Simplicity can be an art. It is hard to nail being simple without feeling void of having something interesting. This area is where VVVVVV excels at. On the surface, it looks like an old platformer, but with a small, refreshing twist, it is ripe for an afternoon or two of enjoyment.
VVVVVV extends it straightforward theme to its story. There are six characters, all with names that begin with V, and all of them are flying in a spaceship through the glorious realms of space. This is all fun until something drastic happens to your spaceship leading everyone to be separated until you, Captain Viridian, finds the marooned crew members and leads them to safety. This premise reflects the more primitive graphical style of looking like a Commodore 64 title and is the reason enough for you to flip out through colorful space.
Flipping out through space is the main gameplay hook of VVVVVV and what a good gameplay hook it is. By hitting the spacebar, the up key, or, you guessed it, the V key, you invert gravity for yourself meaning the floor is the ceiling and the ceiling can be the floor. The tradeoff is that you can’t jump, meaning the smallest spike pit can lead you to have to flip the top to get over obstacles, sometimes even flipping through multiple screens. This flip mechanic is incredibly fun to use and responsive, so responsive that it is hard to get angry at the deaths of this game.
And there will be plenty of death by spikes, large LIES (seriously, giant text will murder you), and any other random enemies in this game. It does sound like the game is impossibly difficult and it would be if it weren’t for the many, well placed checkpoints. When you inevitably fall into some red spikes, you instantly respawn right before the trouble spot. Frequent checkpoints make it hard to become angry because it literally does not give you a chance to become furious. You fall, you die, and right as you want to curse, you have already been instantly respawned. The only control aspect that should be tightened up is the actual moving. Moving isn’t terrible but, by the way your character slides, it is safe to assume he is wearing ice skates. Sliding around, while a minor annoyance, is forgiven as normally as any other way of falling into oblivion because of the checkpoints that litter every room.
Looking at blocky graphics is a horrible thing to see in the current games but since VVVVVV is going for an old school look, it is revitalizing. Primary colors fill every screen making every screen look like a crayola box mashed together with an 8-bit style. It pulls this off well and it would be more than welcome for other games to take this approach to art design. More games probably need to take from the soundtrack as well, as it trance inducing. You would expect space to sound like bleeps and bloops, and this soundtrack is more or less that, but I would dare you to not enjoy the music. Every one of the half dozen or so songs is extremely well produced and even though they repeat in more than a few instances in your three to four hour journey, you’ll be happy to hear your favorite song again as you jiggy with gravity. The list of memorable game songs should carve out a few spots for VVVVVV‘s eargasmic soundtrack.
For only five dollars and a quick download on your PC, it is hard to not recommend VVVVVV. The simple theme inside of VVVVVV and with its great, non complex flipping gameplay make it worth a look. I really hope that it keeps its old school feel and look for a hopeful sequel. Maybe it will upgrade to 16-bit? Or maybe it will be VVVVVVVVVVVV? Whatever the specs or silly title, I can’t wait for it.
+Unique, challenging flipping mechanic gameplay
+Old school look and sound
-Controls can feel a bit slippery at times
Final Score: 9/10