How much fun can five dollars buy you? Quite a lot if you happen to purchase Velocity, the latest PS Mini from indie developer FuturLab. Optimized for the PSP but playable on both the PlayStation 3 and Vita, Velocity takes its inspiration from old-school, top-down shooters. The game is much more than a "kill-'em-all" affair, however, with integrated puzzle elements nicely layered amongst the precision maneuvering.
Velocity takes its name from the fact that each of the levels is scored, in part, on time. The game automatically scrolls, but if you expect to maximize your performance, you'll need to hold down the boost button and zip through each level at lightning speed. Of course, the faster you go, the better you have to be about navigation.
Hitting the walls in any of Velocity's 50 primary levels is no big deal — you'll just bounce off — unless you happen to be caught between a horizontal face and the bottom of the screen. At that point, it's instant death. So what's the wrinkle? There's not always a clear path through a given level. Instead of merely flying around, you're forced to warp.
Warping is a point-to-point teleport that can occur anywhere on the screen. The concept is simple — just hold a button, move the target and release — but the execution can be quite nerve-wracking when you're flying through a level at top speed, attempting to avoid incoming fire and still snag all of the civilians needing rescuing. The first couple of times through, the warp mechanic is bound to be frustrating, but once it "clicks" and you get into the zone, it's a nifty way for Velocity to set itself apart.
Compounding the complexity in the level designs is Velocity's long-distance warping. To do this, you drop a warp "anchor" anywhere in the level. After that, you can return to the anchor point at any time simply by going to the map and selecting the anchor. It's necessary because the later maps have sections that can only be completed by running through them multiple times.
Gameplay is easily Velocity's strong point, with each level having multiple objectives. You can complete almost any level on your first runthrough, but getting gold medals across the board is going to require practice and a bit of repetition. Thankfully, you have the ability to replay any unlocked level at any time. Levels unlock based on the XP earned from completing objectives, so you don't even have to complete them in order if you don't feel like it.
Really, the only thing Velocity is missing in the control department is dual analog support. That's something that can't be helped due to the fact that it's a Mini, but when you're in a tight space and have to fling bombs in all directions, you'll find yourself wishing the game had support for the second stick — especially when playing on a PS3.
In addition to the standard levels, Velocity also features an additional 20 challenge missions that are unlocked by completing bonus objectives in the main game. These challenge missions are even more diabolical, doing things such as making any contact with a wall result in instant death.
If that were the only content in the game, Velocity would still have enough to keep you occupied for hours. Thankfully, for the developers, this was obviously a labor of love because there's more.
Minis don't officially have Trophy support, but that didn't stop FuturLab. Jump into the flight computer option, and there is a whole list of Trophies waiting for you to unlock. Some have rather straightforward names, but many reference popular sci-fi and action films for some serious geek cred. FuturLab has callouts here for 2001, Aliens, Die Hard, Jackie Chan, TRON, Serenity, Stargate, Star Trek, Star Wars and more. In all, there are 140 trophies to unlock. You even get a Trophy for shooting the credits.
Other goodies include a Minesweeper bonus game and a working calculator, which is also used to input cheat codes. In-game art unlocks as you play, as does an enemy gallery. You can even change the "desktop background" of the in-game computer if you like. Perhaps the only oversight here is the fact that the in-game clock always seems to be set to GMT. Being based in California, it would have been nice to be able to change that.
Visually, Velocity looks great on the PSP, even when moving at high speed. Sprites are repeated throughout the game, but what's here is sharp and detailed. There is some pixelization when playing on a PS3, though that's to be expected given the difference in resolution between the two systems. Even then, the visuals are more than passable on the big screen.
Easy to learn, difficult to master and packed with content, Velocity is not only an excellent Mini, but it may also be one of the best offerings on Sony's diminutive platform. Playable in small chunks or for extended gaming sessions, Velocity is a perfectionist's dream. This is one game guaranteed to give you your money's worth, many times over.
Editor's Note: We liked Velocity so much, we decided to share the love. Be sure to follow the WorthPlaying Twitter feed today (July 6, 2012) as we'll be giving away 10 copies of the game to lucky fans.
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