VVVVVV is an interesting title that was developed by Terry Cavanagh and published by Nicalis. VVVVVV is an indie platformer, rage-game with a unique premise: what if the character reversed gravity instead of jumping? The game takes that idea and runs with it. When I originally played VVVVVV I put about two hours into it with a friend in Co-Op, and we failed miserably over and over. VVVVVV is often considered one of the “tentpole indies” alongside your Shovel Knights and Super Meat Boys. Now, alone and determined, how does VVVVVV stack up to other games I’ve played?
You’re a space-captain named Viridian and something has interfered with your ship’s teleportation, sending you and your crew to different locations across the map. Your goal is to gather all of your crew and fix your ship. It’s a simple setup but a game like this isn’t made for its narrative. Viridian, of course, has the ability to reverse gravity. The game doesn’t explain why he can nor why his crew can’t do it. I really appreciate VVVVVV’s simple beginning, allowing you to be immediately thrown in and immersed among the world and gameplay.
Viridian’s controls are quite slippery as there were many times where I felt he would just drift too far after a tap of the d-pad or shift in the analog stick. Reversing gravity itself feels fine though, it feels snappy and the effects are immediate. While beginning to move, sometimes it feels like Viridian either rushes forward for no reason or barely moves before jolting forward, which caused many deaths that would’ve otherwise been avoided.
Oddly enough, VVVVVV is much more like Metroid than any other platformer I’ve played. The map is pretty fun to explore, but it is very difficult to figure out how to do so. For instance, you can loop through one side of the screen by going through the other. Think of it as moving through the edges of the screen in Pac-Man to cut through the maze, or the level in Super Mario Bros. 3 that let you go behind the scenery. The game never tells you that is an option, and I required a guide to figure it out. The map is challenging to read, yet it never felt unreadable, I wouldn’t call it one of the worst I’ve dealt with. If you enjoy Metroid, you’ll probably enjoy VVVVVV.
VVVVVV’s presentation is definitely different, it uses mostly solid colors and limited sprite-sizes, which adds a specific charm to VVVVVV that I’ve only come close to experiencing in kuso. VVVVVV likes to use harsh and light colors, sometimes they differ a bit too much and it hurt my eyes while playing so I wouldn’t recommend this to those with issues processing bright light, or those who are photosensitive. Those few experiences were short-lived and not a damper on the whole game, all things considered. Sound design has a nostalgic feel to it, like it belongs or actively is on the NES. The music fits the visual design. While never getting annoying, however, a few sound effects did get on my nerves around the 200th death. While I have nothing concrete about it, I found VVVVVV really good on the ears.
VVVVVV has text on the bottom of the screen signifying the room you’re in, while it’s mostly flavor text, it allowed me to snicker and enjoy the game just a bit more than I would’ve otherwise. There are also multiple cutscenes and opportunities to talk with your crew, and these scenes always brought a little more joy in the moment. However, you quickly hit conversation loops if there’s even a second box of dialogue and, while it’s a personal nitpick, I really dislike that in games. I just wish there was more great writing.
My biggest gripe with VVVVVV is it being a rage-game. Not only are they very hard to review, but they can very easily be faulted. VVVVVV didn’t enrage me, nor did I feel any satisfaction from overcoming some of its hardest challenges. The only times I actually got angry were when it felt completely out of my control. The hardest and worst sections of VVVVVV in my opinion are when you’re escorting a crew member to a teleporter, they drag on and on, and the crew-member kinda just does whatever. Also, if they die, you do as well, so it was infuriating to basically chance my way into saving them. It feels worse knowing that those sections and a singular trinket, which are optional collectables, were the only enraging experiences.
VVVVVV is a very short game, it took me just over two and a half hours to save every crew-member and collect exactly half of the trinkets. You can continue and explore after doing that, but there really isn’t much to do. You can rescue the crew-members in varying orders, which might impact your personal experience with VVVVVV, but if you aren’t one to replay a game for changes like that, I’m not sure if I could convince you to buy this one.
In the end, VVVVVV gave me a very difficult decision to make. It failed as a rage-game, but never made me dissatisfied. Should I, or should I not give VVVVVV the IGT Seal? I’ve come across this dilemma before with Tiny Barbarian DX. In that case I decided to not give it the seal. VVVVVV while it never immersed me, I did have a bit of fun with. I have decided to give it the IGT Seal of Approval.
A Steam review copy was provided by the developer
supiroguy has awarded VVVVVV The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval