon to be wide awake at odd hours while every normal human is sound asleep. I recently found myself in this exact situation while out of town for the holidays, but thankfully found solace in one of this month’s Playstation Plus freebies, VVVVVV.

This fun little 2D puzzle platformer by Terry Cavanagh (Super Hexagon) initially released more than 6 years ago, but more recently found a home on PS4 and Vita during the summer of 2015. Unfortunately it doesn’t support Playstation’s cross-buy feature, but its bite-sized adventure certainly feels right at home on Vita.

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When six crew members (whose names all start with the letter ‘V’, hence the name of the game) are tossed in to a dimensional rift, you take control of Captain Viridian in hopes of locating your now-missing friends. It’s mostly a traditional platformer, navigating a labyrinthine map in search of checkpoints and teleporters, while avoiding death at the hands of various hazards.

Each of the missing crewmen are tucked away in specific locations that remain hidden to the player, but the map is far more expansive than it leads on. And since there’s no additional power-ups or abilities to unlock, every inch of the grounds is open to explore at your own pace.

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It’s a short and sweet adventure with a really catchy soundtrack by Magnus Palsson, but the core of the game lies in its clever platforming. Rather than utilizing traditional jumping mechanics, pressing the X button instead sends Viridian soaring from the floor to the ceiling, or vice versa. One simple puzzle tasks you with traversing the ceiling to avoid the spikes below, while a more intricate one may have you rapidly shifting positions between disappearing platforms or patrolling enemies.

Without the ability to simply jump over gaps or onto platforms, Cavanagh has taken a genre we’ve seen beaten to death over the last 34 years and makes it feel new again. There’s a gradual increase in difficulty that’s well paced, so I never once felt overwhelmed; just challenged. VVVVVV can definitely be a bit of a demanding game where death is a constant, but its design is entirely accessible thanks to a generous checkpoint and fast travel system.

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Even as someone whose skill in platformers has steadily declined over the years, I managed to make my way through VVVVVV in just under two hours. There were a few sections that had me clinching my Vita tighter than I should have, but I was never frustrated or on the verge of rage quitting. Trial by dying has never been my favorite learning exercise, yet I felt compelled to push on while humming along with Palsson’s magnificent bleeps and bloops pulsing in the background.

While the Vita has a comprehensive library of meaty role-playing games and visual novels, many of which I enjoy immensely, my ideal to-go experiences are these bite-sized adventures that I can pick up and play in short bursts. Whether it’s just an impeccable case of “right place, right time” I’m glad I gave VVVVVV the shot it deserved. I don’t have much of a reason to revisit it any time soon, but it definitely ranks high on my list of ideal travel games, alongside the likes of Spelunky, Super Meat Boy, Rogue Legacy, and Risk of Rain.

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24 thoughts on “VVVVVV Was the Perfect Travel Distraction and a Great PS Plus Freebie on Vita

  1. I also just beat it while I was travelling to see family for Christmas. This was my second time since beating the PC version after it came out. I agree that it’s a really great game for the portable format. The soundtrack is also *excellent*. Even thought it’s been years since I’ve played the game, I still launch the soundtrack on Spotify from time to time.

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  2. As Metroid has reminded me, I’m horrible at platformers now. This game looks fun though! My poor Vita has been confined to its box since I beat Assassin’s Creed Liberations on it a couple years ago. This game seems like a great reason to show my Vita some attention when I’m bored.

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        1. That’s the problem with having so many options, I think. I don’t dislike any particular console (the Wii U more than the others for interface reasons, I guess) but sometimes one or two get ignored for extended periods of time because of the backlog. I used my PS3 once this year, playing through Heavy Rain back in June or July. I think I used my Wii U 3 times. Just the nature of the beast!

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  3. I love this game. It was one of my favorite games in 2010 for many of the reasons you cited. It seems to have transitioned from computers, and Ouya flawlessly here. Certainly a must play for any platformer fan. I also love the early Commodore 64 aesthetics on display. Which fits the flip screen gameplay nicely.

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  4. I love the concept behind this! Ah, it reminds me of another game, but I can’t recall what it is now. Oh wait, I know what I’m thinking of. There’s a section in Super Paper Mario where you have to shift the gravity, and this sounds like a similar mechanic.

    I just keep adding more Vita games to my list. Well…my birthday isn’t TOO far off :D

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    1. This is on PS4 as well, but only the Vita version was free as part of the Playstation Plus subscription package. =(

      I never played Super Paper Mario. That’s the Wii one, right? I liked the RPG ones, but I just picked up Color Splash on Wii U thinking it’d be the last big Wii U exclusive we’ll get (since I’ll probably wait and grab the new Zelda on Switch).

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      1. That’s okay! I’m just happy it’s available for me to play it, though free would be lovely.

        It’s an action RPG, and I completely agree. I preferred 1000 Year Door’s battle dynamics, but we’re on the same page with that. SPM had a great story, too, and stands as one of the few video games that has made me cry. That ending, just wow. I watched an LP of it, but…it was one of those ultra hyper guys who yelled a lot. In between he was okay, but you never knew when it was going to happen.

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          1. I was sucked into the awesomeness of a retro gaming story today in the mall, but kept myself from buying anything. They had stuff all the way back to the NES on the walls. I saw Final Fantasy Type-0, but I have waaaaay too many things to play. I may download that little Grim Reaper game though on my Kindle. It looks so damn precious.

            I watched it! I love the optional fight with the Final Fantasy-esque boss Culex I think he’s called. I may have that game on my backlog to play though since it is an RPG.

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            1. We have a Jay Street Games in the mall! I remember I bought this picture ofSephiroth fighting Link lol. The. The nerd critic kicked in and I realized the artist made them both right handed. Whaaaaaat?? It’s okay. It’s still an epic pic. Still no NES Classics even there at least not yet.

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            2. Is he right handed in that? I think I did hear that they switch his handedness. I can accept that, but no excuse for Sephiroth grrrr lol. That’s okay; it’s not the first time I’ve seen that error. I have a poster of the Great General hanging right in front of my door, and he’s right handed in that, too. I just tell myself he’s awesome enough to be ambidextrous :p

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            3. Yeah, he’s right-handed in Skyward Sword because you have to use the Wii’s wiimote + nunchuck combo for the sake of motion-controlled sword combat. Chronologically, Skyward Sword is the first game in the Zelda timeline, so it’s a comedic arguing point with Zelda purists that Link was originally right-handed and somehow became a lefty.

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            4. That’s okay. Sephiroth was apparently also right handed, too lol. I remember reading that somewhere in the planning, but Squeenix changed quite a lot from the planning. Some initial sketches have him being a righty. I tend not to get into argument wars with people about things like this. I don’t mind presenting/sharing information, but flame wars can burn sites to the ground. Another major one in Zelda is whether or not Sheik is male or female, which I just don’t understand. Isn’t Sheik Zelda in disguise, ergo female? I just don’t touch any of it.

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