Think of a really hard platformer: multiply it by six and you have VVVVVV. But it’s a joyous and funny experience, capable of inducing the most arousing sense of gaming flow that HM has experienced for some time.
There’s nothing complex to VVVVVV, a platform game built around flipping personal gravity rather than jumping. It feels like an old-school platformer with its heart in the eight-bit eighties, but there is a brilliant anachronism in its conception. The home computer era was where the foundations of the gaming craft were being established and ideas of player fairness and completability were not yet common currency, with pixel-perfect demands made of the joystick jockey. VVVVVV marries the savage difficulty of those times with modern themes of accessibility and player tolerance.
It gives the player every chance to progress: a sub-second death sequence; checkpoints before each new challenge and sometime within; death loses nothing except a few seconds of progress; the most punishing challenges are optional. The infamous Veni Vidi Vici sequence is HM’s personal favourite of the optional tortures. It took HM an hour to learn the sequence of manic key jabs required to defeat it – at which point triumphant euphoria overcame him. Few games can reward its player partner with such highs. This is what VVVVVV excels at.
Whilst game play innovation is often lauded over solid experiences, there is much to be said for perfect execution. Look at Half-Life; it evolved the first-person shooter although brought very little to the table in terms of new gameplay. VVVVVV does not offer much innovation but it is to be congratulated on its elegance and grace. It exhausts every possible exploit of its simple mechanic and refuses to repeat itself. It keeps the player engaged, entertained.
But despite its upbeat chiptune soundtrack and charming style, it has one flaw. It makes HM feel old. When HM steps into the Super Gravitron, he cannot survive ten seconds and feels that his incarnation in the eighties would surely have done better. On the other hand, the Super Gravitron is some fucked-up mental insane shit.
Post-game buzz: Warm and memorable.