There's a swagger to Velocity 2X that's rarely seen in indie development.
We like our indies meek and humble, and if they don't fit that role - see FEZ developer Phil Fish, for example - then we crucify them. It's not fair, but it's how it works.
But FuturLab, based in Brighton, has gone in another direction. The studio staked a bold claim for the title of Game of the Year, before Velocity 2X was even released. It made open comparisons to Metroid, which is a risky business indeed. Meek and humble it ain't.
But, most impressively, FuturLab manages to get away with it, neatly dodging all the potential banana skins it set up for itself. Not only is Velocity 2X twice as ambitious as its predecessor, but it's also got the execution to back it up.Critical Urgency
As the name suggests, Velocity 2X is a game of two halves. The first part involves zipping about in the Quarp jet, a futuristic spaceship which can teleport around the level. Imagine a classic shoot-'em-up, only you've got special abilities and you can accelerate super fast.
Much to my relief, these levels are as good as they always were - FuturLab has done nothing to rock the boat here, maintaining solid design and making everything look even prettier than before.
The second half is a bigger departure for the series, though. Introducing a run-and-gun element, where series protagonist Kai Tana can now dock the Quarp Jet and run around on foot.
Usefully, she can still move extremely quickly, teleporting at will, and blowing any obstacles to smithereens with a range of artillery.
Does it work? In short, yes. Velocity 2X's heroine is lithe and nippy enough to feel capable and satisfying, even without the Quarp jet.
But there is plenty to juggle; X is context sensitive, either activating a slide or a jump. Meanwhile, you can fire in any direction using the right stick, but not at the same time as holding the sprint button. Then, it's square to teleport and circle to fire a heavy-duty rifle.
It may not sound like much, but in the context of a Velocity 2X level, which throws so much at you and demands that you react in double-quick time, it is quite the steep learning curve. When you start to get the hang of it, it feels ace -only not quite as natural and streamlined as the Quarp segments.Space is ace
But the sci-fi world of Velocity 2X is one of the biggest draws here, and it's consistent across both halves of the game.
It's as if space is the only realm which can hope to contain all of FuturLab's ideas, as they populate levels with complex networks of neon-gated pathways and corridors which glow and buzz with the influence of futuristic tech.
It's pretty much the polar opposite of The Swapper, another indie game which recently came to Vita. While The Swapper immerses you in isolating, soul-crushing blackness of space - and does so incredibly well, I should add - Velocity 2X's vibrant vision of space makes you feel excited and privileged to exist in it.
However, in attempting to flesh out its sci-fi universe into anything more than a gorgeous aesthetic, Velocity 2X stumbles slightly.
Whereas previous Velocity games featured only the barest exposition, 2X goes a little deeper with a story concerning an oppressive alien race known as the Vokh, and an uprising of the beleaguered and downtrodden.
To its credit, at least it's concise, but the plotline just doesn't do enough to engage the player on any significant level, adding colour which the game could do perfectly well without.
But all in all, Velocity 2X remains a triumph. Its presentation, from the gorgeously colourful sci-fi world to the sumptuously epic soundtrack which lends the on-screen action a heroic feel, is faultless.
Its blend of intense speedrunning and more cerebral teleportation puzzles works as well as ever. And the brand new boss fights prevent complacency across the game's 50 levels. 2X proves that Velocity wasn't good just because of the Quarp jet - FuturLab is more than ready to stand on its own two feet.
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