Not every game has to be an AAA blockbuster and the PlayStation Minis are the perfect remedy for lesser known companies to let the world have a go at their games. Just because of the cheap price tag and the fact that you may not have heard of the developers does not mean you should give them a miss. Velocity is a classic example of this, with Futurlab creating a fast paced and addictive space scrolling shooter that, 20 years ago on a home computer like the Amiga, would have rocked your world.
Set in the far future, a huge a catastrophe has caused the distant sun Vilio to explode, turning it into a red giant and sending out a huge electromagnetic pulse that manages to leave any space fairing ships without any source of power other than the old way, fossil fuels. These ships are left drifting in the emptiness of space, their only hope being the rescue vehicles being sent out, but using the old fuels slows down the operation and to make matters worse, Vilio is expected to turn into a black hole before the rescue party arrives. Pooling all resources together, scientists create the Quarp Jet, an advanced ship not effected by the EMP and also able to reach the stranded convoys plus enough firepower to keep the Zetachrun at bay.
The Quarp Jet is a state of the art ship that not only is able to boost and blast through the derelict space stations but also warp to safer areas. Initially this is a little twitchy as you need to almost forget about your ship as you move a cursor to navigate a safe jump and as the game progresses more and more dead ends and heavy artillery will get in your way, requiring quick thinking to plot a course and later, foresight to lay jump points. Starting off with simple blasters, the game really ups the ante around level 10 not just in difficulty but also in firepower with the addition of a pulse bomb that you need to sling into objects and the obligatory weapon upgrades like multiple directions or dual fire.
The main campaign is spread over 50 missions, which are broken down into easy to recognise styles, with open level runs where speed is of the essence with your Quarp Jet racing against the clock, saving stranded escape pods or battling the convoys many security measures and the invading Zetachrun. These level types can be on their own or mixed together to add extra challenge, though there is one similar thread throughout all levels, they are hard.
Both the graphics and gameplay just scream of a retro feel, a classic vertically scrolling shooter with well created enemy ships that attack in waves of set patterns and punishing and expansive corridors that you have to weave between, all to a great soundtrack; impressive considering the memory restrictions of the Mini titles. The controls also are sharp as nails, which is a relief as you will be relying on age honed reflex twitches to navigate and defeat some of the later levels.
Where the main game is very relaxed in as much as you are able to hit walls and with death only coming from enemy fire or getting trapped at the bottom of the permanently scrolling screen there are extra missions away from the main campaign that will punish even the slightest wrong move. Set up like a virtual reality mode, the once safe walls are now red laser traps of death, with even a slight graze ending your sped runs. Of the 20 extra missions there is a mixture of play modes that turn out to be quite the challenge, with more unlocking as you progress through the game.
Velocity is a great homage to the games that many of us played during our childhoods and is worth every penny. I can’t let this review finish without mentioning a final few extras that appear to be thrown in for even more extra value for money, that being lots of in game art and a mini game of Mines (minesweeper), random!
Rating: Excellent Review Policy (version tested: PSN/PS Vita)