#6: VVVVVV

The sixth game in this series is the first “indie” game I beat in 2014, although I’ve certainly played through it before. It is also by far the newest game in the series so far. First released in January 2010, VVVVVV is a “simple to learn, tough to master” platforming game with a unique aesthetic and concept.

The original version of the game was created in Flash by Terry Cavanagh, and was ported to C++ by Simon Roth a year later. In the game, you play as Captain Viridian, a spaceship captain who has been separated from his crew and trapped in an alternate dimension. You have to explore Dimension VVVVVV to find your shipmates, and maybe a way out of the dimension as well.

VVVVVV’s gameplay is incredibly simple as its base. Besides being able to move left and right, you have a grand total of one button–an “action” button that reverses the gravity of your character. Yet this one mechanic is deceptively deep, as you have to utilize this to avoid obstacles ranging from spikes to evil words (Yes, really) to “Yesmen”, and assorted other things besides. The game is much more difficult than this mechanic would make it sound, yet it almost never crosses the line into frustrating–checkpoints are frequent, and teleporters are scattered throughout the dimension to let you warp from place to place once you’ve found them. it’s enough to make enough for the controls, which are responsive for the most part, but there’s a tiny bit of acceleration and deceleration on Viridian that can feel inconsistent from attempt to attempt. It’s not enough to detract from my enjoyment of the game, though, and indeed, it can be learned, as multiple speedruns (This particular one utilizing glitches to skip large portions of the game) prove.

Even if you don’t plan to get through the game fast, however, VVVVVV has quite a bit of replay value. There are numerous in-game “trophies” you can earn for beating the game under a certain number of deaths, or completing Time Trials, basically small sections of the game, with a “V” rank (Grabbing every trinket in the section, flawlessly, under a strict time limit). And of course, for the truly masochistic, you can unlock “no death mode”, where you try and go through the entire game without dying. Good luck with that one.

Aesthetically, VVVVVV can best be described as “old school”. And by “old school” I mean “probably even older than most US gamers are thinking”–Cavanagh based the visuals around the Commodore 64 games that he played growing up. The music was provided by Magnus “SoulEye” Pålsson, and likewise is very C64-influenced (People of this school tend to use a very “rich” sound. The Follin Brothers are one example of this on the NES side; Neil Baldwin, composer of Magician, is another). The music is always upbeat, subconsciously urging you forward at times when you may want to give up.

VVVVVV is definitely a game worth playing if you somehow haven’t yet. It’s currently a mere $5 either on Steam, or directly from the website. One note, though–Version 2.0 apparently has some bugs such as not saving your Time Trial times. To fix that, you’ll have to download the beta 2.1 patch (Just do a search for vvvvvv beta 2.1 and you should find it pretty easily).

-EE

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