System: Playstation Vita
Availability: PSN Digital Download
Price on review date (08/03/13): $7.49 US / £6.49 UK
There has been a movement in video games recently to take some of the most celebrated games on past consoles and reworking or remastering them in order to re-release them on newer hardware. We’ve discussed the merits of these HD remakes in great detail on more than one podcast. I am a huge supporter of this practice as it has allowed me to experience many games that I might not have gotten the opportunity to play otherwise. Granted when most people think of HD remakes they think of the God of Wars, the Metal Gear Solids, or the Sly Coopers of the industry. Velocity Ultra from the developer FuturLab is also an HD remake of sorts.
The original Velocity game was released as a PlayStation Mini title that could be played on the PSP or PS3 (and later on the PSVita). After the original game received much critical acclaim, FuturLab decided to go back in and perfect the already great title. They read reviews from all over and took notes on what the critics had to say. The fact that Velocity Ultra was specifically developed for the PlayStation Vita allowed them to make some very significant improvements to the graphics, with new lighting effects and upgraded HD artwork. They were also able to take advantage of the Vita’s touch screen and dual analog sticks to improve the way the game controls. Let us also not forget the addition of trophy support.
Velocity Ultra is a vertical scrolling shoot ‘em up game that sends me back to my younger years playing games like 1942 in the arcade. You pilot a small ship called a Quarp Jet through various zones with the ultimate goal of rescuing poor souls stranded throughout in Survivor Pods. Like those old school arcade games, you can collect various health and upgrades for your main pulse cannon weapon to help you vanquish your foes which take the form of stationary turrets and not so stationary Zetachron ship formations. You also have pulse bombs at your disposal that you can, and in many zones must, launch with the Vita’s right analog stick in different directions to take out targets to the sides and behind your ship.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that this is not just a simple shoot ‘em up game. The Quarp Jet has the ability to warp itself around the screen in order to bypass obstacles, a skill that will become second nature before too much play time. Later in the game you are introduced to warp pods that, when dropped, allow you to warp back to that point in the zone. This too is a necessary skill to learn, as many of these later zones have a surprisingly deep puzzle aspect to them, forcing you to go back and take different paths in order to unlock the critical way to the end.
In the main portion of the game there are 50 zones to complete. The missions for each zone vary from searching out survivors, eliminating the enemy presence, or just simply getting through the zone just as quickly as your booster jets will carry you. There are also a number of mini games to unlock if you can find them hidden in secret paths of the zones. Of course if you want to earn the coveted Platinum trophy in this game, you will have to unlock and perfect them all. This offers quite a challenge and a huge dose of replayability to a title that is already a great value in terms of gaming time and money.
Velocity Ultra is a perfect game for a portable system like the PlayStation Vita. Each zone only takes at most a few minutes to complete, allowing you to spend as much or as little time as you’d like playing. Time is of course a major factor in earning maximum XP on each zone, so you will probably find yourself replaying early zones trying to earn a perfect score in order to eek out a few more XP to unlock some of the later zones. FuturLab has done a good job upgrading the controls of Velocity to take advantage of the extra analog stick and touch controls available on the Vita. The graphics have been suitably upgraded to take advantage of the beautiful OLED screen of the handheld. About the only thing that didn’t get tweaked in the update was the soundtrack which frankly, in all its 8-bit era chiptune greatness, didn’t need to be touched.
I happen to think that the PlayStation Vita is a perfect platform for small addictive indie games like Velocity Ultra. I also believe that Velocity Ultra is a wonderful example of the small addictive indie games that should be the bread and butter of the PlayStation Vita’s catalog. FuturLab has done well taking a great little game and making it just that much better for our favorite little handheld.
Review copy provided by FuturLab.
Troy “NMReign” Starrett