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Velocity 2X / 29th of August 2015

Released on the PS4 some months back (almost a year really) to rapturous acclaim, Velocity 2X managed to woo the critics with its blend of platform-puzzle and shooter gameplay, but was its critical reception justified? Well, after finally having had the opportunity to spend a good few hours playing the new Xbox One version, I think it’s fair to say that yes, it most certainly was. And it’s not simply the fact that developer, FuturLab, have created a thoroughly enjoyable gaming experience, but rather the gentle way it smoothly guides players forward through perfectly paced and beautifully fashioned levels with the grace and poise of a ballerina performing a pirouette atop a bar of Bolshoi branded soap. And that’s certainly not something you’ll hear me say every day!

Velocity has a definite rhythm to it, a flow, that takes me back to effortlessly gliding around the tight corners of WipEout 2097’s Gare d’Europa, and it’s not just the Qirex reference in the achievement list that’s done it, but rather the way in which the whole game is essentially a tutorial, giving players the skills they need to return to past levels and perfect them. Yet, in much the same way that I heaped praise on Eclipse Games’ Tachyon Project, Velocity 2X – despite its appearance – is not some Cave-like exclusive, hard core gaming experience, but rather one of the most inclusive games available on the market today. It’s a game where effectively, it is the player that determines the difficulty through their need for perfection (or lack of it), and that, quite frankly is a wonder to behold. Kirsty Rigden, the lead designer, has done something wonderful here, and it really should be experienced by anyone with even a passing interest in the medium.

Played out over fifty levels of varying complexity – along with some bonus levels and three DLC packs which come included with the Xbox One version – Velocity 2X magnificently blends together the vertical scrolling shooter with a platform game, shifting the focus away from combat (though not entirely) to something more akin to a puzzle game. Here, players are tasked with working their way through the levels, fluidly blending the abilities that the game provides in order to best these as efficiently as possible. Naturally, this takes practice, and lots of it, which is where the replay value of the game comes to the fore, it’s simply impossible to just ignore those previously beaten levels, you have to try to shave seconds off of your times, you just won’t be able to help yourself because it’s just so damn addictive.

From the start of the game, FuturLab dole out the gameplay essentials, from simple movement to combat and teleportation abilities, the latter allows for graceful, instantaneous movement around the level locale, rendering walls and other obstacles as little more than redundant scenery. On the Xbox, this requires holding down the “X” button and aiming at the area you want to jump to with the left analogue stick, this system works exceptionally well with small jumps, but when attempting to target specific locations, particularly small areas where hidden extras can be found, the control system can end up feeling more than a tad fiddly. Likewise, when on foot and attempting to hurl a teleporter with the game’s protagonist, the control system can be a bit of a let-down, which is obviously a weakness that the game has, and yet, whilst for other releases this would prove to be a fatal one, with Velocity, it still manages to feel fairly trivial in all honesty. And it only manages to pull off this miraculous feat because here, death is simply a minor adjournment at most, there’s no punishment for making a mistake, which means that the game never once becomes a chore a play, and the beautiful flow of the game is at no time interrupted.

Stylistically speaking, Velocity 2X is also rather attractive, it’s simple yet elegant art style is wonderfully brought to life with its slick, and silky smooth animations, but as if that wasn’t enough, it also excels in the audio department too. The soundtrack that accompanies the on-screen action is simply sublime, picking up the pace when needed at times, but offering more subdued, yet perfectly fitting compositions the next, it’s a vitally important aspect in maintaining the hypnotic, almost trance inducing atmosphere that makes FuturLab’s effort so special, and so utterly engrossing in the process.

It’s also worth mentioning that Velocity 2X really does wear its heart on its sleeve, muttering compliments to the myriad games that have obviously inspired it, from the WipEout 2097 themed achievement to the main character, who is a clear nod to Metroid’s Samus Aran. The structure of the main game almost mimics the Metroidvania style too, but without being so trite, it simply gives players the tools and training that they need to conquer the game’s challenges as and when they feel like it, perhaps in a way it’s more akin to a new game plus, only without the unnecessary “new game” aspect.

There are very few games, if there are any at all, that feel even remotely close to Velocity 2X, it’s such a well-honed and crafted experience that both looks and sounds great, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t really remember enjoying a game quite this much in some time. Sure, it’s easy enough to look at the £16 price tag and be put off (I know I was before I played it), yet to do so is to dismiss what is easily one the finest games to emerge in recent years, and that, I can say with some certainty, would be a most heinous crime indeed. Buy it.

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