I first encountered VVVVVV, an Indie game created by Terry Cavanagh, on the Steam-powered application created by Valve, where I was immediately impressed with the low budget, all creativity game. Cavanagh has created other independent games such as Don’t Look Back and Squish.
All of his games usually share one same theme of creative style and story with only Flash to support the actual gameplay. Regardless, we are talking about VVVVVV here, and not the developer.
The concept of the game is very simple and remains much the same throughout the game. You can move left or right, flip gravity at the touch of a button, and utilize every portion of your gravity-bending skill to dodge the spikes, moving objects, and other weird hazards. While this seems pretty forward and you’d think the game would be just one big escape level, you’d be entirely wrong. Not only do you quickly realize that these simple trap elements can be combined for some hardcore challenges, but the flipping of gravity erratically and moving of screens can prove disorienting for many people.
The story is pretty straight forward as well, but don’t let its simple look and conveyance fool you- it can go about as deep as a console game, even though it is only on market for the DS and PC at the moment as a full game. While you can only see text with simple wording due to coding issues sure to crop up with an advanced vocabulary, the members of the plot and story convey their dialogue and thoughts easily through the simple text boxes seen in-game.
One really basic item of interest that bought my loyalty hook, line, and sinker in this indie game was the scattering of varied difficult and easier puzzles. While sometimes you may face a nasty but easily navigable row of ceiling or floor spikes or maybe even a few random traps that are relatively simple to dodge, others you may find yourself focusing on a difficult challenge such as one encountered within an abandoned space station- one of descending rapidly through varying sizes of spiked walls, rooms, and grappling with the controls of gravity in order to not die instantly.
On the subject of death in the game. You’ll note that most anything that hits you, other than any near-misses of course, will instantly destroy your current fun-run. To avoid the frustration and intensity that wouldn’t prove fun if this were so, the game provides the perfect solution: easily found checkpoints after nearly every room and trap in the game. These work both ways as well. While they are on every other side of most hazards, sometimes they may trap you in a much harder environment than you previously found yourself, but as your prowess and skills grow and you become more in-tune with the game- you’ll manage.
Your reaction time must be even better than the 3/4 of a second required to avoid a fatal car crash, as shown by the rare room of nearly-impossible timed traps. Thankfully, most of these traps are only encountered wherever you should be finding or attempting to find some of the game’s collectible trinkets, such as cogs or coins. This makes for some interesting conversations and rage often best enjoyed with a friend to laugh over your shoulder at you, and/or relieve any of the tension you might feel at your failure to continue or backtrack.
An easy to fix yet still at-hand problem with the game is its linear focus on levels, but what can you expect from a relatively low-budget indie platformer? This doesn’t so much detract from the game itself or the excitement and tension experienced during a few hours of playtime, but does prove to be a little repetitive feeling when you reach later stages or immediately have to backtrack the ways you just came.
This brings up another point. Backtracking is a key focus implemented into the game, and while essential for those 100% people out there, and for some of the missions for collection of items or findings- it can be quite frustrating sometimes if you aren’t the type of player used to playing RPGs or other games that religiously utilize this gaming aspect. Otherwise, you should have minimal complaint on the matter, and no issue with it at all- seeing as it would just be another path to that finish for a level, or maybe that next shiny silver coin you want to collect.
VVVVVV is incredibly cheap regardless of the platform you purchase it for, and for a rough $10 max- a perfect choice for a decently shaped and sized indie game to play for a few hours and then return to every once and a while. The story of a doomed space ship and its crew being teleported to the far regions of the cosmos, and then being sought out by their ever-faithful captain is kind of touching at times, and the platforming proves to be addictive and intense.
Remember, as already stated via the GI review of the game, this “isn’t for the faint of heart,” and you will easily test your wits and patience, as well as skills and story-telling and following throughout the run-through of this little gem. While quite good for an independent game, and clocking out at around 4-5 hours should you search every nook and cranny of the game, the game falls just short of great- but makes for a good experience nevertheless.
Here’s the “GI”-type scoring I’d give to the game:
Concept: Simple concepts that create excellently crafted challenges varying in difficulty revolving around the one main tool: flipping gravity.
Graphics: Very minimal details, and use barely any graphics save those of Flash players on the PC versions.
Sound: Complete with all the nostalgia of those old games you love, however repetitive they may seem.
Playability: The character’s speed is annoying at times, and the character- albeit rarely, can encounter glitches that speed up or slow down momentum at weird and unfortunate times.
Entertainment: While entertaining and utilizing an interesting concept, the game could branch out a bit more- but the game was independently created, so some leeway can be given possibly…
Replay Value: Medium
I hope this lengthy review is in any way helpful should you seek to purchase or try this game, and if not- oh well, I tried my best to give you guys the truthful mind and thoughts of mine on this single game.
Overall score: 8.0