Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Double speed velocity through blind forests.

Two more game reviews of "smaller" digital only games. Both featuring so precise and perfect controls, with great gameplay prioritized far above anything else. You really should play them and love them like I have.

Ori and the Blind Forest

Platform tested: Xbox One

I have not felt this way about a 2D platformer in a while. The charming art direction and beautiful visuals combined with amazingly sharp controls bring me back to remembering why I love the 2D platforming genre. Sure the fantastic Rayman and New Super MArio Bros. games of recent years have also brought back this feeling, but Ori really has reunited me back to those glory days from the early nineties. Back when 8 and 16 bits were relevant.

Ori combines quite a lot of previously used game ideas to accomplish something unique of it's own. It lends a lot to the way the Metroid games are built up; at first you have no abilities. As you progress you find new abilities, which again opens up new areas that previously were not reachable on the large open map. Revisiting locked areas lets you progress further into them and really encourages exploration. This one, huge, open world makes you familiar with the game, rather than speeding you through new levels from A to B all the time. Metroidvania indeed.

In addition to the abilities the game adds a leveling system, which further lets you unlock skills that  upgrade your abilities to become even more powerful. I like this twist or addition, if you will, to the genre. Instead of just relying on finding upgrades you also have the option to micromanage them by upgrading your favourites. Be it your attack, exloration or traversal abilitites. If you are very keen you can of course go for leveling up everything!

Ori is a precise platformer to play, it controls with fast and tight controls and gradually requires more and more skill from the player. In fact some of the later environments had me thinking I was playing Super Meat Boy, with it's almost impossible levels to traverse, but after a few tries you realize you actually can beat them. A feeling that gives great satisfaction and further drives the point of how incredible this game is to play.

Visually I found Ori stunning. It looks like playing a beautiful and detailed drawn cartoon or anime, only with an art direction that lends more to mystical paintings of distant fantasy worlds. The colours are vibrant, but natural, the depiction of a living forest is perfect. I love the variation in landscapes spanning mountains, lava, jungle and snowy settings. Each type of area offering new types of challenges and distinct ambient music that really builds the atmosphere up further.

If there's something to complain about, I'd have to say the story is a bit bland and diffuse. It's presented nicely, but it's nothing that will impress. It works fine, I'm definitely not expecting anything mind blowing for a story in a platformer, but It could have been a bit deeper. I would also recommend exploring the map completely and try to level Ori all the way up, as it will make the lifespan longer. Not doing so will probably end the game a little quicker than desired. My first playthrough took about 10 hours.

One of the most memorable and enjoyable platforming experiences I have had in years. At times it brings my enjoyment back to the days of Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros. from my youth. The atmosphere and beautiful art direction really helps build a fantasy world that I'll remember clearly when looking back in years from now. One of the best games in it's genre that you can buy at the moment!



    + Plus points

    • Beautifully visuals with a hand painted fantasy art direction.
    • Sharp, fast and amazing controls.
    • Great Metroidvania style open world.

    - Minus points

    • The story is bland.
    • Skipping exploration and rushing will end the game quickly.
    • A coop option would have been nice!

    Velocity 2X

    Platform tested: PlayStation 4 and PS Vita

    Two games for the price of one, but is combining two genres from the 2D age a good idea?

    Velocity quickly shifts the player from steering a spacehip in typical vertical scrolling 2D shooter to on-foot segments that remind me of platformers and scrolling shooters from way back in the nineties. This shift in gameplay, even multiple times during a level, not only feels great, but really adds a variation that keeps the player entertained. Both game types are fast and control really precisely and as such don't feel like a change of pace. Each part suits the other and it never feels annoying to switch to the different playstyle.

    I really like how the game introduces you to the spacehip steering first, and as I've gathered, the first Velocity game only featured this. Here you also learn about the quick teleporting ability, which you need to quickly jump away from obstacles and objects blocking your way. You may also speed up your ship as fast as you like, but doing so makes traversing the levels really hard. Completion of a levels award you with XP for points earned, survivor pods rescued and time spent. XP in turn unlocks new levels. Accomplishing all three tasks in one speedrun is really hard!

    The game progresses to teach you about the on-foot levels. Here you steer a blonde woman who has fast and amazing jumping skills. She can also teleport herself through walls that block the way. The telporting and running/speeding button kind of fuses the two gamestyles together in some similar traversal abilities, yet are used fairly differently in each gameplay type.

    Her shooting feels like a typical shooter from the old 2D days, with one stick for aiming in all directions and one for walking. The difference from the old retrogames is that you can do both at the same time, we are no longer hampered by one directional pad!

    After a few levels the game combines these two gameplay types in an incredible fashion, to progress with your ship you'll for instance need to open force fields blocking the way. To do this simply speed your spaceship into a docking station and open the force fields by shooting generators on foot! I can't stress how fun it is to be playing two types of games like this!

    While the story lost my interest very quickly, the visuals and art style to V2X is really clean and pleasing to the eye. It's simple geometry and diverse colours making for a distinct looking game. For such a fast paced game, you really need to have a good view of what's going on and V2X's graphics do just that. Accompanying the visuals is a great electronic music soundtrack that keeps the pace flowing with it's high tempo.

    While V2X may not reinvent the wheel or anything, it  feels fresh thanks to it's combination of two distinct genres from days gone past of the 2D age. It does so in a way that's entertaining, extremely well controlled and presented nicely visually. I warmly recommend this old-school style shooter game, especially for people that are fans of the old genres!



      + Plus points

      • Two amazing game genres combined into one.
      • Tight and precise controls.
      • Music, artstyle and fast paced play blend into a fantastic gameplay feeling.

      - Minus points

      • Completely forgettable story.
      • Fairly repetitive gameplay, though levels vary steadily with new ideas throughout.
      • Could have done with some more location variety.

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