I’m not the biggest platformer fan in the world but I can enjoy them if they’re done right…providing a good pace, fun action/puzzles and responsive controls. Just to give you context, the last platformer I remember enjoying was Shank on XBL Arcade…although I’m currently playing the Strider remake and am enjoying that as well.
So when I saw headlines of the game VVVVVV coming to iOS and mobile, it caught my interest. Not because I love the game, I had never played it before, but because it had some hype with it. It had praise, awards and frankly, a retro style that is usually an trait of games I enjoy. If for no other reason as to see what’s so great about this game, I plunked down my $3 to give it a try. It wasn’t the worst $3 I’ve ever spent but the game has yet to return on that investment.
First off, horrible title for a game. How do you say that to friends without sounding like an idiot or just shortening it to simply “V” – maybe that alone should have been a clue. Or do you call it “Spikes”?
In VVVVVV you’re a guy stranded on some sort of spaceship (or planet, not sure) and you need to rescue your friends. Okay, simple story…that I can appreciate. As a character you can reverse your own gravity so you can jump from the floor to ceiling to avoid dangers and bad guys. Again, nothing too groundbreaking but good games don’t need to be innovative, they just need to be fun, entertaining and not frustrating. One out of three ain’t bad, I guess.
Platformers on touch devices aren’t known for their game controls. On-screen D-pads don’t usually serve you well and while VVVVVV gives you that option, the default use of swipe left/right and touch to flip isn’t difficult or frustrating. Your character moves incredibly fast so getting your timing down is a challenge but one that you figure out pretty quick.
The decent controls make the game easier to swallow but what’s lacking in VVVVVV is simply entertainment value. As I said, retro graphics are usually my thing but in this case I think the CGA-era visuals hurt the game only because they’re not that interesting to look at nor do they make you want to interact with it. Maybe that’s the point, which is fine, but then rest of the game should make up for that and it simply doesn’t.
The levels seem well designed and the run/jump/avoid puzzles are really challenging – this game is difficult – but this isn’t a rant on the difficulty. I like a challenging game but there has to be a pay off. In areas where the challenge was high and I eventually figured it out, I got no real sense of satisfaction. I didn’t feel I had gotten any better at the game nor did I receive any feedback in the game.
In short, VVVVVV feels a lot like Super Meat Boy only less fun, motivating and interesting. However, thankfully like SMB, VVVVVV gives you gratuitous checkpoints and quick restarts when you die, so there’s that.
But in cases like Super Meat Boy, the run/jump/avoid puzzles are also well planned but the action is faster, cuter and there’s an end game – whether that be points or time. In VVVVVV there’s none of that. It seems my only motivation to play is to rescue all my friends and then be done. Without having to do anything more than just avoid spikes and time moving platforms, it just feels empty. VVVVVV just misses the mark when trying balance story, action and design. It feels like the game was made by 3 different people, each contributing without knowledge of the others.
It might be harsh to consider VVVVVV a “bad” game because it’s not…I just don’t think it’s my type of game, or at least not in the way it’s presented. After playing for a while and rescuing two of my friends, I quit playing. I felt that after that minimal effort I had seen all the game was going offer me…more spikes, more flipping. If there is more to the game then it does a horrible job at letting you know. So instead, take your $3 and invest in Sky Force or Hitman Go and you’ll feel like you at least got your money’s worth.