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About six months ago, I decided to become a Playstation Plus member. One of the perks of doing so is getting free games from time to time. These can vary from digital versions of retail releases, to classics from former consoles, or Minis. Originally designed for the PSP, Minis can now be played on the PS3 and Vita. Much like portable and mobile gaming, these titles are smaller in scope and lack the visual fidelity that home consoles provide. So, as a person who spends a ridiculous amount of time on his PS3 and lacks a smart phone, I’ll admit I treated Minis like the red-headed stepchild of gaming. Occasionally, when I had nothing else to play, I’d give one a look but quickly delete it. Then along came a trailer for a game called Velocity and I was dumbfounded. Could an ‘inferior’ Mini actually be good? The results are in, and they’ve surprised even the harshest critic.
Velocity is a upward scrolling space shooter that starts out with a very simple premise. A star has exploded, sending out an electromagnetic pulse that has immobilized all technology. The star then begins to collapse, forming a black hole that will inevitably consume and destroy everything. You must pilot the Quarp Jet, an experimental craft capable of teleportation, to rescue pods of survivors before they are stretched into thin strings, ripped apart at a subatomic level, and sucked into the void never to be seen again. (I may have made that sound a bit harsher and more scientific than the game makes it out to be.)
Gameplay relies on four main abilities. Scroll boosting is the first, allowing you to increase the speed at which the level comes at you (or speed up the ship depending on your view of relativity). Not much later, the pulse cannon is introduced. In the early levels it is primarily used to shatter glass obstructions. As the game progresses it can be upgraded with power ups, destroy turrets and enemies, or trigger circuit breaker switches to deactivate force fields. A while later, the more devastating bombs are explained. They serve the same purpose as the cannon, but can be deployed forwards, backwards, and to the sides. So far I’ve just explained a solid shoot ‘em up, but the best is yet to come. The main mechanic is teleportation. A short range teleport is introduced early on that allows you to avoid blockages and enemies, or get to survivors off the beaten path. After becoming acclimated with that, the long ranged teleport is unlocked, allowing you to place a limited number of telepods which can be warped to at any time by bringing up the level map. These are important because many of the levels contain branching paths or switches that need to be triggered in certain sequences. The game does a great job of integrating all of these abilities one by one, allowing you time to understand each before moving on to the next. Once everything is at your disposal, the real fun begins.
The game’s main story features 50 levels of increasing difficulty. The first fifteen serve as the tutorial for the aforementioned abilities. After that the gloves are off. Each level is graded on several criteria: survivors collected, time, and overall score. Complex medals are rewarded and the experience gained unlocks the later levels. Collecting all survivors and satisfying the gold time limit gives you the ultimate gold medal with three bars. Doing so without losing any of your three lives also gives you a perfect rating. Rescuing all the survivors isn’t all that difficult as long as you look around, but doing so is detrimental to your time. In some of the later multipath stages, efficient use of the boost and telepods are crucial for satisfying the gold standard. I started off getting a few golds, but quickly began to accept the three-barred bronze. This was more than enough for me to unlock all the levels, but left a lot of room for improvement. There are also a few simpler stages where time requirements make you rely heavily on boosting. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the fluidity of using scroll boost in conjunction with the other abilities. Proper timing results in exultation; screw ups result in fiery deaths. There are also 20 tokens scattered throughout the game that unlock 20 bonus missions. These missions include difficult time challenges, minigames, and even a space-themed version of FuturLab’s past game, Coconut Dodge. These tokens are often hidden in remote areas that can only be reached with flawless use of teleportation. I looked around for them quite a bit, but only found about half of them my first playthrough.
I’m convinced this is an elaborate ruse. This can’t be a Mini. The game is its own black hole, containing an infinite amount of mass in an infinitesimally small amount of space. There is absolutely no way that all of this awesomeness is packed into just 77 megabytes. The only explaination is that I myself have teleported to a different dimension where space and time are freed from their currently theorized limitations. Either that or the guys at FuturLab became versed in some kind of dark magic when they sold their souls to the devil. Never in a million years did I think I’d review a Mini. If you would have asked me if it was possible I’d ever enjoy a Mini, I’d have laughed at you. If you’re like the old me, I know this idea may be hard to grasp. Trust me.
Velocity shatters the negative bias of Minis. It’s an incredibly addicting, innovative game that combines the great elements of traditional shoot ‘em ups, a little bullet hell, and a rhythmic quality reminiscent of the music genre. Just like the music genre, it’s easy to pick up, but hard to master. Whether the console of your choice is a PS3, PSP, or the Vita, it’s a game you simply shouldn’t miss. If you are a Plus member you may still be able to download it for free. If not, at $4.99 it’s worth every penny.
If you see one movie this year, make it whatever the hell you want. I honestly don’t care. However if you play one Mini, make it Velocity. I absolutely cannot wait to see what FuturLab’s next project is, whether it’s another Mini or a larger scale release.
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- Visuals and audio often make me forget this is really just a PSP game.
- Rhythmic, arcade-style gameplay is fun and addictive.
- Later levels combine every concept to form fun challenges.
Cons: More Pros:
- Medal system encourages replayability.
- Built-in versions of Minesweeper and a calculator allow you to have more fun and/or manage your finances.
- Amount of content is well worth the price.