little_socrates's VVVVVV (PC) review

A Really Fantastic Game

I've never played a Commodore 64, but VVVVVV is an interesting enough game to have sparked my interest. Although the pixel-precise gameplay would have been roughly impossible to create on the 64, the aesthetic and music have enamored me so that I'd be interested in playing a few of them, and have actually sought out Jet Set Willy as a result.

VVVVVV is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with elements of the Metroidvania world design and exploration added to the mix. You play as Captain Viridian, who must evacuate his spaceship with his crew. They become separated from each other after going through a teleporter, and after Viridian reunites with Doctor Violet, he sets out to rescue the other four members of his crew, whose names also start with V. It's an amusing joke, and the game is peppered with humor in a few places, most notably in the room names found at the bottom of each screen written by Ben Foddy.

The game is mostly played by flipping Viridian from floor to ceiling by hitting the space bar, the up/down arrows, or the V key because of course you can hit the V key to play most of the game. The challenge is mostly tied to properly timing these flips and movement during those flips, as Viridian cannot flip back the other way until he reaches a surface. Spikes and checkpoints are both placed liberally to ensure that you will die often and not get supremely frustrated by that fact. While those not accustomed to pixel-perfect platformers might have extreme difficulty with certain stages, those who excel at games like Super Meat Boy will find VVVVVV to be reasonably easy, finding themselves encountering a rather short gameplay experience. However, most players will probably have a perfectly satisfactory experience with the game's length, largely extended by honing their skills in order to clear many areas. The game never reaches anything close to the difficulty heights of even Super Meat Boy's light world, ensuring that most player will probably be able to complete this game sooner rather than later.

Even for hardcore players, however, there's plenty to enjoy in the level design. The different areas make strong use of introducing new mechanics; for example, one area is largely focused on gravity strings that flip Viridian back the way he came, allowing the player a loose vertical jump that allows him to come back down when he tries to flip to the ceiling (or back up if he's coming back to the ground.) These new mechanics are each in the individual areas devoted to whichever crew member Viridian is trying to save, though there are occasionally intermission levels that mix these mechanics together. As a result, unlike Metroid or post-SOTN Castlevania, these different areas and mechanics can be tackled in any order, though there's certainly one or two that are far more difficult than the others.

As I mentioned in the introduction, the best thing in the game still might be its aesthetic. Terry Cavanagh did a great job putting together an old-school color palette and visual design that is cohesive with his gameplay, and Magnus Pålsson has put together one of the best chiptune scores in ages. It's largely a very energetic adventure thanks to proper use of colors and music, and the theme that plays when Viridian has entered a zone in which he might save his allies (a somewhat revitalized and dramaticized take on Guile's Theme) is downright rousing, taking on a life of its own.

VVVVVV is another great example of borrowing from the past and making something that feels fresh to play. While it pulls an aesthetic and sense of difficult platforming from Jet Set Willy, the flipping mechanics, music, and humor all feel like they're completely owned by VVVVVV, and it's one of the few legitimately pixel-perfect platformers in a year that served up another excellent example in Super Meat Boy. I had a blast playing this game, and I can't wait to play Terry Cavanagh's next major project.

7 Comments
Posted by Tireyo

Nice review.

Posted by Little_Socrates

@Tireyo643: Thanks for the recommendation, duder!

Posted by Tireyo

@Little_Socrates: It's about time you got a recommendation from me. =-P I remember your Tiny Wings review real well. I still stuck to my word of not giving it a thumbs up or down just so you know.

You write very well, unlike me. I've written reviews, but more people hate them than like them. =-P One person disliked one of my reviews, because I had bad grammar. Can't say that I can blame him now.

Posted by Little_Socrates

@Tireyo643: Hahaha, sure, sure! Thanks for the compliments, and I do remember you saying that about my Tiny Wings review.

Your writing is really strong, though, really! I'll keep in touch with your reviews, and maybe go back and check out some older ones when I have the time...whether I decide to review CastleVania: SOTN or Desktop Dungeons this week will have a profound effect on whether I'll have time to go through them this week or not.

Posted by Tireyo

@Little_Socrates: Going back or keeping in touch with the older reviews isn't necessary. =-P No need to butter me up about it. I'll still write reviews when I feel like it, but it won't be often.

Posted by Little_Socrates

@Tireyo643: Don't worry, I can be a harsh critic if it's required. Based on skimming your Braid review's language, that shouldn't be an issue. (Powering through some homework, though, so I can't analyze the review entirely for content.)

Posted by Tireyo

@Little_Socrates: Lol.

Other reviews for VVVVVV (PC)

    VVVVVV is a love letter to 8-bit platformers 0

    It's true that the central mechanic of VVVVVV (V^6) isn't new to video games. What makes V^6 special is how throughly the mechanic is explored through Terry's fantastic level design. If you've played his previous game Don't Look Back, then you will already be familiar with his fiendish obsession with challenge. Many points throughout the game I found myself cursing his name for expecting me to land Captain Viridian on a platform 5 pixels wide surrounded by spikes on all sides multiple times in s...

    5 out of 5 found this review helpful.

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