Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Velocity

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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Electronic Theatre ImageLaunching today as a PlayStation Minis (PS Minis) title, Velocity is a scrolling shoot-‘em-up with a difference. While the screenshots may tell you that you’ll fight patterns of enemies in formation and travel through a retro styled science-fiction setting, they hide a number of more innovative mechanics. Velocity may be set to be delivered as a diminutive downloadable package, but there’s nothing small about its ideas.

Developed by UK studio FuturLab, Velocity is exactly the kind of videogame the PS Minis channel was designed for. As a modern interpretation of retro styled videogame in a retro flavoured genre, Velocity doesn’t do itself Electronic Theatre Imageany favours next to Call of Duty or the recently released Prototype 2, but it’s not meant to compete against such huge names. It’s a videogame designed as a snack between franchise meals, a five minute blast-a-thon in which using your head is just as important as using your hands.

Velocity does benefit from that all-important ‘one-more-go’ factor too, meaning that the included seventy levels are a blessing. Progressing through the campaign is a relative breeze, but only as the videogame is designed to allow you room to experiment with each new feature before throwing more challenging designs at you. Beginning with the manual screen speed control, in which the player holds the R Trigger to accelerate the screen, the player is taught the basics before being given the opportunity to show what they’ve learnt. Such a simple mechanic can affect many aspects of the videogame, from increasing speed simply to improveElectronic Theatre Image your ranking (bronze, silver and gold medals are available on each level) to using the function to zoom past enemies when out numbered and low on energy, Velocity is a deceptively engaging presentation.

A small number of other abilities also highlight Velocity’s intention to innovate within the well worn genre. A multi-directional bomb allows you to fire a high-powered explosive in the direction you are currently travelling, while the teleport and telepod functions greatly affect your movement. By simply holding the Square button and moving the cursor to an open area, the player can teleport anywhere on screen; past barriers, enemies or even to simply collect bonus items. What’s more, the telepod command allows the player to drop a pod at any point, and then  return to it later. You can even drop several pods in one level, meaning if an alternate route is missed players wise enough to have dropped a pod can return to before it became available and find that different path.

Each mission provides a number of optional bonuses to increase your ranking and experience gained (experience is required to unlock later levels), such as rescuing survivors or accelerating through the level in a very tight time limit. Once the core campaign of fifty has been completed, there’s the optional bonus levels tucked Electronic Theatre Imageaway on the Flight Control menu, which each offer special conditions for their successful completion to heighten the level of challenge.

While Velocity is designed specifically for a retro appeal, it could be considered rather bland. There’s a distinct lack of variation in the background design and the enemy units lack character. The soundtrack has also been designed with the intention of delivering the retro feel and is a little more successful. Reminiscent of the likes of Super Metroid while still maintaining the quality of a modern production, the soundtrack better than perhaps may have been expected given the PS Minis launch.

As stated above, Velocity is a videogame designed for a knowing audience; gamers that have been familiar with the scrolling shoot-‘em-up genre for more than two decades and keen to find innovation from the smaller studios. Electronic Theatre ImageWith it’s unique movement systems and challenging gameplay, Velocity is a welcome respite from all the ‘me-too’ first-person shooters and racing titles that current litter the global gaming marketplaces. If Velocity were released twenty years ago it would have been praised as one of the most innovative shoot-‘em-ups of it’s time. Available today as a PS Mini however, we can only hope that FuturLab’s finest finds the audience it deserves.

 

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