Thanks to Nicalis for the review code
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 11/17/2017
In this 2D Metroidvania adventure, you take control of a Captain as he searches for his crew members in a strange new dimension! There’s not much of a story outside of that, unless you count the non-canon ones from the fan levels included in this version.
At first glance, VVVVVV appears to ignore the done-to-death pixel art trend that has plagued a lot of modern indie games, but in actuality, it still uses a form of pixel art, albeit one that works significantly better due to how it makes the sprites pop, despite being in a game that was one of the first memorable indie titles to hit the market. Taking inspiration from the C64 era of gaming, VVVVVV uses the classic computer as inspiration for the simplistic design of the main characters along with the bright colorful nature of each of the levels, but it doesn’t act too faithful to the point that the game as a whole looks dated or ugly. In fact, the colorful art style has aged amazingly well, and on the Switch in handheld mode the game looks absolutely crisp to the point that it’s pretty much the best looking version of the game next to the PC version, with no fuzziness of any sort to be spotted here.
The music is also outstanding and still holds up today, with ultra energetic tracks like the Tower Theme being so good to the point where that particular theme is one of my all time favorite video game songs in history. While there are a few songs that aren’t as energetic or epic, the soundtrack as a whole is incredibly memorable and absolutely worth a purchase if the option is available for you.
The Switch version of VVVVVV plays pretty much the exact same as the other non-PC versions of the game, with the only command at your disposal outside of movement being the option to flip upside down, (or vice-versa) with no option to jump whatsoever. Despite this break from the norm, the game’s medium sized world works brilliantly with this mechanic, and every screen in the main game is well-crafted to test your mastery of this simple technique, with no screens that make you feel as if the lack of a jump is a hinderance. With all that said, VVVVVV is not an easy game. In fact, it’s incredibly hard, but in a near-perfect way that still manages to be just as accessible and fun as it was back in 2011.
You see, dying at any point in the game will just kick you back to the last checkpoint you touched, (indicated by a C icon) and these checkpoints are frequent enough to the point that you’re encouraged to try the same challenge over and over again until you finally overcome it, unlike other games which punish you for retrying by sending you back an absurd amount in the level, VVVVVV doesn’t do this as it has infinite lives and a death counter meant to challenge the player into beating the game with fewer and fewer deaths. (Which also unlock some of the in-game trophies) That being said, if a challenge is too difficult for you, there are accessibility options in the main menu that allow you to slow the speed of the entire game down to allow for precise precision, or flat out turn you invincible so you can breeze past the difficult parts you’re having troubles with.
However, these options are banned for the game’s challenge modes, which will test your skills to the limits if you choose to take them on. They include Time Trials for each of the game’s major levels that task you with clearing the entire stage without dying, in a short amount of time and with every collectable trinket hidden within the stage, which will also be good practice for the game’s other challenge mode, the infamous no-death mode where the game forces you to play the entire game from start to finish without a single death, leading to the ultimate challenge that’s pretty darn absurd, but worth attempting if you’re a fan of the game.
The Switch version of the game also includes the same batch of user-made levels from the creator’s DistractionWare forums that were found on the PS4, Vita and 3DS versions of the game, and this is the weakest part of the game in my opinion. While some levels like 333333 are really, really good, others like The Pyramid of Doom and VVVVVV4k range from boring to downright terrible, with difficulty design that doesn’t feel nearly as balanced to the point I ended up turning on the invincibility more often for some of the custom levels than I ever did in the main adventure.
It’s a bit of a shame too, since the PC version had a user-unfriendly level editor that was used to make these levels, which is still nowhere to be found in this port of the game. It would have been amazing to finally have a home port of the game with the level editor and an online community aspect, so that way we could see more creative levels on a frequent basis and perhaps have a level editor that would be easier to use due to the touchscreen on the Nintendo Switch. Still, there’s some extra replay value to be had from these levels, so it’s not a total loss if you want more game, just don’t expect many of them to be nearly as good as the main adventure.
Last but not least, a brand-new addition to this version of the game comes in the form of a local co-op mode, where you and another player can explore the worlds of this game together. Despite my concerns it would be an unbalanced mess that would make the main game less fun, it’s actually done really well for the most part. How it works is that both you and another player are able to roam around on the same screen at once, and if one of you happens to die then the other player can continue to progress until they reach the next checkpoint (which revives the other player) or die. (Which sends both players back to the last checkpoint) This pretty much encourages teamwork and adds a slightly competitive nature to the game to see who can survive the longest, which is all this game would really need for a multiplayer mode considering how there’s no combat or multiplayer-centric screens, so keeping it simple was a smart choice.
That being said, the local multiplayer is also a way to make the game even more difficult, as combining it with the Time Trials and No Death mode will punish both players if only one of them dies. This means that for No Death mode, both players have to be masters at the game to even stand a chance at beating it, and considering the fact that entering a new screen will drag the other player with you, (even if it’s from a challenge like the infamous Veni spike maze) this is an assured way to get the ultimate challenge from the game if you somehow feel that the already insane No Death mode was too easy on single-player.
In conclusion, VVVVVV is a fantastic port of a fantastic game that still holds up today. With all the in-game achievements from the other versions of the game, the fan-made levels, (Even if some of them are bad and drag the game down a bit) and a co-op mode, this is pretty much the definitive version of the game, just as long as the lack of the unfriendly level editor doesn’t bug you. If you haven’t tried this charming metroidvania out yet, then I strongly advise you to go out and buy it right now! And even if you bought it on 3DS, I still recommend you buy it just to experience it all over again. I give VVVVVV a 9 out of 10.