clint's VVVVVV (Mac) review

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  • 22 out of 23 Giant Bomb users found it helpful.
  • clint has written a total of 4 reviews. The last one was for FTL

Do you remember when games were unforgiving?

It’s no secret that the moment you make a 2D platforming game on a non-handheld platform, you’ll have my heart from the get-go. Releases in recent years have shown that unlike the 2D brawler genre, which had its heyday — looking at you,  Streets of Rage — but is now dated and unenjoyable, the platforming genre has plenty left to say.  Braid Bionic Commando Rearmed, Shadow Complex, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii (despite its title) have shown that the affordances of modern hardware can allow for mechanics in platforming that are fresh, innovative, and which add new elements to the genre that were simply not possible or executed before 2D platforming was more or less abandoned twelve years ago. The sole exception here is perhaps  Yoshi’s Island, which was far ahead of its time.

 Yes, some of the enemies in this game are flying words. A lot of them, actually. Don't ask me why.

And then there was  VVVVVV. Really, it doesn’t add anything that innovative to the genre. The gravity flipping mechanic has been done before by a million different online flash games, not to mention to an extent in  Mega Man 5. Its 8-bit style means it doesn’t really push any boundaries graphically. It doesn’t even do that many things that wouldn’t have been possible on an NES. But damn if this isn’t afantastic game.

Instead, the game takes advantage of the increase in horsepower to tighten up the mechanics. I’m old enough to remember when games were hard, but depending on the game any proportion of that difficulty could simply be assigned to general shoddiness. Poor hit detection, loose controls, and other quality issues often meant a thrown controller due to yet another death that seemed completely out of your control. I died 1155 times getting 100% in VVVVVV, and not once was it not my fault. That actually speaks volumes, I think, about just how tight the core mechanics are in this game.

Speaking of the core mechanics, VVVVVV’s core mechanic — one might say gimmick — is actually immensely well done. Like Braid before it, the game takes a simple, perhaps overused mechanic (rewinding time in Braid and reversing gravity inVVVVVV), and examines it from different perspectives, adding different twists and poking at the result in interesting ways. As soon as you start to get the hang of each new mechanic in either game, it instantly yanks it away from you and replaces it with another one. The difference here is that while Braid focuses largely on puzzles and lateral thinking, VVVVVV is almost purely execution. The difficulty of the game ramps up pretty quickly, so even if you just go play the  demo, you’ll find that not long after you’re introduced to a tripwire that reverses gravity the moment you hit it, you’ll come across rooms filled with them — and spikes.

There are a lot of spikes in this game. 

There are, however, also a lot of checkpoints. These little diodes are scattered in enough places that you’ll never face one of gaming’s worst ruts: having to get through a lengthy easy part just to die at the real challenge over and over again. But don’t let their frequency fool you — this is still a hard game. It’s unforgiving in places. If you go for a full completion of the game, you’ll find yourself dying. A lot. One particular trinket took me around 500 deaths to nail (albeit it was 2 in the morning and I was exhausted at the time). And really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game with the unforgiving spirit of the “old days,” and it’s frankly refreshing. Just be prepared to hear that death sound effect a lot.

Also be prepared to hear some fantastic music. This isn’t some chiptune nonsense, this is true 8-bit video game music. Actually, it’s probably not. There are some samples in there that belie its modern origin, but overall the spirit is there in spades.

Why yes, we do wear our influences on our sleeves. 

The nostalgia isn’t limited to music, either: just look at this map and tell me it wasn’t ripped straight out of a  Super Metroid .

If there’s one thing to complain about the game for, it’s its length. I hit 100% completion in the game in just about 2.5 hours. I’ve also played a lot of platforming games, so your mileage may vary. But for $15, I would really hope for a little more than that. There are plenty of possible mechanics left untouched that could have been interesting: areas that force gravity in a certain direction, or other objects that are also affected by your flipping, or perhaps even the ability to rotate gravity four ways rather than simply vertically. Perhaps these will be in VVVVVVV or something (yes, there is one more V in there), but it’s a shame they never saw the light of day in this one, considering how all-too-brief it is. 

If you miss the old days as much as I do, and you enjoy the demo, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this game full-price, sight unseen. If you don’t however, I can’t recommend spending the full $15 on it.

4 Comments
Posted by ToxicFruit

Good review. At fist I was not worried if the 15 buck were to much because I thought the game was short but then I started dieing and dieing and dieing and so on. still it is very fun and I love the classic look.

Posted by sandwich_adjustment

yeah but Batman on Hard is unforgiving also..and boy do I remember it

Posted by Clint

Sure, and I agree, but that's because you chose that difficulty level. With this game, the way it gives it to you is the way it is.

Posted by 34wsdfsdfwe

Great review, mate. This game is so sexytime.

Other reviews for VVVVVV (Mac)

    VVVVVV offers a great ride while it lasts 0

    VVVVVV, for all its simplicity in graphics and sound, managed to surprise me once I moved past the introductory levels. At heart it's a platformer that toys with gravity instead of jumping (in the same way 'splosion Man is blowing up instead of jumping). Dig a little deeper and you'll find yourself thrilled by the ingenuity of the design and the seeds of of a Metroidvania clone that the developer has woven into the game.The premise is simple and inconsequential, but suffice it to say that you're...

    0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

    A short, scrumptious retro platformer. 0

    The ShortPros- Simple in concept platformer involving switching the direction of gravity- Puzzles/platforming range from very simple to extremely difficult- Metroid-esque map system and non-linear gameplay- Presented in a charming, 8-bit style- Music is incredibleCons- Only about two to three hours long- Part of the game where you "escort" a crew member is extremely frustrating- Getting all the collectibles can be a near-impossible task- Movement is a bit slippery; it takes some getting used toG...

    0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

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