FuturLab have been one of the more successful indie developers working with the PS Vita. Not only were they responsible for some critically acclaimed games released as part of the Minis range, but they quickly managed to turn their hand both to PlayStation Mobile with classics like Surge and now the PlayStation Vita itself with Velocity Ultra.
Velocity Ultra is FuturLab’s first foray into full-blown PS Vita development and rather than taking the plunge into producing a brand new IP, they opted to revisit their most popular game Velocity adding all of the features that fans of the Minis original wanted to see implemented as well as giving it a next-gen makeover while taking advantage of the added power that the PlayStation Vita had to offer. As with other reviews of new versions of Minis, I won’t cover the original as you can read Ben Gove’s original review instead to get the gist of the game, but instead of being a simple remake or a sequel, FuturLab opted to create Velocity Ultra as a “Director’s Cut” of the original adding features that the Minis format didn’t allow them to, and giving the game a completely new look.
To describe Velocity Ultra as a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up would be an insult to its incredibly complex gameplay. As Ben already said in his review, this game is far more than that. Despite being an accomplished shooter in its own right, there is much more to it than that. As you progress through each of the 50 levels it’s not just a case of making your way from one end of the level to the other – you have to decide whether completing each level as quickly as possible is your priority; do you want to rescue as many survivors as possible from the pods that are spread throughout each stage; or do take a more cautious approach and try to find all of the hidden bonuses that are on offer…?
Each level has it’s own challenges to contend with and while some require you to race against the clock so speed is of the essence, others require a little more lateral thinking when additional abilities are added to your ship allowing to drop teleport pods so you can move back to points earlier in the level – vital for some levels where you need to rescue survivors trapped behind force fields that can only be deactivated by destroying switches in sequence… and the switches aren’t always that easy to reach.
At the end of each stage you will be presented with a score based on alien craft that you destroy and your overall performance in the level. You’ll also be awarded experience points based on the time taken to complete the level, how many survivors you rescued and your score. The more experience you gain, the more levels will be unlocked for you to play. And this is actually one of VU’s greatest strengths as you can actually play the levels you have unlocked in any order and you can go back and re-play older levels at will making the game ideal for longer and shorter play sessions.
So, onto the updates for this version. More than anything, this is really enhancements over the original. Visually, everything has now been created specifically for the PS Vita at its native screen resolution and looks stunning. Not only are the graphics much sharper and more detailed, but there are improved visual effects as well including some fantastic lighting effects when you fire bombs at the surrounding walls which then illuminate the scenery around them. The cut-scenes have also been completely re-drawn with a brand new look rather than simply tweaking the old artwork and I have to say that the new artwork looks breathtaking.
Sound wise, while there aren’t any voiceovers used in the game, there are some great pieces of music playing throughout the game that really add to the game and fit the pace of the action superbly. All of this is accompanied by some sturdy, if not exceptional sound effects that fit the game well.
Where this new version of the game really comes into its own are the controls. While I thought the original was a fun game, I was never completely enamoured with the control system and found it a little frustrating to play at times but the PS Vita version plays like a dream. The left stick controls the ship with the X button is used to fire. The R button is used for the ship’s thrusters, and bombs can be fired by either using the right stick or O and the left stick. Teleporting again is easy enough with a choice of either square and the left stick or the touch screen but it seems far easier and more fluid than in the Minis release making for a more fluid game.
One of the biggest complaints about the Minis range was the lack of Trophies and Leaderboards support and both have been added here although being honest these are features that don’t really bother me as a gamer (yes, I admit I am one of the few PS Vita owners who doesn’t really care about Trophies!) and – to keep fans of the original happy – the calculator and Minesweeper game have been left in!
I have to say that this is a fantastic update to a game that most – quite rightfully – heralded as one of the best games available as part of the Minis range. It’s incredibly addictive, has enough long-term appeal to keep even the most hardened of gamers happy but keeps levels short enough for you to be able to pick it up and play it even if you only have a few minutes spare. What I really love about this is that even if you manage to complete all 50 levels, you can still go back and try to beat your performance on each of them – aiming for higher scores, faster times… so you’ll never be short of challenges. Even if you didn’t like the original, this is one of the freshest, most innovative shooters available for the PlayStation Vita and is a game that no self-respecting Vita owner should be without. If you have any sense at all, you’ll make sure that this is at the top of your “to-buy” list!
At A Glance
- Title: Velocity Ultra
- Publisher: FuturLab
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Local Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 242Mb