Velocity is a side-scrolling shooter that is part of the PlayStation minis line, which are mobile games developed originally for the PlayStation Portable, on the PS Network. As a mini, Velocity plays across all Sony consoles that use the PSN: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita (the game transfers over as a PSP game in the content manager). FuturLab Limited developed the title. Their previous credit is Coconut Dodge that is available on the PSN as a mini and on iOS devices. Velocity is their latest game that release on the PSN back in May.
Velocity’s story is simple, a star far away explodes into a red giant, and the resulting EMP knocks out the power for the unnamed company’s deep space vessels. The ships range from colonial ships to battle fighters. A scientist tasks the female protagonist, a pilot, to take command of the only spacecraft capable of saving these stranded survivors. By the time she takes control of it though, the star has collapsed into a black hole. Thus, the only way to get to the survivors in time is to pilot the QUARP JET, a ship that can teleport, into the areas with survivors and rescue them from the unknown nothingness of a black hole.
It is nothing phenomenal as far as a story goes and most of the extra details come from the game’s official site, but for a game channeling the arcade style of play it works very well. Yet, there could have been more opportunities to insert a slightly more involved story in between missions. Answering whom these stranded space vessels belong to, whether it is a corporation or a government mandate. In addition, since it is the future, are there country/nations? Alternatively, is it now some mega-corporation like in Blade Runner? One thing that would have been nice to know is who the protagonist/pilot is and why she decided to risk her life to rescue these hopelessly adrift survivors. While what is present in terms of story works for the type of game, there are things that could have been added to flesh it out without getting in the way of gameplay.
The main draw of Velocity is its addicting and fast-paced gameplay. As entry in the side-scrolling shooter genre, obviously, Velocity is trying to maintain a retro, arcade style feel. The basic gameplay mechanic is to move through the maze based levels while dodging enemy fire or obstacles and making sure not to be trapped by the ever-receding bottom screen. Velocity smartly introduces more complex mechanics incrementally. Thus, the first level involves getting used to moving through the level space with the analog stick or directional buttons. As the player progress through levels, they get access to more advance techniques like boosting and teleporting. Teleporting is where the gameplay shines and adds a nice wrinkle to the side-scroll shooter. The mechanic is a whole lot of fun and innovative uses of teleportation can help avoid tricky situations with lots of enemy fire, solving puzzles, getting past obstacles, or the key to finding secret mission trophies (necessary to unlock bonus missions in the Flight Computer). A more advance teleportation technique comes into play later where the player can drop telepods at various points on the map and then return to them. Smart deployment of telepods is often necessary to solve security lock puzzles (locks of different colors are scattered across the level and have to be shot out in order to unlock blocked areas) or to pick up missed survivors or secrets. As a side-scrolling shooter, the weapons upgrade over time and weapon/health bonuses are available around the map. This is the one weak spot of Velocity, the laser upgrades to have multiple bursts for the main weapon, but the weapon perks are lacking with only a special laser and tri-direction laser burst. There are bombs, which are incredibly useful, but sometimes aiming them is a bit awkward and need a wide berth in order to take out certain enemies. It would have been nice to have a bit more special weapons to spice up the combat a bit.
In many ways, the game plays and feels like the arcade shooters of old. However, unlike most modern retro throwbacks, Velocity does not equate retro with blindingly difficult. While that is not to say the game is not without some frustrating parts or hard areas or sections to complete, there are certainly those parts, but instead of making the player want to commit controller harikari, the gamer will slowly learn the trick to the area and want to master it. For any steep difficulty encountered, there is a way to learn the patterns and overcome it giving the player a sense of accomplishment and relief. The key to this is that the entire experience of playing Velocity is fun, which is the retro aspect that more homages/throwback games should strive toward being.
Graphics and Sound
As a minis game, Velocity is able to play across Sony gaming devices, but the optimal way to view the graphics is on a handheld (either the PSP or PS Vita) because when playing on the PS3, the graphics look a bit pixilated at times and not nearly as sharp when compared to a handheld screen. That said, the graphics are great looking and despite the grey and black maze designs, there is enough color thrown in to the mix to make it not seem muddy or drab. The Quarp Jet looks good and the animations are fast and fluid. While the graphics do not look as good on a big TV, when there are many enemies on screen shooting laser beams at the Jet, the bigger resolution does help in dodging them. It is a trade off and probably the best course of action is to switch between devices to enjoy the game fully (the game can be played across all devices linked to a PSN account). On the audio side of things, the score to the game is absolutely crazy. It is excellent and infectious. This is the perfect music to rescue stragglers and kill weird aliens by. Joris de Mann, the Killzone composer, handled the score and it adds a huge amount of polish to the game.
Velocity is an amazingly fun, addicting and well made game. The gameplay is quick and perfect for either in home or on-the-go gaming. With smart additions and innovations added to the basic side-scrolling shooter formula in the puzzles and teleportation mechanics, it is a blast to play. The graphics look good and have vibrancy to them. One of the best features is a sonically spectacular score that gives a great adrenaline boost when taking out enemies. In addition, it has great replay value with bronze, silver and gold medals for level completion; and extra missions with added restrictions for completion when collection secret trophies in the main game. For PS3, PSP or PS Vita owners, is Velocity worth the money? Definitely, for the insanely low price that it is on the PSN, there is no real reason not to own it.