July 26th, 2013 | By Matt Suckley
I loved the original Velocity when it appeared on the PlayStation minis platform last year. I reviewed it for another website, and gave it 10/10. A perfect score for a nigh-on perfect game, in my eyes. Our sister site IGM Mobile agreed too, awarding the game 95%. So the quality of Velocity Ultra, the shiny prettied-up version for PS Vita, is not in dispute here. Far from it, Ultra is probably the best way to play the game for a newcomer, its visuals now shining as brightly as its gameplay. However, for those who have played the original, is this Vita exclusive an essential purchase?
For those of you not in the know, Velocity Ultra is essentially a classic style shoot-’em-up, with a few cool ideas and quality level design. The main hook is the teleportation feature, which allows your ship (the futuristic ‘quarp jet’) to zip around the screen at the movement of a cursor or a tap of the screen. This lends the game a new dimension in maneuverability and design potential, not to mention looking and feeling totally awesome. It’s an inspired and seamless addition to a genre for which FuturLab clearly have a lot of respect; this hasn’t just been awkwardly shoehorned in for the sake of a unique selling point, it works well with the core shoot-’em-up sensibilities, and won’t alienate old-school purists.
Contrastingly, if you look upon the shoot-’em-up as a crusty, outdated, dilapidated genre, there might be something here to win you round. Velocity Ultra feels more like a slick, fresh, hybrid form than a vintage throwback, bringing elements from the racing and puzzle genres into the mix. Unlike classic vertical-scrolling shooters, FuturLab have included an accelerate button, allowing the player to dictate the pace of scrolling — which, especially when combined with quick-witted use of teleportation, creates a whole new world of speed-running potential. The puzzle elements begin to present themselves when the long range teleportation feature is introduced, which allows you to drop telepods throughout the level which can be returned to at a later stage. This feature is primarily used when the game tasks you with destroying switches in numerical order to deactivate forcefields, allowing you to return to previously inaccessible areas at the press of a button. Dropping a telepod at the right moment requires some level of foresight and on-the-fly strategy, and is crucial if you’re gunning for the perfect gold rank.
The only issue here is one of expectation. If you’re expecting some level of iteration beyond improved graphics and some trophies, you’ll be in for a let-down. Vita-exclusive features are also in, like touchscreen teleportation and firing bombs with the right analog stick, but FuturLab have encouraged players to use the tried-and-tested button-based controls of the original for the best results — a message which suggests the Ultra-exclusive features are not particularly additive to the Velocity experience, particularly when the minis version can be played on the Vita anyway. Another bonus of the original version was the ability to copy over your save file and play on both a handheld device and at home on the PS3. I really enjoyed having that option with the original game, and the cross-platform nature of the minis platform was one of its greatest strengths. This is why Velocity Ultra feels like not only a slight step down from the original in this respect, being a Vita-only game, but also a missed opportunity for a great cross-buy title along the lines of the recent Hotline Miami port.
Pro players use SQUARE and CIRCLE. #justthewayitis
— FuturLab (@FuturLab) May 29, 2013
Velocity Ultra is one of those games to which I would give two scores, if I could — one for those who played the original minis version, and one for those who are coming into it fresh. Judging Ultra purely on its own merits as a standalone product? Pretty much flawless, I haven’t got a bad word to say about it. However, looking at it as a pricier polish-up of last year’s game, which itself already runs on Vita, might make you look upon it a little differently.