It's been quite a long time since this gravity-defying 2D platform adventure initially debuted. So, is VVVVVV still worthwhile after over 7 years or has there been too much dimensional interference?
VVVVVV first released back in 2010 and just like almost everything else, it now has a port on Switch. The question is; did it hold up well over the years? For the unfamiliar, you play as Captain Viridian who's on a mission to rescue his crewmates Victoria, Vitellary, Verdigris, Vermillion, and Violet after dimensional interference transported their ship to another dimension. The campaign is a mixture of exploration and linear stages. You basically play by running left and right and tapping a button to swap gravity whereas most similar games would have a jump button. This creates an enjoyable gameplay formula that makes the platforming often feel like a puzzle game. Although the gameplay is pretty simple, newcomers to VVVVVV will be impressed by how challenging it is. That being said, once you become accustomed to the unconventional premise, you'll find yourself zipping through the world like a professional space explorer.
The visual style presented in VVVVVV is very similar to classic Commodore 64 games and the music is reminiscent of the NES era. Even though the retro approach has been done to death at this point, I appreciate the authenticity of VVVVVV as it has its own distinct charm as well as being an homage to games from decades ago. The characters are merely different colours of the same generic figure but their little smiles are still delightful. It's also heartbreaking to see the little guys sad. Overall, the graphics and music are well-done and will take you back to a time when game developers tried to craft unique worlds given their limited technology.
Besides trying to find your crewmates, you can also collect 20 objects. Finding these seems unnecessary at first but they unlock additional modes. Once you find them all, you'll be able to take on time trials, replay the intermission stages, challenge a no death mode (good luck with that), and play through the campaign again but vertically flipped (like you can in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night). On top of these, you can play a selection of user-created levels, challenge the Super Gravitron and browse achievements in the Secret Lab, and play multiplayer with a friend. I was very happy to see a multiplayer component but upon trying it out with my wife, it was disappointing that it basically has the second player tag along and their actions don't really matter because one player can progress on their own.
Since VVVVVV first released, there has been a ton of fantastic indie 2D platformers. Unfortunately, VVVVVV doesn't live up to a lot of them as it feels flat in comparison. The main contributor to this is that the challenge ranges from downright tedious to frustratingly difficult. Some levels might look tough but once you play them, it ends up being a breeze. Meanwhile, you'll come across the odd room that'll make you want to throw your Switch out the window. For example, having to carefully manipulate a secondary character to cross a spike pit via moving platforms with the slippery controls in play and dodging a barrage of oncoming hazards while jumping between two lines can be much more irritating than enjoyable. Finally, the campaign is very short and can be completed within a couple of hours. Unless you desperately want to collect everything and try the challenge modes, there simply isn't enough content to enjoy.
Although the novelty has unfortunately worn off over the years, VVVVVV is still a fun 2D platformer with a nifty gravity mechanic. In the end, those new to Captain Viridian's adventure might get a kick out of the retro world and innovative albeit frustrating gameplay.
- + Simple and challenging 2D platforming with a cool gravity-swapping mechanic
- + Well-done retro music and visuals
- + Collectibles and extra modes add value
- - The basic gameplay's difficulty ranges from tedious to frustrating
- - Campaign is very short
- - Redundant multiplayer component