The few shmups that still get made, for the most part, focus on throwing more bullets and enemies at you. There's nothing wrong with bullet-hell shooters, of course, but this endless escalation gets less appealing with each release.
FuturLab's Velocity has echoes of a Cave-style shooter, but it's more inventive and more obviously complex, making for a refreshing and challenging take on the genre.
You control a ship with the obligatory rapid-firing normal weapon, which you can augment with power-ups to fire more powerful missile-like shots. Your target is an alien menace holding the survivors of a scientific disaster area hostage, and these enemies usually bunch in small waves and pose little risk when dealt with quickly and calmly.
The screen crawls forwards vertically, though you can surge onwards by holding the R shoulder button - crucial for missions in which you're on a strict timer. But where Velocity becomes a truly different game is in its implementation of Short and Long Form Teleporters.
With the SLR you can instantly zip from one point on the screen to another by holding the Square button and aiming a reticule. Though this device is predominantly used to bridge the gap between areas blocked by unbreakable walls, it's also handy to avoid incoming fire when in a squeeze.
Long Form Teleportation is different - you'll need to apply some forward-thinking to get the most out of it. A tap of the Triangle button sets down a beacon that you can return to at any point, allowing you to revisit an area you've already flown past.
You'll need them to methodically destroy numbered circuit breakers across levels, lowering security fields that prevent you from moving forwards.
Playing with pace
These additional elements inject more strategy into the gameplay than you'd see in most shooters. They also break up the pace of Velocity: the game flits from moments of precise ship control to manic shooting to figuring out how you need to approach a section to progress.
With well over 50 missions included, unlockable challenges, attractive Amiga-era art direction, and a simple story told within a rich world, this is a fully featured package. It's really tough to pick out any faults at all playing it on a PSP, though the left analogue stick handling movement on a Vita is a little on the twitchy side.
In taking the road less travelled in its design philosophy, FuturLab has created a shooter that exudes creativity and quality every step of the way. A fan of shmups or not, you owe it to yourself and your Sony handheld to play this Minis marvel.